The Pirate Castle; a Unique Watersports Center with an Equally Intriguing History

Ever been to a castle? If not, you might want to check out the Pirate Castle after a tattoo in Shoreditch. Although it’s not exactly the royal castle you’d expect, it’s the first defensive castle built in the country ever since the 16th century. The castle was built in the 19th century by legendary architect Richard Seifert. It is currently a charity-based watersport center, meaning although you may not find gnarly seafarers or royalty here, you can canoe or take a dip for free. Check out its history and more details about it below.

The Intriguing Story Behind the Pirate Castle

Wondering what’s a castle doing being a watersport center? Well, it wasn’t always a castle. It began as a Pirates’ Club established by Viscount St David in 1966 to allow local children an opportunity to enjoy watersports and satisfy their need for adventure. The club had four members and was housed in the Rosedale, a decrepit barge nestled between industrial warehouses on the Regent Canal.

The first members lived up to the castle’s name by robbing other canoes, coracles, and boats using the towpath off gold and money to raise funds for the club. Despite their efforts, the Rosedale was vandalized multiple times, creating the need for a more secure clubhouse. The kids, led by The Viscount, held multiple concerts and bazaars and reached out to charitable trusts like the Inner London Education Association to raise funds for the new building.

The Camden Council offered a generous piece of land south of the canal for the castle. It was built in 1977, creating what would become a pivotal watersport center for kids and adults for decades to come.

The Pirate Castle Today

The Pirate Castle was re-modeled in 2008 to restore its castellated theme and again in 2017 to make it accessible for individuals with physical disabilities. It now features meeting rooms available for hire, a community space, changing areas, wet areas, and a roof terrace perched between ramparts where you can soak in views of the River Thames.

Boat and canoe cruises depart from the castle to areas like Little Venice and back, allowing kids and adults to experience London in a different and picturesque way. Besides taking in the views, guests are welcome to steer the boat or work the locks. The Pirate Castle offers two canal boats for hire, so if you’re looking to celebrate your first tattoo with a few friends, a cruise aboard one would be perfect.