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Raby Castle (English Castles)

One of the largest and most impressive of English medieval castles, Raby Castle, in County Durham, Northumbria, provides a wonderful day out for all the family.

Wonder at its towers, turrets, embattled walls, interiors and artworks from the Medieval, Regency and Victorian periods.

See the herds of deer roaming the surrounding parkland, enjoy the ornamental gardens, the horse-drawn carriages, relax in the tearooms and be tempted by traditional and unusual gifts & souvenirs in the gift shop.

Built in the mid 14th century on the site of an earlier fortified manor house by the powerful Nevill family who owned it until the Rising of the North in 1569, Raby Castle has been the home of Lord Barnard's family since 1626.

Every room in Raby Castle, from the magnificent Barons' Hall, where 700 knights gathered to plot the 'Rising of the North', to the Mediaeval Kitchen which was used until 1954, gives an insight to life throughout the ages.

Despite its powerful exterior of towers and fortifications, Raby houses a fabulous art collection and splendid interiors. Treasures include an important collection of Meissen porcelain, tapestries, furnishings and paintings by leading artists such as Munnings, De Hooch, Teniers, Van Dyck and Reynolds.

The approach to the castle is particularly beautiful as its towers and turrets appear and disappear amongst the trees in the 200 acre surrounding parkland with its ornamental lakes and herds of deer.

Most of the building is 14th century, being granted a licence to crenellate from the Bishop of Durham in 1378, with fragments said to date back to the 11th century.

The 14th century Gatehouse, with its stone figures standing on the battlements, once guarded a drawbridge over the now dry Castle moat which was drained in the 18th century. Beyond stands Clifford's Tower, with some original Edward III windows and solid 10ft thick walls.

A curtain wall, with early leaded windows and arrow loops, leads to the Kitchen Tower, surmounted by a distinctive octagonal lantern heightened by John Carr in the 18th century.

On the west front, next to Joan's Tower, is the Nevill Gateway, with its obliquely placed flanking towers and overhead machicolations through which boiling water or oil could be poured on to the heads of attackers. Along its barrel vaulted passage is a door on which battering ram marks can still be seen today.

The Nevill Gateway is the principal entrance to the Castle, which allowed horse-drawn carriages into the courtyard, through the Entrance Hall and out through the Chapel Tower standing alongside Mount Raskelf on the east front.

At the south east corner of the Castle stands the unusual five-sided Bulmer's Tower, named after the Norman Knight Bertram de Bulmer, its base dating from the 11th century. Designed to provide the best defensive solution at that point, it is unique in England, the only other tower of this shape being in Denmark.

The south front, overlooking the Castle lakes, is the most altered of the exterior fronts. In the 19th century, Architect William Burn altered a former round tower with an impressive extension which accommodates the Octagon Drawing Room.

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