Carisbrooke Castle Surprise

The place I really wanted to see on Isle of Wight, the reason we came there in the first place, was the lighthouse at the Needles. I am a fan of "Coast", and Neil Oliver is an entusiastic lighthouse afficionado. When we arrived, we checked the weather forecast and they promised clear, sunny skies on Sunday, so that´s when we planned our trip to the Needles.

The lighthouse is on the western tip of the island, at Totland Bay. There is also an amusement park there called Needles Park, and that´s where we got off the bus. Unfortunately, we were met by dense fog. And a sign pointing us to a Marconi monument. Marconi seems to have been sending out his experimental radiowaves from every bit of southern English coast that we have visited, we later found he has been in Dover, too! But no sign of the lighthouse - we could hardly see the beach!

The husband, being an optimistic extrovert, suggested we stay put, since it was sure to clear up in just a little while. So we did, played some crazy jurassic golf (it really did involved some excavation...), watched an impressive glass-blower´s demonstration, and had a rather uninspiring lunch at the Marconi CafĂ©. The fog didn´t clear up. So, we decided to go with my backup plan, which was visiting Carisbrooke Castle in Newport. I didn´t know much about it, had only seen a small advertisment in a brochure, and we didn´t really expect much. A quaint little ruin, and then a consolation dinner, that´s what we aimed for.

Carisbrooke used to be a village of it´s own, but has become part of Newport, which is the cheif town on Isle of White, and where we were staying. Since we holiday travel mainly by bus, we always go for accomodation in a centre of communications, if we can. Penzance was great for this, and Newport also.

Anyway, the busdriver dropped us off, and we followed the signposts into what felt like a green cave in an upwards slope. I got the impresson this was a boundry beween fields or properties, and wonder if this is what Austen used to refer to as "hedgerows"? They are perfect places for eavesdropping, I imagine.

When we got up, we were met by some impressive earthworks and walls. And hello! Fairy tale castle!

Turns out, Carisbrooke Castle is an amazing place, run by English Heritage. It was fortified before the Romans, by the Romans, and so on, until it was modernized and inhabited by Princess Beatrice, one of Queen Victoria´s daughters. She also built a beautiful garden here. Much of the castle is in ruins, of course, but the kind of dilapidation that the Victorians would have considered romantic and very attractive.

There is a well inside the castle that is still run by donkey power; this is demonstrated several times a day, but unfortunately we missed that. There is a film, however, where an animated donkey walks in the "wheel of time" and gives you a quick introduction to Carisbrooke and its history.  He looked like he might be related to that donkey in "Shrek". Apparently, the donkeys love to walk in the wheel. I´d love to go back and see it, and I´m thinking I might just do that, as my sister-in-law and I have been talking about perhaps walking the island together some summer in the near future.

The castle was under siege by the French in 1377, and Peter de Heyno, the Lord of Stenbury, took a successful shot at the French commander from this loophole, since then known as Heynoe´s loop. This tipped the scale in favour of the English and the French withdrew.

The Woodvilles have been lords of this castle, and if you have seen the BBC series "The White Queen" (I have not, but I have heard about it) they may be familiar to you. She was queen to Edward IV and mother of the princes in the tower, you know the boys Richard III had killed - according to Shakespeare, anyway - and her daughter Elisabeth married Henry VII. This was during the period that is known as "the war of the Roses" which is a part of history I´d love to read more about. Some day.

Carisbrooke was important during the Civil war as well, as this is one of the places where Charles I was imprisoned before he was executed, in 1649. His daughter Elisabeth died here from pneumonia, with her head on her bible according to tradition, and the sentimental Victorians were much moved by her fate. I understand there was almost a cult, and some relics are on display in the museum.

The views are amazing, and it was quite windy up in the keep - I had to button up my coat to keep my skirt from blowing up completely over my head! There is a beautiful church on the grounds, a tea room (of course!), canons (naturally), and I even got a few shots of a kestrel hovering in the air above, doing the occasional dive for an unlucky mouse.

This is a wonderful place, and I´m so happy we went there. Blind luck, really.

The view in the western direction - you can see the fog over Totnes bay.

Princess Beatrice´s garden from the wall near Heynoe´s loop.

Old water piping from Newport.

Walking up the keep.


  1. that does look like a fairy tale castle. and what a lovely view of the garden!

    1. It would be amazing to be able to really go back to 1377 or the 1640´s and see what it was like when this was a real Place.