I’ve been a member of English Heritage for a very long time, and have used my membership to visit some fantastic historical sites around the country – particularly Yorkshire and Northumberland (wherein sit my favourite castles such as Norham, Warkworth, Ford, and (of course) Alnwick.
While it is not operated by English Heritage, I’ve also had many a visit to Warwick Castle in the Midlands, where my English Heritage membership has eased the pain of the entrance fee (which amounts to over £100 for a family of four) as well (although I tend to prefer its great rival, Kenilworth, just down the road, and which is an English Heritage site).
Anyway, I mention this because I recently paid a visit to Fourmile Castle in Second Life. The work of Ee Maculate (a name I just love, and which is now sitting as my second favourite SL avatar name after (the now departed) Slightly Offcourse), Fourmile Castle was apparently inspired by a visit to Warwick Castle by Dr. David Wood, the man behind Ee Maculate. Not that Fourmile is intended to be a direct representation of Warwick Castle (although there are some common points between the two). Rather, the visit to Warwick served to inspire Dr. Wood to start ian in-world project for 11-16 year-olds to show how castles tended to grow over time and become not only a strategic centre, but also a commercial one as well, sometimes growing to encompass an entire small town or large village within its walls.
In this, Ee Macluate has succeeded very well. Starting from a single Mainland region, Fourmile Castle now covers a goodly acreage of both the neighbouring Maceday and Cavenaugh regions, with the castle walls encompassing houses and places of business, with more – in keeping with how things often were – beyond the walls. With Cavenaugh bordering the Sea of Fables (itself a place I recently forayed into by boat), the castle even boasts its own modest harbour.
When you arrive at the castle, you do so at one of the main entranceways. Take heed of the signage when you do – there are no info notecards, but the signs provide a wealth of information – such as the castle being both open to the public and a residential area, with many of the houses in and around it available for private rent. The sign also advises you to be on the lookout for tiny Anywhere Doors, which can help teleport you more easily from one point of interest to another in the same location.
Where you go after arrival is up to you – there are footpaths to follow both inside the walls and outside, and there is much to see whether you keep to them or not. As with many a real castle, Fourmile appears to have grown organically over time, with new walls appearing, new walkways, houses, places of business….alleyways, stairs and so on being added over time to create quite a warren of places to tour on foot. Like Warwick, the castle boasts elements from a range of historical periods; the chapel features the tomb of a Cavalier alongside that of a Norman knight. Also like Warwick, Fourmile has its own watermill and sits on the bank of a river which forms a natural defensive point.
Most of the rental houses lie either just outside the castle grounds or within the outer curtain wall, but outside of the castle proper. Many are already rented, so visitors are asked to respect the privacy of those living in Fourmile. Unrented homes are signed as such, and the castle store includes information on rent. All homes are within their own parcels and parcel privacy can be enabled for tenants.
The castle itself is reached either over drawbridge or through double portcullis entranceways (which had me looking up for signs of murder holes as I passed through). Here you’ll find towers, a chapel, a throne room, dungeons, stables, stairs, secret rooms, tunnels – there really is a lot to discover. For the particularly hardy, there is a 3D maze (with the recommendation you tackle it in Mouselook), and there is also the castle store, as mentioned above.
All of the rental properties appear to offer reasonable space, with the houses outside the castle walls being models by Maxwell Graf, which give the castle surrounds a unique feel.
Also outside the walls are a couple of henges, complete with fires burning in their centres as well; whether for warmth or ritual is hard to tell! Whatever their purpose, they are not out-of-keeping with the castle as a whole, and add further points of interest to any visit.
If there is anything at all to be regretted about a visit to the castle, it is in the fact that it really does bring home one’s regret that Mainland regions don’t have the kind of covenants (or some form of estate control) to limit the placement of stonking great (and perennially ugly) skyboxes within spitting distance of the ground. It’s almost impossible to get a snapshot which encapsulates the size of the build without also ending up with someone else’s eyesore in the frame. Even a couple of the images here have been somewhat judiciously “edited” by means of tight control over draw distance…
This aside, the only minor problem I had during my visit was that some of the Anywhere Doors were non-responsive. Whether this was due to lag (a rolling restart was in operation across the grid at the time of my visit) or other reasons, I’ve no idea. Either way, it did little to spoil my enjoyment and appreciation for the castle and Ee’s work in bringing it together.
Fourmile is very much worth a visit and a wander – and can be reached by teleport, road, air or water (the latter thanks to the Fourmile harbour in Cavenaugh, and arrival by air made possible by a neighbouring airstrip!).
- Fourmile Castle, Fourmile (Rated Moderate)
- My index of SL in-world places to visit
- Fourmile Castle on Dave Wood’s website
- (Update) Caliburn Susanto’s excellent review of Fourmile
(Click here to see slideshow full-screen)