Featured image of Skipton Castle

The History Of Skipton Castle

LocationSkipton, North Yorkshire, England (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byThomas Fattorini LTD.
Official WebsiteSkipton Castle
Rooms AvailableYes (Weddings, Events, Filming)

Being one of the best-preserved medieval historic castles in Britain, Skipton Castle is a magnificent and elegant castle situated in the town of Skipton in North Yorkshire, England. It is truly a treat for visitors who want to spend the day exploring the impressive rich history of the castle and wander the grounds on a sunny summer day.


Skipton Castle was built in the early 12th century by Robert de Romilly, a Norman baron, as a fort to keep the Scottish raids out of Northern England, but its timber ramparts contributed little to stopping the rampaging Scots during their frequent raids into the region. Then it was replaced by a daunting stone castle that is seen today. In 1310, the castle and estate were granted by King Edward II to Robert Clifford, who later became Lord Clifford of Skipton and Guardian of Craven, the wide range of countryside to the north and west of Skipton Castle. He had heavily begun fortifying the castle but was unfortunately killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, leaving his new stronghold incomplete. His son Roger carried on his father’s footsteps and resumed rebuilding Skipton Castle, but he died an untimely death when he was executed for supporting Earl Thomas of Lancaster against King Edward II.

The ownership of Skipton Castle is laced with death and treason, with the Clifford lords maintaining ownership of the castle until the Wars of the Roses. During the war, the Cliffords had supported the Lancastrian cause resulting in the death of two lords of Skipton during the fight. The castle was then inherited by John Clifford, who was reportedly killed at Ferrybridge in 1461, forcing his heir, Henry Clifford, to hide in the Cumbrian Fells disguised as a shepherd in an attempt to escape his Yorkist enemies. During Henry’s rural exile, Skipton Castle was seized by King Edward IV, who subsequently granted it to William Stanley.

In 1472, Stanley, who became one of the most powerful lords in England, exchanged Skipton for Chirk Castle, situated on the Welsh border. The King’s brother, Richard, Duke of Gloucester, became the new owner who took a personal interest in Skipton and used it as his principal residence. After the victory of Henry Tudor over Richard III in the Wars of Roses in 1485, the new King Henry VII reinstated Henry Clifford at Skipton, who was then known as The Shepherd Lord. 

During the Civil War, Skipton Castle remained the last Royalist bastion in the north and was attacked by the Parliament, which yielded only after a three-year siege in 1645. The castle was ‘Slighted’ under the direct orders of Cromwell making it unusable for military needs. Then it came into the hands of the rightful heir, Lady Anne Clifford, the daughter of George Clifford. She skillfully restored the castle from the many damages done by the Parliament. She was the last Clifford to have inherited the castle until 1676. Later, it was passed on to her daughter Lady Margaret Sackville’s husband, John Tufton, 2nd Earl of Thanet. It eventually came into the line of succession of the Tufton family and was also once the seat of Lord Hothfield, a famous Liberal politician, in 1871. Today, the castle and grounds are privately owned by The Fattorini family, owners of Thomas Fattorini Ltd, and manufacturers of jewelry and trophies.


Skipton Castle architecture
Skipton Castle”, by Tim Green, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Skipton Castle is a magnificent forfeited castle built in Romanesque architecture with modifications and repairs spanning many centuries. It is fully roofed with a striking early Tudor courtyard and the stout towers of the gatehouse marking the entrance to the castle grounds. A large turret faces the gatehouse, which served initially as the watchtower and was essential to the castle’s defences. The central defensive structures of the castle include six drum towers and many buildings added over the centuries of its existence. The castle houses two floors of rooms, which are all connected to six large defensive towers. Beneath the castle’s twin-towered gatehouse, you can also find the dungeons.

The beautiful entrance staircase was installed in the 17th century, which replaced the original drawbridge. The bedrooms, kitchen, and great hall are situated on the first floor, while the cellars and storage rooms reside on the ground floor. It also has an enclosed central courtyard, known as the Conduit Court, which has a yew tree planted in 1659 by Lady Anne to mark the castle’s repair from the damage done in the Civil War, making the tree over 350 years old. The woods near the castle are home to over 160 plants, trees, and grass species and are presently under The Woodland Trust’s control. The visitors have a lot to look forward to in their itinerary when visiting Skipton Castle and would surely not be disappointed.

Movie Features

West Riding (1946)– The short documentary directed by Ken Annakin features Skipton Castle showcasing the life of a large family in the county of Yorkshire.

Treasure Hunt (1982-1989)– Skipton Castle makes a stunning appearance in the episode- North Yorkshire: Wharfedale(1986) of the TV Game Show Treasure Hunt directed by Chris Gage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Skipton Castle famous for?

Skipton Castle is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Britain and is famous for being called Guardian of the Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales for over 900 years for its defensive structures.

When was Skipton Castle built?

Skipton Castle was built around 1090AD by Robert de Romilly, a Norman Baron, and was built as motte and bailey structures. It was strategically placed on a central transportation route going through the Aire Gap in the Pennines above the river of Eller Beck, where two significant Roman roads converged.

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