This is a well-preserved castle. The castle was originally a motte and bailey castle built in 1090 by Robert de Romille, lord of the multiple estates of Bolton Abbey. Shortly after 1102 Henry I extended Romille's lands to include all of upper Wharfedale and upper Airedale. The earth and wood castle was rebuilt in stone to withstand attacks by the Scots. The cliffs behind the castle, dropping down to Eller Beck, made the castle a perfect defensive structure. The Romille line died out, and in 1310 Edward II granted the castle to Robert Clifford who was appointed Lord Clifford of Skipton and Guardian of Craven. Robert Clifford ordered many improvements to the fortifications, but died in the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 when the improvements were barely complete. During the English Civil War the castle was the only Royalist stronghold in the north of England until December 1645. After a three-year siege, a surrender was negotiated in 1645 between Oliver Cromwell and the Royalists. Cromwell ordered the removal of the castle roofs. Legend has it that during the siege, sheep fleeces were hung over the walls to deaden the impact from the rounds of cannon fire. Sheep fleeces feature in the town's coat of arms. Skipton remained the Cliffords' principal seat until 1676. Lady Anne Clifford (1590–1676) was the last Clifford to own it. After the siege, she ordered repairs and she planted a yew tree in the central courtyard to commemorate its repair after the war.
Some of the great Cliffords associated with the castle are: John 9th Lord Clifford (1435-1461) Lord of Skipton. Also known as 'Black-faced' or 'Butcher Clifford'. Slain at the Battle of Towton fighting under the banner of his lawful Sovereign Henry VI. Francis Clifford 4th Earl of Cumberland (1559-1641). Inherited estates from George 3rd Earl who felt that they would be better preserved by is wealthy brother than by his young daughter. In the great lawsuits that followed with his redoubtable niece, Lady Anne Clifford, Francis was successful. He was born and died at Skipton Castle. Lady Margaret Russell, Countess of Cumberland (1560-1616) Married in 1577 to George Clifford 3rd Earl of Cumberland in the presence of Queen Elizabeth I, she was distinguished by resolute efforts to obtain for her daughter her rightful inheritance. Deeply interested in alchemy she discovered many excellent medicines. Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676) Born at Skipton Castle, the daughter of George Clifford, she was the last Clifford to own Skipton Castle. She fought equally tenaciously for her rights and for the King's cause in the Civil War, when Skipton Castle withstood a three years siege. In memory of her last parting from her blessed mother, Lady Anne Clifford erected 'The Countess's Pillar' at the roadside near Brougham Castle, and also founded the almshouses at Beamsley, near Skipton Castle.
The castle has six drum towers, with a domestic range connecting two towers on the northern side, protected by a precipice overlooking the Eller Beck. The first floor comprises the original kitchen, great hall, withdrawing rooms and the lord's bedchamber. New kitchens, storage and work cellars make up the ground floor. The remaining towers are military in nature and purpose. In the 16th and 17th centuries were added a new entrance staircase (replacing the original drawbridge), a further domestic wing, and larger windows in the original structure. The roof is fully intact. In the centre is a Tudor courtyard, the Conduit Court, which contains a yew tree, reputedly planted by Lady Anne in 1659. The outer curtain wall encloses the inner wards and subsidiary buildings, including the ruins of a 12th-century chapel. The wall is mainly extant, and is pierced by a twin-towered Norman gatehouse. The east tower of the gatehouse contains a 17th-century shell grotto, one of two remaining grottos from this period. (The other is at Woburn Abbey.) The guides have the history knowledge to answer any questions and a guided tour for a group of 15 more persons can be arranged if pre-booked at firstname.lastname@example.org . Please note that there is no wheelchair access to the ancient castle ~ grounds, tearoom & shop accessible over a cobbled surface.
Location : Skipton Castle, Skipton, North Yorkshire BD23 1AW
Transport: Skipton (National Rail) then bus. Bus routes : 14, 72, 72A, 74, 210, 580 and X84 stops near by.
Opening Times : Daily 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Adults £7.80; Seniors £6.80; Children (5 - 17) £4.90.
Tel: 01756 792442