Ashby de la Zouch Castle was originally a mid 12th century stone fortified manor house, founded by Alain de Parrhoet, la Zouch. In 1474, William, Lord Hastings was granted a licence to crenellate and he founded the tower and courtyard fortress.
To the original hall, kitchen and solar block, he added a chapel and the keep-like Hastings Tower. Of four storey, with a seven storey rectangular wing, the narrow ground floor entrance was protected by a portcullis and running from the basement to the kitchen is an underground passage.
In the 16th century, The Wilderness garden was enclosed by a brick wall, flanked by a pair of two storey angle towers. The castle was besieged during the Civil War, when it surrendered to the Parliamentarians in 1646, several of the principal buildings were slighted.
The great tower, seen here from the gardens, was partially demolished in 1648, probably with gunpowder, to render the castle indefensible following Henry Hastings’s surrender but you can still climb to the top up a very narrow spiral staircase of ninety eight steps and it is worth the effort for the views of Leicestershire and the details in the other towers.
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott was set in the area of the castle. In Scott's novel the town hosts an important archery competition held by Prince John, in which Robin Hood competes and wins.
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