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Guildford Castle

Visited April 2015

Location Guildford, Surrey
Entrance Fee Yes
Railway Station Nearby Yes- Guildford
Parking In town
Facilities Small gift shop








Surrey is not a county which is overflowing with castles, but of the few there are, Guildford is undeniably the most impressive.


The town itself is Saxon in origin, and so the Norman castle was built on a large motte to intimidate the inhabitants and constantly remind them that their Norman lords were now firmly in charge. The original castle would have been wood, but was upgraded to stone in the twelfth century. There are fragments of a wall around the front of the keep. This wall was made of chalk, which was not a durable choice of building material- hence the scant remains. 






Although the most striking part of the site is the large keep up on the motte, there are also the ruins of residential apartments, built in the castle bailey. The castle was a royal castle, and as such was expected to have comfortable accommodation available should the king wish to visit. Originally this would have been in the keep, but as the need for defence lessened, the residential areas became more luxurious. A great hall was added some time after 1220, with a kitchen to one end. There were also private apartments for the king and members of court, with a private chapel for the king, and one for the queen as well. 


The castle had passed its heyday by the end of the thirteenth century, and the buildings were not maintained after that. The keep was used as a prison for a while, but eventually fell into disuse as prisoners were known to escape. It eventually passed into private hands, and was used for a while as a private residence. The domestic windows on the keep date from this time. But by 1630 the keep was roofless and used for cock-fighting.





Today the castle is the focal point of a public park, with beautifully kept gardens. The roof has been restored to the keep, and can be accessed- the views are fantastic . There is a small fee to go inside the keep- the lower floor has an exhibition on the history of the castle, the upper floor contains a large room with medieval graffiti etched onto  the walls. A spiral staircase leads from here  up to the roof.


The park is very pleasant to spend time in, and there are plenty of benches if you wish to bring a picnic. There are no toilets at the castle or park, but we found some at Guildford Museum, just behind the castle, through the park and through the castle arch (watch out for traffic on the road though!) 


The author Lewis Carroll lived in a house near the castle grounds, and as well as plenty of Wonderland exhibits in the museum, the park has a statue of Alice Through the Looking Glass in the grounds- you can actually see it from the roof of the keep! The museum has free entry, and a pretty good gift shop. 


As the castle is in the middle of the town, there are plenty of shops and cafes nearby for refreshments if required.





More info:  Guildford Castle

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