Baconsthorpe Castle - Hidden deep within the rural Norfolk countryside sits the old empty ruins of this once magnificent manor house and castle.
This supposedly haunted castle is surrounded by open meadows, cattle, horses, a moat and a lake. You almost get the eerie feeling that you’ve gone the wrong way or that you shouldn’t be there.
However, have no fear, this fortified manor house is actually owned by English Heritage, and the boards dotted around the site give you excellent historical information.
Unusually for this type of manor house, it is linked to only one family, the Heydons, who started the building work in 1450.
As with many individuals at that time, the more successful John Heydon became, the larger his house became. The Heydon's first made their fortune as lawyers, and then through the wool trade. As their wealth grew, so did the surrounding gatehouse and castle.
At one point, due to their impressive wealth in the wool industry, part of the Baconsthorpe Castle estate was turned into a wool processing factory.
Unfortunately the Heydon's were not very good estate managers, and eventually, 200 years later, they had to demolish parts of the grounds due to financial debt. Many of the demolished parts were eventually sold as building materials.
The castle, (in the background of the photo above) was actually the first part to be built, and with the wealth they accumulated, they then built the outer gatehouse (in the forefront), which in those days was a sign of great extravagance and money.
Walk through the outer gatehouse and there in front of you is the castle itself, surrounded by fields and the lake.
It must have been a huge residence, able to accommodate servants and guests alike. With the diagrams on the panel boards, you begin to get a very good idea of what it must have been like to have lived or worked there.
There are many castle ruins, abbeys and priories in Norfolk, and Baconsthorpe Castle happens to be one of them. You are spoilt for choice as to which ones you can go and see.
But I would just point out that if you’ve got small children, you would definitely want to keep a very careful eye on them around the water.
The lake was built at a later date, but it is a fascinating place to visit and see how history relates.
To see the outline of the “windows” in the outer wall is testament to how the craftsmen were experts in their field, and the walls that are about 600 years old are still standing today.
The Inner Gatehouse was an important part of the main castle building as it served as a defensible residence in times of danger. It’s almost like a house within a house! Amazing what money can do!
Once the castle was demolished to pay for the large accumulated debts, the gatehouse then became a private residence and was lived in until 1920 until one of the towers collapsed.
This gatehouse was obviously a very impressive entrance to the main Baconsthorpe Castle and you do feel rather grand walking through the doorway, across what would have been a drawbridge towards the moat and inner gatehouse.
It really is a hidden gem in one of Norfolk’s many treasures.
The Castle is a very short distance from Holt, the very pretty Georgian market town in North Norfolk, known for its galleries, antique and quirky little shops and cafes.
And Binham Priory is also close by, in the village of Binham. This is another one of Norfolk's impressive Benedictine Priories and one that is definitely worth a visit.
If you're interested in these castle ruins, you may also be interested in the magnificent stately home nearby: Blickling Hall
There's a lovely 3.5 mile circular walk around Baconsthorpe Castle which takes you away from the ruin and along quiet tracks and lanes, through open fields and into the village itself. It's well sign posted, but you can find more details on this walk in the Norfolk Heritage Walks book that I have written. Each of the walks in the book have a place of interest at the beginning of the walk such as a castle ruin, a priory ruin, a lighthouse, windpump or windmill.
The ruins of Baconsthorpe Castle are managed by English Heritage and are open during reasonable daylight hours. There are no exterior gates that get locked at night and the car park is free.
Dogs are allowed into the grounds but need to on leads, especially as their is a mere. Access to both the gatehouse and castle is on a gravel path which takes you into the interior of the ruins which is then grass. In the winter months it can get a bit muddy here.
The postcode is NR25 6LL.