We are passionate about exploring as many historical buildings and properties as possible. We are fortunate to have so many wonderful places to visit near us. We have recently purchased English Heritage annual passes. Our passes arrived last week and the first place we decided to visit couldn’t have been any closer to home, in fact Ashby de la Zouch Castle is located just a short drive from our home.
Ashby de la Zouch is a small market town in Leicestershire. Nestled in the heart of the town is an impressive Grade 1 listed 12th century castle, with a rather colourful past.
Ashby Castle began life as a manor house in the 12th century. Built by the la Zouche family, the township now takes its unusual name from the family.
By the 15th century the land and house had been acquired by the Hastings family. Lord William Hastings set about creating a grand castle to sit at the heart of his 3000 acre deer park.
For the next two hundred years the castle was occupied by members of the Hastings family. Queen Anne is known to have visited and stayed within the castle walls during this period.
In the mid 17th century English Civil War had broken out. During the early years of the rebellion the castle was used as a stronghold for Royalists in the Midlands. By 1648 the Royalists had been defeated by Parlimentary forces and the castle had by surrendered and was then used to house prisoners. During a Royalist uprising the castle was partially destroyed in an attempt to thwart the effort. It was feared that the Royalist forces would try to reoccupy the castle.
Having suffered serious damage during the war the castle was subsequently repaired to form a smaller manor house called Ashby Place. This remained in the Hastings family until the 19th century when the Earl of Moira acquired the house and surrounding land. Having featured in Sir Walter Scotts hugely popular 1819 novel Ivanhoe the Earl made the decision to open Ashby Castle to the public. This was in an effort to attract visitors to the town and to the newly built Ivanhoe Baths.
Work continued through out the 19th and early 20th century to repair and preserve the ruins. Ashby de la Zouch Castle is now in the care of English Heritage and continues to attract thousands of visitors a each year.
We first visited Ashby Castle about 3 years ago when L was much younger. We felt that was too young to really appreciate the building so we were really looking forward to visiting again. Thankfully the weather was in our favour. The castle which is very much a ruin has little in the way of shelter so we were thankful that the rain decided to stay away.
Parking onsite in free of charge. The carpark is quite small and is accessed by a rather bumpy road. Entry to the castle is through a small gift shop. We collected our free audio guide and made our way to the castle grounds.
There are no pathways to follow you are very much free to roam around the ruins. Sitting in the centre of the grounds is the very impressive four storey great tower. You are actually able to climb the 98 arduous steps to the top if you are feeling fit. The views are very impressive. I stayed at the bottom with L whilst Mr B climbed to the top.
We then headed down into the tunnel that links the tower to what would have been the kitchen. It is thought that this was constructed during the civil war. The tunnel is accessed via steep steps and is very well lit. We must have gone up and down at least three times!
We then explored the Great Hall, Kitchen and Chapel areas of the castle. Weaving in and out of the archways. It’s easy to lose yourself in thought about the people who once called Ashby Castle home.
The garden areas of the castle are a curiosity in themselves. Whilst covered by lawn now the contours and outlines of the once formal gardens and the unique and mysterious sunken gardens can still be seen. L loved running up and down the hills. Once he had exhausted himself we made our way to the other side of the castle grounds where there are some additional tower ruins.
There are signs dotted around that highlight the history of the castle. We found the audio guide very useful, L actually spent alot of time listening and began reciting the history of Ashby Castle out loud!
The grounds are surrounded by lush green trees that are beginning to change with the turn of the seasons. The area so beautiful and picaresque, so picturesque in fact that I was stung by nettles trying to get a photo of some mushrooms!
We spent around an hour and a half exploring Ashby Castle. I’m so pleased we decided to visit again. We will definitely be returning in the future.
Good to know
Entry Prices – correct as of September 2017
Adult – £5.60
Children – £3.40
Concession – £5.00
Family (2 Adults, 3 Children) – £14.60
English Heritage Members – included in pass price
Entry times vary throughout the year. We recommend that you check the website for details.
There is a small gift shop onsite which sells cold and hot drinks as well as a few snacks. There are also toilets available.
English Heritage properties in Leicestershire
There are a number of fantastic English Heritage properties to visit in Leicestershire.
Located 4 miles from Leicester this impressive moated mansion house dates from the 15th century. Open from March to September this is a must see!
In the heart of Leicester city lies Jewry Wall. One of the largest surviving pieces of Romans masonry in the country. Open from February to October.
We can wait to start exploring many more of the 400 fascinating English Heritage properties. We really recommend signing up for an annual pass. You could pay at little as £8 per month for a family pass!
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Disclaimer – this is not a paid review. We purchased our own English Heritage passes. Our opinions and thoughts are our own