Baconsthorpe Castle, Norfolk
The trouble with TomToms, and I’m talking sat-navs not drums, is they take all the fun out of finding those tucked away places like Norfolk’s Baconsthorpe Castle.
Of course where I say fun, you might say frustration, but ask me the way and I’d delight in giving you these directions. ‘Follow the Baconsthorpe sign from Holt. Much of the road is single track, so be prepared to pull over when meeting the occasional bit of traffic. Unless the oncoming vehicle’s a tractor or a 4X4, then say your prayers, because the drivers of neither seem to take any prisoners.
Once you’ve entered Baconsthorpe, you want the last left before you leave the village. Don’t look for a sign, because there isn’t one; well there is, but it faces the other way and is sustaining a good growth of ivy.
A short distance on, you’ll see a smaller sign at a field edge. Follow the pointing finger down a farm track towards the two silos, keeping the cabbage field on your right. Once you’ve passed the redundant liquid fertiliser tanker, there’s just three cattle grids to negotiate and you’ve arrived.
You might now be wondering what there ever was in this bit of the back of beyond that was worth defending. The answer’s probably nothing, because Baconsthorpe Castle, or rather what’s left of it, was never actually a castle, but a moated and fortified manor house, so maybe the grander sounding title was adopted by the upwardly mobile early Tudor occupants or is 15th Century Estate Agent speak.
It was the Heydons, a prominent Norfolk dynasty, who built Baconsthorpe Castle in the late 1400s, with future generations adding enlargements over the next two centuries. By then the family had fallen on hard times and the process was reversed in 1650, when they were forced to demolish parts of their home to sell as building materials. The outer gatehouse was occupied as a private dwelling by descendants until 1920, when one of the turrets collapsed.
The site is now owned and maintained by English Heritage, and has the usual information panels, with artists impressions of how the old place might once have looked, but to be honest, as with many of these sites, it’s difficult to imagine.
So to recap, it’s not that easy to find, there isn’t much to see when you do get there, and there’s no café, toilets or gift shop. So why bother? Because when the weather’s right, it’s a perfect picnic spot and you certainly won’t have to battle with crowds. On a hot August Bank Holiday Saturday, there were just four families enjoying the sunshine, all with a hamper, or at the very least a few Tupperware boxes.
A few children played hide and seek, while another two threw a ball back and forwards. You could probably have witnessed the same scene thirty or forty years ago, if it wasn’t for the guy talking loudly into a mobile phone. But then there’s always one isn’t there?
Baconsthorpe Castle photos
More of Andrew's Baconsthorpe Castle photos
How to get there
The nearest main road is the A148 Holt Road. See details directions above.