It’s impossible to think of Clitheroe without thinking of Clitheroe Castle dominating its skyline, as it has for more than 800 centuries.
Built around the time of 1186 by Robert De Lacy, the castle was an administrative centre for his estate. During the 14th century the Earl of Lancaster inherited the property, but after his execution it became part of the royal estates. Charles II then gave the property to the first Duke of Albernarle, who helped him regain the throne in 1660.
Standing isolated on a rocky hill of limestone about 35 meters above the River Ribble’s valley floor, the keep of Clitheroe Castle is a prominent landmark for both the county and the town itself. The layout of the castle consists of an outer bailey, an inner bailey and the keep with its curtain wall and a gate house. Like all the best things in Lancashire, it has several claims to fame: it is one of the oldest buildings in the county; the castle is said to be the second smallest keep in England with rooms reaching only twenty foot square and it is the only remaining castle in Lancashire which had a royalist battalion during the Civil War... And if you’re not a history buff then you can relax in the knowledge that it even has its own music festival!
Views from the old castle walls are absolutely breathtaking, as is the walk up the hill but fortunately you can stop half way at the castle’s museum which really does bring to life this history of the area. The museum reflects both the local geology and history of the area with special events and displays staged throughout the year. Two floors of displays cover the history of the Ribble Valley from the Hacking ferryboat to witchcraft, local birds and geology. There is a reconstructed lead mine, Clogger’s shop and an Edwardian kitchen, which all feature sound.
After a huge refurbishment of £3.5 million on the castle and the museum the castle won “Best Small Visitor Attraction of the Year 2010/11” award at the annual Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board Tourism Awards event. The refurbishment features a glass atrium linking the museum and North West Sound Archives on two levels, a café, exhibition space, interactive display facilities, education suite and several multi-media exhibitions depicting the history of Ribble Valley.
The keep was deliberately damaged after its capture by Parliamentary forces during the civil war, however was repaired in 1848 with limestone.
Another local tale that you’ll hear (Though generally only from someone drunk on real ale) is that an evil spirit threw a boulder off Pendle Hill which hit the castle. Either way, the damage can still be seen today.
There are 18 acres of formal gardens surrounding the castle which are simply stunning; within these grounds you will find a beautiful rose garden which was designed by a pupils at the local Ribblesdale High School.
The rose garden creates a fun and vibrant feature for the Clitheroe Castle experience.
When you’re done looking around you can browse around the grounds or simply stand and enjoy one of the best views of Pendle Hill to be found in Lancashire.