A Lady’s Castles

On what started as a drizzly morning here in Cumbria, we headed north to visit two of the four castles once owned by Lady Anne Clifford, Dowager Countess of Dorset, Pembroke, and Montgomery and 14th Baroness de Clifford. Having inherited her father’s barony, she spent a good deal of her life in legal wranglings to get what she was owed, but in the end, she prevailed. Although mostly in ruins, her castles (English Heritage sites) are a testament to her determination.

Brough Castle

There is no shop or ticket booth for Brough Castle, but you’ll find a delightful ice cream shop next to the gate (they make their own from cow’s milk, so it’s fresh and wonderful on a warm spring day) as well as playground equipment for the kiddies. You’ll have to go through several gates on your way up to the ruins, as they’re meant to keep the sheep in the meadow and not in the car park or on the castle grounds.

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There is far more here than you see in the photo above. Once you’re through the gate, other towers are evident, and there are plenty of helpful signs with the history of the place.

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With sweeping views of the Lake District (the national park is nearby), this is a castle with a view, and given it’s a ruin, probaby too many.

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Brougham Castle

Located a few miles north of Brough, Brougham was originally founded by Robert de Vieuxpont in the early 1200s. The two rivers near here, Eamont and Lowther, had the Romans building their fort, Brocavum, here first, though, so the entire site has been designated as an Ancient Monument.  With the outbreak of the Wars of Scottish Independence in 1296, this castle as well as Brough and others in Cumbria became important to the English. Edward I even visited Brougham in 1300 after Robert Clifford, 1st Baron de Clifford had fortified it for defense.

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Once, again, there’s more than meets the eye when you get through the intact gates and into the castle proper, including graffiti, stairways, and even an intact spiral staircase you can climb to get to the third story!  Because the roof of the gate is solid, the first story floor is still there (rare in ruins this old).

And despite the lack of formal gardens, there are still flowers to be found growing in the crevices and corners.

We took our leave of Brougham intending to visit Penrith Castle, but there was no place to park! Turns out, the castle is right across from the train station. We did a “drive by” visit, but it hardly counts (see below). Next up: We’re off to see some stone circles and visit a poet’s home. Ta-ta for now.

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