It’s quite difficult to explore the Welsh Marches without bumping into a castle.
The Welsh Marches is a beautiful area with green hills, hidden valleys and woodlands. It covers the borderlines between England and Wales. If you stay away from the touristy parts ( and to be honest we don’t have too many of those ) it’s possible to walk all day without seeing another person. But today’s peace and quiet belies a violent and bloody past.
We’re in the border lands here between England and Wales. Some of the bloodiest battles of the English Civil War were fought here. Castles were built all along the border to help in the defense of the lands.
One of the most well known battles of the War of the Roses took place at Mortimer’s Cross. It’s here, in 1446, that the army of Edward ( crowned Edward IV later that year ) saw a parhelion, which looked like 3 suns were rising at once. They took this as a sign from God that they would be successful. Philippa Gregory fans will have read about this time period in her White Queen Series.
Just north of Mortimer’s Cross is Wigmore castle ( 7 miles South of Hopton House ), which was the castle of the powerful Mortimer clan.
Just a mile from us, a lovely 20 minute walk, is Hopton Castle. It’s known for the bloody massacre that followed a 5 week siege by a group of parliamentarians in 1644. They surrendered, expecting to be taken prisoner, but all but one of them( about 30 men ) were massacred and their bodies left in a pit.
The Channel 4 series, Time Team, investigated the site in 2010 ( the whole programme is available on Youtube ). They didn’t find any bodies but decided against searching in the place they were most likely to be buried.
If you believe in these things, Hopton Castle is meant to be the most haunted castle in the Welsh Marches. I wouldn’t go there at night ….but I’ve never had any problems during the day 😉
Six miles to the west of us lie the ruins of Clun castle. It was besieged by King John in 1216. Clun is a lovely little village with local pubs, tea rooms, the river Clun running through it and a starting point for some beautiful circular walks.
If you travel 6 miles to the east of Hopton House, you’ll be able to visit Stokesay Castle. Built by Laurence of Ludlow in the 1200’s, it remains one of the best preserved fortified manor houses in England.
Finally, I nearly forgot Ludlow Castle ( 11 miles from Hopton House ) Founded in the 11th century, Ludlow has been a very important castle throughout the ages. Probably most famous ( depending on your favourite historical era ) for being the place where Henry VIII’s brother, King Arthur, died whilst he was living there with Catherine of Aragon. Prince Arthur’s heart is buried in St. Laurence’s Church in the town.