Before getting down to some facts, it is worth quoting an online Tripadvisor review:
An Interesting Old Ruin …
… and it’s not often I can say that 🙂 Certainly looks the part with its enormously thick walls and imposing shape against the sky … It must have been quite a sight in its heyday. It’s possible to walk up to the top for some apparently excellent views over the town, but with my knee …
The reviewer is correct about the walk up to the top. Though only short, it is quite steep and the steps, though uneven, are rather irregular, and there is no handrail.
A word of warning. Not being good with heights, especially irregular heights, I tried the steps down from the other side – the right-hand picture above. Fine most of the way, but the steps at the bottom are very narrow and steep, and I had to have help from a kind passer-by to get down – using the grassy bank. I am sure (I hope) that most of you are braver than me, but be aware. I imagine that there are no handrails because it is a site of some antiquity.
It is worth it when you arrive, though. Though not high, there are some excellent views, including the Priory Church, majestic above the rooftops.
Here is the plaque at the top, with a brief outline of its history. I have added more general information below.
Originally it was a motte and bailey castle. These were relatively cheap to build and could repel small attacks. These had an earthen motte (mound), surrounded by a ditch which could be filled with water. To make the mound, earth would often be taken from the ditch. Indeed the words motte and moat are from the same root. The steps today lead up the motte. The bailey was an outer enclosure, sometimes defended by a fence and/or a ditch.
The original motte was lower, and it was enlarged during the Civil War. The corners were not at 90o, to discourage mining the walls, and they could resist strong attacks; often there would be a siege and the defenders would be starved into submission.
These castles were eventually rendered obsolete with the advent of heavy siege artillery.