Get on any train departing from Euston and soon after leaving London behind you’ll pass through a little town that has a rather endearing feature which sits right next to the railway line – the ruins of Berkhamsted castle.
Now managed by English Heritage, Berkhamsted Castle started its life as a timber structure in 1066, being established by Robert of Mortain who was half-brother to William the Conqueror. Over the centuries it was popular with various monarchs, who oversaw improvements which would finally result in the castle developing into the familiar motte and bailey design. Both Henry I and II established courts there, and Richard I gave the castle to his wife, Berengaria of Navarre. It remained in the possession of the royal family well into the Tudor period.
Despite its present-day appearance Berkhamsted Castle was not destroyed by war - by the early 1500s it had simply fallen out of favour. By this time royal palaces were appearing all along the Thames and these were much more conveniently located and offered rather more up-to-date facilities than a medieval castle. The man who is probably responsible for much of the castle’s present condition is Sir Edward Carey, appointed by Elizabeth I as the Keeper of the Queen’s Jewels. He rented the ruin and local estate from the Queen for the nominal sum of one red rose per year, and used large amounts of materiel from the castle walls in the construction of his manor house…
The castle grounds also contain a charming cottage, which once housed a small visitor room dedicated to Berkhamsted Castle although unfortunately this is now closed to the public. When visiting the castle I would also suggest taking the short walk to the town centre proper which is just on the opposite side of the railway line. Berkahmsted is a pretty Hertfordshire market town that has lots to offer visitors.