Bolsover Castle is located in the town of Bolsover, north-east of the English county of Derbyshire, and dates to the 17th Century. This grade-I listed Jacobian ruin is currently under the care of the English Heritage Charity and was originally built as a venue for social events and entertainment.
Today, the entrance and the front of the building is merely a shell of its former self, but while exploring the castle’s giant rooms and large social areas, it’s not difficult to envision the lively events that took place within. Visitors are free to explore the main body of the castle, much of which remains intact due to meticulous care over the years, which includes the Little Castle, the Terrace Range, the Riding House, and the Fountain Garden.
Spectacular views are guaranteed of the surrounding landscape from the exterior wall, which, if walked around entirely, offers a lovely, leisurely walk with fantastic scenery.
Younger visitors will no doubt find the ancient castle fascinating enough, however, if not, there is also a playground next to the gift shop, which will certainly keep them entertained.
The castle also features a small souvenir shop and a tearoom for refreshments.
This site, like many other ruins like it, has become a major attraction for those drawn to supernatural occurrences, and was even voted the spookiest site in the country by English Heritage staff in 2017.
The original Bolsover Castle, a Norman stronghold, was built during the 12th century by the Peverel Family; the ridge was granted to the Norman knight, William Peverel, in 1086 by then-king of England, William the Conqueror – theories suggest that the castle was bestowed upon Peverel because he was in fact the illegitimate son of William I. Throughout the following decades Peverel’s subsequent heirs constructed a motte-and-bailey castle made of timber, and the Peverel dynasty continued to control the minor fortification until the crown reclaimed the land in 1155.
The original stronghold was replaced by one made of stone in 1173, which included walled curtains and turrets. King John garrisoned the castle under the command of Gerld de Furniva, as it witnessed numerous attacks during the First Baron’s War, most notably by William de Ferrars, Earl of Derby, who’s forces devastated Bolsover in 1217.
Despite being repaired following Ferrars’ attack, Bolsover Castle fell into a state of neglect, and was rarely used throughout the 13th and 14th centuries.
It wasn’t until the property was purchased by Sir Charles Cavendish in 1608 that Bolsover was revived; Cavendish intended to create a retreat – a place for social events as opposed to a defensive castle – for himself out of the castle ruins. Cavendish subsequently put this plan into action in 1612, with the aid of renowned architect Robert Smythson, and started to create the elegant palace that stands today. However, Cavendish himself died in 1617 with the renovation only half complete, and the work was taken over by his heir, William Cavendish, who contributed the Terrace Range. Accounts of the building process have survived and reveal a surprising number of women listed as being part of the labour force.
The castle-turned-stately home passed down through several heirs and was last used as the seat of the Duchess and Duke of Portland, before being abandoned again in 1883.
Bolsover was grade-I listed in 1985 and is considered today to be of great historical and archaeological importance.
Things to do at Bolsover Castle
The Terrace Range – Constructed by Sir William Cavendish, the Terrace Range was once formally the location of the most luxurious guest rooms and social spaces of Bolsover Castle; the grand kitchen, long gallery, and dining room now all stand as roofless shells of their former glories, but visitors can easily envision the social occasions and parties that would have taken place inside these walls long ago. Given its present openness, the terrace range provides incredible 360 views of the Peak District, with a particularly good vantage of the Vale of Scarsdale.
The Fountain Garden – Centred around a picturesque statue of Venus, the fountain garden is Bolsover’s main pleasure grounds, boasting a wide selection of well-maintained flora, statues, and the Little Castle in the north-west corner. With 5,000 plants and 23 statues decorating the grounds, the Fountain Gardens has been meticulously landscaped in order evoke the same allure it would have done during the time of the Cavendish family’s occupation of Bolsover.
The Riding School – Frequently referred to as a pivotal figure in the art of dressage, William Cavendish built Bolsover’s Riding School to showcase his skill and passion for the sport. Today, visitors can marvel at this practice brought back to life at one of the castle’s Cavalier Horsemanship shows – which takes place most weekends – where riders are dressed in elegant 17th century attire and together with the horses perform routines and tricks, sound-tracked by transcendent Baroque music. With only three other venues in the world that perform this tradition, Bolsover is the only place in the whole of Britain where you can witness the ancient art of dressage being performed.
Wall Walk – Having been closed off to the public for 250 years, the perimeter wall has recently been renovated and deemed safe enough to walk along again, offering a unique way of taking in Bolsover Castle and the Vale of Scarsdale from all angles – while also providing a bit of light exercise!
Bolsover Café – The café at Bolsover serves only the very best in local produce, and offers a rotational menu of hot meals, soups, sandwiches, cakes, tea and coffee. Their Bolsover Cake is inspired by the Cavendish-era and is made using a recipe which dates back to the 17th century!
How to Get There
By Car – From Chesterfield, head east on the A632 towards Bolsover. The A632 connects with Town Head, proceed and turn right at Castle Street – Bolsover Castle is sign posted from there.
Address for Satnav – Castle St, Bolsover, Chesterfield, S44 6PR
Public Transport – Numerous buses from Chesterfield and Bolsover pass by the castles’ entrance, including G&J Homes 49 service; TM travel B2 and B3; and Stagecoach services numbers 53, 53A, 82 and 83.
Parking – There is a free carpark by the side of the castle, and there is also a carpark found in the town of Bolsover.
Good to Know
– The wall walk offers spectacular views of both the castle and the Vale of Scarsdale – make sure you bring your camera!
– Due to coronavirus concerns, bookings need to be made in advance.
– There are several picnic benches located outside the Riding House if you fancy bringing food from home.
Opening Times and Prices
Bolsover Castle is open every day from 10am-5pm
Adult – £13.90
Child (5-17) – £8.40
Concession – £12.50
Family – (2 adults, 3 children) – £36.20