Sham Castle in Bath

Your guide to visiting Sham Castle in Bath

13 June 2019

Bath is full to bursting with beautiful and historic examples of exemplary architecture, but it also has its fair share of foibles, follies and fascinating curiosities.

Any first-time visitor to Bath should always include the magnificent Bath Abbey on their itinerary, but those in search of characterful and unusual sights should also check out attractions such as Sham Castle.

This Claverton Down folly is a popular visitor attraction for a number of reasons. The Grade II listed building is interesting in that it is very much a ‘sham’ castle, only ever intended to be viewed from the front. Looking at it from the front, it is a realistic facsimile of a castle, complete with turrets, central arch, square towers and windows. There’s hardly any detail at the back, making Sham Castle’s use very clear. Visitors love this site because of the illusion it creates, almost like a Hollywood film set.

The structure was built in 1762 with the aim of improving the view from the city centre townhouse of Ralph Allen, the Bath entrepreneur known for his reforms to the British Postal Service. You’ll spot his name on street signs around the city, and Allen was also responsible for the building of prior Park, which was his residence at one time.

Sham Castle and family-friendly days out

Sham Castle may not be a real castle, but it very much looks like one from the front. For this reason, children absolutely love it. Located on Claverton Down overlooking the city, there’s plenty of space for play, adventures and imagination around the castle site. It’s also an ideal spot for a picnic on a sunny day, with beautiful views of the city and surrounding countryside.

Visitors should bear in mind that the folly stands on what is now Bath Golf Club, a private golf course, although there is free access to Sham Castle for members of the public.

If you’re looking for Sham Castle parking, unfortunately there is none. Parking is very limited around this part of Bath, but there are a couple of other ways to reach it. For example, the Bath Skyline bus tour has a stop at Bath University, from which there is access to Sham Castle.

Visiting Sham Castle as part of the Bath Skyline walk

One of the best and most popular ways to see Sham Castle is as part of the Bath Skyline walking route. This is a six-mile trail (although you don’t have to do it all) around the outskirts of the city, offering some incredible views and the chance to experience everything from ancient woodlands to wildflower meadows.

The walk runs along an elevated position, including Claverton Down and Sham Castle. If you start the Bath Skyline walk from Bathwick Hill – which is the recommended starting point – then Sham Castle is one of the first stops.

Fancy staying nearby? A number of our Bath self-catering apartments are located very close to the start of the Bath Skyline walk, making them the best options with walkers keen to try out the trail. Some of the nearest are Avonleigh House, Darlington’s and Coachman’s Cottage.