The castle stands proudly at the entrance to Skipton. Walking through the imposing main gate set between defensive towers, you immediately have the sense of entering a safe haven. I
Much has been written about the role Lady Anne Clifford played in the Castle's history. She was responsible for repairing the castle after the Civil War and then planted the yew tree in the courtyard which you can still see.
Skipton Castle is a picture-perfect replica of the castles in any child's traditional story book.
If you're looking for a family outing that's guaranteed to get children off their phones and fill their imagination with stories of the past, this is the place.
Out-buildings close to the former chapel are the only area that still look in need of some renovation. But that's a good thing: there's real beauty in the mix of stones and styles, the higgledy-piggledy doors and windows, the marks on the wall that show how the buildings have changed over time.
It's hard for owners of historic buildings to offer the right balance of information and guidance, without over-facing visitors. At Skipton Castle, they've got it exactly right.
There's a general direction of the visit, but it's free flow enough to enable children to play hide and seek and run ahead while their parents read the short pieces of information in each room or base their visit on the illustrated tour sheet which has short anecdotes and facts about each area of the Castle.
Every room is in a state of excellent repair, with whitewashed walls so it's easy to see the historic details and architecture. It's been years since I last visited and today felt like going back to see an old friend, a little older but just as valued. I couldn't help reaching out to feel some of the door hinges, coats of arms on the drains, and dressed stones and they felt strangely familiar. I don't think it was because I'd touched them so often before, but rather the shared tactile memory of hundreds of people reaching out over the years and doing exactly the same. Some will find that weird. I think it's comforting.
There are shrieks of delight as children spot the 'long drop' and realise that was the toilet. And some realise the meaning of "getting the wrong end of the stick" - when you pick up the stick covered in moss on one end which was the fore-runner of recycled toilet paper...
The dungeon isn't as dank or miserable as many might hope but it's still a pretty foreboding spot.
It's fun to look through the 'squints' and image firing at invaders, just as it's easy to conjure up visions of the huge feasts once held in the grander rooms - artists impressions on the walls help fire the imagination.
I've spent many many years working in tourism, visiting castles and houses through-out the country, working with Historic Royal Palaces, English Heritage and the like so I'm afraid I'm become a bit immune to some historic buildings. Skipton Castle reminded me why I love to see the patina of age in buildings, the layers of stories hidden in their ancient fabric. The current owners, the Fattorini family bought the Castle in the 1950s, reputedly saving it from becoming a theme park. It's clearly been a labour of love to preserve and maintain it.
They also recognise that not everyone loves wandering around empty historic rooms, so have an excellent programme of events when the Castle comes alive to the sounds and sights of costumed historical recreations when you can learn about life during the English Civil War, and in medieval times. The only thing that you might find a little off-putting is their website, but when you've got a 900 year history, I don't suppose websites seem that crucial!