A perfect day out for history and garden lovers is Berkeley Castle. If you are a fan of ghostly haunting then Berkeley is also the place for you. Famed as the UK’s oldest inhabited castle, the Berkeley family have been in residence for 850years since it was built by permission of Henry II by William Fitz-Osbern. For the visitor, you will be transported back in time and enthralled by this beautiful castle and its gardens, which are consistently given a five star rating by gardening enthusiasts. With something for everyone all the year round, this castle will leave you enchanted.
The castle however, is not just a fairytale version and had a very important role in many wars. The only aggressor to damage it was Oliver Cromwell.
The castle is best known for the imprisonment and murder of Edward II. The monarch was deposed by Queen Isabella and Roger Mortimer her lover. They were hoping that a few days incarceration in the hideous dungeons with the rotting corpses of animals and humans would kill him through disease. It was a common way to dispose of nobles who displeased the Earls. Any person locked in this dreadful place breathing disease ridden air, did not survive for very long.
Edward II however, was made of hardier stuff and surprised everyone becoming ill and recovering throughout a period of five months. Queen Isabella then gave the order to Edward II’s jailers to dispose of him as they saw fit. His murder is too gruesome to report in this article but on the anniversary of his death, it is said his screams may be heard resounding around the castle halls.
Berkeley Castle was originally built to keep out Welsh raiders and designed to make life difficult for the enemy. There are murder holes, arrow slits, steps especially designed to make the aggressors trip over, massive barred doors, a portcullis and worn stones where over the centuries, guards stood watch over the castle.
The softer side of Berkeley is its fairytale castle manifestation. Not surprisingly, it is a popular venue for weddings. Built of warm pink stone, it takes on different hues in the setting sun for added romance. The battlements themselves drop almost sixty feet to the Great Lawns below. The inner courtyard is designed for people with an extraordinary mix of small towers, windows, and doors of every shape and size. The surrounding lands of the castle would often be flooded as an extra defence against marauders.
The castle has survived any gentrification as was common during Georgian and Victorian periods and remains a Norman fortress, and perfect example of mediaeval domestic architecture. It still retains a curtain wall and over the centuries has been enlarged into the substantial castle it is today
The gardens complement the castle with terraces climbing up almost thirty feet to the gun terraces softening the façade of the castle with colourful flowers and plants.
Over a long time, the harsher aspects of the castle have been mellowed with flowers. The last major planting to occur was by Gertrude Jekyll at the beginning of the last century.
Berkeley roses are delightful and have a rare and heavy scent best experienced in June. There are many rare species of plants, shrubs, flowers, and trees for your enjoyment. The gardens specialise in scent and you will be overwhelmed by this olfactory treat.
There is evidence of earlier periods and the bowling green where Elizabeth I played can be clearly seen below the gatehouse. On your exploration of the gardens, you will find a venison larder and the place where beer was brewed for the household. During medieval times, beer was drunk at all times including breakfast.
A butterfly house is an attraction not to be missed. With over forty-two species from as far afield as Indonesia and Japan, this vibrant colourful oasis is a tranquil and beautiful spot to stay awhile.
It is worthwhile planning to spend a day at Berkeley Castle, as there is so much to see and do while feeling you are visiting a family home, such is the welcoming atmosphere. Every member of your travelling party will find something of interest, so add Berkeley to your priority list of things to do while staying at Cooks Green Cottage.