Within twenty-four hours of arriving in England, I visited my first castle. In my mind, castles always seemed like something that only exists in fantasy. I think this idea is from not having castles in America, unless you count those at Disney Parks, mini golf courses and temporarily built on beaches. The frame of reference just isn't there. I certainly never imagined them to be sitting in the middle of a field, in someones backyard, just down the road from a pub.
I don't want my readers from other countries to think that the American education system is so bad that we don't realize that castles exist outside of the realm of fantasy. Of course I know that castles are very real places, but it's different when you see one in person and it's not pink.
We visited Donnington Castle early on a cold Saturday morning. The castle is located in the town of Donnington, just about ten minutes from Dan's parent's house. The drive was beautiful.
Donnington Castle is now a ruin and ancient monument. It was built by Sir Richard Abberbury in 1386, under a title grant from King Richard ll. It was bought by the son of poet Geoffrey Chaucer, most famous for The Canterbury Tales. The castle has been visited by King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.
Dan's mom gave me a tour of their hometown of Newbury and just a few blocks from their house, in a residential community, is a former hunting lodge of King Henry VIII. It has since been repurposed and I believe is a medical facility, but the structure is essentially the same. The building that once housed King Henry's tailor is also in Newbury, in the town center.
I was doubly impressed, because coming from California, we just don't have buildings that are so old or have so much History. I live in an area where it's common to level buildings that are thirty-forty years old, just to build something new. We seem to place a greater value on new buildings, rather than preserving old ones. It was really incredible to see such old buildings not only standing, but still in use.
Donnington Castle was destroyed during the English Civil War in The First Battle of Newbury. The Castle held for eighteen months (maybe twenty, depending on the source), but the garrison finally surrendered in April 1646. The bulk of the castle was demolished, with only the gatehouse still standing.
We arrived early in the morning and with the exception of a woman jogging and another woman walking her dog, we were all alone. It was a bit creepy and the theme song from A Game of Thrones ran through my head.
A couple of panorama shots.
The castle gate was dark and foreboding.
A few close-ups of the Castle wall.
It was an atmospheric day, everything covered in a layer of mist.
My first visit to a real castle was a huge success. No contest, Donnington was way cooler than any castle at a Disney park!