The ruins of the castle and its surrounding grounds reflect several highlights of English history. In 1326 King Edward II was imprisoned here and forced to renounce the throne, before he was transferred to Berkeley Castle and allegedly murdered with a red-hot poker. Here the ambitious Robert Dudley, earl of Leicester, one of Elizabeth I's favorites, entertained her four times, most notably in 1575 with 19 days of revelry. The top of the keep (central tower) has commanding
views of the countryside, one good indication of why this was such a formidable fortress from 1120 until it was dismantled by Oliver Cromwell after the civil war in the mid-17th century. Still intact are its keep, with 20-foot-thick walls; its great hall built by John of Gaunt in the 14th century; and its curtain walls, the low outer walls forming the castle's first line of defense. You can climb the newly-installed viewing platforms for the view that Elizabeth would have had when she stayed and visit the restored gatehouse where an excellent exhibition explores her relationship with Leicester. A stunning re-created Elizabethan garden with arbors, aviary, and an 18-foot high Cararra marble fountain provides further interest for an hour or two. This is a good place for a picnic and contemplation of the passage of time. The fine gift shop sells excellent replicas of tapestries and swords.