The 14th-century Farleigh Hungerford Castle (also known as Farleigh Castle and Farley Castle) overlooks the River Frome on the Somerset/Wiltshire border.
Farleigh Hungerford is based on the quadrangular castle design popular in France since the early 13th century and it is formed around an inner court with a curtain wall with circular towers at each corner. The castle was surrounded by a moat and its gatehouse was accessible via a drawbridge.
The medieval castle was built by Sir Thomas Hungerford between 1377 and 1383 after he purchased the riverfront property in 1369.
By the 15th century, the castle had been inherited by Sir Walter Hungerford. In 1414 Walter was speaker of the House of Commons and a year later fought in the Battle of Agincourt. After the battle, he became Steward of the Royal Household and was Treasurer of England during the 1420s. During this period, Sir Walter was made Baron Hungerford and became immensely wealthy and during his lifetime he acquired over 100 new manors and estates.
The castle passed in and out of the Hungerford family over three hundred years until 1686 when Sir Edward Hungerford was forced to sell the castle to pay off his gambling debts.
By the 18th century, the castle had started to fall into disrepair and nowadays it is mostly in ruin. It is a Grade I-listed building and English Heritage have managed it since 1983.
The castle is well located for a day trip from either Bath or Bradford on Avon, however, its lack of access via public transport means that the castle is much less crowded than other attractions in either of these two towns.
What to see at Farleigh Hungerford Castle
Although the castle is mostly in ruins, the foundations of the castle can be seen and parts of the curtain wall in the outer court remain intact. The eastern gatehouse is also in fairly good shape and the priest’s house and St Leonard’s Chapel also remain intact.
Visitors can tour the two remaining circular towers, the tallest of which is the Lady Tower where Elizabeth Hungerford is said to have been imprisoned by her husband in the 1530s.
The Priest’s House was built in 1430 and houses an exhibition about the history of the castle. The exhibition includes a model of the castle plus artefacts discovered at the castle including displays of the Hungerford’s suits of armour.
St Leonard’s Chapel features a rare 15th-century painting of Saint George and the Dragon and the crypt includes the late 17th-century tombs of the Hungerford family including what historians consider to be the country’s best collection of human-shaped lead coffins.
Visiting Farleigh Hungerford Castle
Farleigh Hungerford Castle is in Farleigh Hungerford in Somerset overlooking the River Frome on the Wiltshire border. It is 4.8km (3 miles) from Bradford on Avon, 5.6km (3½ miles) from Trowbridge and 11.2km (7 miles) from Bath.
The castle is best visited by car as the rural location is not served by public transport although you can walk from Bradford on Avon in around an hour and Trowbridge is not much farther away. Parking is available for around 30 cars.
An audio tour is included in the admission price. It is well worth taking the extra time to follow along with the audio tour, which includes many fascinating facts and delves into the castle’s (and the Hungerford family’s) rich history.
Large areas of the castle ruins are accessible via steps and uneven paths and there is a spiral staircase to the upper floor of the museum exhibits inside the Priest’s House. Although the site has wheelchair-accessible toilets, only a small area of the site is wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair access is only available to the top lawns as the wheelchair lifts in both the Chapel and the Priest’s House are currently out of order.
There is a small gift shop and public toilets on-site as well as vending machines that sell snacks and hot and cold drinks. There is no cafe and the rural location means that the closest pub is a half-hour walk from the castle. It is best to buy picnic supplies in Bath, Bradford on Avon or Trowbridge and enjoy a picnic on the lawn, the outer moat or inside the walled garden.
Most visitors spend between one and two hours at the castle.