Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire

by Charlotte van Praagh, 21st January 2020

Soak up the atmosphere of this imposing and historic ruin

William Wordsworth referred to Goodrich Castle as “the noblest ruin in Herefordshire” and such praise is well deserved. Perched majestically on a rocky sandstone outcrop north of the village of Goodrich, the Grade I-listed stronghold is one of the finest and best preserved of all English castles. And with its picturesque setting amid open countryside adjacent to the meandering River Wye, it makes a fantastic day out whatever the weather.

Dating back to the 11th century (though some believe it might be even older) it was constructed by Anglo Saxon landowner Godric of Mappestone and was known as Godric’s Castle. A fine Norman keep was added a generation later before it was almost completely rebuilt by French nobleman William de Valence in the late 13th century. The knight created a trailblazing piece of architecture that influenced countless other structures; designing it so the domestic buildings aided the bailey’s defensive capabilities, while ensuring servants and nobility could live separately, was revolutionary at the time.

Goodrich Castle went on to become home of the Talbot family for centuries until in 1646 it was ruined by mortar fire during a siege with the Parliamentarians. The only surviving mortar from the Civil War, the cannon used, called Roaring Meg, is on display in the courtyard.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the by-now-overgrown ruins became a magnet for sightseers, especially after clergyman-turned-author William Gilpin popularised The Wye Tour, of which the castle was a highlight. Goodrich was immortalised by the likes of watercolour artists David Cox and William Callow, and by the 1820s Victorian tourists could pay sixpence to wander around.

These days the entry fee may be a little higher but Goodrich Castle is no less popular. You can see the murder holes built into its thick stone walls; hear about its myriad legends and ghost stories; or admire the 13th-century chapel’s beautiful stained-glass window (left) created by local artist Nicola Hopwood (featured in the December 2018 issue of Welsh Border Life).

Alternatively, it’s just as enjoyable to soak up the breathtaking views from this lofty vantage point and imagine what it would have been like to live or work in this grand castle when it was in its prime.


At a Glance...

Food and drink – Tearoom serving refreshments and light bites such as soup, scones, cakes and child-friendly fare. Picnics can be enjoyed in the grounds or dry moat.

Dogs – Dogs on leads welcome throughout.

Accessibility – There are accessible toilets and handrails but access is limited as there are no ramps and many narrow steps. Disabled parking is available on the same level as the visitor centre with two spaces nearer to the castle itself.

Opening times – Until 16th February, open weekends only, 10am-4pm; from 17th February, open Wednesday to Sunday 10am-4pm.

Prices – Adults, from £8.40; children, from £5; concessions, from £7.60. Free for English Heritage members. Parking charges apply to non members.

Contact – Castle Lane, Goodrich, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire HR9 6HY. Tel: 01600 890538. www.english-heritage.org.uk


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