Middleham is a small but bustling North Yorkshire settlement; its population below 1,000 at the last census making it seem more like a village than a market town. But Middleham is a place of some distinction, with the remains of one of England’s finest castles dominating the view and horseracing dominating the life of the place. Probably settled in Roman times, Middleham occupies a strategic spot where the road west across the country from Ripon could be monitored. Bolton Castle a few miles west of Middleham served the same function, though as Middleham sits on the banks of the River Ure it was doubly important in those days. Middleham Castle was at one time the home of Warwick the Kingmaker, and it was here the future Richard III spent part of his boyhood learning the arts of war and of statecraft. The keep was built in the 1170s, and is the largest in the north, its walls 12 feet thick in places. The castle is in the care of English Heritage, but its greatest treasure can be found in the Yorkshire Museum in York: the Middleham Jewel is an engraved solid gold pendant with a sapphire in it, found by a metal detector user in 1985, and bought for the museum for £2.5 million. This is at the heart of Wensleydale, with Hawes and its creamery at the other end of the valley a good drive away. A more relaxing way to see some Wensleydale countryside though is from the old diesel units running on the Wensleydale Railway, a 17 mile run between Redmire and Leeming Bar – the station at Leyburn is the nearest to Middleham. Horse-racing is the lifeblood of the town today; indeed Middleham is the centre of Yorkshire’s racing industry, boasting the establishments of some top trainers. For those of a sporting nature Ripon, Catterick and Thirsk are all within easy striking distance. The town is a comfortable mixture of architectural styles, with local stone linking them. There are plenty of Georgian and Victorian buildings, and some much older. When the castle was partly demolished during the Civil War stones from it were recycled in local properties and can still be seen for example forming the fireplaces of more venerable buildings. Who says you don’t get owt for nowt?
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Places to Stay near Middleham
In and Out Cottage (0.07 miles)
Charming 'upside down' accommodation in a stone built 18th Century terraced cottage, next to the market square in the pretty village of Middleham. With outstanding views of the surrounding area, this lovingly restored holiday home ... More