Exploring Goodrich Castle

by Jan

High on a wooded hill overlooking the River Wye in Herefordshire, England are the ruins of a formidable medieval fortress, Goodrich Castle.  Once an important stronghold and luxurious family residence, the Norman castle has since fallen into disrepair.

However, there’s still plenty to see and Goodrich Castle is one of the best attractions in the Wye Valley.   We paid a family visit to this impressive castle during our recent visit to the Forest of Dean.

View of Goodrich Castle, Wye Valley, UK

Getting to Goodrich Castle

Goodrich Castle is just outside the market town of Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, England.  It is easy to get to following signposts from the A40.  Just 10 minutes from the castle is the beautiful viewpoint, Symonds Yat Rock.  Combine a visit to both if you are looking for a full day out in the Wye Valley.

Nowadays, English Heritage manage Goodrich Castle.  Tickets currently must be pre-booked and in 2021 cost £23.40 for a family.  For up-to-date admission prices click here.

There is a large car park directly in front of Goodrich Castle Visitor Centre, but parking charges apply.

Exploring Goodrich Castle

As you climb the hill to Goodrich Castle, it’s obvious why the original 11th Century castle was built here.  Standing high on a rocky outcrop, it has the perfect defensive position looking down on the River Wye and Wye Valley.  It is also close to the border with Wales.

The outer walls to this mighty fortress are still standing strong.  As you enter the gatehouse you can see how thick they are and can imagine they would withstand any incoming canon attack.

Around the castle is the dry bed of the original moat.  In fact, Goodrich Castle is one of the best-preserved Medieval buildings in England.

Views of Wye Valley from Goodrich Castle

After passing through the main entrance, you can choose your own route and start exploring Goodrich Castle.  You can see outline of the former buildings and there are still plenty of rooms, passageways, and a dungeon to explore.

You’ll see lots of information signs around, so you get some background on what you are looking at.  Our highlights of our visit to Goodrich Castle with the kids were:

The Chapel

The Chapel is one of the first buildings you’ll come to when you start exploring Goodrich Castle and remains one of the most intact.  Two magnificent stained-glass windows dominate the room.

The Memorial Window on the western wall commemorates the lives of the lost radar research squadron.

Looking out of Goodrich Castle from Chapel window
Millennium Window in the Chapel, Goodrich Castle

On the opposite wall, the newer Millennial Window was installed to celebrate the start of the new century.

“The window celebrates this place and its people; past, present and future.”

The deep stone windows are deep enough for kids to climb in and a stone staircase leads to a balcony overlooking the chapel.

The Dungeon

An iron gate leads into a dark, dank room which was previously the prison for poachers and thieves.  It’s not very big, but the kids loved exploring it.

The Dungeon entrance, Goodrich Castle, Wye Valley

The Main Keep

Spiral stairs in the Keep, Goodrich Castle

Another of the highlights of the visit to Goodrich Castle is the climb to the top of the keep.

Due to covid restrictions, only one family could enter the tower at a time.  However, this is ideal, as there’s not much room for any more.

Built in the 12th century, the keep is the oldest remaining building at Goodrich.  A very dark, narrow staircase leads to the top.  You need sensible shoes, and a good grip on the rope handrail.

However, it’s worth the steep climb for the panoramic views of the Wye Valley from the top.  You can see for miles of Herefordshire countryside in every direction.

The Keep, Goodrich Castle

A brief history of Goodrich Castle

Goodrich Castle started life as Godric’s Castle.  However, a Frenchman, William de Valance built much of the current castle.  Although it is clearly a defensive castle with drawbridges and arrow loops, it was also a family home.

De Valance was uncle to King Edward I and a prominent figure of the time.  However, as a French landowner he was not always popular with English aristocracy and many of the castle’s upgrades were to impress other noblemen.

Civil war cannonballs at Goodrich Castle

Goodrich Castle fell into ruin after the English Civil War and the Royalists surrendered the castle in 1646.  Ironically, Roaring Meg, the canon which did most of the damage, now resides at the castle.  You can also see cannonballs that were fired at the castle by the attacking Parliamentarian forces during the siege of 1645.

Spooky stories at Goodrich Castle

As we were there in October, we were able to enjoy the half-term activities. This included spooky Halloween stories in the courtyard.  Two actors amused visitors with entertaining tales of Goodrich Castle’s foregone ghosts.

One ghost was an Irish chieftan, who died when trying to escape.  Another ghost was Alice Birch who was taking refuge at the castle, whilst it was under siege.

Spooky stories at Goodrich Castle

Have you been to Goodrich Castle?  We’d love to hear your comments below.

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