How do you go about planning a castle tour?

Over the past few years I’ve visited depressingly few castles. In 2014 I managed the Tower of London and Chester, and I honestly think that might be it. I saw Oxford Castle in passing, but was en route elsewhere.

Many of the sites I cover in my research into slighted castles aren’t that impressive to look at in the first place. Not for my period anyway. The English Civil War left the likes of Kenilworth and Corfe as spectacular ruins. One of my key sites is Bedford, which is much less impressive. The same goes for Groby and Thetford, and many more.

So while site visits haven’t been essential to my research, they help rekindle the enthusiasm which helps you plough through the toughest parts. While the Tower of London is excellent, and well worth a day out, one per year isn’t quite enough and I’d like to visit more.

What I’d like to do is spend a weekend wondering round a few castles. But without a car I’m somewhat hamstrung, especially as some really interesting castles are in the country rather than towns or cities. Planning is key, so where to start? As with so many castle-related issues, the Gatehouse Gazetteer holds the answer. Its downloadable database includes information on the state of the castle as well as the type. So it lets you filter out those sites which might only have a few bits and pieces remaining or have been completely built over.

So to get things moving I used that to create a map so I could see which sites were close together, perhaps even near a train station with a bit of luck. Looks like the south east is the way to go. A bit of a change for someone from the north west!

I also found that you can do cool stuff with Google maps, as well as Google Earth (which is now free).

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