Nicola here. There are a lot of old buildings in the UK and a lot of different names for historic types of buildings, whether it’s a castle, manor, hall, tower, mansion or cottage. A castle, though, conjures up very particular ideas of what a building looks like. The dictionary definition is “a fortified building as in medieval Europe” or “a large, magnificent house especially if the home of a prince or noble.” However, I think fortifications – crenelations, towers, turrets etc are essential for it to be a proper castle. Often a castle, which has been around for hundreds of years, is in ruins, either through age or because it was destroyed in a war or battle and has never been rebuilt. There is definitely a special aura about a castle.
Castles in novels tend to be creepy. Whether it’s the Castle of Otranto by Walpole or The Red Keep in Game of Thrones they are designed to be intimidating and the gothic atmosphere just adds to the sense of menace.
How lovely it was, then, to visit a real castle last week that was both impressive but also had quite a homely atmosphere! Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire has been in the same family for over 800 years. It’s been mentioned in Shakespeare and it fulfils the “Gothic horror” element because King Edward II was murdered there in 1327. It looks like a fortress from the outside but inside it has a warmth and charm. Although the guide book insists it is “savage,” I didn’t get that vibe from it. Even the fact that the stone it is built from looks pink and purple in the sunshine makes it beautiful and the gardens are glorious.