Croft Castle at its beguiling best...

Have I ever told you that there's a parallel universe where I live in Croft Castle? It's right up there in my top 5 favourite places to visit and this may surprise you, because to be brutally honest, it isn't exactly an A-list historical attraction. But there's something about the house (it isn't really a proper castle) that enthralled me on my first visit, way back in the 1970s and it still has me firmly in its power.

Have I ever told you that there's a parallel universe where I live in Croft Castle? It's right up there in my top 5 favourite places to visit and this may surprise you, because to be brutally honest, it isn't exactly an A-list historical attraction. But there's something about the house (it isn't really a proper castle) that enthralled me on my first visit, way back in the 1970s and it still has me firmly in its power.

Of course you might not feel it too, I understand that, but I'm sure that at some time in your life you'll have been somewhere and immediately felt comfortable and at home. There's just that certain feeling that makes you feel welcome, where you quickly relax - well that's Croft Castle for me. 

And try as I might, I can't entirely decide what it is about it that creates that atmosphere, all I can say is, I've never visited and not experienced it.

I'll tell you what I love seeing while I'm there though. 

The trees

Croft has the most amazing collection of ancient trees. If 300 year old Spanish Chestnuts float your boat, this is the place for you. There are many other species too, old, gnarled, venerable. It could easily claim to be worthy of a visit for these alone.

the walled garden

Ok, I'll admit it, I'm jealous of anyone who has a walled garden, and the one at Croft is my absolute favourite. There are fig trees in the corners, gates that lead off into the parkland and frame the views, masses of fruit trees, a vineyard! Forget the house, spend an entire visit in the garden (they put deck chairs out for you to relax in, how thoughtful is that).

the library

It's a toss up whether the Library or the Oak Room is my favourite room in the house. The library might just have it though, because it's probably the most elegant library I've seen and I love the white bookcases, oh and there's a tiny turret room off to the corner where I can imagine hiding for days while I read my way through some enormous novel.

the portraits

Now don't get too excited. These are not Gainsboroughs or Holbeins. But when you visit Croft Castle you can't ignore the number of portraits that look at you from every wall. They're a mixed bunch, a smattering of royal rip-offs, but mostly family members going back for a few hundred years. I wonder if those are what really give the place it's special atmosphere. It's difficult to walk through the rooms where the same people once lived without feeling some connection with them, and they look such a very normal lot, you feel as if you'd quite like to know them better.

And finally, the church...

Don't you think it's so classy to have your own church quite literally on the doorstep? St Michael's is tiny, but it pre-dates the current house and I can't visit without imagining it as a wedding venue (provided you didn't have a large family to accommodate). Wouldn't it be so romantic to be able to walk from the door to the church and back.

But in fact my top favourite thing of all at Croft is inside the church, and it's the tomb of Sir Richard and Dame Eleanor Croft. This couple were right at the heart of the events of the Wars of the Roses. He fought at all the key battles from 1461 - including Mortimer's Cross, which took place on his land nearby and which saw Edward IV assuming the crown. Eleanor was governess to Edward's sons, the tragic Princes in the Tower. They both lived long lives through immensely turbulent times - no mean feat. I can't visit Croft without going into the church to stand and have a few moments contemplating the lives of two people separated by centuries but somehow still so intriguing.

Visit Croft Castle if you have the opportunity (even if it's just to tell me I'm completely overreacting).

Where is your special place? If it's somewhere we should visit, do let us know. Please leave a comment below.


Visitor Information

Croft Castle is still lived in by members of the Croft family, but it is managed by the National Trust. Click here to go to the official website and check opening times, prices and events.