Isle of Man
Castle Rushen, standing in the old Manx capital of Castletown, is one of England's best preserved medieval fortresses and makes for a superb day out.
The oldest part surviving is the base of the massive keep, built by King Magnus Barefoot of Norway - the last Viking ruler of Man - around 1250.
In 1313 the Castle was taken by Robert the Bruce who occupied the Isle of Man briefly whilst attempting to invade Ireland. Once the Scots had been repelled the Castle was rebuilt on the grand scale we see today, mostly by William de Montecute I between 1343 and 1345. The keep was enlarged and a curtain wall was added with a strong gatehouse.
A second phase of building took place in the late 1500s in response to the Armada threat. Queen Elizabeth I held the Island for a few years and in 1597 she donated the clock which sits on the south tower of the Castle.
The Castle was the seat of the Manx administration for many centuries, although the Tynwald always operated as the official "seat" of their Parliament, the oldest in existence in the World. In 1816 the Castle changed its function to be the Island's gaol which it continued to be until 1891. It was restored early in the 1900s and today operates as a fascinating museum.
Although compact there is plenty to see at Castle Rushen, and its small appearance belies its size which is actually quite large. Castletown is the prettiest of the Isle of Man's towns and an excellent way to visit the Castle is by Steam Train from Douglas.
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