Built on a dolerite outcrop, the location was previously home to a fort of the native Britons. The Normans built a new castle on the site, which forms the core of the present one.
As an important English outpost, the castle was the target of occasional raids from Scotland. In 1464 during the Wars of the Roses, it became the first castle in England to be defeated by artillery.
The castle still belongs to the Armstrong family, and is opened to the public. It also hosts weddings and corporate events. It has been used as a film location since the 1920s, featuring in films such as Ivanhoe (1982), El Cid (1961), Mary, Queen of Scots (1971), Elizabeth (1998) and both the 1971 and 2015 adaptions of Macbeth.
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