Brough Castle was built and rebuilt in the medieval period as a strategic fortress at the western end of the Stainmore Pass over the Pennines. Bowes Castle, and the nearby mighty Barnard Castle, were on the eastern side. This was not the first time, though, that this low hill at Brough had been used as for military purposes. A thousand years earlier Roman legions had their fort on the same site. English Heritage who now care for the castle’s remains explain the history well on a series of display boards. Locally it is important as one of four Westmorland castles owned in the seventeenth century by Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke, and restored by her after the Civil War.
The first photograph above is taken from a field close to the A66 trunk road, from which Brough Castle is seen on the left hand side by many thousands of motorists driving over the Pennines in the direction of Appleby, Penrith and the Lakes. From this angle the ruined domestic block to the left seems so much smaller than the keep on the right, but when viewed from the keep is seen to be more extensive than appeared at first sight from a distance.
For many people, including most of my grandchildren and my wife, there’s an even more important building alongside the castle – the Brough Castle Ice Cream Parlour & Tea Room! And yes, the ice cream is very good.
And so also are the views. Here we look to the north toward the North Pennines AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty).
And turning to the south we see Wild Boar Fell in the hazy distance, towering over the valley of Mallerstang, where the infant River Eden flows by another of Lady Anne’s rebuilding projects, Pendragon Castle. The Eden near Brough, though, has now become more than a minor stream. It has already received Scandal Beck and the River Belah and will shortly be taking in the waters of the two streams seen merging at the foot of the photo above (Swindale and Augill Becks). This is the Eden Valley but we don’t actually see the river from the castle; it is down in the valley behind the mown field (below).
The castle may be a ruin, but it’s an interesting one. Entry is free (except for the ice cream!). It has an interesting history. As with other English Heritage properties Brough Castle history is well displayed.