The castle was built between 1378 and 1399 by Richard, 1st Baron Scrope of Bolton, and is an example of a quadrangular castle. The licence to build it was granted in July 1379 and a contract with the mason John Lewyn was made in September 1378. Construction was reputed to cost 18,000 Marks. The 16th-century writer John Leland described 'An Astronomical Clock' in the courtyard and how smoke was conveyed from the hearth in the hall through tunnels. Bolton Castle was described by Sir Francis Knollys as having 'The highest walls of any house he had seen'. In 1536 John, 8th Baron Scrope supported the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion against the religious reforms of King Henry VIII and gave Adam Sedbar, Abbot of Jervaulx sanctuary in the castle. In consequence John Scrope had to flee to Skipton pursued by the King's men but Abbot Sedbar was caught and executed. In retribution the king ordered Bolton castle to be torched, causing extensive damage. Within a few years the damage had been repaired and Sir John had regained his seat in Parliament. Mary, Queen of Scots stayed at Bolton for six months. After her defeat in Scotland at the Battle of Langside in 1568 she fled to England, posing a threat to the position of the Protestant Queen Elizabeth I.
Mary was initially held at Carlisle Castle under the watch of Henry, 9th Baron Scrope, but Carlisle proved unsuitable and in July 1568 Mary was moved to Bolton. Mary was given Henry Scrope's own apartments in the South-West tower. Of her retinue of 51 knights, servants and ladies-in-waiting only 30 of her men and six ladies-in-waiting were able to stay in the castle, the rest taking lodgings nearby. Her household included cooks, grooms, hairdresser, embroiderer, apothecary, physician and surgeon. Bolton Castle was not initially suitable for housing a Queen, so tapestries, rugs and furniture were borrowed from local houses and nearby Barnard Castle in County Durham. Queen Elizabeth herself loaned some pewter vessels as well as a copper kettle. All this was to maitain the deference due to her rank, one monarch could not be seen to diminish the status of the monarchy. Mary was allowed to wander the surrounding lands and often went hunting. Her prime occupation while at the castle was having her hair done by her friend Mary Seton. Sir Francis Knollys, whom Mary nicknamed 'Schoolmaster', taught her English, as she only spoke French, Latin and Scots. She even met with local Catholics, something for which Knollys and Scrope were severely reprimanded. In January 1569 Mary left Bolton Castle for the last time, being taken to Tutbury in Staffordshire where she spent much of the 18 years before her execution in 1587.
Immediately in front of the Castle are two walled gardens which have been laid out along medieval lines, but reduced somewhat in size and scale. The herb garden contains over fifty varieties of culinary and medicinal herbs, all of which were in common cultivation in the medieval period. These include betany, bugloss, yarrow, thyme, comfrey, tansy and loveage. This enclosed garden is a sun trap which heightens the aroma of many herbs, particularly in the early evening. Vines were first brought to this country by the Romans after AD280 when Emperor Probus decreed that vines could be grown outside Italy to give his troops something to do when they were not on duty. Although historically there would not have been a vineyard this far north, the one recently established in the lee of the castle is stocked with a modern hybrid, frost hardy and early ripening variety of red grape, Vitis Vinifera x Vitis Amurensis. In time, this small vineyard should produce up to 1000 bottles of wine a year. The private maze was planted in time to reach maturity for the year 2000 millennium celebrations. Daily Activities include: 11.30 Bird of Prey Display (Garden), 13.45 Archery Demonstration and children can have a go! (Courtyard), 15.00 Bird of Prey Display (Garden), 16.00 Wild Boar Feeding (Boar Park). Costumed guided tours available for groups of 15 or more when booked in advance. No dogs allowed (they would frighten the falcons. Please be aware that the castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and is not easily accessible for those with reduced mobility as spiral stairs and uneven surfaces exist throughout the building.
Location : Bolton Castle, Nr Leyburn, North Yorkshire DL8 4ET
Transport: Darlington (National Rail) then bus - 27 miles. Bus routes 127 (Wensleydale Tour) 156 and EXP stop nearby.
Opening Times: Daily 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets: Adults £8.50. Concessions/Children (5 - 18) £7.00.
Gardens Only: Adults £4.00. Concessions/Children (5 - 18) £3.00.
Tel: 01969 623981