First Stop: Mow Cop
The very first ‘castle’ we came upon was with one of our HelpX hosts in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Phil took us out on a day trip up to the top of Mow Cop, a small village leading up a mountain. We got a bit lost along the way, thanks to a faulty GPS, and by the time we arrived at Mow Cop Castle it had started getting dark.
The structure looked little more than a ruined sentry tower, sitting atop the summit of the mountain overlooking the county of Staffordshire below. As ancient and decrepit as Mow Cop seemed, it was actually built recently in 1754 by Randle Wilbraham as an elaborate summerhouse, designed to resemble a medieval fortress and round tower.
The history behind this structure was perhaps a little pathetic compared to the castles our future tours brought us to, but at night, with strands of mist circling the hill like snakes, the Mow Cop summerhouse looked very much like an aged guard tower left behind by some ancient people. Since the late 20th century, Mow Cop is also known for its ‘Killer Mile’, a brutal, one-mile road race from the level railroad crossing on the western side of the hill, straight up to the tower.