Yorkshire, England - Bolton Castle and Wensleydale

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We drove on the usual narrow & curvy roads from Thirsk to get to really narrow & curvy roads ascending into Wensleydale, in the Yorkshire Dales, a beautiful sheep grazing area. Our first destination was Bolton Castle, but we stopped in Bedale for coffee or tea and again at Redmire to get our bearings and so I could take a photo of a Maple tree with fall colors.  

a quiet morning in Bedale where we had coffee Maple tree in village of Redmire   big friendly male cat  
  Inns are  everywhere the drive up to the castle Wensleydale terrain Bolton Castle

Bolton Castle and the Scrope family... 

In the 1300s, Feudal custom prohibited Barons from building their own fortifications.  You could have a manor house, but not a castle, the architectural difference being crenellations, or battlement towers.  Should you presume to crenellate your manor without Royal permission, Feudal Law held that your entire property could be confiscated by the King's men, or worse.  

In the 1200s the Scrope family came into prominence for service to successive Kings of England, and, they were granted a lot of land in 'Wensley'.  In 1333, Sir Henry Scope was appointed Chief Baron of the Exchequer, under Edward III. 

In 1364 Sir Henry's third son Richard, having been a loyal & distinguished Knight, who engaged in many skirmishes on the Continent, fought in a Crusade, and, was an MP representing the County of York, became an economic advisor. Fourteen years later, in 1378, Sir Richard was appointed as Lord Chancellor of England

A year later, perhaps 'feeling his oats', Sir Richard Scrope petitioned the King & was granted a License to Crenellate at Bolton Manor, and twenty years later, in 1399, Bolton Castle was occupied.  The family tradition of service to the Crown continued when Sir Richard's eldest son William was knighted, and in 1398 Sir William Scrope was appointed Treasurer of England, under Richard II.  

The purchased pamphlet states that Bolton Castle is "one of the best preserved examples of a medieval fortress in private ownership in England today".  It also states that it is was "an extravagantly luxurious dwelling....and a bold expression of the Scrope family's status, power and royal approval." 

The Castle was built with sophisticated plumbing, including private loos in the apartments, a nearly unheard of system at that time, no doubt depending on the hydraulic benefit of an 'artesian well' being nearby & uphill.  (what piping or channels did they have to convey water to and through the building??....is my question)  

In addition, the Castle walls were built with innovative 'air vents' to draft smoke up & away from kitchen cooking fires, to atmosphere, thereby preventing the age-old problem in castles all over Europe, whereby apartments on upstairs floors were often overwhelmed by kitchen smoke, from below.    

Mary, Queen of Scots, a powerful relative with a legitimate claim as heir to the English throne, fled her conniving Lords in Scotland (1568) and sheltered in England, where she became an existential threat to Queen Elizabeth I, who placed her under house arrest at Bolton Castle for 6 months, the first of Mary's many confinements. 

Mary was treated as royalty at Bolton Castle, and her entourage nearly took the Castle over, consisting of her own knights, artisans, and other retainers.  Lord Scrope's wife was accommodating and entertaining, and as a fellow Catholic, they enjoyed each other's company.  Lady Scrope ruled this small kingdom because Lord Scrope was assigned to a defensive military unit, some distance north at Carlisle Castle, keeping an eye on the English-Scottish Border.   

Mary and her mates were able to wander the surrounding hills, and could ride horses & hunt.  Yet she managed to get caught conspiring with some local Papists, and this got her & some locals into trouble, for Queen Elizabeth I enforced strict Protestantism.  Mary was ordered to move by Elizabeth I to a less luxurious place and her conditions of captivity worsened over her remaining years.    

Mary, Queen of Scots, a brilliant but tragically flawed character, was under house arrest for 19 years before she was tried & beheaded for disloyalty, having been caught forming a plot, with French conspirators, to kill Queen Elizabeth, putting Mary in charge, and turning England Catholic again.  The plot and all communications between conspirers were intercepted by Elizabeth I's sly & brilliant minister Robert Cecil.  (ref: John Guy, Queen of Scots, 2004, Houghton Mifflin Co.)  

Nonetheless, in the entirety of English and European history, regicide is extremely rare.  When Queen Elizabeth I authorized the execution of Mary, it sent shock waves through Europe for its anti-Catholic implications, and it assured that both England and Scotland would have a Protestant future.  

Mary's son James become James I, King of England so the Stuart family finally 'made it'.

note - you can enlarge any part of a picture by left-clicking in and then out again.

Bolton Castle suddenly it's raining!!   kitchen and granary
  vineyard & maze in the chapel    
        multi-storied buildings
      Mary Queen of Scots' bedroom
the Lords Scrope        
  great views into the Dales from the top well worn stairs see note

note - how many footfalls over how many centuries does it take before stone steps look so worn?    

Bolton Castle is a fine structure, five floors high & fun to explore, in such a great setting. We had the Castle to ourselves.   

Our drive up into Wensleydale continued.  We almost made it to Hawes, near the upper part of the valley, where the Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitor Center, and, globally well-known Wensleydale cheese-making shops are located.  

Instead, we took a trip up the hill opposite Hawes, near the tiny village of Burtersett, in search of an old Roman road, shown on the OS map as Cam High Road.  It turned out to be a long steady uphill grade kind of walk and we both enjoyed the scenery.

grazing near Bainbridge   lunch stop at a Bainbridge tea room a relaxed Dales town
stone barns. near Bainbridge walking on a Roman road view of Hawes the source of  Wensleydale cheeses 
evening at Wether Fell a man and his dog  a resident of Burtersett, see note  public footpath crosses the road  
  our friend's trail home upper Wensleydale walls erected  long ago  
    our turnaround point           

note - We first came across this interesting person and his dog down below near the tiny village of Burtersett, when we asked directions to the old Roman road.  He pointed out where to park, about 1,000 ft. away.  We parked and headed uphill. 

Later we saw he & his dog slowly catching up with us and then further up the hill - for we were all walking for exercise - we stopped & chatted.  He was a pleasant person with a musical African-British accent, and has lived in many places.  Now he is a consultant to managers in local public education agencies, while his wife's a teacher in the valley below. They live in an amazingly scenic place, and he said he walks with his dog up here almost every afternoon.   

When we asked him how hard the winters are, he said they are bearable even though snow sometimes prevents people getting to work.  He also said the topography is prone to occasional flooding, yes, no kidding... 

Storm Desmond, December 2015 - Only weeks after our visit, parts of northern England including the Borders, and Cumbria (where the Lake District is), plus Lancashire, and Yorkshire, and also Counties at similar latitudes in Ireland, like Cork and Clare, were bombarded with rain from an extratropical cyclone or 'atmospheric river' which brought a maximum of 13 inches in one day. The two day total rainfall for the area at large, was around 16 inches.  

I think in America we'd call this a 200-year or worse storm.  

The Ure river in lower Wensleydale spread out pretty wide and caused general flooding, while the River Ouse in the City of York went over its banks & flooded low lying areas of the old city for days.  Below are a few images from the web.

River Ure at Hawes, early Dec. '15 general flooding in Wensleydale City of York

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