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Colchester Castle in Colchester, England, is the largest Norman keep ever built in Britain and the largest surviving example in Europe.

Colchester Castle in Colchester, England, is the largest Norman keep ever built in Britain and the largest surviving example in Europe. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)

Colchester Castle in Colchester, England, is the largest Norman keep ever built in Britain and the largest surviving example in Europe.

Colchester Castle in Colchester, England, is the largest Norman keep ever built in Britain and the largest surviving example in Europe. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)

A video re-creation of a witch-hunter interrogation inside the prison at Colchester Castle in Colchester, England.  Mathew Hopkins used the prison in 1645 as his base of operations, where he was responsible for the deaths of at least 100 people accused of witchcraft.

A video re-creation of a witch-hunter interrogation inside the prison at Colchester Castle in Colchester, England. Mathew Hopkins used the prison in 1645 as his base of operations, where he was responsible for the deaths of at least 100 people accused of witchcraft. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)

A video re-creation of self-styled witch finder Gen. Matthew Hopkins forcing a confession from a woman inside the prison at Colchester Castle in Colchester, England. Nineteen of the 32 women he interrogated in the castle were sentenced to hang.

A video re-creation of self-styled witch finder Gen. Matthew Hopkins forcing a confession from a woman inside the prison at Colchester Castle in Colchester, England. Nineteen of the 32 women he interrogated in the castle were sentenced to hang. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)

The Colchester Sphinx inside the museum at Colchester Castle in Colchester, England, is from an elaborate Roman tomb estimated to be from AD 43-75.

The Colchester Sphinx inside the museum at Colchester Castle in Colchester, England, is from an elaborate Roman tomb estimated to be from AD 43-75. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)

The Colchester Vase displayed at the museum inside Colchester Castle in Colchester, England.  It was found in a grave dated between AD 175 and 200.

The Colchester Vase displayed at the museum inside Colchester Castle in Colchester, England. It was found in a grave dated between AD 175 and 200. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)

Tombstone of Marcus Favonius Facilis displayed at the museum of Colchester Castle in Colchester, England.  Facilis was a Roman centurion from the Twentieth Legion who died a few years after the AD 43 invasion of Britain.

Tombstone of Marcus Favonius Facilis displayed at the museum of Colchester Castle in Colchester, England. Facilis was a Roman centurion from the Twentieth Legion who died a few years after the AD 43 invasion of Britain. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)

An illustration of Boadicea's uprising at the Colchester Castle in Colchester, England.  The British folk hero was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led a failed uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60.

An illustration of Boadicea's uprising at the Colchester Castle in Colchester, England. The British folk hero was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led a failed uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60. (William Howard/Stars and Stripes)

A visit to Colchester Castle is the perfect way to experience a bit of history during a day of shopping in the center of the English town of Colchester.

The row of stores on High Street leads downhill to an open park, where the massive castle dominates the skyline view.

Colchester Castle is the largest Norman keep ever built in England. William the Conqueror ordered its construction in 1069, and it was completed in 1076, when Colchester was the first Roman capital of Britain. It was built over the ruined foundations of the Temple of Claudius, itself erected between A.D. 54 and 60.

The museum inside the castle includes important holdings, such as Neolithic pottery; the Coin of Cunobelin, which dates from A.D. 10 to 40; and other artifacts recovered from the graves of Roman warriors buried in the first century.

Interactive displays let you don Roman armor, lead a chariot race and witness the forced confession from a witch in an interrogation in a prison cell.

Plan your visit carefully, because between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., young children on school field trips take over the museum, running throughout the displays and screaming.

If you’re brave and don’t mind staying out late, ghost tours are available at the castle, which has seen much bloodshed over the centuries. It was, for example, the target of a Celtic uprising against Roman rule in A.D. 60-61, and self-styled witch finder Gen. Matthew Hopkins interrogated and imprisoned suspected witches here in 1645.

The ghost tours are the only way to see the prison vaults beneath the castle, where prisoners were kept in the most barbaric of conditions and often left to rot to death.

Colchester Castle Ghost Hunt is a special event held a couple of times each year. It costs 59 pounds ($83.70) per person. The event is 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., with ghost hunting vigils utilizing specialized equipment. For more: tinyurl.com/ycbl9z97.

I’d like to take the ghost tour on my next visit. It would be a great way to avoid the horror of the horde of children inside the castle museum during the day.

howard.william@stripes.com Twitter: @Howard_stripes

DIRECTIONS: Address: Castle Park, Colchester CO1 1TJ, England The castle is about an hour’s drive from RAF Mildenhall via the A14 motorway. Parking is available in the nearby Priory Street and Britannia car parks, a few minutes from the castle.

TIMES: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sundays, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays to Saturdays

COSTS: Admission is 7.75 pounds ($11) for adults, 4.80 pounds for children

FOOD: Vending machines on site offer snacks and beverages.

INFORMATION: Phone: (+44)(0) 1206-282939; email: museums@colchester.gov.uk; website: tinyurl.com/ydenoael


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