Travel Journal March 15, 1999
Skipton Castle


There were a couple of interesting buildings that I had passed by earlier but had not photographed because of poor lighting conditions, or various obstructions. I was able to get some decent pictures this morning:

This tower appears to be part of the wall structure dating from Norman times, although the windows have clearly been inserted later. Note the interesting seperation of the walls along the left hand side - apparently, this occured when Cromwell's forces mined the tower.

  Some other examples of the intermingling of different periods.


I took a train out to Skipton, which is about an hour's train ride west of York. Skipton is the site of one of the best-preserved castles in England, and the reason for this makes an interesting story. Apparently, this castle belonged to the Clifford family (the same Cliffords that Clifford's Tower is named after, see yesterday's page.) The castle was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, and was heavily damaged. After the war, Lady Clifford asked Cromwell if she could have the castle back, and asked permission to restore the castle. Cromwell agreed, with the proviso that the restorations be made in such a way that the castle would not be defensible. This meant that the cannons would be removed, the flat roof replaced with a gabled roof, and the repaired walls would be much thinner than the originals.

So in other words, this castle has been restored, however the restoration took place at a time not too far removed from it's original construction.

The Yorkshire countryside.

  A couple of shots of the town of Skipton.

The entrance to the castle. One pleasant surprise was that I was able to use my Great British Heritage Pass, which I had purchased earlier, to get in free.

Inside the walls, looking towards the main keep.

  Looking back, we see that part of the gatehouse is undergoing some construction work. Apparently they are putting in a cafe. I took a closeup shot of the doorway because there was a workman working on it a few moments earlier, and because I'm always interested in the bits that people sweep under the rug.

Steps up to the keep.

  Inside, the steps lead towards the main courtyard.

The courtyard is quite beautiful. There are lots of little doors which lead to various places.

  There's a little side door next to the main door. Here's what's inside.

More shots of the courtyard.


Steps leading to the banquet hall.

   The banquet hall.

This actually leads to the steps we say earlier.

Fire place.

A medieval toilet, otherwise known as "the long drop".

I think that this was a bedroom.

The view from the back of the castle.

  Note the differences in thickness between the original walls, and the repaired wall. The original wall was about 3 feet thick, the restored wall is only one foot thick. It's hard to tell the difference from the outside.

  The original roof has survived from medieval times, which is one of the distinctinve features of Skipton castle.

A view of Skipton from the castle.

Down into the castle dungeon. The light was too poor in the dungeon to take a picture, but it was a single room at the end of these stairs, about 2 meters by 4 meters.

The kitchen.

This was where the meat was butchered and prepared.

It's interesting that they have an arrow-slit actually behind the fireplace.



I got back to York a little earlier than I had expected, so I decided to go to the Yorkshire County museum. This is distinct from the York Castle Museum. The former is mostly ancient history, whereas the latter is mostly recent history.

Another wall texture.

A mannequin dressed as a Roman warrior.

Early celtic carvings.

An Anglo-saxon sword hilt. Unforunately, the camera did a great job of focusing on the wall behind the sword.

A plesiosaur skeleton. Nessie's long-lost cousin?

A couple of things really struck me on the journey to Skipton.

First, I noticed something about the train stations. The train stations are all build in a particular style. This is not surprising, since they are all in England. What's surprising is that the train stations in Australia, as far as I can remember, are built in exactly the same style - the same kinds of metal awnings, the same carved Victorian-style lamp posts, etc.

Now, why should this be? The train stations in America don't look anything like the ones in either England or Australia.

It's not just train stations either. I lived in Australia for two years, and I remember that the houses looked very different from those in the US. However, as I travel around England, I am constantly struck by certain buildings that remind me exactly, down to the decorative patterns of colored bricks, of the houses in Australia. It's as if the colonists down under were so homesick that they decided to re-create their native England exactly as they remembered it.

There are a few differences between England and Australia, however. England has none of the cheap fiberboard siding, or red terra-cotta tile roofs which are common in Australia. Australia, on the other hand, has no thatched cottages.