Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire

Bolsover Castle, a captivating destination that will transport you back in time to an enchanting storybook setting. Nestled in the heart of the Derbyshire countryside, this historical gem is an absolute must-visit for all avid history enthusiasts.

I love coming here with my family and my children and grandchildren especially enjoy it. For all ages there is something to see, learn about or enjoy.

Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Bolsover Castle’s past as you explore its majestic halls and roam its beautifully manicured gardens. Discover the tales of its medieval origins and delve into the fascinating characters that have graced its grounds throughout the centuries. From lavish banquets to fierce battles, every stone of this impressive fortress holds a story waiting to be uncovered.

Bolsover Castle the ruins

Walk in the footsteps of the castle’s former residents and admire the architectural marvels that have stood the test of time. Marvel at the grandeur of the Riding House, a unique example of Jacobean design, or gaze in awe at the Little Castle’s intricately decorated rooms.

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Whether you’re seeking an immersive historical experience or simply looking to marvel at the stunning beauty of this centuries-old landmark, Bolsover Castle promises an unforgettable journey into the past. Prepare to be captivated by the magic and charm that awaits within its historic walls.

Bolsover Terrace Range

History of Bolsover Castle

The origins of Bolsover Castle date back to the 11th century when a wooden fortification stood at the site. Its strategic location on a hilltop offered commanding views of the surrounding landscape, making it an ideal stronghold.

Notable figures associated with Bolsover Castle include William Peverel, who was given the castle by William the Conqueror, and Sir William Cavendish, who expanded and transformed it into a lavish residence. The castle has witnessed significant events throughout history, including the English Civil War.

One of the most significant periods in the castle’s history was also during the 17th century when it was owned by the influential Cavendish family. Sir Charles Cavendish, a courtier and patron of the arts, transformed the castle into a lavish retreat, combining medieval features with Jacobean design elements. The castle became renowned for its opulent interiors and extravagant entertainment.

Working with the famous builder and designer Robert Smythson, Cavendish’s castle was designed for elegant and stylish living rather than for defence as the original one was, and it was still unfinished at the time of the two men’s deaths, in 1614 and 1617 respectively.

Accounts survive for building the early stages of the “Little Castle.” Unusually for this period of time female labour was officially recorded, and the women’s names or husband’s names are also given.

Statue of Venus Fountain

Building was interupted during the Civil Wars of 1642 to 1651, during which time the castle was taken by the Parliamentarians, who slighted it, and it fell into a ruinous state. 

William Cavendish, who was created Marquess of Newcastle in 1643 and Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in 1665, added a new hall and staterooms to the Terrace Range, and by the time of his death in 1676 the castle had been restored to good order.

After 1883, the castle was uninhabited. The castle was finally given to the nation by the 7th Duke of Portland in 1945. English Heritage now care for Bolsover Castle and its grounds.

The Terrace Range at bolsover castle

Architecture and design of Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle is a remarkable example of architectural evolution, showcasing different styles from different periods. The Riding House, built in the early 17th century, is a unique structure that combines elements of a riding school and a banqueting hall. Its impressive roof, adorned with decorative stone figures, is a testament to Jacobean design.

The Little Castle, another highlight of Bolsover Castle, is a self-contained miniature mansion. Its intricate rooms feature ornate plasterwork, elaborate fireplaces, and beautifully painted ceilings. The castle’s design includes a central tower, known as the lantern, which offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Little Castle and a little guide

Notable events and figures associated with Bolsover Castle

Throughout its history, Bolsover Castle has been a witness to significant events and hosted notable figures. During the English Civil War, the castle became a strategic stronghold for the Royalist cause. It withstood a siege by the Parliamentarian forces and played a vital role in the defense of the monarchy.

One of the most renowned figures associated with Bolsover Castle is William Cavendish, the 1st Duke of Newcastle. He was a prominent nobleman, a skilled military commander, and a prolific writer. The duke’s passion for horsemanship led him to construct the Riding House, which became a center for equestrian training and entertainment.

Exploring the grounds and features of Bolsover Castle

As you explore Bolsover Castle, you’ll be captivated by its stunning grounds and unique features. The Fountain Garden, with its cascading water features and vibrant flowerbeds, provides a tranquil oasis. The Terrace Range, a long gallery with magnificent views, offers a glimpse into the grandeur of the castle’s past.

The Fountain Garden

Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the underground passage, known as the Venus Garden Tunnel, which connects the Little Castle to the Terrace Range. This secret passage adds an air of mystery to the castle and allows visitors to imagine what life might have been like for its former inhabitants.

Haunted tales 

The television paranormal investigation show Most Haunted investigated the castle as part of a five-night Halloween live event for Living TV, with presenter Yvette Fielding who was joined by medium David Wells and parapsychologist, Ciarán O’Keeffe on location in the castle.

The site has been voted the spookiest site by English Heritage staff. Mysterious footsteps have been heard, a young boy holding visitors’ hands, people have heard muffled voices and unexplained lights have been seen, these are among the events that are reported to have occurred.

Grandson enjoys the bolsover castle grounds

Visitor information and practical tips for visiting Bolsover Castle

To make the most of your visit to Bolsover Castle, here are some practical tips and information. The castle is open to the public throughout the year, except for certain holidays, so be sure to check the Bolsover Castle website for the latest opening hours and admission prices.

Parking is available on-site, and there are facilities for disabled visitors, including accessible paths and ramps. Guided tours and audio guides are available for those who want a more in-depth exploration of the castle’s history. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the breathtaking views and architectural details.

Don’t forget to get yourself an interactive guide. This will help you learn more about your visit here and guide you through the history. They have a lovely tea room for tasty refreshments too. 

Castle doorway at bolsover

Activities and events at Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle offers a range of activities and events to engage visitors of all ages. From historical reenactments and live performances to interactive workshops and educational programs, there’s always something happening at the castle.

If you’re a photography enthusiast, consider joining a photography workshop to capture the castle’s beauty from unique angles. For families, there are often special events tailored to children, including storytelling sessions and arts and crafts activities. Keep an eye on the castle’s event calendar to plan your visit accordingly.

Nearby attractions and accommodations for visitors

If you’re planning to spend more than a day exploring Bolsover Castle and its surroundings, there are plenty of attractions and accommodations nearby. The historic market town of Chesterfield is just a short drive away and offers a charming mix of shops, cafes, and a famous crooked spire church.

Bolsover Castle: A beautifully preserved castle dating back to the 17th century, offering stunning views and architectural wonders.

Hardwick Hall: Explore this magnificent Elizabethan mansion known for its grandeur and impressive tapestries.

Creswell Crags: Visit this limestone gorge for a unique experience, featuring Ice Age cave art and picturesque walking trails.

Sherwood Forest: Immerse yourself in the legendary world of Robin Hood, with ancient oaks and exciting outdoor activities.

Poulter Country Park: Enjoy nature walks, birdwatching, and serene picnic spots in this scenic country park.

Chesterfield Museum and Art Gallery: Discover the local history and culture through fascinating exhibits and artworks.

Bolsover Cundy House: Step back in time at this historic building, showcasing the fascinating heritage of Bolsover.

Stainsby Mill: Visit this 19th-century working watermill and learn about traditional milling techniques.

Renishaw Hall and Gardens: Wander through beautiful gardens and explore the historic home of the Sitwell family.

Derbyshire Wildlife Trust Reserve: Experience the natural beauty of the area with wildlife spotting and peaceful nature walks.

For nature lovers, the Peak District National Park is within easy reach, offering breathtaking landscapes and outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling. There are also a variety of accommodations available in the area, ranging from cozy bed and breakfasts to luxury hotels, ensuring a comfortable stay for every visitor.

The following are some accommodation options near Bolsover Castle:

The Old Pump House: A charming bed and breakfast located in the heart of Bolsover village. It offers comfortable rooms and a delicious breakfast.

The Castle Inn: This traditional inn features cozy rooms, a pub, and a restaurant. It is just a short walk away from Bolsover Castle.

The Devonshire Arms: Situated in the nearby town of Chesterfield, this hotel offers modern rooms and excellent amenities. It is a convenient choice for exploring Bolsover Castle.

The Peacock at Barlow: Located in the picturesque village of Barlow, this boutique hotel offers stylish rooms and a restaurant serving locally sourced cuisine.

The Angel Inn: Situated in the town of Clowne, this historic inn provides comfortable rooms and a pub atmosphere. It is a short drive away from Bolsover Castle.

Bolsover Castle in popular culture and literature

Bolsover Castle’s enchanting beauty and rich history have captured the imagination of many writers and artists. It has served as inspiration for numerous works of literature, including historical novels and poetry. Its grandeur and architectural details make it a favorite subject for photographers and painters alike.

The castle has also been featured in several films and television series, such as The Princess Bride and The Other Boleyn Girl.. Further cementing its status as a storybook destination. Its picturesque setting and timeless charm have made it an ideal filming location for period dramas and fantasy productions.

Castle ruins


In conclusion, Bolsover Castle is a truly remarkable destination for history enthusiasts. Its fascinating history, stunning architecture, and beautiful grounds make it a treasure trove of stories waiting to be discovered. Whether you’re a fan of medieval fortresses, Jacobean design, or simply appreciate the magic of stepping back in time, Bolsover Castle promises an unforgettable experience.

From exploring its grand halls to strolling through its gardens, every corner of Bolsover Castle offers a glimpse into the past and a chance to connect with the stories of those who came before us. So pack your bags, prepare for a journey through history, and embark on an adventure to Bolsover Castle, where the past comes alive in a storybook setting.

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