Castles of Cumbria and the Lake District
Welcome to the EDGE Guide to the Castles of Cumbria. The history of Cumbria is long and more bloody than any other county of England and as a consequence there are many castles, forts and ancient earth works to be found dotted around the countryside.
There are over 190 defensible sites in Cumbria - varying types include: castles, peel towers, bastle houses, mottes and earth works.
The more ancient defences and the Roman influence in the county are dealt with separately, (see The Romans).
When the Romans left Britain after 350 years of occupation the country was in chaos: the different Celtic kings fought amongst each other and the invading Irish and Anglo-Saxons for control of the pre Roman tribal areas.
This was the time now known as the Dark Ages, so named because there are little or no written records of the period and its history is mostly speculation.
Most of the castles dealt with here were built after the end of the Dark Ages though many of them are sited on or near the sites of long-abandoned Roman forts.
There may have been defensive positions at these sites, however crude, without interruption for many centuries.
The condition of the castle structures varies dramatically: those lived in down the years have fared best and of those Appleby is a good example. Others fell into disrepair despite their importance as defences against the Scots.
Cost was a factor in their upkeep. Though the owners were rich men, even by their standards the cost of maintaining these great buildings would have been insupportable.
As time went on the number of castles maintained in a defensible state fell. Those considered of less importance were robbed of stone to build towns and private dwellings.
As a consequences the areas previously defended by these castles were open to Scots raids.
As the Scots raids lessened after the Union of the Crowns in 1603 most of the castles became obsolete and forgotten until they were once again called into service in the English Civil War and the Rebellions of 1715 and 1745.
Even so, apart from the great work of Lady Anne Clifford in the mid-1600's, most of these magnificent buildings were allowed to fall into ruin.
Not until the present time has any concerted effort been made to save them. Happily most are now preserved from further ruination thanks to organisations such as English Heritage who open most of them to the public.
With the exception of Pendragon Castle and Appleby Castle all those listed here are open to the public.