Discover 900 years of living history at Rockingham Castle

Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates

[AD – Gifted] I was kindly invited for a complimentary castle tour and afternoon tea in exchange for a blog post.

Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates

As you know, I’m all about navigating Northamptonshire and finding all the best places to eat and explore, yet I am always taken by surprise when I visit a new place and it turns out to be the most wonderful experience. Rockingham Castle took me by surprise for being 

Rockingham Castle may be a 50 minute drive away from Towcester, but don’t worry, if you’re based in South Northants, it’s well worth the journey as Rockingham Castle is based two miles north from Corby in Northamptonshire. I have often wanted to navigate more of this area, so what better way to do so than stand in the home of history in the county. 

Rockingham Castle is a former royal castle and hunting lodge in Rockingham Forest, was built on the instruction of William the Conqueror, who ordered for the castle to be built in the location due to it’s magnificent views and high hills across the Welland which were crucial in his subdue of the kingdom. 

From then on, Rockingham Castle has played host to an array of British history and royalty; from the Iron Age and the Roman period, to the invading Saxons and the castle was also used by the Normans, the Tudors and during the Medieval period too. 

Today, it is now a private home to Saunders-Watson family, whose family has resided there for 450 years and is now occupied by James Saunders-Watson, his wife and his children, all of whom enjoy the castle as he did as a child. As you look around the castle, the mixture of the old and the contemporary portraits and photos makes this a well versatile castle.

Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates

Rockingham Castle

We all met outside in the courtyard, where we were greeted by Dave, our very knowledgeable tour guide, whom pretty much knew all that there is to know about Rockingham Castle’s fascinating history and background; to which he guided us inside where our tour would begin…

Unfortunately, since the castle is a living family home, you were not allowed to take any pictures inside, which was a shame due to the purpose of this review; however, I was kindly given some photos to share with you of the inside; but the beauty that awaits inside is really not done justice on photos. 

Everything we saw from the great hall, to the long hall, the old kitchen and servants hall, panel room and stairways were so picturesque. Anyone who visits Rockingham Castle will feel like they are literally walking through history as they wander around the many rooms inside. 

You could tell Dave was incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the castle; there was no question asked was not answered straight away, which was great for us! He was able to give us some really useful and insightful facts which I thought would be nice to share with you… 

Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates Rockingham Castle | Nicole Navigates

Did you know…

The Long Hall was used as a focal point of family entertainment in the past and still is today for the Saunders-Watson family who often host parties and family gatherings inside. 

Charles Dickens was a regular visitor of the castle and would have undoubtedly performed one or two of his plays inside and drew inspiration for Chesney Wold in his novel Bleak House. 

There is a portrait of Mary Boleyn, the sister of Henry VIII’s 2nd wife, Anne Boelyn, which hangs opposite the portrait of Edward Watson, ancestor of the present owner, James Saunders-Watson, in the great hall. 

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But the highlight of the tour inside the castle (after climbing the steep staircase) was getting to the top of the tower to witness an incredibly breathtaking view. The tower is the highest point of the castle and it overlooks 5 counties, including Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Rutland, Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire. 

If you can manage the climb up, you will be treated to one of the best views from the castle. 

When you come for a tour at Rockingham Castle, you are able to walk around the castle and grounds at your own leisure and guides are located around for you to ask any questions should you wish to ask any. 

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Afternoon Tea in Walker’s House Tea Room

After lots of walking around the castle and up and down steep stairs, it was well and truly time for a sit down refreshment; and what better than a delightful afternoon tea in Walker’s House Tea Room. 

The Tea Room is quintessentially British tea room I’ve ever come across, which also still highlights all the unique bits of history through the branded crest decor and the beautiful painted pictures displayed on the walls. 

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We sat down and were asked whether we wanted coffee or tea, which obviously, being afternoon tea, we opted for a teapot to share between us. The Afternoon Tea consisted of a mixture of sweet and savoury items, including the all important fruit scones with homemade Raspberry Jam and clotted cream. 

It was a really nice way to end the tour and it felt very appropriate to have afternoon tea ina castle that once held royalty. 

I want to save the talking and photos for another blog post, which will coincide with my National Afternoon Tea week campaign I’m running in August as this afternoon tea will be featured that week – so keep your eyes peeled for that at a later date!

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Grounds and Gardens

Not only is there a whole array of things to see inside, there is a huge amount of beauty and serenity to witness outside too. If you love all things flowers, gardens and scenery, prepare yourself for photo spam! 

The gardens are some of the most stunning castle grounds I have laid my eyes on. Especially in summer, all the flowers were in bloom, the sun was shining down on the green, green cut grass and it was the perfect location to take some lovely photos!

The Castle Gardens has examples of every period in its 950 year history. There are 18 acres of of gardens that circle around the castle, plus the most beautiful rose plants and even a dedicated garden filled with a rainbow of coloured roses – walking around it makes you feel like you’re in a scene from The Secret Garden! 

The roses mainly dominate the gardens during the summer, so now is the perfect time to take in the views whilst they last.

We couldn’t believe how well everything was kept in the gardens, which we later found out there is a dedicated team who look after the gardens and the flowers planted within it. There’s always something special to see and I can’t wait to see how the garden and flowers change through the seasons from Spring to Autumn. 

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Overall, Rockingham Castle makes for an absolutely beautiful day out. Rockingham Castle is open for castle tours and garden walking on Sunday’s, Tuesday’s and Bank Holiday Monday’s, so if you’re like me and work during the week, add this to your Sunday plans.

Rockingham Castle are also hosting their first Food & Drink Fair on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th July. You can find out more here as well as see a whole host of their events that are coming up. 

Have you ever visited Rockingham Castle before?

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  • John Price says:

    Could you tell me whether there is a family tree of the Watson going back to the original watson owners.
    My grandfather was Lewis Jones Watson CB a rear admiral in the British Navy 1871-1940 and the Watson side goes back as follows: Edward C Collis Watson 1835-1899; James Watson 1807-1847 murdered by Ryan Puck in Ireland; Andrew Vincent Watson 1754-1832; William Watson 1608-1778 in Limerick Ireland.

  • John Price says:

    My Mother said we were related to the Watsons of Rockingham Castle but I dont have the records that she did. Any information you can provide would be appreciated.
    John Price