John of Gaunt's Great Hall was on the first floor. At ground floor level there were service and store rooms underneath the Hall. This photograph shows the Hall, with its enormous windows, at the higher level.
Looking down into the Great Hall from the modern steps, you can see the division between the Hall and the ground floor rooms below it. Staircases still lead out of these rooms via the arches. The Hall floor would have been just below the level of its windows, where there is a clear line in the stonework. You can also see the Hall's great fireplace beside the window.
The view from the tall windows of the Great Hall would have been, on one side, into the inner court, and on the other, this view down over the outer court to the curtain wall, and the lake beyond. Most of the fields you see here would have been under water.
One of the ground floor level rooms remains intact, and you can see its beautiful vaulted stone ceiling. This room is to the right of the Hall's main door, which you see at first floor (upper) level in the picture on the right. The surviving ground floor room is round behind the wall beside the bench, and was underneath the Strong Tower. That archway beside the bench leads into the Great Hall area, underneath the main door, and on the ground floor level where the storage and service rooms were. In the photographs below you can see the elaborate carved stonework around the Hall's main doorway, on the upper level.
This photograph shows the view into the area below the Great Hall from the arch below its main door. The arches of the rooms that were at this level are clearly visible. They would probably have had vaulted ceilings, like the surviving one, which would have supported the floor of the Great Hall.
The area between the Great Hall and the Keep was the site of the kitchens. There is very little of this area remaining, but this photograph looks down into the kitchen area from beside and slightly above the main door of the Hall. It also shows that the doorway arch of the Hall appears more pointed on the inside than it does on the outside.
This photograph of the kitchen area appears to be of a doorway, but I think it may have been a fireplace, because on the right edge of the picture there is what appears to be an oven - probably a bread oven. If that is what it is, then this would have been the fireplace which heated the oven. The kitchen area is paved and there are the foundations of ovens and fireplaces set in the paving. You can see this oven-like structure in the photograph above, at the very left of the picture.
The kitchen area was placed close enough to the Great Hall for dishes for a banquet to served hot. They would have been taken from the kitchen up a staircase to the Strong Tower, to an ante-room at Hall level (above the remaining ground floor room) and prepared for serving there.
John of Gaunt's alterations made this castle a palatial home. The next major alterations were to come in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, when it was owned by her favourite, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. He made alterations, and also added a building with a suite of rooms for a VIP guest - a suite occupied by the Queen herself when she visited the castle. Stables and a new gatehouse were also added at this time. The Tudor buildings are on the next page.