Europe, Travel

Exploring Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight

Our first stop on the Isle of Wight was Carisbrooke Castle, located near the island’s capital, Newport. This castle has a rich history, having been an Elizabethan artillery fortress, a king’s prison and a royal summer residence.

Upon arrival, the first thing we did was walk around the castle on the battlements. From here you can see across the island in all directions.

The castle sits upon a hilltop dominating the centre of the island. It’s easy to see why this location was chosen to build a refuge against Viking raids in the first century. After the Norman conquest, it was converted into a castle to secure the island for the Norman invaders.

The keep was added to the castle during the reign of Henry I. You have to walk up some steep steps to reach the top of the keep but the panoramic views make the climb worthwhile.

The castle was passed into the hands of the Parliamentary forces at the start of the Civil War in 1642. It’s primary use was as a prison for Royalists, and most notably Charles I was imprisoned here prior to his execution. He had fled to the Isle of Wight after escaping from house arrest at Hampton Court, but it wasn’t long before he was captured and held at Carisbrooke Castle. Charles made two unsuccessful attempts to escape in 1648 before being removed to Newport for unsuccessful negotiations with Parliament. There’s a museum housed within the castle’s Great Hall which is full of Charles I memorabilia.

The well house at Carisbrooke was once the main supply of water for the castle. A huge oak wheel would be turned to draw a bucket down to the water and back up again. It is thought that this job was originally performed by prisoners, however since at least 1696 the wheel was turned by a team of donkeys.

The castle is still home to donkeys and they provide demonstrations of the well house each day the castle is open. The demonstrations attract lots of visitors and there are long queues so if this is something you want to watch I’d recommend checking the demonstration times and make sure you arrive early.

St Nicholas’ chapel was built in 1904 to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Charles I’s execution, though there had been a chapel at the castle since medieval times. After the First World War the chapel became the island’s war memorial.

I mentioned my newfound obsession with Queen Victoria in my previous post about Osborne House, so I was excited to learn that Carisbrooke Castle was once the home of Princess Beatrice, Victoria and Albert’s youngest daughter. Beatrice’s husband, Prince Henry, was Governor of the Isle of Wight and she took over the role after his death in 1896. In 1913 Princess Beatrice had the hall range and Constable’s Lodging adapted and modernised to become her summer residence, which she continued to use until 1938.

Visitor Information

  • Carisbrooke Castle is located in Carisbrooke, near Newport on the Isle of Wight. It is open daily from April – October and on weekends only from November – March.
  • Entry to the castle is £10 for adults, or free for English Heritage members. There is a parking charge of £2 per car but this is refundable on admission to the castle.
  • I’d also highly recommend a visit to Osborne House while you’re on the Isle of Wight, especially if you’re an English Heritage member as you can visit both for free. Osborne is about a 20 minute drive from Carisbrooke Castle.

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