Bolton Castle: The family-owned Yorkshire castle where Mary, Queen of Scots was a prisoner

A re-enactor dressed as Mary, Queen of Scots outside Bolton Castle (pic: Charlotte Graham)
A re-enactor dressed as Mary, Queen of Scots outside Bolton Castle (pic: Charlotte Graham)
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Bolton Castle dominates the Wensleydale landscape.

The 14th-century fortress is, incredibly, still owned by the barons Bolton, who built the castle. It has never been sold and has always been inherited by descendants of the Scrope family, who were powerful and enjoyed roles at the royal court over several generations.

Bolton Castle overlooks the nearby village of Castle Bolton

Bolton Castle overlooks the nearby village of Castle Bolton

Today, it's still a perfect storybook castle - it's got restored medieval gardens, a wild boar herd and many visitors arrive via the Wensleydale Railway heritage line.

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King Henry VIII ordered Bolton Castle to be torched in 1536 after the eighth Baron Scrope supported a rebellion against him. The walls also suffered damage in the Civil War.

The castle is most famous for its role in the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots during the Tudor period - she was seen as a threat to the Protestant reign of Queen Elizabeth I.

Bolton Castle

Bolton Castle

She spent six months at Bolton after she fled to England following her defeat in battle in Scotland. She had an entourage of over 50 servants and retainers, and there was not enough room for them all to stay in the castle. Tapestries, rugs and furniture had to be brought from other castles to make her feel at home.

She was allowed to wander the estate lands and go hunting, and she learned to speak English at the castle. She was later taken to Staffordshire, where she spent the next 18 years before she was finally executed in 1587.

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In 1630, the Scrope male line became extinct, but the castle was inherited by an illegitimate daughter who married Charles Powlett, later the first Duke of Bolton.

The eighth Baron Bolton, Harry Orde-Powlett, now owns Bolton Castle, although he lives at Wensley Hall in Leyburn and allows his son Tom to run the visitor attraction and 12,500-acre estate.

Although parts of the castle are in ruins, other sections have been restored, and in 1994 the medieval gardens were re-planted. There is now a maze, vineyard, herb garden, bowling green and rose garden, as well as falconry displays and the wild boar herd, which was introduced in 2010. In the Scropes' day, the animals were hunted regularly in the local deer parks, which were part of the Middleham Castle lands. Archery demonstrations are organised as a tribute to the feared Wensleydale archers.

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Visitors can explore the kitchens, dungeon, armoury, nursery, archers' garrison and Mary's bedroom - many of the rooms have been preserved in the condition of 600 years ago.

The castle has appeared in the 1952 film Ivanhoe and can be seen in the background when James Herriot proposes to Helen in All Creatures Great and Small.