On the edge of the town of Craven Arms in Shropshire, England, this moated structure was constructed during the 13th-century by a rich wool merchant known as Laurence of Ludlow. Laurence also obtained a license from the king to fortify the manor house by crenelating the walls as a means of protection against marauding Welsh thieves. The design was also a status symbol. In the early 17th-century, the castle was renovated into a more luxurious residence.
It was not utilized for military purposes, except for a brief period during the English Civil War. Apparently, the structure was garrisoned by Royalists and was besieged by Parliamentary forces. After securing the castle, Parliamentary forces pulled down much of the curtain wall, but left the gatehouse which had only been completed a few years prior to the war.
The structure is now owned by English Heritage, who have erected numerous information boards around the building detailing its history. The site is often heralded as the best-preserved example of a medieval fortified manor house in the country, with the added bonus of a magnificent timber-framed gatehouse. This design gives the site a romantic appearance.
Know Before You Go
Although you can park at the castle (£3 per day), it's possible to park for free at the Discovery Centre on the outskirts of Craven Arms. From here, a 20-minute walk along the river Onny, where you can sometimes see kingfishers and otters, will take you to Stokesay. You can get a map of the circular walk past the castle from the centre for £1.
There is a nice tea room next to the castle and the churchyard has some very interesting gravestones.