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Bath's Sham Castle

Visited July 2015

Location Bath, NE Somerset
Entrance Fee No 
Railway Station Nearby Bath Spa
Parking On road
Facilities None


Imagine being so rich and influential that when you grew bored with the view from your house you simply had a folly castle built on the hillside to make it more interesting! Introducing Georgian entrepreneur & Lord Mayor of Bath Mr Ralph Allen, who did just that. His folly, known as Sham Castle, still stands today although Bath has expanded so much now it can no longer be seen from his one time house in the centre of the city.






Ralph Allen originally became wealthy from re-organising the Post Office to make it more efficient. He then used his money to buy quarries in Bath- the building boom at the time saw demand for Bath stone increase and he made a second fortune through this investment. 


Sham Castle was built in 1762, by which time Allen had already built his palladian mansion at Prior Park. The castle is a perfect example of a folly, on the side which formed the view from Bath, it looks exactly as a castle should look -with turrets, towers, arches and arrow loop windows. On the rear side, the side that was not visible from the city, there is just a flat, blank wall. Much like a piece of stage scenery, it was all about creating an illusion.





Sham Castle is now owned by the local council and is free to visit. Getting there is not quite so simple, it is about a mile from the centre of Bath, but as it is a city built on hills the walk up to it is pretty steep. To complicate matters there is very limited parking, most of the surrounding streets are yellow lined or residents parking only. The land adjacent to the castle forms part of Bath Golf Club, which does have a car park, but you would have to be quite brazen to park in there unless you were already a member.


Buses will take you up as far as the golf club road junction, we actually went on the open top tourist bus which gave us commentary and history of the city as we travelled around ( make sure you tell the driver you want to get off at Bath University, the nearest stop, as they don't stop at every bus stop!) The walk from the bus stop to the castle is about 10-15 minutes, it is steep at the end as you go up through woodland which leads to a clearing at the top of the hill. 


The castle was very peaceful as it was not at all busy on the day we went, just the distant sound of golf in the background. There are no public facilities at the castle, but the city of Bath with all its amenities is not far away. 





We combined a visit to the castle with a visit to Prior Park Gardens, the gardens laid out by Ralph Allen at his nearby mansion house. The gardens are most famous for the palladian bridge, one of only a few surviving examples in the country. The Bath Skyline tour bus also stops here, and it is a pleasant walk back into town when you have finished. There is a cafe at the gardens, but no parking, so arriving by public transport is actively encouraged.


Please see our 'Other Places of Interest' page for the weblink for Prior Park Gardens.





More info:  Sham Castle

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