It’s impossible to miss Duart Castle. It stands proudly on a spur of land reaching out into the Sound of Mull, and it’s a familiar sight to people who travel through those waters. The powerful MacLean clan have controlled Duart Castle for much of its history, using the castle’s prominent location as a symbol of the clan’s power and prestige. In common with other Scottish castles, Duart has a fascinating, turbulent and sometimes bloody history, from medieval clan wars to the Jacobite uprisings of the 18th Century. Today, the Chief of Clan MacLean welcomes visitors from all over the world to his family seat, so that they can learn about the history of the castle and the clan that made it their home.
It may not be the first place that springs to mind when one thinks of England’s great castles, but in the North Yorkshire town of Skipton a fine medieval castle dominates the skyline. Skipton Castle, the earliest parts of which date from the Norman period, is one of the best preserved castles still standing in England. Visitors can pass through the impressive drum-towered gatehouse to explore a fascinating building that was home to many figures involved in pivotal events during the medieval period, and that owes much of its appearance today to a formidable lady who lived there in the 17th Century.
A few weeks ago, I was spending the weekend with old friends in Sheffield, and on the Saturday afternoon we drove out to Southwell, a pretty little town in Nottinghamshire. I wasn’t sure what to expect – my friend had sold Southwell to me as a beautiful and interesting historic town, but I had no idea of the magnificent gem at the heart of Southwell – the Minster.