After a relaxing ride along the whole of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, we found ourselves in Pickering with a couple of hours to occupy ourselves before the last train back. We could wander round the streets and maybe grab a brew in a café or… WE COULD GO TO A CASTLE!
Obviously, the castle won. Our English Heritage membership meant we would have free entry which made everything feel that bit sweeter. Using the OS Maps app on my phone, we followed the directions to reach the castle, which was only about five minute walk from the train station. As we arrived, Rowan led the way to the entrance.
Once inside, we called in the shop, picked up and mythical treasure hunt then set off in the sunshine to explore the castle ruins.
Pickering Castle was originally built under William the Conqueror as a motte and bailey castle with a wooden keep. Over the years, the site has seen a number of upgrades and the ruins that we can visit today, including the chapel, date to the 13th century. It is possible to still see the ditches and motte that would have been built as part of the castle defences.
As we wandered round, looking in all the nooks and crannies, we came across something that wasn’t part of the treasure hunt. Looking closer, we saw it was a painted stone with an accompanying latter – we had found the Pickering Castle Moonstone. The letter read,
“Well done! You have found a rare Pickering Castle Moonstone. This one has been painted by King Goblin. It is yours to keep forever or you can give it to someone special to you.”
Now King Goblin conjures pictures of David Bowie in stripy pants for me – he was the Goblin King after all. And King Goblin absolutely made an already brilliant day, even more magical. Rowan still has the moonstone on his shelf and his letter is tucked safely in his memory box. So thank you!
Further round, we found the chapel. Inside, under the beautiful wooden roof, was an exhibition explaining a little of the history of the castle.
We continued on our quest to find the inhabitants of Pickering Castle, admiring the features as we went. Treasure hunts and quizzes for the kids are brilliant for this. They really encourage you to look around and see what you can find. It was possible to see the motte on which the original wooden, then stone, keep was built and round every corner were the remains of walls and towers, waiting to be discovered.
The site itself has a lovely atmosphere. Ivy grows on the walls, arches and portcullis and trees and plants have established themselves amongst the castle features – nature and the ruins perfectly enhancing each other. And the open spaces meant that Rowan could run about as wild as his imagination. From high up, we spotted a creature from the treasure hunt by the well so scurried down to see who was waiting. The paintings themselves were beautiful too – Rowan’s favourite being the dragon.
Across the field, we spotted steps leading up to a tower, just asking to be explored. Inside we found a great arched window, arrow slits and another lovely wooden roof.
After leaving the tower, we found more steps leading up the motte to the keep on top. From the top were views of the rest of the castle including the deep trench and the outer defensive wall.
We found all the castle characters, so we head back to the shop where Rowan collected his prize. Whilst there, we had a nosey round. Rowan adopted a cuddly dragon – the lady in the shop was brilliant, taking him through the adoption process and how to look after dragons then handing him Flamey’s adoption certificate. I finally decided to buy the Dragonology book for myself to share with the boy. If you fancy visiting Pickering Castle, you can find the details here. We loved it!