Some castles are inferior little numbers, scarcely more than a raised mound of earth or a dubious pile of stones. Not Goodrich Castle. Goodrich is A PROPER castle; solid, chunky, brooding, mysterious, exciting.
When you need a castle fix, Goodrich should be there high up on your list.
Sitting on top of a hillside, above the meandering River Wye, near Symonds Yat, Goodrich Castle has just about everything you need to get a sense of what these monsters were all about.
Take young children there and they’ll be hooked on history for good.
There’s enough still standing (despite the best efforts of Roaring Meg – see the picture), who blasted the walls during the English Civil War (1646), to get a feel for life in medieval borderland.
The oldest part of the existing castle is the square Keep. This somewhat diminutive keep – only about 25 x 25 feet inside, was built in the mid C12th. I imagine that the people who lived in it must have been on fairly intimate terms, as there’s not a lot of space to wield your broadsword, let alone a cat in there.
But clearly the stunning position on the hillside, must have recommended itself for development. As a result, various names from medieval high society, decided to make the castle there a place fit for a king, or at least some very well placed nobles.
Considering that the Welsh Marches were a hot bed of violence and treachery for a few hundred years, Goodrich was remarkably untroubled by sieges and that kind of thing – although it has some impressive looking defensive systems in place. It wasn’t until the Civil War, by which time castles really were on the way out, that it saw action.
Roaring Meg, the biggest mortar of its kind in the Civil War, smashed Goodrich beyond repair. A bit unsubtle putting it back inside, I thought – does it gloat over its work? ‘Hey look at me, I did this you know…’
But, as is the way with castles, being ruined, only enhances its romantic appeal. Oh and by the way, it even has a tragic ghostly lovers story – truly the perfect castle.
What more could you want?
Well, Goodrich manages to go the extra mile. At the cafe in the visitor centre, they make their own food. On the day we were there, last week, the menu included Roasted Red Pepper and Sweet Potato Soup, with Cheese Scones. I am serious – these were the best cheese scones I’ve ever tasted (the soup was excellent too).
Goodrich is managed by English Heritage. It’s open practically all year – but check here for details. Make sure you pick up one of the audio guides (they’re free and excellent). Above all, make sure you leave time for tea and a bun in the cafe.
Castle score: 10/10