Driving south on the A350 there is a magnificent sight tucked away (and I do mean tucked!) in the beautiful countryside of Wiltshire: Wardour Castle. So often in England, we drive past signs that point us towards gardens, castles and stately homes. And that is exactly what we do: just drive right past. But this magical location is worth your taking the time to venture into the unknown and turn off the main road to follow the signs.
We had been looking for a place to celebrate our eldest daughter’s birthday. And as one of her passions is photography, we wanted somewhere grand. I had remembered passing signs for Wardour Castle on our way to Dorset beaches, and was curious to see what it was really like. Online, it looked absolutely amazing. My daughter agreed, and a day out was planned.
You know how sometimes you go somewhere and it wasn’t quite as nice as you had hoped? Well, Old Wardour was much more striking and majestic than expected. Unlike other castles we’ve seen (amazing though they are!), Old Wardour is not surrounded by a town, village or busy roads. And I think this adds to the magic and mystery of this fortress.
Built in the late 1300’s, Wardour Castle has undergone quite a few architectural changes. It was originally built as a grand and extravagant fortress by the Lovell family. For the next 200 years, its ownership ping-ponged between the Crown and Lovell descendants, surviving two sieges during the English Civil War in the mid 1600’s. During one such siege, Wardour’s structure was weakened and towers collapsed as a result of an accidental explosion.
In the late 1700’s, the Arundell family (who by now had ownership for over 200 years) chose not to restore the grand building, but gave their energy into building New Wardour Castle about 1 1/2 miles from the original site. Thus Old Wardour became the highlight of the New Wardour’s grounds. A stone grotto was added amidst the trees outside the old castle as was a small banqueting house near the lake, which is now used for weddings.
Old Wardour’s adventures with sieges and building work are over. But adventures for you and me continue in the form of our exploring inside the castle and imagining what life was like once upon a time and walking the beautiful grounds of the woods, lake and grotto. To help with your imaginings, information plaques are located on the different floors of the castle.
If you are bringing small children, do be aware there are many steep, spiral staircases with sudden drops within the castle.
Dogs are permitted on the grounds.
In warmer weather, do bring a picnic to enjoy in these beautiful grounds.
There is no cafe, but there is a vending machine available in the gift shop for hot drinks.
The bathrooms are located below the pavilion (banqueting house near the lake).
Do take advantage of the free audio tour.
Check the website for prices and opening times. Members of English Heritage go free.
If you are a home educator, you will be able to go for free (yay!), but please do check their main office before going for exact details and restrictions.
There is a free car park, but it is small.
Address: Tisbury, Salisbury SP3 6RR
Nearby attractions: The Deverills
Although a ruin, there is so much left of this castle to explore. Not to mention the grounds, woods and grotto. This bygone stately dwelling is definitely worth your taking the time to make that detour!