The visitor numbers for sites in the care of Cadw and where an admission is applied are available. They give an impression of how heritage sites in Wales have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of visitors from 2017 to 2019 ranged from 1.3 million (in 2017) to 1.2 million (in 2018 and 2019). These fell to 197,331 in 2020, and then rose in the following year to 784,772.
The release of the 2022 figures later this year should provide an idea about the recovery of the sector.
Castles built by Edward I in North Wales had represented between 46 and 48 per cent of the total visitor figures for Cadw location between 2017 and 2019. In 2021 they represented 53 per cent. Beaumaris had more visitors in 2021 than it had before the pandemic.
English Heritage has been asking its members for its top 10 castles. The list consists of: Dover, Kenilworth, Tintagel, Bolsover, Portchester, Warkworth, Dunstanburgh, Carisbrooke, Middleham and Beeston.
Many of these would be in my personal top 10 English Heritage castles especially Bolsover. But what would I want to include? Leaving aside the artillery forts like Pendennis and Tilbury, I would want to consider:
One of the most dramatic castles is Peveril standing above the Derbyshire village of Castleton famous for its Blue John mines.
Scarborough Castle has dramatic views over the bays on each side. It also contains a Roman signal station.
Brougham Castle lies on the site of a Roman fort on the Roman road that crossed the Pennines.
Farnham Castle dominates the town.
Castle Rising has a wonderful keep standing within earthworks.
Orford provides magnificent views over the Suffolk coast.
Hadleigh Castle provides dramatic views over the Thames estuary.
Helmsley Castle lies on the edge of the Yorkshire market town.
Tynemouth priory and church are located on the north side of the mouth of the river Tyne. The first guidebook, by R.Neville Hadcock, was published in 1936; the second edition appeared in 1952, continuing as an English Heritage ‘Handbook’ in 1986. It followed the standard format of History followed by description; there is an extended glossary.
The most recent guidebook is by Grace McCombie (2008). This starts with a tour followed by the history. It includes a section on the headland in the First and Second World Wars, with detailed descriptions of the gun batteries.
Dunstanburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast was placed in State Guardianship in 1929. Construction had started in 1313. The first official guide was published in 1936 with the section on the history of the castle by C.H. Hunter Blair, and the description by H.L. Honeyman. The cover carries the arms of Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster (1277–1322). There is a foldout plan inside the back cover. The guide continued into the 1970s.
A colour illustrated guide was prepared by Henry Summerson (1993). The main section is dedicated to a tour of the castle, and there is a helpful bird’s-eye view to help to orientate the visitor. There is a short section with biographical notes on Thomas of Lancaster and John of Gaunt.
Alastair Oswald and Jeremy Ashbee prepared the English Heritage red guide (2007). This contains a bird’s-eye view and a plan of the castle on the fold-out card cover. The tour contains helpful thumbnail plans to help the visitor located their position. There is a section on Dunstanburgh and coastal defence during World War 2.
Canrasserie Castle lies to the north of Kilmartin village. In February 1559 the castle was awarded to John Carswell (c. 1522–1572) [ODNB], the minister of Kilmartin. (Note the alternative spelling on the site sign.) In 1567 he was presented as bishop of the Isles. One of his main contributions was his translation of the Book of Common Order (1564) into Gaelic, Foirm na n-urrnuidheadh (1567).
The present castle was constructed between 1565 and 1572, replacing an earlier building. The castle was destroyed in 1685 during the rebellion of the 9th Earl of Argyll.
Properties in the care of Cadw will be re-opening from August following the COVID-19 lockdown (“Wales’ ancient monuments set to reopen in August“, BBC News 18 July 2020). The first to re-open will be the castle at Laugharne on 4 August 2020.
The top seven paid heritage visitor attractions in East Anglia (Norfolk and Suffolk) account for 1.1 million visitors a year (2018). Four are properties managed by the National Trust: Ickworth, Blickling Hall, Felbrigg Hall, and Oxburgh Hall. Framlingham Castle is managed by English Heritage.
There is a single museum, the Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.
The Poppy Line (North Norfolk Railway) is also in the top seven.
I have been thinking about my Top 10 heritage sites in Norfolk. This is very much a personal choice, and the locations are placed in (rough) chronological order. I have tried to include a variety of types of heritage site. How can you decide between Norwich Cathedral and Norwich Castle? Or between Felbrigg and Blickling? Castle Rising and Castle Acre?
Grime’s Graves. You can descend into the Neolithic flint mines.
Burgh Castle. One of the best preserved Roman forts of the Saxon Shore.
Norwich Cathedral. The cathedral is an architectural gem and dominates the city.
Binham Priory. Part of the Benedictine priory is still in use as the parish church.
Castle Rising. This well-preserved keep is dominated by a series of earthworks.
Oxburgh Hall. The moated hall at Oxburgh contains fabulous tapestries.
Felbrigg Hall. The 17th century front to the house is a gem.
Holkham Hall. One of the most magnificent houses and Grand Tour collections in Norfolk.
The North Norfolk Railway (The Poppy Line). The journey between Sheringham and Holt provides views of the coast as well as the Norfolk countryside.
Sandringham. The Royal residence sits in the middle of extensive landscaped grounds.
The Outlander series of books and TV series is having an impact on visitor numbers at heritage sites in Scotland (“Outlander tourism effect a ‘double edged sword’“, BBC News 15 February 2020). Doune Castle is reported to have a 200 per cent increase, rising from 38,000 in 2013 to 142,000 in 2008. It is now the fifth most popular Historic Environment Scotland site.
Culloden, managed by the National Trust for Scotland, has also seen a large increase in visitor numbers to over 213,000 in 2018.
The collection within Colchester Castle contains one of the best presented collections of objects from Roman Britain. It is displayed in an imaginative and engaging way from the mosaics and (funerary) sculptures to the inscriptions and pottery.
In spite of this Colchester has, surprisingly, not featured as high in the list of museums for the RSA Heritage Index.