Upnor Castle has been on my English Heritage wishlist for quite a while so when we had a particularly sunny Saturday a few weeks ago I decided to take advantage of the great weather and finally pay it a visit.
Located on the west bank of the River Medway in Kent, you can get to Upnor Castle in under an hour by road from London. It’s also quite close to Rochester Castle, another English Heritage property, so you could easily visit both in one day.
There’s no parking onsite at Upnor Castle but there’s a free public car park with 20 spaces located 200 metres from the entrance to the site. I recommend arriving early to get a car space otherwise you’ll have to try and find somewhere to park on the side of the road outside the village. If you’re an English Heritage member entrance to the castle is free, otherwise it costs £6.40 for adults.
Upnor Castle was originally built in 1559 as a gun fort to protect the Chatham Dockyard (a key naval facility) and ships of the Royal Navy which were anchored in the River Medway.
Although it was an important link in the defence line, the castle and the defences of the Thames and Medway were badly neglected during the 17th century. When the Dutch mounted an unexpected naval raid in June 1667, they were able to breach the defences and destroyed or captured a large number of the Royal Navy ships anchored at Chatham.
Following the raid, the castle lost its role as an artillery fort and became a naval ammunition depot, storing gunpowder and ammunition to replenish the warships that came to Chatham for repair and resupply.
It remained in military use until as late as 1945 before becoming an English Heritage property and being open to the public.
Unlike most English Heritage properties there’s no cafe on site but there is a lot of green space and tables where you can set up a picnic in the castle grounds. Alternatively there are a few cute little pubs nearby where you could enjoy a nice lunch.
Have you visited Upnor Castle? What’s your favourite English Heritage property?