The castle bears the name of William Peveril, who was granted the title of bailiff of the Royal Manors of the Peak – in effect the King’s agent for the Royal Forest of the Peak – after the Norman conquest of 1066. Peveril is thought to have been an illegitimate son of William I.
Peveril created Castleton and in 1080 he fortified the site of the present castle and constructed a wooden keep. However, Peveril’s son (also called William) became too independent for Henry II, and was accused of poisoning his lover’s husband, the Earl of Chester.
The result was that in 1155 King Henry II confiscated the Peveril estates and the castle has belonged to the Crown or the Duchy of Lancaster ever since.
Henry visited Castleton several times, to hunt and, on one occasion, to meet King Malcolm of Scotland, who paid homage to Henry here in 1157. The court records show that an enormous amount of wine was consumed on this occasion!
The castle fell into disuse after Tudor times, and by the 17th century only the keep was in use – as a courthouse. When this was abandoned the castle gradually became ruined until what remained was restored in the 20th century.
You enter the castle up a very steep climb from Castleton, but this was not the original main approach, which went up Goosehill and zig-zagged up the hill to approach along the ridge above Cavedale which reaches towards the keep. Peveril dug a breach in this ridge to create a moat which had a wooden bridge across it. Sadly, this bridge has gone and not been replaced.
The Castleton entrance leads in through the remains of a gatehouse which was built in the 12th century and into the main courtyard of the castle. Around this is the remains of a curtain wall, which was constructed in early Norman times by the Peverils, and includes Roman tiles which presumably were taken from the ruins of the Roman fort at Navio (Brough).
Dominating the site are the remains of the stone-built keep, which was built by Henry II in 1176 and is relatively well preserved. The keep was originally about 60 feet high and was faced with fine gritstone blocks, which still remain on the east and south sides. It dominates the view across both Castleton and Cavedale below.
Inside the courtyard it is possible to trace the foundations of a Great Hall and kitchens and other buildings, but it is the view across the surrounding countryside which is the finest feature of the visit.
Castleton has numerous attractions, ranging from medieval castles to conservation farm parks.
Peveril Castle is the reason for the existence of Castleton and looms above the village. It is in the care of English Heritage and is well worth a visit.
The views from the castle, down to Cave Dale, to Mam Tor and to Castleton itself are excellent
There are four show caves open to the public in Castleton. The first of these is Peak Cavern (advertised as ‘The Devil’s Arse’), the only wholly natural system and the only one which is actually in the village.
Outside the village are three others – Speedwell Cavern, which has an underground canal – Treak Cliff – famous for its Blue John stone, and Blue John mine. Speedwell lies at the foot of the Winnats Pass, and the other two are on the slopes which roll down from Mam Tor.