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Chillingham Castle

Chillingham Castle sits just 5 miles south-east of Wooler. In medieval times it sat right on the border between Scotland and England. Home to the prominent Earls Grey for over 700 years Chillingham has hosted royalty and withstood numerous sieges.

Early History

The early castle at Chillingham was little more than a medieval tower with light fortification. It was originally built on the site of a monastery. In 1296 the Scots raided the nearby village and burned the abbey down with the villagers inside.

In 1298 King Edward I of England stayed here for a time on his way north to subjugate the Scottish. A gothic window was installed to celebrate the king's stay.

In 1344 Sir Thomas de Heaton gained a licence to crenellate and he built much of the impressive castle we see today.

Chillingham Castle is a standard quadrangular castle. It was built for border defence so it has massive oblong towers at each of its four corners and walls that are up to 3 metres thick in places. There is also evidence that it used to have a moat.

In 1536 the castle came under attack during the uprisings around the 'Pilgrimage of Grace'. It wasn't taken by the rebels, but it did suffer some damage and two of the corner towers were subsequently rebuilt.

The next major period of building occurred around 1620. The Greys had been actively involved in James' accession to the throne and King James I of England (King James VI of Scotland) stayed here on his way south from his only visit to Scotland after he became King of England.

Tudor Remodelling

The preparations for James' visit must have taken some time. With the decrease in tension along the border, Chillingham Castle was gradually being converted to become a more domestic residence. The moat was filled in and the north range of the castle was rebuilt.

A grand entrance front was built onto the north range (though it is unclear as to where the original entrance would have been). The towers were converted to residential wings and a banqueting hall and library were added.

The modifications were continued into the 18th and 19th Centuries. Capability Brown laid out the landscaped parkland around the castle in the 1760s. Around 1828 the renowned architect Sir Jeffrey Wyatville, who had been responsible for the renovations at Windsor Castle, was employed to lay out the ornate Italianate gardens around the castle.

Chillingham's royal connections remain to this day with some members of the Royal family having made private visits to the castle this century.

Chillingham Castle Ghosts

Today Chillingham Castle has a number of roles. Chillingham has been called 'the most haunted castle in England' and, if the accounts are to be believed, it certainly seems to have more than its fair share. It has attracted a number of 'ghost-hunting' shows including Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters International and the documentary A Blood Red Sky. Ghost tours are held regularly throughout the year.

Much of the castle is open to the public and some of the rooms have been decorated as they would have been in their most famous period. So you have rooms like the Edward I room decorated in a 13th Century style and the James I's room with its spectacular Elizabethan ceiling.

The castle can cater for private functions, weddings and corporate events with the added benefit of on-site accommodation. There are a number of self-catering apartments to rent, both inside the castle itself and in the nearby Coaching Rooms.

For the day visitor the castle has a tea room, toilets and car parking.

Status: Visitor Attraction / Wedding Venue / Film Location / Accommodation
Owner: Sir Wakefield Bt.
Tel: +44 (0)1668 215359
Opening Times: April to October Sun-Fri 12pm to 5pm

Entrance to Chillingham Castle
Entrance to Chillingham Castle

The formal gardens at Chillingham
The formal gardens at Chillingham

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