Spotlight on

Spotlight On Bolsover Castle

Sometimes described as a 17th-century 'playboy's mansion', Bolsover is more a lavish place of entertainment than a true castle.

Today you can explore the home and social centre of William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle, including the riding house where he pioneered the art of dressage in England. As well as some of the finest and best-preserved wall paintings in England, the castle boasts broad views over rural Derbyshire from the terrace and recreated wall walk.

The Star Chamber at Bolsover Castle

Why We Love Bolsover

"People love the Star Chamber (pictured) with its decorative ceiling. The tapestries you see depict the story of Abraham, and the crest on the fireplace is the Talbot crest. George Talbot was the final husband of Bess of Hardwick, who lived nearby at Hardwick Hall, and they would have used this as their main room for dining."

"The marble closet upstairs was a retiring room. After the household had their dinner, they would retire in there to play games and talk. You can also see William's bedroom, with the Heaven Closet and Elysium Closet. The Heaven Closet was his little writing room, where he would compose his letters. The Elysium room was a special room where he would only take special guests. It's a very private space."

  Linden Volunteer at Bolsover for 4 years.

Plan your visit

Take a Closer Look

This curious set of concentric circles, carved into the wall to the left of one of the bay windows, is an apotropaic mark, or witches' mark. Though the inhabitants of Bolsover Castle were not particularly superstitious, it was common at the time to engrave the surrounds of doors and windows with these marks, believed to keep evil spirits from entering the home. The marks are difficult to see, but shine a light across the face of the wall to highlight them more clearly. Several witches' marks of different patterns can be found in the Star Chamber. 

The Riding House at Bolsover Castle

What makes Bolsover special?

Led by the 'father of modern dressage' William Cavendish, the Riding School at Bolsover was central to the art's development in England. The building remains similar to how it looked in Cavendish's day, and the arena has been recreated with the central training 'pillar' used to draw the horses in ever-decreasing circles. Cavendish was known for using kinder techniques than many of his contemporaries, and today the sand floor is mixed with sawdust to have less impact on the horses. A 20-minute display takes place every weekend April - September, so you can experience the spectacle for yourself as skilled horsemen in costume of the cavalier period perform the animals.

History of Bolsover Castle
Bolsover Castle

Things to look out for

  • Fossils in the fireplaces: Many of the lavish fireplaces in the Little Castle at Bolsover feature marble, a sign of wealth and opulence. But among the marble is a darker stone, which is in fact local Derbyshire stone packed with fossilised shells.
  • A ceiling of cherubs: The ceiling of the Heaven Closet, adjoining William's bedroom, features a spectacular painted ceiling, appearing to open up to the heavens above.
  • Original wall walk door: The impressive wall walk has been reconstructed, and you can now stroll around it and enjoy panoramic views. But head into the exhibition to see the door that stood at the entrance to the original wall walk.