Bolsover Castle is unsurprisingly found in the Derbyshire town of Bolsover, and is a sight familiar to many people, particularly those who use the M1 motorway on a regular basis. The castle is easily spotted by those passing by on this main arterial route through the county, and is a short drive from the motorway. It is, like many of the country’s impressive sites, managed by English Heritage.
The castle was built by the Peveril family in the twelfth century, and passed into the control of the crown, before being passed to the Ferrers family, the Earls of Derby. The castle was developed, and like nearby Hardwick Hall, saw multiple buildings erected, with the focus moving from a defensive fort to the home of the aristocracy. After falling fowl of the parliamentarians in the English Civil War, the castle was restored by William Cavendish, and a focus on Cavendish’s love of all things equestrian can still be seen there today. Bolsover Castle remained occupied until 1883, and in 1945, the 7th Duke of Portland passed it to the nation, with English Heritage taking care of the site.
Like all the very many English Heritage sites that I have visited, the staff at the castle were exceptionally friendly and helpful, and the site is dog friendly, so my hound Berta came along with us. The castle has a car park just outside, with a pub right at the entrance, as well as the cafe in the visitors’ centre. As you enter the castle areas itself, you can see some of the buildings that make up the site.
Passing by the buildings, a view that looks more like what one might expect of a castle complex greets visitors, complete with great, grand doors, where horse riders can pass through.
The Little Castle, which is part of the Bolsover Castle site, provides a wonderful view of the local area, where visitors can look back at the motorway. Berta seemed to enjoy the view.
Turning around from this point gives a great view of the Little Castle as well as other parts of the castle complex.
Other parts of the castle are accessible although in varying states of repair. That said, it is easy to get down to lower levels of the buildings, which are interesting to explore.
You can walk back from here into the Little Castle, where visitors can explore the building itself.
There is a wonderful view from the steps back over Derbyshire, and Berta stopped to take it in.
One of the reasons to visit Bolsover Castle would be to see the equestrian facilities there. Not only can you see where William Cavendish would have ridden, but you can still see horse events there, and I am reliably informed by my wife, who is much more knowledgeable about these things than me, that there are superb displays to be seen.
There is also an interesting display about the history of the site, where Xander was able to try out a wooden horse, and where children can even dress up as knights.
The playground at the visitors’ centre proved popular not just with Xander, but with other younger guests, with a remarkably large wooden castle that serves as an adventure plaything alongside the swings and other playground classics.
As is usually the case, this English Heritage site is interesting, historical, friendly, educational and a great place to spend an afternoon. Next time you are driving through Derbyshire on the M1, why not pop in and have a look?