Notes: Located near Kirkby Stephen the castle is not signposted. From Kirkby Stephen head towards Nateby and follow the B6259 until you see the castle. A lay-by is available for parking.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
Remains of stone keep with associated earthworks set in a remote but highly picturesque setting. Although situated on private land, free access is allowed during daylight hours noting that care needs to be taken around the livestock.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
1. One owner of Pendragon castle was Hugh de Morville, Lord of Westmorland, who was one of the four knights dispatched by Henry II ('who will rid me of this turbulent priest?') to murder Thomas Beckett, Archbishop of Canterbury.
2. Legend links Pendragon castle with Uther Pendragon, father of King Arthur. However the castle was built over 500 years after the alleged/suggested period of Arthur and, whilst an earlier fortification might have existed, it is likely this is pure fantasy.
3. The legend of King Arthur is closely associated with Tintagel Castle in Cornwall.
Famous for its association with the legend of King Arthur, Pendragon Castle was actually built in the twelfth century and, in the years that followed, withstood successive attacks from Scotland. Restored to its former glory by Lady Anne Clifford in the seventeenth century, it later fell into decline and decay.
HISTORY OF PENDRAGON CASTLE
The Pendragon site may have hosted a Roman fort; the finding of a couple of contemporary coins coupled with its proximity to the Maiden Way Roman road running south from Hadrian’s Wall give some credence to this theory although it has not yet been proven beyond doubt. A castle is also reputed to have been founded and occupied here by Uther Pendragon, who accordingly to the somewhat dubious medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, was the father of King Arthur. The legend has it Uther was killed when Saxons poisoned the well.
However, the first fortification for which there is any evidence is the one that stands today. Built in the early twelfth century, Pendragon Castle is positioned on the banks of the River Eden. Attacked by Scottish forces in 1341, during which it was extensively damaged, it was significantly rebuilt in the mid-fourteenth century. Attacked again in 1541 it then lay in a ruinous condition for over a hundred years.
Following the Civil War and the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the castle passed into the hands of Lady Anne Clifford who also owned a number of other castles in the area including Appleby, Brough and Brougham. She restored the castle to its former glory but alas her successors thought significantly less of the property and stripped it of building materials to support other projects.