Location: Bolsover, Chesterfield S44 6PR
History: The castle was founded in the late 11th century by William Peverel, one of William the Conqueror’s knights, but it was neglected from the mid-14th century. Its ruins provided the setting for the Little Castle begun in 1612 by Sir Charles Cavendish as a retreat from his principal seat at Welbeck, a few miles away.
The design of the Little Castle was intended to evoke a Norman great tower, which it clearly resembles viewed from a distance, rising sheer from the cliff. The interior continues the impression, with massive round Romanesque vaults in the basement and pointed Gothic ones on the entrance floor. The great windows of the upper floors were designed to give panoramic views across the landscape.
Review: The first time I went here, I came with Luke and we weren’t even planning on visiting this castle.
For the life of me, I can’t remember where we had been, but we were driving back from somewhere and saw the sign for Bolsover castle, since we had a few more hours before it closed, we decided to visit.
Now parking at Bolsover really isn’t that great.
For starters, don’t follow your SatNav, try and follow the signs.
The main car park for the castle was full, but it wasn’t really that big. But we were told that there was additional parking a little way away. This was great, as I really didn’t want to park all the way across town.
But this additional parking isn’t signposted obviously. In fact, if you didn’t know, it looks like a random gate into a private field. But don’t worry, you can park there.
I wouldn’t have liked to have a massive truck though, as the gate wasn’t that big, even in my little car.
Anyway, we parked up and made our way to the castle.
We really didn’t know what to expect from this castle, but I have to say we were really surprised.
This is actually the first English Heritage site that me and Luke went to, and it’s where we signed up to be English Heritage members as well.
Not only that, but this location is the place where me and Luke took our first photo together.
Now what I really loved about this place, was right from the start the staff were so friendly. The man who signed us up was very funny and knew loads of information.
Not only that, but there was also an event on that was about to start. They asked us if we liked horses, which we said of course we do and they radioed the people running the event and said that we were going to come (but we might be a little late).
At no extra cost might I add.
This event is for the Cavendish’s Horses: Power and Grace at Bolsover Castle.
Now I actually had no idea what to expect from this, but I was absolutely blown away.
I mean look at how impressive this horse is!
Unfortunately we could not take photos, or videos of what they were doing. But it was spectacular. So this photo is just from their site.
It’s not only about the horses though (there were 3 in the event), there’s so much more that they show you.
You get to witness experience horsemen in flamboyant 17th Century costume, training for art and battle to baroque music in the spectacular surroundings of the Riding School at Bolsover Castle.
You get to see the horses in training, as they refine the methods created by one of the great Equestrian masters, William Cavendish.
The Atkinson Action Horses will amaze you with a demonstration of skilled horsemanship displaying the complicated movements of Cavendish’s time which are still relevant today.
This is suitable for all, perfect for families and those interested in horses and horse riding!
I loved it – I was honestly so blown away by it. I wished we had come early so that I could have seen it again.
Anyway, that’s not all that this castle has to offer. There is so much else to see.
Until we arrived at this place, I had never learned about the history of this place. I (stupidly) thought that this would be a ruin, but it’s so much better than that.
The picture above shows the Little Castle – this was created as an extravagant retreat by playboy, poet and courtier, Sir William Cavendish.
With medieval-style turrets and towers it was a building designed to surprise and delight.
There were mock-medieval and classical elements in the architecture of the Little Castle that evoked the lost Golden Age celebrated in Jacobean court masques.
Guests might have anticipated romance and a pursuit of heroic virtue.
If you look closely at the entrance, the statue of Hercules over the entrance symbolises the shared experience of masquing (performing) and the moral journey ahead.
Let me tell you now, this castle is full of surprises! Some good and some a little bit naughty haha!
What I loved is that it is brilliantly preserved and beautifully restored, the labyrinth of sumptuous rooms will treat your senses with richly coloured wall art, carved marble fireplaces and stunning painted ceilings.
One of my favourite rooms was the Pillar Parlour, which was an intimate dining chamber. King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria were probably served a banquet in this room when they visited Bolsover in 1634.
The paintings set into the panelling depict the five senses, from prints copied from Frans Floris. The picture above is just one of the senses, can you guess what sense it is depicting?
The senses were associated with moral danger and the effort required to overcome temptation. The struggle to reconcile pleasure to virtue was connected to the myth of Hercules, who rejected the seductive path of vice.
My next favourite room was the Star Chamber.
This is the main chamber of the castle. Only family and privileged guests would be allowed in this room, and to be honest I can understand why – this room was just amazing.
There are so many rooms in this castle though, that it would be easy for you to get lost as you explore them.
It’s not just the castle that you have to explore though, you’ve also got the castles wall walk to enjoy as well.
You can walk all around the wall here and get a great view of the castle and the grounds.
This is where me and Luke took our photo together (in case anyone was wondering).
You get stunning countryside views, and the fountain garden down below, you can strut along the Cavalier’s catwalk, like a Stuart courtier wanting to see and be seen!
The fountain in the middle was also quite interesting. I don’t have a closer photo, but basically it’s situationed in the Fountain Garden (at least it’s easy enough to remember)!
The Fountain Garden was designed around the statue of Venus – goddess of love and pleasure – emerging from her bath. It included a secluded chamber for intimate banquets set into the garden wall.
This place is honestly so fascinating!
I can’t believe I’ve never been before.
And I can’t wait for the day when it’s safe to go back, as I would love to explore everything here again!