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Entrance to 11th century Rockingham Castle.
Created in Tudor times, many visitors are drawn to Rockingham Castle Gardens.
The Great Hall has been a central point of Rockingham Castle for many years.
Rockingham Castle is steeped in history, with the original Motte and Bailey structure still visible within the stone castle.

Rockingham Castle

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Please be aware of government guidelines before setting off.

Government Guidelines
  • Explore one of the oldest, most beautiful castles in Northamptonshire with the family.
  • Visit The Long Gallery, where Charles Dickens spent time on his visits here.
  • Wander through the beautiful Rockingham Gardens and take in the views of the castle.
  • Take a tour through the centuries to see what life was like at the Castle throughout the years.
     

Located in Rockingham Forest, just north of the town of Corby in Northamptonshire, Rockingham Castle has been around since the 11th century. Originally ordered to be built by William the Conqueror himself, the Castle is steeped in history, and the original Motte and Bailey structure is still visible within the stone castle. With the nearby Rockingham Forest perfect for hunting, the castle was a popular place to hunt deer and boar. Additions were also constructed in the 13th century at the request of Henry III, but by the 1600s the castle had been abandoned and was a shadow of its former self. At this time, Sir Edward Watson, the first of the Watson family dynasty, decided to lease the castle from Henry VIII and set about converting the castle into a residence. A Tudor house and gardens replaced some areas of the castle, and the castle itself became a place for nobility to come and stay. While there was a brief stint during the Civil War where Rockingham Castle became a place for troops to be stationed, it soon returned to being a place of residence. The castle was then passed down through the generations and is still owned by the Watson family. Currently occupied by James Saunders Watson and his family, Rockingham Castle is still a residential home to this day and is open to the public on certain days, so they can come and explore its grandeur.

Literature fans will be interested to learn that Rockingham Castle was a favourite spot of writer Charles Dickens, who often came to visit his friends Lavinia and Richard Watson, who lived in the Castle. There are even rumours that Rockingham Castle was the original inspiration for Chesney Wold, in the book Bleak House. Other famous visitors to the Castle throughout the years include Queen Eleanor, Richard I and Richard the Lionheart. When you visit Rockingham Castle, you'll find evidence of all the different eras of history that the Castle has survived through. From the Norman structure ordered by William the Conqueror to the Castle's role as a Victorian mansion, this ancient building is the perfect place for history buffs to explore.

There are many things to do at Rockingham Castle as a family. The Castle is open at various times for tours, where you can experience what life would have been like for its occupants throughout history. While some areas aren't open to visitors since the Castle is still home to the Saunders Watson family, you can explore The Great Hall, Servants Hall, Naval Lobby and much more. The tour begins at The Old Kitchen, which has been set up to show preparations for a feast at the turn of the 19th century. From here you'll be taken around The Great Hall, that has been a central point of Rockingham Castle for almost 1000 years. Keep your eyes peeled for genuine portraits of Queen Elizabeth I and her lords, and take in the grandeur of the Panel Room, which was a part of the Great Hall until the 1600s. In the Long Gallery, you'll find the centre of entertainment at Rockingham Castle, where famous guests would have come when they visited. The unique collection of furniture and art is most prominent in this room and will take you back through the centuries to the Castle's heyday. Kids will have a great time checking out old toys, such as the vintage rocking horse in the corner of the Long Gallery.

One of the most popular areas of Rockingham Castle is the beautiful garden. Created in the Tudor times, from here, you can admire the structure of the castle and try to identify the different parts that were changed and added over the years. The huge 'Elephant Hedge' that divides the garden has been a fixture of Rockingham for over 400 years, making it a historical specimen in its own right. In the Rockingham Castle gardens, you'll also find the beautiful 'Wild Garden', as well as the 19th century Rose Garden. A wander around the gardens is an idyllic way to spend the afternoon, and get a bit of fresh air too. If you're interested in the history of these gardens, you can book special tours to learn more about them.

There are plenty of Rockingham Castle events on throughout the year, which has in the past included Rockingham Castle Festival, with a whole line up of music acts, as well as Halloween Fun at the Castle in October. Rockingham Castle Christmas is also an event not to be missed. Taking place at the end of November-beginning of December, the Castle is set up as if it is Christmas Eve, 1849, and the whole family can come and enjoy a wonderful festive evening at the house.

Once you've explored the grounds and taken in what life was like in times gone by, head to the Walker's House Tea Room for a bite to eat or something to drink. Serving everything from baguettes to clotted cream ice cream (yum!) the Tea Room is the perfect place to come to recharge your batteries. Or, if you fancy bringing your own lunch, there are plenty of spots in the Gardens where you're welcome to come and enjoy a picnic. Alternatively, you're less than a 10-minute drive away from the town of Corby, where you'll find plenty of small cafes. You can also venture over to the town of Market Harborough, where you'll find everything from pub lunches to restaurant dining. This is also the place to go if you're looking for hotels near Rockingham Castle.

If you had a brilliant day out at Rockingham Castle, and are looking for more fab things to do in Northamptonshire, take the kids on a trip to Bugtopia in Kettering, where they can meet all kinds of critters and creatures. Alternatively, for a day out with a twist a little further afield, Broomy Hill Miniature Railway in Hereford is a top destination for kids and adults alike. 

What to know before you go

  • Rockingham Castle opening times are from 10:30am-4:30pm on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The Castle is still a residential home, so some areas are not open to the public, and the site should be treated with respect. The gift shop is open from 12pm-3:30pm on the open days.
  • There are accessible toilets and baby changing facilities available on site.
  • Unfortunately, the Castle is not accessible for wheelchairs and buggies, but the other areas have ramps and other accommodations for those with limited mobility.

Getting there

  • If travelling by car, you can get to Rockingham Castle, Corby via the A6003 or A427.
  • The nearest train station is Corby, which is three miles away. You can also travel to Market Harborough or Kettering, which are both within a 10-mile radius and have good connections to London St Pancras.

Please follow the latest government guidelines if travelling by public transport.

Government Guidelines

Location

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