As you drive up to the village of Bolsover, you get your first sight of the Bolsover Castle on the highest point. You can appreciate that the view it afforded its original builders was a great defensive advantage. It isn’t hard to find the entrance, just keep your eyes on the castle and then watch for the signs. The parking lot is located very close to the visitor center. The castle is a little bit of a walk but the pathway is flat and should be handicap accessible. Within the castle, there are some places that will not be handicap accessible including the little castle.
Bolsover Castle is maintained by English Heritage. The entrance fee at the time of this writing is £9.50 for adults; £8.60 for seniors and students and £5.7 for children with a family ticket priced at £24.70. The visitor center has bathrooms and a cafe as well as a gift shop. The cafe is not open in the off season, we visited in January. The price of entry includes an audio guide which is very well done and filled with entertaining information, it adds a great deal to the visit. Resist the temptation to call this Castle Bowl-so-ver it is pronounced Bowzer, like your favorite dog.
The original castle was Norman and was built by the Peverell family shortly after the Norman Conquest. That is not what is here today however. The present castle is a Stuart creation of the early 1600s. Sir Charles Cavendish bought the old castle in 1612 and began construction of the Little Castle. This is not a castle in the conventional sense but rather more of an Elizabethan Folly. It is comparable to the Petit Trianon, not in style but in concept. It is what you notice first but it isn’t necessarily what you visit first.
The first part of the castle that you do visit is the Riding House. On three floors it offers views of the finest indoor riding school in England. In the same building is the Discovery Center. There is a model of the Small Castle that is large enough for children to climb around in.
Models of the main characters of this time period and information about them is also included, not dry facts but things that will keep children who are able to read vastly entertained. If you walk around to the rear of the model, you can also sit down and listen to people who worked here during the 1600′s telling you about the house and the family. It is a nice addition to the audio guide.
The Terrace Range is the former main parts of the house. There you will see the remains of the reception rooms and the kitchens as well as the private living quarters. It is a ruin in the same vein as Kenilworth Castle. The views from here are quite spectacular and it makes for a great photo opportunity. I spent a lot of time shooting photos from every possible angle and through open holes formerly occupied by windows.
The Little Castle is the gem of Bolsover Castle. It is still very lovely and all the rooms have a great deal of detail. Murals adorn the walls and as well as wonderful fireplaces. In the basement you will see a final video staring the former employees and owners. You leave knowing a lot about the family and also wanting to come back again and again.
Outdoors there is a magnificent fountain and beautiful gardens. A visit here will leave you with a very good idea of how a 17th century English gentleman would have spent his leisure time. This is quite an amazing property and should be included in any visit to Derbyshire.
Bolsover is located off of the M1 at exit 29A. Head east just a couple of miles. Chesterfield is 6 miles to the west. These two can be combined for a very pleasant day out.