Carisbrooke castle is one of the most impressive historic sites on the Isle of Wight, and was the chief medieval stronghold on the Isle of Wight, so much so that tradition asserts that whoever owned the castle also controlled the Isle of Wight.
There has been a fortification of some sort at this site since Saxon times, and some of the late Saxon stone structure still survives within the earthwork and banks of the castle. It has also been speculated that there was a Roman structure on the site, but there is no archaeological evidence for this.
The present castle was founded soon after the Norman invasion, and was a simple mott and bailey, which was greatly improved and built upon in the medieval period. The castle remains are impressive with much of the original structure still surviving, including the keep, medieval buildings, and two wells – one with a treadmill utilising donkey power to draw water.
The French once laid siege at the castle during the medieval period. During this siege, legend tells of a bowman called Peter Heynoe, who killed the French commander with a shot from the castle walls, causing the French to withdraw.
One of the castles most famous visitors was Charles I, who was imprisoned here for ten months before his execution at the culmination of the Civil War. Charles attempted to escape from the castle a number of times, although each attempt was thwarted.
The castle is reputed to have a number of ghosts, befitting its long history. The deep well was the scene of the tragic drowning of Elizabeth Ruffin, her disembodied face is reputed to have been seen in the well water. The castle also has a Grey Lady, a phantom wearing a long cloak accompanied by four dogs, the ghosts of a man in a brown jerkin and trousers – seen near the moat, and other presences that have been felt by castle visitors.
More information on the hauntings of Carisbrooke can be found in Gay Baldwin’s The Isle of Wight Ghost Book IV, also consider her website: ghost-island.com
Directions: The castle is just outside Newport, signposted off the B3041.