Clitheroe Castle | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Clitheroe Castle

Clitheroe, Lancashire, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

07 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Lily Johnson

About Clitheroe Castle

Clitheroe Castle in Lancashire is a 12th century castle that has dominated the skyline of Clitheroe for over 800 years, and today provides a spectacular visit amongst the picturesque Ribble Valley.

Clitheroe Castle history

Clitheroe Castle was likely built in the 12th century by Robert de Lacy, who used the site’s natural elevated position and hilly terrain to construct a motte-and-bailey stronghold.

During the Wars of the Roses Edward IV ordered £400 be spent on the improvement of Clitheroe, which would soon prove useful in its role as a prison to his rival king, Henry VI. Following the Battle of Hexham in 1464, Henry fled to the houses of various allies throughout the west of England, before arriving at Waddington Hall in Clitheroe.

He stayed there for around a year before he was at last discovered by allies of Edward IV, and in a final dash for freedom escaped down a secret staircase and out over the River Ribble. Whilst venturing through Clitheroe Wood however, he was captured and taken to Clitheroe Castle where he spent the night imprisoned before being taken to the Tower of London.

During the English Civil War the castle would again see royals and rebels pass through its gates. In 1644, Prince Rupert left a garrison there to respond to the siege of York, however it was abandoned that same year after the decisive royalist defeat at the Battle of Marston Moor. Following this the Parliamentarians ordered Clitheroe to be slighted, putting it beyond further military use.

Clitheroe Castle today

Despite being the second smallest stone-built keep in England, the 12th-century castle casts a striking silhouette against the small town’s skyline. Perched atop a natural motte, visitors can explore the inside of the shell and walk the surrounding wall, providing beautiful panoramic views of Ribble Valley.

Above the entrance to the keep is also a large hole in the wall, with a number of legends surrounding how it got there. One of these tells that Oliver Cromwell fired a cannon at the castle from Pendle Hill causing the large crater, while another involves the Devil himself hurling boulders at the imposing keep!

The accompanying museum tells the site’s story from prehistory to the modern day, with exhibits detailing its role as a medieval stronghold, the area’s history of witch-hunting, and a replica Victorian kitchen. A cafe and art gallery are also present at the site, as well as a turret known as the Pinnacle in its grounds hailing from the 19th-century reconstructions of the Houses of Parliament.

Getting to Clitheroe Castle

Clitheroe Castle is located in Clitheroe in Lancashire, and can be accessed from the North via the A59 and the South by exiting the M6 at Junction 31 and following the A59. Clitheroe train station is a 10-minute walk away, while a number of bus services stop at the Castle Gate stop, a short walk up the hill.