|The courtyard looking west|
The present castle consists of a courtyard with towers at the corners. The two tallest towers flank the south entrance range. Once it was an impressive irregular quadrangular fortress with a high curtain wall containing small turrets in the centre and on the angles, dominated by two, five storey towers.
Today the 16th century courtyard still has its yett and is protected by the remains of a barmkin wall, a gatehouse and a squat tower flanking the ditch.
Thomas Dacre was also Warden of The West March for Henry VIII, and provided loyal service to the crown until his death in 1525. Unfortunately for the Dacre family, in 1560 the then Lord Dacre died, leaving a widow, three daughters and a young son called George. Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk, Queen Elizabeth's cousin, married the widowed Lady Dacre, and arranged to marry his three sons to her three daughters. Young George was killed in a fall from a vaulting horse and the vast Dacre estates which covered great tracts of the north of England - including 70,000 acres of the Barony of Gilsland, lands in Cumberland including Greystoke and Dacre, 20,000 acres around Morpeth and 30,000 acres in Yorkshire - now part of Castle Howard estate, all came under the control of the Howard family. Following the death of his wife, he then rather foolishly became embroiled in a plot to marry Mary Queen of Scots. Thus Thomas Howard, like his father before him, went to the scaffold and was executed in 1572.