We all love a castle, don't we? There's something undeniable and more than a bit magical about them.
Why is that?
I can think of many reasons why I should dislike castles, purely on an ideological level. I'm anti-violence, anti-colonial, fiercely opposed to the class structure, I'm not a monarchist, I have no strong sense of anything approaching Nationalism, and the list could go on. But still in spite of all this, boy do I love me some castle.
I'm not alone, it is quintessential great day-out material. I first visited castles as a wide-eyed child dreaming of knights, dragons and chivalry, I maybe grumbled my way around a couple as a moody teenager, before returning to them of my own free will, then later on with my wife, and later still with our daughter. It all comes back around, the generational allure of castles repeats, and I wonder how many layers you have to peel back before those stones are fresh-hewn and the place is full of a very different, but eerily familiar crowd. The space between our own reality and our history seem very thin in these places. Magic. And at the very least there will be tea and scones, and stationary with knights on them.
I really wanted to make this map, I couldn't see why it didn't exist though it did make me excited to see if I could make it. I found out why it didn't exist as soon as I started. The list of castles out there is brain melting, not only that but they don't like being drawn small, and their shapes show an outright defiance for being arranged into some kind of neat, rocky tetris on a map. It took a while to figure out how to make this one work, but it was certainly a fun design challenge. Another issue is which castles make the cut - how do you pick from the sheer vastness of it all? And let's face it, some people are going to be disappointed not to see their favourite, and fair enough, they are vessels of our treasured memories.
At this point, I should confess to my own biases. To me, a castle should be able to take at least a few good hits from a siege weapon. These romantic castles and fortified mansions just don't make the cut for me - they are beautiful, and I enjoy them, but if I could gain access with a brick lobbed through a ground-level window, that doesn't scream castle to me. Nope, I want arrow slits, moats, turrets, crenellation, towers, murder-holes, you know all that classic stuff that just screams, "Don't you dare put that takeaway menu through my door". Subsequently, the vast majority of the castles featured date between the 11th and 16th centuries - to me this seems like the sweet spot for castles. I've tried to include castles that are open to the public and where geographical overlap happens, I've tried to think about which may have been more historically significant, has the most visitors, and would make a nice addition visually to the map.
I hope you enjoy the latest map, it is a bit of a departure from the mythical beasts projects, but it is something I really wanted to create.
If you would like to pick up a print of "Castles of the British and Irish Isles", copies are available here
All the best