Brough Castle: The Castle that Started it All!
Updated: May 21
Location: Click for Map
Fee to enter: FREE
I’ve had a love for England for as long as I can remember. If the show had a British accent or a corset, I wanted to watch it. BBC America was a standard fixture in our home in Las Vegas. Yes, we watched the Beeb!. You read it correctly.
I grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada, a million miles from any castles or queens. I’m pretty sure you won’t find too many American girls who have seen every episode of “Are you Being Served?”. (No really, every episode! And if you don’t know what show that is, it’s okay. It’s a very famous comedy set in a department store in England that ran for 13 years.)
I’ve read more novels from the standard British Literature syllabus than the American one. I can tell you way more about the Battle of Culloden than I can the Revolutionary War, and I’m pretty sure I could answer any question about the wives of Henry VIII if it came up on a game show. Maybe somewhere in the very recesses of my mind I was always planning on living in the United Kingdom?
All of my initial solo traveling was to locations in England and Scotland. As soon as I had enough money to travel on my own, the destination was absolutely predetermined. People go to beaches, Paris, Tibet, Rome.? Why the heck would you go there when you could go to the UNITED KINGDOM?! Okay sure, they speak English in Britain, and that felt safer as a big tall blonde chick…but really WHY WOULD YOU GO ANYWHERE ELSE?!
As an actor and an opera singer, I have had the privilege of living in both Los Angeles and New York, but the place I always really really wanted to live in the depths of my soul was London. You know when a place just calls to you? That’s how I felt the second I put my toe on the ground in the United Kingdom. I had grand schemes of somehow living bi-continentally….or meeting my knight in shining armor with you know, a British accent, and that he would whisk me away to the motherland….And then that actually happened.
One lovely sunny day (we have many lovely sunny days in Los Angeles), whilst living in Los Angeles, I was swiping away on a dating app and I came across a VERY handsome man who went to school in England that was less than 10 miles away from me! HELLO YES!!! Swipe right!!! Will he swipe right back? Will we match!? Oh, the anticipation!
It took about ten whole minutes for both of us to match each other on “said dating app”. Then we immediately began messaging and I found out he was visiting California from England with his best friend. We had some witty banter and he invited me to dinner that very same night.
“OH NOOOOOO!” I said. “Sorry, I just don’t feel good about meeting someone if they are bored on their vacation. If you really want to get to know me and would actually want to date me in real life even though I live here are you live in England, then I’ll meet you another day.”
I was in a phase of really stating my needs at this point in my dating life and it was easy to be completely blunt to someone over a dating app messaging service on my phone. Much to my complete surprise, he agreed and wanted to get to know me better.
We went on our first date two weeks later. His version of the story is: I asked a lot of questions and was very quizzical. For me, I had finally found someone that was everything I had ever looked for and more and I wanted to find out absolutely everything about him!
We continued talking after he left to go back to England and started to…well, you know, fall in love and stuff. We began planning my first trip to visit him. Oh boy! My now husband, then boyfriend, planned an amazing trip to the Lake District in Cumbria, England.
Cumbria is an amazing place full of gorgeous mountains and beautiful lakes. He knew I had a supreme love of the American National Parks and my then current Instagram feed was FULL of pictures of the red rocks of Zion, Arches, Grand Canyon and all the amazing scenery of the desert southwest that I had grown up with.
I flew in to London and we spent a few days in the town I now live in, a super quaint historic market town. Everything about it made me swoon. We then packed up for our 5-day trip to the Lake district and began our drive to our Airbnb, which promised a view of one of the Lakes in the area.
As we drove down the highway, I saw something in the distance. “What the heck is that?!?!” I shrieked! “Over there! On the hill!! It looks like ruins or something! Hurry, pull off the freeway! Let’s go look!!!” and that, my friends, was the beginning of my new found love affair with castles.
It was just at the very start of sunset, which you will come to learn is my absolute favorite time to photograph castles. Some photographers swoon to wake up at the butt-crack of dawn. Not me, my friends. I’m a morning lounge lizard! But I promise to tell you whether it’s better to photograph a castle at sunrise or sunset!
This particular day, however, it was indeed sunset. We walked up to the small kissing gate. –(which, By the way, I had no idea what the heck a “kissing gate” was until I moved to England. We don’t have those in Los Angeles or Las Vegas) – I saw the sign BROUGH CASTLE, and looked out to see a complete vision of majestic, old brick loveliness.
I had been to a couple of the bigger more touristy castles in Scotland and thought it was fun. But THIS!!!! I could walk amongst the stones! I could look out over the beautiful hills of Cumbria! And then a dark, backlit shape emerged from the shadows of the castle walls. It was actually just a friendly horse walking up to us. In fact, it didn’t just walk up to us, it tried to nuzzle us and follow us around. Maybe he thought we had carrots? He gave up and started walking around the castle grounds and this is how you got this picture here.
At this point in my castle photography game, I didn’t have a super fancy camera. Yes, I had a DSLR, but I had no idea what the heck I was doing. And the fact that I managed to capture this moment was perhaps a wink from the castle gods that maybe I should get into this whole castle history and photography game.
We ran around the castle getting as many angles as we could before the light faded. As soon as we got back into the car I immediately wanted to know EVERYTHING about the castle! Who lived there? When was it built? When did it become a ruin? I went on an internet wild goose chase to find out what I could. You know what I learned? I learned it takes a really long time to find out what you ACTUALLY want to know about castles and the people who inhabited them on the interwebs.
Also, if you just throw a name and a date at me I’ll vomit on you. Well, not really. But my brain will absolutely not care or remember anything. I want to know the juicy stuff…like the fact that this castle had a huge fire after a Christmas feast and almost everything got burnt to cinders. And then fate struck this castle twice in the same way and it burned down AGAIN a hundred years later after it had been rebuilt! Talk about bad luck!
I want to know the ghost stories, the legends, and a lot of the time, I want to know where the heck the dang castle is (this can get tricky in Scotland especially!). There is a map tab that will tell you EXACTLY where the castle is and you can even print off directions if you want I also don’t want to spend my life savings going to places where there will be a bazillion other people. (I don’t tend to go to those castles unless I’m feeling REALLY spicy!) Most of the castles you will see on this page will be free to go to. If they are not, I’ll tell you.
The other thing that is important to me is to capture the castle the best way I absolutely possibly can under the given weather conditions and circumstances. I scour Instagram and the internet to see what other people have done before I go to a site. I also get SUPER excited when no one has photographed a castle, or there are no particularly good photographs of the castle I’m visiting. I now own every castle photography book in print because of this!
Since my glorious visit to Brough Castle, I have visited over 50 castles in just under two years and I’m just getting started! There are almost 5000 castles in Scotland alone!!! I hope you will come with me on my adventures. I promise not to be boring! Pinky swear. I also promise to do my absolute best to bring these castles to life for you. For me, each castle has opened up a glorious part of my imagination and a beautiful connection to the past that I never knew I needed.