10 Best Castles to Visit in England

top 10 castles to visit in england

England's 10 best castles include magical settings for legendary stories and early Medieval ruins connected to powerful families. There are castles with romantic stories and others that are the Victorian fantasies of wealthy aristocrats. These are among the best.

Leeds Castle, the Most Romantic Castle in England

Leeds Castle, near Maidstone in Kent, is often called the most romantic castle in England because of its beautiful setting, surrounded by a moat. There is another good reason to think of romance here. For most of its 1,000-year history, it has been a lady's castle. The first woman to own it, Eleanor of Castile, the wife of King Edward I, bought it for herself from the Norman noble who went broke building it. Eventually, it was the dower house of six queens, and Henry VIII added luxury touches to make it ready for his newest wife, Anne Boleyn. Sadly, she lost her head before she had much time to enjoy it.

Today the castle combines original medieval rooms and features with 20th-century areas created for the last private resident, an Anglo-American heiress who entertained celebrities like Charlie Chaplin and the young Winston Churchill. Among the highlights are the Gloriette, the oldest part of the castle, and the many family-oriented events that take place throughout the year. There's a hedge maze that ends in a magical hidden grotto and extensive gardens to explore.

Arundel Castle, a Fairytale Castle and a Nest of Conspirators

Arundel Castle was begun within a year of the Norman Conquest in 1067. Some parts of that early castle—the keep, the gatehouse, and the barbican (defensive tower above the gate)—remain. Still, most of what you see is a Victorian fantasy of what a castle should look like, added during renovations in the 1880s and 1890s.

It is still a fabulous place to visit in its position high above the West Sussex town of Arundel and the river Arun, about two hours by car or train south of London.

It's the family seat of the Dukes of Norfolk, who is still in residence. Learning about this once politically powerful family and the ups and downs of their fortunes is the highlight of any visit. The family included several cardinals, a saint, a hero of the Spanish Armada, and the uncle of both Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard. He conspired to marry both of them to Henry VIII, and both lost their heads as a result. So, by the way, did many Dukes of Norfolk.

The house is crammed with Tudor-era furniture, tapestries, and clocks as well as portraits by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, and others. While there, you can also see some of the personal possessions of Mary, Queen of Scots—the fourth Duke plotted to marry her and was beheaded for it.

Dover Castle, Guarding England Since William the Conqueror

Dover Castle commands the shortest crossing of the English Channel to France, the reason William the Conqueror himself chose it. He directed the building of a stockade there almost immediately after the Battle of Hastings in 1066. He wasn't the first to recognize this hill's importance. The Romans and the Anglo Saxons also fortified the spot, and you can see evidence of them when you visit. The castle remained a garrisoned fortress from these early days right up to the late 1950s.

Among the highlights of a visit, see the Great Tower, where six rooms of the Medieval castle of Henry II, William's grandson, have been recreated. Then tour the World War I Fire Command Post and take a guided tour of the World War II tunnels that housed a hospital and Operation Dynamo, the planning HQ for the evacuation of thousands of British soldiers from Dunkirk. Some of the costumes from the 2017 film, "Dunkirk," are on exhibit there.

Hever Castle, Anne Boleyn's Childhood Home

Anne Boleyn's childhood home is a mere 30 miles southeast of London, near Edenbridge in Kent. It's surrounded by 125 acres of gardens and includes 28 rooms where you can stay.

The Tudor house, built by the Boleyn family, sits within the 13th century, medieval castle, filled with Tudor rooms—including a bedroom reputed to be Anne's. The castle was restored by American millionaire William Waldorf Astor who created a family home in part of the castle while indulging his interest in history by renovating the house. The heavily carved paneling and furniture in the Tudor rooms are worth a visit alone.

Hever Castle is an active family attraction with events happening in the gardens and grounds throughout the summer. Don't miss the jousting and heavy horse events that take place regularly within an authentic Medieval jousting arena, complete with a royal box.

Alnwick Castle, Learn to Fly from Harry Potter's Professor

Alnwick Castle (pronounced Annick), the family seat of the Dukes of Northumberland, is the second-largest inhabited castle in England (Windsor is the largest). It's on England's northeast coast, about halfway between Newcastle upon Tyne and the Scottish border.

For more than 700 years, the castle has been home to the Percys, once an influential political family in the late Middle Ages. Today this castle is probably more famous as the location of Hogwarts in "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone" and "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."

Today you can learn broomstick flying and the rules of Quiddich in Outer Bailey, where Harry and friends learned to fly. Free 25-minute broomstick training sessions are available to castle ticket holders throughout the day. And the "Professors" share the secret of taking airborne photos with "graduates."

In the Artisan's Courtyard, the family can dress up in Medieval costumes and join in with the villagers in trying traditional crafts and games. You can also go on a quest to conquer a dragon.

The castle has impressive staterooms, and about a mile down the road, the Duchess of Northumberland has created new gardens that include a gated and locked poison garden that can only be visited by guided tour.

Bolsover Castle, a Party House of the Stuart Era

Sir William Cavendish built Bolsover Castle, within the ruins of a Norman castle, in the 17th century during the reign of the Stuart king, Charles II. He was a playboy, poet, and adventurer who designed his house to resemble a Medieval castle. But it was a place for him to entertain and impress his friends. During the English Civil War, Cavendish, who was a Royalist or Cavalier fought on the losing side and fled into exile in 1644. When he returned, about 16 years later, his house was severely damaged. He set about restoring some of it into what is now the Little Castle.

A highlight of a visit is the chance to see the Cavalier Horses perform in the indoor Riding School at Bolsover Castle. The horses perform to Baroque music with riders in Cavalier costumes, every weekend from early April to early October.

This Derbyshire house is about 25 miles north of Nottingham and about 12 miles east of the Peak District National Park.

Bodiam Castle, Ruined Splendor Behind a 14th Century Moat

 Duncan George/Getty Images

Visit Bodiam Castle in East Sussex to walk the long bridge across its magnificent moat and to enter a ruined 14th century castle left much as it was the last time it saw battle. You might find that Bodiam Castle resembles the castle you may have built with a pail and shovel on the beaches of your childhood. You can climb ancient spiral staircases and see a very rare and original portcullis in the gatehouse. Picnic on the grounds or join a free archery session.

Bodiam is about 11 miles from the south coast at Hastings and only around 7 miles from Battle, the site of the Battle of Hastings, and well worth a visit.

Kenilworth, a Castle to Woo a Queen

Kenilworth started as a Norman country house. It was fortified into a castle by Henry II, William the Conqueror's grandson, who needed a stronghold to protect his throne from his many warring brothers. It was finally reduced to ruins by Oliver Cromwell's men after the English Civil War in the 17th century. But before that Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester, extensively renovated the castle to please a special visitor, Queen Elizabeth I.

The story of Elizabeth and Dudley is one of the great unresolved romances of history. The childhood friends were reacquainted when both were imprisoned in the Tower by Elizabeth's sister, Queen Mary. Dudley became her favorite, and there was even talk of marriage. Then scandal over the mysterious death of his wife Amy made marriage impossible. Instead, he virtual rebuilt Kenilworth to please Elizabeth, who visited often.

Since 2014, new enclosed staircases let visitors enjoy views last seen by Elizabeth more than 400 years ago, while 21st-century gardeners recreated the privy garden created for her. And in the Leicester Gatehouse, see an Elizabethan bedroom and an exhibition about the romantic story.

Kenilworth is in Warwickshire, 105 miles from London but only 15 miles from Stratford-upon-Avon, making it an excellent add-on to a short break in Shakespeare's England.

Tintagel, Echoes of King Arthur

Legend has it that King Arthur was conceived here. What is much more likely is that Richard, Earl of Cornwall, and brother of King Henry III picked this strategic headland to build his castle in the 13th century and connected it to the popular Morte d'Arthur, a "bestseller" of the early middle ages. To strengthen his claim and attachment to Cornwall, Richard clothed himself in the popular legends. Tintagel's astonishing position, perched on rocks above a beach and Merlin's cave, makes it easy to imagine legendary romances happened here.

You need a head for heights for the long steep staircases and the narrow bridge that connects the castle to the mainland. It's worth the effort. Tintagel Head is on the north coast of Cornwall between Boscastle and Port Isaac.

Warkworth Castle, the Seat of Medieval Power

Warkworth Castle, near the Northumberland coast and the Scottish border, was built by the colorful Percy family who arrived in Britain with William the Conqueror and became power players and intriguers through the Middle Ages. As the Dukes of Northumberland, they also built nearby Alnwick Castle, which is still the family seat.

The castle's position, a ruin at the top of its small English village, is dramatic. Today's visitors can explore the unusual cruciform castle keep, designed in the shape of a Greek cross. Its rooms and floors can be explored as can the Duke's chambers, two rooms roofed and floored in the 19th century for the private use of the Duke and his family. The gatehouse is the oldest part of the castle, and beyond it, the Bailey is a flat, grassy area great as a picnic and children's play area.

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The Finest English Castles (Updated October 2023):

English castles are some of the most popular tourist destinations in England.

These castles , like their counterparts in Wales , are great monuments to England’s long history . Visitors flock there in droves, no doubt filled with stories of the knights and kings who lived there, and the events they have witnessed.

However, there are over 1,500 castles in the UK (according to the Castellarium Anglicanum , the definitive list published in 1983) and so we thought we’d help out by choosing the best to visit.

So then here is our choice of the best twenty castles in England.

(NB We’ve just published a post some of the many haunted English Castles. Check it out here >>> Haunted Castles In England .

For centuries, these grand structures have graced Great Britain with their imposing stone features and large aristocratic and royal estates.

Let’s look at them in more detail, and list the best castles in England (twenty of them)…

Table of Contents

The Best Castles In England: 20 English Castles To Visit Next Time You’re In In The UK

Many of the oldest castles in England date back to the Norman invasion in 1066.

In the centuries following the Norman invasion, castles in England continued to grow in sophistication and comfort.

By the 14th century, English castles not only provided superior defensive features, but also boasted sophisticated, luxurious living arrangements, and beautifully landscaped formal gardens and parks.

Throughout the Renaissance Era, a small number of castles were built for the wealthy to enjoy extravagant feasts and grand celebrations. During the 17th century, widespread religious and civil conflicts meant that castles, and the defence that they offered England, played an important role in protecting the nation’s interest.

Today, the great castles of England pay homage to the past. The noble structures stand erect as a living memorial to the centuries that have passed, the battles that have been fought, and the people that have come before. Take a look at some of the most monumental English castles and learn about the rich history of these awe-inspiring structures.

No 1: Dover Castle, Kent

Dover Castle is one of the most iconic castles in England . It also has the distinction of being among the oldest; it was originally fortified by William the Conqueror following the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Before it was turned into a fortified castle it was a general stronghold for the Saxon forces. It also served as a lighthouse for the Romans during their conquest of England.

The History of Dover Castle

It was vital that Dover be fortified because it offered the shortest distance between England and mainland Europe. In times of war, it would be the first place anyone attacked, and in times of peace, it would serve as a vital trading and sailing hub.

Dover Castle itself has had a long and eventful history to say the least. Dubbed the “Key to England” the fortress has been the first line of defense for England for over 900 years. The only castles that have had a life as long as this are the Tower of London and Windsor Castle.

The Birth of a Castle

As soon as William the Conqueror won the Battle of Hastings in 1066 he ordered that the defences at the castle be fortified with earthwork and stockade with timber. The castle was garrisoned as soon as it was ready and was garrisoned without interruption (meaning there was always some military force there) until 1958.

King Henry II remodelled the castle in the late 12 th -century. He planned on making the great tower of Dover Castle a palace in which he could entertain important guests. He also planned on making the tower the last redoubt for the castle; one of the most strategically important in the country. The tower stands 83 feet tall, 100 feet square, and the walls are 21 feet thick. It houses three floors, with the top-most floor being reserved for the king.

With such an impressive and imposing showpiece the king was able to welcome distinguished visitors – in particular noble pilgrims on a pilgrimage to the Canterbury Cathedral of Thomas Becket. Thomas Becket was an archbishop who was slaughtered before the altar at the castle by Henry’s knights on December 29 th , 1170; ten years before the work on the tower began. There was a chapel dedicated to the late archbishop on the second floor, made with beautiful decorated stonework.

Construction on the tower continued into the first half of the 13 th century under the watch of King John and Henry III. It was finally finished by Henry III.

A Castle Besieged

The defences of the castle were put through their paces in 1216-1217 when the castle was besieged. It was attacked by Prince Louis of France, who supported English barons in their rebellion against King John. The defences at the castle withstood ten months of bombardment by the French siege engines and every other attempt the French made to invade the castle.

The castle was further improved after the siege. Henry III added three new gatehouses and a fortified spur extension to the castle. The castle as we know it today was completed by the 1250s and it has remained a symbol of the power of the English royal family ever since.

The castle was once again besieged in October 1265. This time, the castle was besieged by Henry III’s own son; Prince Edward. The castle was held by the king’s sister, Eleanor de Montfort. Eleanor was the widow of the baron Simon de Montfort, who rebelled against the king and had been killed at the Battle of Evesham. Besieged from within and without by royalists, Eleanor petitioned for peace and was exiled to France.

A Castle Transformed

Dover Castle remained garrisoned even after the Middle Ages and would stay garrisoned until the late 20 th century. While it became less important after the 16 th century, the castle still played host to royals including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, Charles I, and their guests. It was less important from a military point of view but the fact it played host to so many important people necessitated continued protection.

The castle was reshaped in the 1740s to better defend against artillery warfare. When England was under threat of invasion by Napoleon and the French forces in the 18 th century, the castle was added to even more. A series of tunnels was built into the cliffs of Dover to serve as barracks for the multitudes of soldiers needed to protect the castle.

Dover During the Wars

Technological advances from the turn of the 19 th century allowed for coastal artillery to be commanded from a central Fire Command Post on the cliff edge. The position was deemed important enough by the Admiralty for them to commission a signal station on top of it in 1914. The Navy were able to use the station to command the flow of ships in and out of Dover harbour.

The tunnels built during the Napoleonic war were used again during the Second World War. From 1939 onwards they were the location of the command centre that controlled all naval operations in the English Channel. This is where Vice Admiral Bertram Ramsay orchestrated the evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk with Operation Dynamo.

The tunnels were expanded upon to serve as a bigger headquarters and as a hospital for the war wounded. The hospital was combined with the headquarters and the castle was an important part of defending the Straits of Dover and preparing for the invasion of mainland Europe in 1944.

The network of tunnels underwent a further transformation during the Cold War. It was planned that the tunnels would serve as a secret location for one of Britain’s Regional Seats of Government so that things could resume as close to normal if England was hit by a nuclear attack.

Modern Dover Castle

The modern Dover Castle is managed by the English Heritage group. It is open to the public and offers visitors a stunning look at the history and experience of the fortress. Visitors can tour the castle and the underground tunnels.

They can enjoy all the exhibitions that put them in the shoes of the former inhabitants of the castle and learn all about the rich history for themselves.

The castle has been preserved really well and has been mostly-restored to the original state. Some of the castle has been modified to reflect how it may have looked at different points in history to offer an authentic experience.

Ancient history fans can also experience the original Roman lighthouse that laid the foundations for the castle.

Here’s our post on Dover Castle: Dover Castle: Its History From William The Conqueror To The Modern Day

No 2: Tintagel, Cornwall

This 800-year-old castle is best known for its connection to the legendary King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

Originally built by the Earl of Cornwall, brother to the then King of England. The Earl built the castle to resemble King Arthur’s infamous court at Camelot. Today, the castle is the site of many Arthurian re-enactments and mock battles.

Every summer, the castle becomes the home of thousands of Arthurian enthusiasts who come to experience the days of King Arthur and his knights.

No 3: Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight

At the heart of the Isle of Wight is the romantic castle of Carisbrooke . The glorious castle has been many things over its long history.

Once an armed fortress, the castle has also been a king’s prison and a royal summer retreat.

Today, visitors to the majestic castle find an entertaining museum, a lovely Edwardian garden, and many wonderful events.

Here’s our post on Carisbrooke Castle: Carisbrooke Castle | Magnificent Fortress On The Isle Of Wight, England

No 4: Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire

Originally built in the 12th century, Bolsover Castle was given a makeover by Sir George Talbot in 1553 after years of neglect. The earl later became known for his marriage to ‘Bess of Hardwick’, who was probably the most astute business in the 16th century.

Today, the castle intended for luxurious living has been restored. The castle’s battlements, venus garden, and fountain have been given a second life.

Visitors are able to tour the grounds, visit the castle’s Discovery Centre (located in the castle’s riding stables), partake in one of the many events held throughout the year, or just enjoy a picnic at the lovely site.

NB We have a separate post on Bolsover castle here: >>> https://englandexplore.com/bolsover-castle/

No 5: Leeds Castle, Kent

Claiming to be the “loveliest castle in the world”, Leeds Castle in Kent (and, confusingly, nowhere near the city of Leeds in Yorkshire) is one of the most famous castles in England.

Appearing in the Domesday Book, Leeds Castle has been a stronghold for the Norman armies, a royal residence, and a royal palace occupied by kings and queens .

The location of the castle is nothing short of stunning, with it being situated on two islands in a beautiful lake. Here’s our guide:

History of Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle began life as a Royal Manor. Built in 857 AD, the manor was owned and lived in by a Saxon royal family. After the Normans invaded and conquered England they began construction on the original stone castle at the site of the manor.

The Castle became the royal palace of Edward I and Queen Eleanor in 1278. Edward made several improvements to the castle during his reign.

One notable thing from this time is the Barbican, which stands out because it is made up of three different parts. Each part of the Barbican has its own entrance, gateway, drawbridge, and portcullis. The Medieval Keep, which houses the Great Hall, is named the Gloriette in honour of Queen Eleanor.

King Edward II awarded the castle to his Royal Steward in 1321. When his wife Queen Isabella sought shelter at the castle she was turned away by the people. She was actually fired upon by the archers stationed at the castle.

Needless to say, Edward was not happy about the situation. He laid siege to the castle and reclaimed it for himself and Isabella. Edward was murdered six years later, but Queen Isabela kept the castle until her own death in 1358.

Leeds Castle has housed six medieval queens in all during its history. It housed Queens Eleanor, Isabella, Philippa of Hainhault (and wife of Edward III), Joan of Navarre, Catherine de Valois, and Catherine of Aragon.

It also technically housed Elizabeth I. She was imprisoned in the castle for a time before her coronation and ascension to the throne. It’s thanks to this history of housing queens that the castle is also called the “Castle of Queens, Queen of Castles”.

Of all the kings and queens to have lived in the castle, perhaps none are more famous than Henry VIII.

Henry VIII transformed the castle for Catherine of Aragon, his first wife. While touring the castle be sure to keep a lookout for the Field of the Cloth of Gold; a painting that commemorates when King Henry VIII met King Francis I of France in 1520.

The castle was later purchased and owned by the Culpeper family. This meant that the castle was not destroyed during the English Civil War because the Culpeper family sided with the Parliamentarians. It would later be used to house Dutch and French prisoners of war.

The last person to privately own the castle as a residence was Lady Baillie. She purchased the castle in 1926 and employed the services of French interior designers so that they might improve her new home and make it even better.

She dedicated much of her life to the restoration and improvement of the castle. It was her that set up the Leeds Castle Foundation too, to conserve the castle for years to come. Leeds Castle would be opened up to the public in 1976.

Visitors to the castle are welcome to enjoy the stunning architecture and landscaping of the grounds, which is set into a 500 acre landscape of parkland complete with a maze, grotto, vineyard, and aviary.

The maze is one of the most popular tourist attractions at the site, with a secret grotto tucked away at the centre for anyone who can safely navigate their way through.

Staying at Leeds Castle

If you want to get the most out of your stay to the castle then you should consider staying for a night or two. This gives you a lot more time to enjoy the castle grounds and also allows access to the gardens when the castle isn’t open to the general public. Stay in the State Courtyard Bedroom and enjoy a full English breakfast served at the 17 th century Fairfax Hall Restaurant.

Don’t feel like being treated like royalty? Want to try something different? The castle lets you experience the life of a knight with Knight’s Glamping. Stay under the stars in a luxurious four-poster bed with cotton bedding and wake up ready to do battle on the morrow.

If you’re looking to stay at the castle for an extended period of time then try out one of the holiday cottages. These cottages house between 2 and 10 people. There are five of them all across the property and they are all self-catering. Be sure to book yours ahead of time. Staying in the cottages means you are able to explore the grounds freely long after other guests leave.

One of the best things about visiting Leeds Castle is that tickets are valid for up to a year. You’re welcome to visit the grounds as many times as you want in that time. Think of it like every ticket is a season ticket.

During your stay be sure to have a hot air balloon flight, a ferry boat ride, a round of golf, and many of the other exciting activities that are fun for the whole family.

How to Get to Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is around 4 miles east of Maidstone.

It’s off Junction 8 of the M20 motorway and around an hour and a half from London – or half an hour from the Channel Ports and Channel Tunnel.

No 6: Windsor Castle

20 miles west of London, The 900-year-old Windsor Castle is the oldest official royal estate, and the largest currently occupied castle in the world.

However, this residence is much more than just a castle. The grounds at Windsor contain a large church, several homes, and the royal palace.

(We now have a separate post on Windsor Castle: Windsor Castle | The Queen’s Favourite Home

No 7: Hever Castle, Kent

The 700-year-old Hever Castle was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn is home to a fine collection of beautiful furniture, antiques, tapestries, and an impressive collection of Tudor paintings.

Additionally, the castle is home to more than 125 acres of glorious gardens and award-winning landscape. One thing is for sure, at any time of the year, the stunning castle’s exteriors and interiors are sure to take your breath away.

No 8: Bolton Castle, Yorkshire

Bolton Castle in Yorkshire was once a defensive fortress as well as a luxurious family estate. Today, the castle is a well-preserved home to many outstanding rooms and features and is one of the best castles in England to visit.

Visitors of the castle can peruse rooms like the old kitchens, the nursery, the great chamber, Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom, the armoury, and even the dungeon.

No 9: Richmond Castle, Yorkshire

Stunning views of the Yorkshire Dales elevate the Richmond Castle into its rightful place as one of the most beloved attractions in North Yorkshire.

Originally built to keep the peace in the unruly northern region, today, the castle is one of the most inspiring Norman fortresses in Great Britain.

No 10: Skipton Castle, Yorkshire

If you’re travelling to the Yorkshire Dales , why not stop on the way to see this lovely medieval castle…

One of the most well-preserved and complete medieval castles in England, the 900-year-old Skipton Castle is a place where one can easily encounter remnants of the nation’s rich history around every corner.

From the dungeon to the watchtower, Skipton Castle was made to last. In fact, the fortification withstood a three-year log siege during the nation’s Civil War. As it stands now, the castle will be around for many years to come.

No 11: Corfe Castle, Dorset

The once majestic Corfe Castle now stands in ruins guarding the Purbeck marble quarry.

At one time, nothing could pass forth from the rocky outcrop without first going past Corfe.

The centuries-old hillside castle is the centre of many stories of the kings and queens who passed between its walls.

One of the most dramatic tales reports that the castle is where King Edward was murdered by his stepmother in 979.

No 12: St Michaels Mount

The majestic St. Micheal’s Mount is connected to the mainland by a rocky causeway. As the sea waters pour in and the tide rises, the mount becomes cut off from the nearby village of Marazion.

Pilgrims have poured to the island’s jagged shores since the 5th century when Micheal the archangel appeared before a group of people at the mount. The holy site was honoured, and a Benedictine monastery was built over the plat in the 12th century.

Still today, true believers travel to the mount and follow in the footsteps of the ancient Pilgrims to the medieval monastery located at the top of the hill.

No 13: Norwich Castle

The 900-year-old Norwich Castle is one of Norwich’s most beloved landmarks. Originally built by the Normans as a royal palace, the castle was later used as a prison.

Today, the castle is home to exquisite collections of fine art, antiques, and the collections of the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum collections.

No 14: Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

First a Norman fortress, Ludlow Castle was improved upon for centuries and eventually became a royal palace. Originally, the fortification served to hold back the Welsh.

Today, the castle is open for all to enjoy.

No 15: Barnard Castle, County Durham

Sitting high on a rock above the River Tees, Barnard Castle is named for its founder, Bernard de Balliol.

First built in the 12th century, the castle was later the property of Richard III.

Visitors to the estate are able to enjoy the castle’s famed ‘sensory garden,’ which contains a variety of scented plants and tactile-rich objects.

Click here for our post on Barnard Castle

No 16: Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

Less than 100 miles from London, the stately Warwick Castle is known for its superb medieval interior and great period re-enactments.

The Castle has been through a lot over the years. A few notable moments include when it was attacked in 1264, the siege of Warwick Castle in 1642, and the fire that tore through the castle in 1871. Despite all of these setbacks, the castle has endured throughout history and still stands today.

It was kept by the Earls of Warwick before becoming the private residence of the Greville Family until 1978, when it became the property of the Tussauds Group, who later became Merlin Entertainment Group, in 2007.

It remains with the Merlin Entertainment Group to this day and they have turned the castle into a fun and interesting tourist destination. Indeed it’s one of the few English castles of its size that welcomes overnight visitors, as we shall see.

In the meantime, let’s have a look at the castle’s long and varied history…

History of Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle was built by a king, became the seat of a kingmaker, and played a vital part in the War of the Roses and the English Civil War. Needless to say, it’s had a long and important history. It even housed a royal prisoner at one point.

The records of there being a walled-building in Warwick date back to the Saxon foundations built by the daughter of Alfred the Great, Ethelfleda.

The foundations were built to protect the area from invading Danes. It was constructed in 914 A.D. It’s incredible to think that the huge castle started life as a small fort built by the Saxons.

The Warwick Castle that we know and love today slowly came to life from 1068. The castle was a construction project for King William I, better known to historians as William the Conqueror.

It didn’t take long after the Battle of Hastings – in 1066 – for William to begin making his own mark on the country. The “castle” at this point was a wooden motte and bailey. The project to turn it into a stone castle wouldn’t be complete until the 13th century.

While the castle served William the Conqueror well it wasn’t until the Hundreds Year War that it became a notable footnote of British history.

It was during this war that it became an example followed by the architects of castles in the 14th and 15th centuries. The castles from that period were based on the best of the best and Warwick Castle was included among that list.

The castle has undergone several changes across the years. Some of those changes were because of changes in styles and tastes, some were for military reasons, and others were because of disaster.

One of the most famous changes to the castle came when following a fire in 1871.

While the two eastern towers of the castle can be traced back to the 14th and 15th centuries and the Great Hall was renovated in the 14th century, much of the interior of the castle – in particular the State Dining room – was remodelled in the 18th century.

Warwick Castle was where Edward IV was imprisoned in 1469. It would be held by the Duke of Gloucester in the 1480s before he would go on to become King Richard III .

It was an important part of the English Civil War in 1642 when it withstood a siege by the Royalist forces.

Who has Owned Warwick Castle?

Something that makes the castle so important and a key part of history is the story of the people – not to mention dynasties – that it has played host to over the years.

It has been owned by some prominent people throughout history, including the Earl of Warwick Richard Neville. Neville was a key figure in the War of the Roses and has been dubbed The Kingmaker by historians because of how important he was to the war.

Several families have been the custodians of Warwick Castle throughout history. It has always been closely connected to the royal family in some way or another.

It played an important role in the advancement and further development of castle design and construction.

It has been host to nobility from around the world and also hosted knight games that became a key part of the history and culture of medieval European history. It has since gone on to become one of the most popular tourist spots in England.

Some of the most famous families that have lived inside the walls as the Earls of Warwick are the Newburgh family (11th – 13th century), De Beauchamp (13th – 16th century), Dudley (16th century), Rich (17th to 18th century), and Greville (18th century to 20th century).

The castle has been taken over by the royal family twice across history. These days it is in the possession of the Tussauds Group, which now goes by the name Merlin Entertainment Group. The group is the second large leisure group in the world behind Disney.

They purchased the castle from the Greville family in 1978. The Greville’s had owned the property for almost four centuries (374 years) at the point of sale.

Visiting Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle was opened to the public and now represents a key tourist attraction in England.

Tourists are able to go through the castle itself, the keeps and stables, as well as the 18-meter high trebuchet; the largest trebuchet in the world. There are daily displays and shows happening all the time.

As tourists explore the castle they will learn about the history and architecture of the castle. There’s also plenty of activities for children and adults happening with events scheduled all year round.

Take a look at the schedule to see what’s happening and prepare yourself for a lengthy stay as it can take up to 5 hours to see it all.

Staying at Warwick Castle

Visitors can even stay at the castle overnight if they want.

Families are sure to love the Knight’s Village which has themed accommodation including medieval-themed lodges and glamping tents.

To travel back in time book a stay in the Tower Suites. As the name implies, these suites are located in the 14th-century Caesar’s Tower. Enjoy a beautiful bed and breakfast stay in a 4-poster bed, private castle tours, 24-hour concierge services, complimentary champagne, and two-day tickets to the dungeons.

So, then, Warwick Castle is one of the finest and historic castles in England. And, even better, you can stay there…

No 17: Lincoln Castle, Lincolnshire

William the Conqueror first constructed the fortress on the site of an existing Roman fortification. Since that time, Lincoln Castle has remained a symbol of power throughout the ages.

Today, the castle is on display and is the home site of an original 1215 Magna Carta.

No 18: Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

The stately home of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle was first built following the Norman Conquest.

However, the expansive home has been remodelled and renovated many times throughout the years and is today often featured in films, shows, and popular entertainment.

The castle was used as a stand-in for Hogwarts School. Additionally, the castle has also been used as a location for feature films such as Robin hood: Prince of Thieves, The Black Adder, and Becket. Alnwick Castle was also used as the location for part of the filming of Downton Abbey.

No 19: Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

On the cliffs high above the Northumberland coastline, Bamburgh Castle extends nine acres across a rocky plateau and is one of the largest castles in England that is currently inhabited.

Today, the awe-inspiring fortification sits on a throne of volcanic rock known as dolerite more than forty-five metres above sea level.

No 20: Scarborough Castle, Yorkshire

With nearly 3,000 years of history, Scarborough Castle has proudly defended the country’s inlet area and has endured medieval sieges, Civil War, and German naval bombardment.

Today, visitors can climb the embankment and enjoy sweeping views of the dramatic coastline below.

NB We now have a post on British Castles such as Scottish Castles here: https://englandexplore.com/scottish-castles/ and one on Welsh castles: https://englandexplore.com/castles-in-wales

And here are some other of our posts on the above English castles and others:

English Castle Posts:

Motte and bailey castles in england (and the rest of the uk).

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The Castles Of Tudor History

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Dunluce Castle

The 13 best castles in the UK

Enjoy a royally good day out and transport yourself back in time at one of the best castles in the UK

Photograph: Shutterstock

Liv Kelly

In the UK , we take our castles a bit for granted. They’re like our curio-packed museums and idyllic seaside towns , like our lush rolling hills and countless characterful pubs – our castles are sort of just there . But they’re also amongst the most majestic and fascinating historic structures in the entire world – when you stop to think about them, they really are quite something. 

Dotted with dramatic drawbridges, towering turrets and winding dungeons, Britain’s castles are packed with centuries of unique stories. Whether you’re looking for winding political histories or spectacular architecture, they come in all shapes, sizes, and locations, from slap-bang in the city centre to perched on stormy clifftops. So, head this way. Here are the 13 best castles in the UK.

RECOMMENDED: 🌈The most colourful places in the UK 🌤️The best places to visit in the UK   🏔️The most scenic hikes in the UK 🏖️The most  beautiful hidden beaches in the UK

Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

Best castles in the UK

1.  warwick castle, england.

Warwick Castle, England

Warwick Castle makes for a proper day out. As well as all the towers, rooms and gardens to explore, there are plenty of attractions for small kids and big kids alike, all with the noble aim of making history fun. Spend the day exploring the ‘Horrible Histories’ maze, the castle dungeon and the Princess Tower, while in the grounds, there’s a bird of prey display  and a knight school. Never want to leave? You can stay the night in style with suitably decked-out glamping tents, lodges or suites in the castle itself.

From £22. Warwick Castle , Warwick, CV34 4QU.

2.  Cardiff Castle, Wales

Cardiff Castle, Wales

Set in the middle of the city and surrounded by Bute Park, Cardiff Castle looks like a normal stronghold from the outside, but set foot inside and things start to get really jazzy. During its long history, the castle has been decked out with all the trappings you’d expect of a lavish palace: stained-glass windows, murals, marble and wood carvings. The opulent interiors have been described as a ‘Victorian medieval dream world’, and it’s well worth taking a tour to marvel at the banqueting hall, library and the ceiling of the famous Arab room.

From £15.50.  Cardiff Castle , Cardiff, CF10 3RB.

📍 Discover the best things to do in Cardiff

3.  The Tower of London, England

The Tower of London, England

Despite its deceptive name, the Tower of London is most definitely a castle. Not only that, it’s the most secure castle in the land. No surprise that the Crown Jewels are stashed here. Visit for a glimpse of said sparklers, and pick up lots of great historical facts while you’re at it. Like, did you know that the Tower used to make all the coins in the realm, or that it has been a fortress, a palace and a prison? Or that if the six resident ravens ever leave the castle, the kingdom will fall into ruin? That’s your next dinner party convo sorted. 

From £34.80. The Tower of London , London, EC3N 4AB.

📍 Discover the best things to do in London

4.  Alnwick Castle, England

Alnwick Castle, England

Dating back to the Norman era, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland has been lots of things, from a family home to a refuge for evacuees. Most famously, though, it’s been a film set. With activities such as broomstick training and dragon quests, you can probably guess which franchise the castle is associated with. Grab your Nimbus 2000 and head to the exact location a certain boy wizard had his first quidditch lesson. If all that sounds like nonsense to you, there are plenty of muggle activities too, like jousting, fine dining and outdoor cinema screenings.

From £20.50.  Alnwick Castle , Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1NG.

5.  Caernarfon Castle, Wales

Caernarfon Castle, Wales

Wales has a curious relationship with its many castles. Some are proud to hold them up as beautiful examples of medieval architecture that represent a major pull for tourists, while others see the so-called Iron Ring as a painful reminder of King Edward I’s conquest of Wales in the twelfth century. Of all the castles, Caernarfon’s is possibly the most arresting, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was said to be designed on the famous walls of Constantinople (today’s Istanbul). Caernarfon is a charming town with plenty of attractions but few come close to matching the might of its eponymous castle.

From £13. Caernarfon Castle . Castle Ditch, Caernarfon, LL55 2AY

6.  Dunnottar Castle, Scotland

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland

Nothing says drama quite like a ruined fortress perched on a precipice above the sea, and that’s exactly what you get with a visit to Dunnottar Castle in Scotland . The castle was saved from being completely lost by restoration work in 1925. It’s still kind of a ruin, but in a good, haunting way that suits its location. History buffs will love its ties to famous historical figures (shout out to Mary Queen of Scots, who visited for the first time in 1562), and photographers will love the striking figure it cuts against the sea – rain or shine, it’s practically impossible to take a bad photo of it.

From £11.50.  Dunnottar Castle , Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, AB39 2TL. 

7.  Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Popped on a peak like the proverbial cherry, this striking urban castle dominates the Edinburgh skyline, making itself the Scottish capital’s most iconic landmark. Once you’re done admiring it from afar, march your way up the Royal Mile to the front gates, then there’s plenty to do and see inside the castle itself. Plan your visit around lunch to hear the firing of the one o’clock gun, and leave time to check out the enigmatically named Stone of Destiny. It’s displayed next to the Scottish Crown Jewels, which gives you some idea of its value, but, to preserve the air of mystery, we won’t tell you what it’s for.

From £19.50. Edinburgh Castle , Edinburgh, EH1 2NG.

📍   Discover the best things to do in Edinburgh

8.  Castle Ward, Northern Ireland

Castle Ward, Northern Ireland

Game of Thrones   is over, but that doesn’t mean our fascination with its filming locations is going anywhere. If you’re up for a little set-jetting, Northern Ireland has plenty of  Thrones gems, including Castle Ward, aka Winterfell, where the baby Starks began their adventures way back in season one.  Not a GOT fan? Explore the eighteenth-century mansion, woodlands, gardens, the tea room and secondhand bookshop, with not a dragon in sight.

From £13. Castle Ward , Downpatrick, County Down, BT30 7BA.

9.  Tintagel Castle, England

Tintagel Castle, England

Said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, the romantic castle of Tintagel has long been connected to myths and legends. It appears  to have been constructed for its legendary location alone, as its site on the north Cornwall coast offers no obvious military value. Part of the castle is built on the mainland and the other on an island with a footbridge linking the two. Visit for the Arthurian legends and mysterious spots like Merlin’s Cave if that’s your thing. If not, the rocky beachside location is a stunning destination in itself.

From £14.50.  Tintagel Castle , Tintagel, Cornwall, PL34 0HE.

📍 Discover the best things to do in Cornwall

10.  Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Touring along the Causeway Coast? Dunluce Castle is well worth a stop. This striking cliffside ruin perches on the edge of the Antrim coast. And there are some pretty dramatic stories to go with its location. Forget actual history, like Scottish sieges, we’re here for the mythical tales of hauntings, banshees and how the entire castle kitchen crashed into the sea one stormy night. Ooh, we’ve got goosebumps.

From £6. Dunluce Castle , Bushmills, County Antrim, BT57 8UY.

11.  Dunrobin Castle, Scotland

Dunrobin Castle, Scotland

For a castle that looks like it’s been lifted straight from a fairy tale, head for this turreted wonder in the Scottish Highlands . With the vibe of a fancy French chateau, you’ll find pointy spires and vast windows galore overlooking the walled, formal gardens below and Moray Firth beyond. The castle dates back to the 1300s and has been continuously inhabited since then by a long line of earls and dukes. Unfortunately, you can’t stay overnight, but you can take a tour of the interior and the gardens. There’s a tearoom and a falconry, too.

Open March 29-Oct 31. From £14.50.  Dunrobin Castle , Golspie, Sutherland, KW10 6SF.

12.  Beaumaris Castle, Wales

Beaumaris Castle, Wales

Viewed from above, Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey is a symmetrical work of art. With its concentric ‘walls within walls’ design, it’s one of the most perfect castles in Britain… However, when it was being built, Edward I ran out of money (hey, we’ve all been there), and so the walls never reached their intended full height. The result? An unfinished but perfectly formed, tranquil-looking fortress set against a scenic, seaside backdrop. And as if it couldn’t get any more photogenic, there’s a moat. Serious castle credentials.

From £6. Beaumaris Castle , Beaumaris LL58 8AP

13.  Windsor Castle, England

Windsor Castle, England

The oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, Windsor is likely best known as the fave castle of the late  Queen Elizabeth II. Y ou can take a tour of the plush red-and-gold state apartments (walk the historic or ceremonial route depending on your mood), explore the castle’s treasures and visit the chapel where (most of) your favourite royal weddings have taken place.

From £30.  Windsor Castle , Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1NJ.

📍  Discover the best things to do in Windsor

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top 10 castles to visit in england

The History Hit Miscellany of Facts, Figures and Fascinating Finds

10 of the Best Castles in England

top 10 castles to visit in england

Sarah Roller

23 jun 2021, @sarahroller8.

England’s castles are some of the best in the world – with the oldest structures dating back to the Norman Conquest in the 11th century, they span a millennia of history, appearing in every style, period and for every reason. Whether you’re interested in Medieval royalty or Second World War history, there’s something for everyone.

With so many brilliant castles to choose from, we’ve compiled a handy guide to 10 of the best Castles to visit in England.

top 10 castles to visit in england

1. Durham Castle

Originally commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1072, Durham Castle was intended to ensure Norman control in the North of England, and was built in the traditional motte and bailey style. It became the seat of the Bishops of Durham who were tasked with enacting royal authority in the area, and with each new tenant was altered to reflect his wealth and status.

Today Durham Castle remains in the keeping of Durham University, and has been named a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is a residential college – with some lucky students of the university living inside its walls! – but is also open to visitors on guided tours.

top 10 castles to visit in england

2. Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world – home to over 900 years of royal history. Covering an area of approximately 13 acres, it contains a wide range of interesting features. These include the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s dolls house and the beautiful St George’s Chapel. It is also the burial place of 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII and his beloved wife (the one who gave him a son), Jane Seymour .

Today, Windsor Castle remains a favourite home of Queen Elizabeth II, and she spends most of her weekends there. There are numerous exhibitions and tours at Windsor Castle, and a typical visit can easily last 3 hours.

top 10 castles to visit in england

3. Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle was originally constructed as a fortification in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur, an Anglo-Norman lord under William II. In 1278, Leeds Castle was bought by Eleanor of Castile, following which it took on a different role as a royal palace to her husband King Edward I. He expanded it, likely adding further elements such as the lake and an impressive barbican spanning 3 islands.

Leeds Castle passed through numerous royal hands over the coming centuries, hosting a myriad of important guests including Henry VIII, who visited it on several occasions. Henry VIII also extensively renovated the castle as a residence for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Today, Leeds Castle is a major leisure destination and houses a maze, a golf course, and what may be the world’s only dog collar museum.

top 10 castles to visit in england

4. Dover Castle

Dover Castle has been a vitally important fortress throughout British history, and has for many years been nicknamed the ‘Key to England’. Its location is a central aspect of this legacy – perched high on the England’s coastal white cliffs overlooking the shortest crossing between the island and mainland Europe, the castle is often considered the first line of defence from invasion.

Before the castle was erected, Dover’s cliffs were a popular site for building strongholds over the centuries, with evidence dating back to the Iron Age. An ancient Roman Lighthouse and an Anglo Saxon fort are also still visible within the castle’s walls.

Today, Dover Castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public, providing a fascinating insight into the fortress’ history. Visitors can explore the medieval castle and its underground tunnels, viewing numerous exhibitions which immerse them in the lives of Dover Castle’s former inhabitants and tell its fascinating story.

top 10 castles to visit in england

5. Bodiam Castle

Originally a manor house, Bodiam was converted into a castle by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge in 1385, after being granted a licence by Richard II to crenellate its walls in fortification. Dalyngrigge had fought in the Hundred Years War , and upon returning to England in 1377 married Elizabeth Wardeux, through whom he came into possession of Bodiam Manor. The newly-converted castle now served a dual purpose – both as a status symbol for Dalyngrigge, and as a defence against a potential, albeit unlikely, French invasion on the south coast.

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is one of the largest castle complexes in England and has been the historic home of the famous Percy family for over 700 years. Known to some as the ‘Windsor of the North’, Alnwick provides a magnificent glimpse into England’s medieval past through the footsteps of some of its most notable players.

top 10 castles to visit in england

6. Warwick Castle

Built by a king, the seat of a kingmaker and vital stronghold in the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War , Warwick Castle has played an important role in British history.

It is one of the most dramatic and complete medieval castles in the country, and has been inhabited continuously since the Middle Ages.

The seat of the Earls of Warwick until 1978, Warwick Castle then opened to the public and today offers a wide range of things to see and do. Visitors can tour the site and its grounds, learning about its history and enjoying its architecture. There are also lots of children’s activities, shows and attractions, including birds of prey.

top 10 castles to visit in england

7. Alnwick Castle

Today Alnwick Castle remains the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland, with its current owner too a member of the Percy family. Visitors are invited to explore the castle’s impressive picture collection, chapel, and series of museums weaved throughout that celebrate the history of both Alnwick Castle and the wider Northumberland area. Ancient artefacts from the family’s archaeological exploits may also be viewed, such as frescoes from Pompeii and relics from Ancient Egypt.

top 10 castles to visit in england

8. Carisbrooke Castle

In around 1000 an Anglo-Saxon burh, or fortress, was likely situated at the site of Carisbrooke Castle, intended to protect the island from Viking raids .

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the burh was converted into a castle by the Normans, and by 1100 the Isle of Wight was part of a powerful lordship owned by Baldwin de Redvers. One of Henry I’s key supporters, it was likely Baldwin who built the present motte-and-bailey castle in stone.

During the English Civil War , Carisbrooke Castle was in the hands of the Parliamentarians who used it as a prison for their most important Royalist prisoners – including King Charles I himself in 1647-8. Whilst imprisoned there, a section of land on the castle’s east side was converted to a bowling green for his use!

top 10 castles to visit in england

9. Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle is a cliff-top medieval fortification located on the peninsula of Tintagel Island adjacent to the village of Tintagel (Trevena), in North Cornwall. Inextricably linked with the legend of King Arthur, this dramatic castle and coastline has inspired writers and artists for centuries.

It’s thought the site may have been occupied in the Romano-British period, as an array of artefacts dating from this period have been found on the peninsula, but it was during the early medieval period when Tintagel Castle was first settled. A castle was later built on the site by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall in the 13th century, which later fell into disrepair and ruin.

top 10 castles to visit in england

10. Portchester Castle

Portchester Castle is a medieval castle set within the walls of a 3rd century Roman fort, the most completely preserved example in Northern Europe. Today, the castle is run by the English Heritage charity organisation.

Built during Roman times, probably in the third century AD, Portchester Castle is the country’s only example of a Roman fort whose walls still stand complete up to around six metres.

Over the centuries, Portchester Castle has been renovated and rebuilt many times and its use has altered to suit the needs of its owners. In the 11th century, parts of Portchester Castle were rebuilt into a Norman keep and in the 14th century Richard II transformed it into a palace. Like their Roman predecessor, both of these incarnations served a defensive function.

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updated 16.11.2022

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Historic attractions abound in our green and pleasant land. There are ornate stately homes, gothic cathedrals and chocolate-box villages at every turn, but among the most impressive examples of heritage are the slew of majestic castles in England .

1. For Harry Potter fans: Alnwick Castle

2. one of the best castles in england — bamburgh castle, 3. leeds castle — a true fairy tale palace, 4. the deeply historical dover castle, 5. for a picturesque english castle — bodiam castle, 6. windsor castle — the oldest castle in england, 7. the commanding warkworth castle, 8. hever castle — the home of anne boleyn, 9. tintagel castle — the birthplace of king arthur, 10. warwick castle — a norman castle in england, 11. lancaster castle — historical site turned modern-day prison.

  • 12. Carlisle Castle, Cumbria's mightiest castle

13. The forbidding Lincoln Castle, Lincolnshire

  • 14. Highclere Castle of "Downton Abbey"

15. Corfe Castle for a beautiful hill top castle

16. arundel castle: home of the barons hall, 17. framlingham castle — one of the best castles in england, 18. the home of royalty — highcliffe castle.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to England , your essential guide for visiting England .

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The Great British Road Trip

The Great British Road Trip

Get ready to explore Britain on this unique self-drive road trip. Choose the car of your liking before you hit the road: from the Cotswolds and its picturesque villages over the Beatle's favorite hang-out in Liverpool to Scotland's capital Edinburgh: this trip includes many highlights to be explored

Magical 7-Day Family Adventure in Scotland and England : From Harry Potter to Loch Ness!

Magical 7-Day Family Adventure in Scotland and England : From Harry Potter to Loch Ness!

Searching for an unforgettable family adventure? Scotland is the perfect destination! With a perfect balance of nature, adventure, and Scottish culture. This 7-day trip offers a delightful mix of activities that everyone in the family will enjoy. Get ready to create life long lasting memories!

Refreshing English Countryside Break

Refreshing English Countryside Break

Outside of London, England is known with a countryside full of history, picturesque villages, patchwork hills, and winding country roads. Explore the countryside with its castles, parks, and historical cities such as Oxford.

Walking around vintage England and picturesque Scotland

Walking around vintage England and picturesque Scotland

Visit two traditional capitals, London and Edinburgh, and enjoy a trek through the Loch Lomond national park. This trip will let you discover peaceful Scottish islands by foot, with several days of detailed walking tours included in the trip.

Hiking in out-of-the way Northern Cornwall

Hiking in out-of-the way Northern Cornwall

Northern Cornwall is a hiker's paradise and this itinerary includes the most scenic parts. You will start your journey in London with some unique activities to get to know the city, before setting off on a 5-day walk across Cornwall. End your trip in Bath and explore the backdrop of Bridgerton.

A walking holiday on the Jurassic Coast

A walking holiday on the Jurassic Coast

Walking the Jurassic Coast is one of the best ways to truly appreciate the spectacular scenery. Walks range from easy to challenging. 6 days walking are included in this itinerary, as is an extensive pre-program in London and a last night back in the capital.

Alnwick Castle , Northumberland, is undoubtedly one of the finest medieval castles in England. It’s owned by the Percys, the Dukes of Northumberland, who have presided over the estate since 1309. More recently, however, the castle found fame as Hogwarts School in the Harry Potter movies.

Take a scenic, coastal tour into the Kingdom of Northumbria and explore the medieval market town of Alnwick's stunning castle and gardens.

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Alnwick Castle was used in Harry Potter movies © Gail Johnson/Shutterstock

Another Northumbrian gem, Bamburgh Castle , can be found in the little village of the same name . It’s most formidable when seen from the beach, where acres of sky, sea and dunes lead up to the castle’s dramatic setting atop a rocky basalt crag. This impressive medieval castle first appeared in Anglo-Saxon times, but was heavily reconstructed in the nineteenth century.

Discover the Ancient warrior kings of Northumberland, visit Bamburgh Castle, and explore Ad Gefrin, England’s first whiskey distillery on this private guided tour .

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Bamburgh Castle as seen from the beach © Dave Head/Shutterstock

Its reflection shimmering in a lake, the enormous Leeds Castle , Kent, resembles a fairy-tale palace. First built around 1119 AD, it has had a chequered history and is now run as a commercial concern, with a range of paying attractions on the castle grounds including hot-air ballooning, Segway tours and jousting. The name is misleading: you’ll find it in the High Weald of Kent .

Enjoy a full day discovering the treasures of Kent , including visits to romantic Leeds Castle, historic Canterbury Cathedral and the dramatic White Cliffs of Dover.

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A misty Leeds Castle - majestic castle in England you should visit © JuliaST/Shutterstock

No historical stone goes unturned at Dover Castle, an astonishingly imposing defensive complex that has protected the English coast for more than two thousand years. In 1068 William the Conqueror built over the earthworks of an Iron Age hillfort here; a century later, Henry II constructed the handsome Great Tower. The castle grounds also include a Roman lighthouse, a Saxon church and a network of secret wartime tunnels.

Join a day trip from London to Kent and take a tour of Dover Castle , the country's largest castle.

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Dover Castle overlooking the English Channel © IVAN VIEITO GARCIA/Shutterstock

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One of the country’s most picturesque castles, Bodiam castle is a classically stout square block with rounded corner turrets, battlements and a wide moat. When it was built in 1385, it was state-of-the-art military architecture, but fell into neglect until restoration in the last century. The extremely steep spiral staircases will test all but the strongest of thighs.

Travelling around England, check out our list of the best things to do in England .

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Bodiam Castle, UK

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex © Jaroslav Sekeres/Shutterstock

The oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world, towering above the town of Windsor in the Berkshire countryside just outside London, Windsor Castle is still important as a ceremonial residence of the Queen. The castle itself is an imposing sight, while inside you can explore the State Apartments and artwork from the Royal Collection.

Discover the royal castle of Windsor, the mysterious standing stone circle of Stonehenge, and the historic university city of Oxford on a full-day tour from London .

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Windsor Castle, UK

The imposing Windsor Castle, one of the Queen's residences © sloukam/Shutterstock

Ruined but well preserved, Warkworth Castle has Norman origins, although the main building was constructed using sandstone during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Take in the view from the north of the hamlet of Warkworth, from where the grey stone terraces of the long main street slope up towards the commanding remains of the Castle.

The Rough Guides to England and related travel guides

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Warkworth Castle has commanding views © Craig Duncanson/Shutterstock

The moated Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, and where Anne of Cleves, Henry’s fourth wife, lived after their divorce. Bought by American millionaire William Waldorf Astor in 1903, it has been assiduously restored in mock Tudor style yet it retains an intimate feel. Outside you can explore Waldorf Astor’s beautiful Italian Garden including a splashy water maze.

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Hever Castle – once home to Anne Boleyn © Lilly Trott/Shutterstock

Myth and legend surround the desolate ruins of Tintagel Castle, said to be the birthplace of King Arthur. Sited on an islet along a wild and rugged stretch of Cornwall’s coast, the remains of the buildings have nearly all but decayed since it was deserted in the seventeenth century.

Explore Tintagel with our tailor-made 12-day hiking tour to Northern Cornwall .

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Tintagel Castle © Valery Egorov/Shutterstock

The view at Tintagel - ruins of the magical castle in England © Valery Egorov/Shutterstock

This whopping castle standing over the River Avon is well worth visiting. Historians think the first fortress was constructed here by the Saxons, but the most significant expansions were made by the Normans and later in the nineteenth century. Save time to explore the extensive grounds, too.

Explore Shakespeare’s birthplace and enjoy some time to explore Stratford-Upon-Avon. Have an extended visit of Warwick Castle and be part of a British medieval experience.

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Warwick Castle, overlooking the River Avon © David Steele/Shutterstock

From the dungeons to the ornate courtrooms, Lancaster Castle is a historical tour-de-force. Defences have been sited high above the river here since Roman times, and the building served as a working prison right up until 2011. Engaging guided tours bring the castle’s history to life.

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Lancaster Castle — one of the best castles in England © Steve Allen/Shutterstock

12. Carlisle Castle, Cumbria's mightiest castle

Cumbria’s mightiest castle dominates the county capital Carlisle, were it has stood for over nine hundred years. Among its claims to fame is that it was where Elizabeth I held Mary Queen of Scots captive in 1568. Climb the battlements for great views over the town.

If you are planning to visit Cumbria in winter read our guide about best winter walking in the Lake District .

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Carlisle Castle - medieval castle in Lake District © stocksolutions/Shutterstock

Intact and forbidding, Lincoln Castle ’s walls incorporate bits and pieces from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries, with a wall walkway offering great views over town. Recently the former debtors’ prison has been revamped to exhibit several rare documents, most notably one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta.

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Lincoln Castle - where you can see a rare copy of the Magna Carta © Peter R Foster IDMA/Shutterstock

14. Highclere Castle of "Downton Abbey"

Tucked away in the northern reaches of Hampshire, 20 miles north of Winchester, Highclere Castle will be very familiar to fans of hit period drama, Downton Abbey , which is filmed here. Home to Lord Carnarvon and his family, the house is approached via a long drive that winds through a stunning 5,000-acre estate, and is surrounded by beautiful gardens designed by Capability Brown.

Explore Downton village and Downton Abbey and relive aristocratic life of a century ago.

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Highclere Castle – otherwise known as Downtown Abbey © Alice-D/Shutterstock

The romantic castle ruins crowning the hill behind the village of Corfe Castle are perhaps the most evocative in England. The family seat of Sir John Bankes, Attorney General to Charles I, this Royalist stronghold withstood a Cromwellian siege for six weeks, gallantly defended by Lady Bankes.

One of her own men, Colonel Pitman, eventually betrayed the castle to the Roundheads, after which it was reduced to its present gap-toothed state by gunpowder. Apparently the victorious Roundheads were so impressed by Lady Bankes’ courage that they allowed her to take the keys to the castle with her.

Dorset is one of the most picturesque places in England. Find more beautiful English landscapes in our guide to the most beautiful places in England .

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Corfe Castle – site of a dramatic battle in the English Civil War © Kevin Standage/Shutterstock

Despite its medieval appearance, much of what you see of Arundel Castle is comparatively new, the result of a series of lavish reconstructions from 1718 onwards, after the original Norman structure was badly damaged during the Civil War.

Inside the main castle, highlights include the impressive Barons Hall and the library, which has paintings by Gainsborough, Holbein and Van Dyck. On the edge of the castle grounds, the fourteenth-century Fitzalan Chapel houses tombs of past dukes of Norfolk. Nearby, the Collector Earl’s Garden is a playfully theatrical take on a Jacobean garden, with exotic planting, and pavilions, obelisks and urns made from green oak rather than stone.

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Arundel Castle in Arundel City, West Sussex, England © AdobeStock

Arundel Castle in Arundel City, West Sussex, England © AdobeStock

The crenellations of Framlingham Castle cut a classic shape at the top of Church Street. The castle dates from the twelfth century, and was built by the Bigod dynasty later becoming the seat of the dukes of Norfolk. It’s little more than a shell inside, but the stone curtain wall, with its thirteen towers, has survived almost intact, a splendid example of medieval military architecture, many of them topped by elegant Tudor brick chimney stacks.

You can get good views of the castle from the outside by following the footpaths that lead around the moat and down to and around the lake or “mere” below, where you can see across the valley to Framlingham College.

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Medieval Castle of Framlingham, England © AdobeStock

Medieval Castle of Framlingham, England © AdobeStock

Highcliffe Castle was built in 1831-1836 and is the epitome of Lord Stuart de Rothesay's imagination. In the years since it was built, kings and queens, princes and princesses have stayed here.

In the early 1950s it was briefly an orphanage, after which the building was used as a seminary to train students for the priesthood. Just before the students left, tragedy struck: a fire engulfed the Great Hall. An even more devastating fire broke out the following year. For two decades the castle stood in ruins, exposed to the weather and vandals.

Today the castle has been restored thanks to government funding and is open to the public. It now hosts weddings, fairs, exhibitions and plays throughout the year. The Highcliffe Castle is a treasure in the heart of the community and a popular tourist attraction.

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Highcliffe castle in Dorset © Shutterstock

Highcliffe castle in Dorset © Shutterstock

For more travel inspiration check out our guide about the best road trips in the UK .

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to England without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

Ready for a trip to England ? Check out the snapshot The Rough Guide to England or The Rough Guide to Great Britain . If you travel further in England , read more about the best time to go , the best places to visit and best things to do in England. For inspiration use the England itineraries from The Rough Guide to England and our local travel experts . A bit more hands on, learn about getting there , getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

We may earn commission from some of the external websites linked in this article, but this does not influence our editorial standards - we only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

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21 famous castles in England to explore

By: Author Tracy Collins

Posted on Last updated: August 31, 2022

21 English castles to visit

With so many incredible castles in England it is pretty much impossible to miss adding one (at least) into your itinerary. Deciding which one can be the problem.

In this article we take a journey from London and the most famous castle of them all – the Tower of London site of numerous executions (including a couple of Henry VIII’s wives) – through the English countryside from south to north to discover 21 of the best castles in England.

To save money when purchasing tickets I have indicated if the castle is a National Trust or English Heritage site. Members gain free entry but must book a timed entry in advance. (Visiting from overseas? English Heritage have a membership scheme for you)

21 Beautiful castles to visit in England

The Tower of London

Windsor castle, arundel castle, leeds castle, dover castle, hever castle, bodiam castle, alnwick castle, bamburgh castle, lindisfarne castle, warkworth castle, dunstanburgh castle, durham castle, tintagel castle, carisbrooke castle, corfe castle, sudeley castle, warwick castle, kenilworth castle, lincoln castle, bolsover castle, bonus – downton abbey aka highclere castle, planning to visit english castles – some tips.

UK AND LONDON TRAVEL PLANNING

Famous Castles in London and South East England

One of the best English castles (and possibly the most famous) would have to be the Tower of London . Located on the north bank of the River Thames the tower is an internationally famous and iconic structure that has been part of London’s skyline for 1,000 years.

After building castles throughout the English countryside, William the Conqueror built the Tower of London to protect the city and to demonstrate his power. Since then, it has been a fortress, a royal home and a prison.

Today it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in London and contains a wealth of history as well as the Crown Jewels. The Yeoman Warders, or the Beefeaters, greet visitors and explain the castle’s amazing history.

Entry to the Tower of London is included in the London Pass .

Read more | Visiting the Tower of London – tips, tricks & FAQ’s

Tower of London is one of the best British castles to visit

One of the most famous English castles is Windsor Castle, built in 1070 by William the Conqueror in Berkshire, some 24 miles outside of London.

It is the oldest occupied castle in the world and has been home to 39 English monarchs. When not in Buckingham Palace , the Queen resides there. Since she can’t use all 1,000 rooms, some of the castle is open to the public.

Visitors can tour the opulent state rooms and apartments and see a sizeable portion of the royal art collection. The grounds are impressive, as is the lovely gothic cathedral, St. George’s Chapel.

Check online for the schedule of the changing of the guards — you won’t want to miss it.

Good to know – Windsor Castle is a popular stop on many guided day trip tours for example this one from London to Stonehenge and Oxford or this one from London to Bath and Stonehenge . If you are pushed for time and want to see a combination of attractions we recommend booking a tour.

Read more | How to travel to Windsor Castle from London

Windsor Castle in England

On a hilltop overlooking the River Arun, 65 miles from London, is Arundel Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk for the last 850 years. It is a grand castle known for impressive round towers, gothic windows and a distinctive motte that was built in 1068.

In the 19th century, the castle was converted into a country home. Because of an impeding visit by Queen Victoria and Albert, Arundel was modernised and central heat and electricity were added.

Today, even though it is still occupied by the Duke of Norfolk, many rooms as well as the formal gardens are open to the public.

Good to know – It is possible to combine a trip to Arundel and Brighton on this private Brighton & Arundel Castle day tour which includes door-to-door transfers from central London.

Read more | Top 10 places to visit in the South East

Arundel Castle surrounded by autumn leaves

Just an hour from London, Leeds Castle sits upon the River Len in an impossibly picturesque setting.

It dates back to the Normans, who built the original castle around 1119. It passed through the hands of six medieval queens until it got the attention of Henry VIII who used it as a residence for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Eventually it became a private home and is now open to the public. Visitors can tour the castle and explore the lovely grounds that offer spectacular views of the countryside.

Unlike many old English castles, Leeds has a maze made out of 2,400 yew trees which has proven to be a popular all-ages attraction.

Why not combine a visit to Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral and Dover on this full-day tour to all the top destinations in The Garden of England , Kent?

Read more | 7 castles you can visit on a day trip from London

Leeds castle is surrounded by a moat

Dover Castle is the largest and arguably the most imposing of all the English medieval castles. Only 90 miles from London, it has been a symbol of English power for centuries because of its strategic location overlooking the English Channel.

The castle was built by Henry II in the 1180s but the land had been a military stronghold since the days of the Romans. Visitors can see the remains of a Roman lighthouse and travel through English history as they tour the great towers, narrow staircases and tunnels.

The grounds are extensive and well worth exploring, so make sure to wear your walking shoes.

Dover Castle is an English Heritage property .

Dover Castle one of the most famous castles in England

In 1270, William de Hever, a sheriff under King Edward I, built himself a castle in Kent, 30 miles outside of London. At that time, Hever Castle had a gatehouse, a walled bailey and a moat with a drawbridge.

A few centuries later, Hever Castle became the home of the Boleyn family, and they added a Tudor home inside of the castle walls. Future Queen to Henry VIII and mother to Elizabeth I, Anne Boleyn, spent her childhood there.

The castle has since passed through many owners and was completely renovated in the early 1900s. Today, visitors come from all over the world to enjoy the lovely castle, its 125-acre grounds and unique double moat.

Inside of the castle, they’ll find sumptuously decorated rooms with an assortment of historical paintings and artefacts relating to the Boleyn family and to over 700 years of English history.

Read more | A tour of Tudor England

Hever castles one of the most famous castles in England

One of the best examples of a medieval castle in England is Bodiam Castle in East Sussex.

With its moat, dramatic gatehouse entrance and impressive circular towers, it very much looks the part of a castle from a fairytale. Built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, it was primarily a defensive structure.

In 1926, it was given to the National Trust. Today, visitors should not expect to see luxurious state rooms or great halls as the castle’s inside is nearly ruined.

You can, however, climb a few of its towers but beware — the stairs are very steep. The grounds are lovely and could take several hours to explore.

As mentioned above Bodiam Castle is a National Trust property.

Bodiam castle is one of England best castles to visit

Beautiful Castles in North East England

A Northumberland castle known for its history and dramatic architecture, Alnwick Castle is over 1,000 years old. As home of the Duke of Northumberland, it is the second largest occupied castle in England.

Originally a built in 1096 as a small Norman fortress, the castle has been remodelled and expanded over the years into what it is today.

A large portion of the castle is open to the public including the Italianate staterooms, the inner bailey and the gun terrace.

Recently, the castle was portrayed in two of the Harry Potter movies as Hogwarts. Consequently, for an extra charge, they offer broomstick training for any enthusiastic young Harry Potter fans.

Alnwick is easily visited via tour on a day trip from Edinburgh .

Read more | Things to do in Alnwick

Alnwick Castle one of the most famous castles in England

On the Northumberland coast, perched atop of a volcanic plateau, is Bamburgh Castle, one of the oldest English castles to visit. With a history that dates back to 420 AD, it was the first castle to succumb to artillery during the War of the Roses.

Since 1894, it has been home to the Armstrong family. There are 14 rooms that are open to the public including the Great Kitchen, the King’s Hall and the Keep.

History lovers will adore the hundreds of years of artefacts throughout the castle but should also make sure to spend time exploring the beach and grounds.

Looking for a cottage along the Northumberland coast for your visit? Check out my guide to the best Northumberland Coastal villages and cottages for your stay.

Read more | Top 10 places to visit in the North East

Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland England

Lindisfarne Castle is a 16th century Tudor fort located on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne in Northumberland. In 634 AD, it was the home of the first monastic community in England but was eventually abandoned after Viking attacks.

In the early 1900s, Lindisfarne Castle was remodeled into a country retreat. Luckily, many of its 16th century features still exist, like its lovely vaulted passages.

There are a few partially furnished rooms open to the public but it’s the sweeping views during the walk up to the castle that visitors love the most.

Keep in mind, Lindisfarne is a tidal island. When the tide is high, the causeway disappears, so planning ahead is essential.

Lindisfarne Castle is a National Trust property .

Read more | Visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Lindisfarne Castle in Northumberland

In the 14th century, the powerful Percy family began building a castle in Northumberland. They chose a loop of the River Coquet as the location, where a 12th century motte-and-bailey structure previously existed.

Today, the Warkworth Castle is ruined but there’s still plenty to explore. The Keep and the kitchens are there as well as the Great Hall and the Great Tower, a marvel of medieval architecture and supposedly the place where Henry “Hotspur” Percy plotted treason against Henry IV.

The Lion Tower, built in 1480, still stands and was named for the symbol of the Percy family. The lion statue is still visible today.

Read more | A drive along the Northumberland Coastal Route

Warkworth Castle

On the Northumberland coast you will find the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle. It was a 14th century fortification built by Earl Thomas of Lancaster. After he was executed, it was claimed by the crown who, because of its strategic location, maintained it for hundreds of years.

Today, it is a crumbling shell of its former self and is owned by the National Trust. Still, it is a highly atmospheric place with extraordinary views of the beach, the sea and the rugged coastline.

Climb through the great gatehouse and explore the Lilburn Tower. When you go, park your car in Craster and walk the one and a half miles along the coast to reach the Dunstanburgh ruins.

Dunstanburgh Castle is a National Trust and English Heritage property .

Read more | Best castles to visit in Northumberland

A silhouette of Dunstanburgh Castle at sunset

If you’re a student at University College in Durham England, there’s a chance you might get to live in a castle — Durham Castle, that is. Since 1840, the castle has been used by University College and today, over 100 college students call it home.

In the 11th century, William the Conqueror built the castle and it quickly became a Norman stronghold. Its northern position would also eventually help maintain control over the Scottish border.

Today, 50-minute public tours are available throughout the week, allowing visitors inside to see the Norman chapel with its well preserved Norman doorway.

There’s also a 17th-century black staircase and other historical features any castle lover will enjoy. Check online for tour times and availability.

Read more about Durham in my complete Durham Travel Planning Guide which includes all the essential information you need to plan your visit.

Durham Castle reflected in the river

Best castles in South West England

In northwestern England, on Cornwall’s rugged coastline , are the windswept ruins of Tintagel Castle. Even in its day, 800 years ago, Tintagel wasn’t your typical medieval castle — it wasn’t built for defence or military advantage.

The King of England’s brother, the Earl of Cornwall, built his castle on a cliff to recreate the setting of the legends of Camelot. Was he the ultimate King Arthur fan or just whimsical and a touch irresponsible with his brother’s money? It’s difficult to say.

Within a decade after construction was finished, the castle began falling into to ruin. Today, with its dramatic ocean-side setting, Tintagel feels rich in both history and legend.

Tintagel is an English Heritage property .

Read more | Top 10 places to visit in South West England

Tintagel Castle

Carisbrooke Castle was built on the Isle of Wight in the 12th century. Throughout the years, this very romantic castle has been an artillery fortress, a prison for Charles I, a royal summer home and until the 1940s, it housed the official office of the Governor of the Isle of Wight.

Much of it is still standing today, including the Great Hall and Great Chamber. There is also an Isle of Wight Museum in one of the upper rooms.

Visitors will enjoy the breathtaking views from the castle’s keep and battlements. Children and adults alike will fall in love with the Carisbrooke Donkeys and enjoy watching them in action working the 16th century treadwheel.

Carisbrooke Castle is an English Heritage property.

The entrance to Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight

The 1,000-year-old ruins of Corfe Castle can be found in the county of Dorset , in the village of the same name.

Corfe Castle once occupied an area of strategic importance because it protected the route between Wareham and Swanage in a gap in the Purbeck Hills.

Originally built of wood, William the Conqueror refortified it with stone. Eventually, it became a royal fortress and lasted for hundreds of years.

Today, it is a favorite attraction for its intriguing beauty and rich history. After exploring the crumbling walls and hidden nooks of the ruins, visitors should make a point of seeking out the delightful shops and tea rooms in the village.

Corfe Castle is a National Trust property.

Corfe Castle at sunrise

Sudeley Castle dates from the 15th century and is one of the more romantic castles in England. It’s tucked in the Cotswolds near Winchcombe and has been associated with some of the most famous royal names in English history including Henry VIII and Katherine Parr, who is buried there.

It was recently refurbished and though it is privately owned, it is open to the public for tours and available for private events.

Visitors can explore some of the castle’s rooms, learn about their history and then go investigate the overgrown and highly atmospheric ruins.

Explore the 10 award winning gardens, the on-site restaurant and the children’s play area.

Don’t miss adding a visit to Sudeley Castle into your itinerary as it is one of the best things to do in the Cotswolds .

Read more | Cotswolds Travel Guide

Sudeley Castle

Castles in the West Midlands of England

In 1068, in the small country town of Warwickshire on the River Avon, William the Conqueror began building a humble motte-and-bailey structure. Eventually, it would be fortified with stone and would become the great Warwick Castle.

Today, the castle is unoccupied and visitors will marvel at how well its 14th century architecture has been preserved. Tour the Great Hall and state rooms, both packed with historical objects.

Outside of the castle, you’ll see staff members in period costume as you tour the grounds. Be sure to watch the aerobatic bird demonstration or take some time to learn about medieval weaponry. Warwick Castle is a must visit if you have children as they have so many fun activities throughout the year,

Warwick Castle

You wouldn’t know by looking at it now, but Kenilworth Castle was a crucial royalist stronghold during the English Civil War.

Located in the town of Kenilworth in Warwickshire, the castle was built over several centuries and has the distinction of having survived a six-month siege in 1266. Today it is the largest ruined castle in England but still has fine examples of 12th to 16th century architecture throughout.

The Tudor gatehouse and the Norman keep are noteworthy examples and shouldn’t be missed. The gardens have been restored to an approximation of their 17th century appearance and make for a lovely area to stroll around and take in the views of the countryside.

Kenilworth Castle is an English Heritage property .

Read more | 10 places to visit in the West Midlands

The ruins of Kenilworth Castle

Castles in the East Midlands

In medieval times, Lincoln was one of the most important settlements in England. Perhaps that’s why William the Conqueror built Lincoln Castle over an already existing Roman fortress in 11th Century.

Lincoln Castle is unique because it has two mottes and a Victorian prison inside the castle walls that sightseers can actually explore. It also is the home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta.

You can visit the castle grounds for free but you need to buy a ticket to do the medieval wall walk as well as tour the prison, enter the chapel and see the Magna Carta — all well worth doing.

Read more | 10 places to visit in the East Midlands

Lincoln Castle

In the English county of Derbyshire castle enthusiasts can find Bolsover Castle. It was built by Royalist Commander Sir Charles Cavendish in the 17th century over the remains of a 12th castle. No expense was spared as Cavendish wanted all guests to be impressed and to have a good time.

Today the castle is ruined but its stunning location and spectacular views make up for the building’s degraded condition. Since 1984 English Heritage has cared for the castle and has recently restored the parapets on the wall-walk.

The gardens are lovely and have a Venus fountain as their focal point. Plan to spend several hours exploring the extensive grounds.

Bolsover Castle

Famous as the home of the Crawley family in the highly acclaimed (and popular) British TV series Downton Abbey. Highclere is actually the seat of the Earl of Carnarvon and family and is located in Hampshire.

It was the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, George Herbert who famously discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun in the 1920s.

The castle is open to visitors throughout the year and is included in many tours from London.

READ – How to plan a visit to Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey)

Highclere

Do make sure you plan ahead if you wish to visit any of the castles mentioned in this article. Check opening times and any restrictions. Wear comfortable shoes (cobble stones and uneven ground tends to be a feature of many of the castles and is unforgiving on the feet) And of course don’t forget your camera!

Love castles? Want more? Check out my guides to the best Scottish castles and the best Welsh castles to visit!

Many of these castles belong to either English Heritage or National Trust UK . It may be cost effective to join these organisations (annual membership) if you are a UK resident.

For overseas visitors there are alternate membership options worth considering if you are planning to include a number of castles, stately homes, ancient monuments, historic houses, gardens in your itinerary.

If spending the night in an English castle is on your UK bucket list you will be happy to hear that there are a few castles that offer accommodation. Check out my England Accommodation Guide for further information.

You will have noticed that there are a lot of castles along the North East coast. Northumberland actually has the most castles of any English county.

If you are interested to learn more about English history Northumberland is the perfect destination (it also has the advantage of having a beautiful coastline, the best night skies in the UK, some beautiful towns and villages plus numerous Roman ruins!) Read more in my Northumberland Travel Guide

Read more about the UK in my travel guides

  • Brighton Travel Guide (with tips, itinerary and map)
  • Lake District Travel Guide (including tips, itinerary + map)
  • Peak District Travel Guide (including tips, itinerary + map)

Join my UK and London travel planning group on Facebook for more tips, inspiration and help from other travelers planning future travel to London and the UK.

The Geographical Cure

28 Best Castles In England To Visit

Are you a castle lover heading to England? Here’s my guide to the 28 best castles in England to put on your bucket list.

I must admit I’m a little obsessed with castles, and England is the perfect place for castle stalking. The country is blessed with scores of fairytale castles, both massive and petite.

Many of these English castles are UNESCO World Heritages sites or heritage monuments. They come complete with intriguing backstories, having set the stage for family feuds and pivotal events in British history.

Pinterest pin for best castles in England

Some of these English castles are in ruins. Others are well preserved medieval edifices. All of them boast picturesque settings — clinging to cliffs, rocky outcrops, or set amid shimmering moats.

On a visit to these amazing castles in England, you’ll step back in time and have a royal day out. Many of these castles make great day trips from London .

History Of Best Castles In England

Castle building in England began in earnest after the Norman Conquest in 1066. William the Conqueror used them both for defense and as a symbol of Norman power.

The first castles were wooden “motte and bailey” designs. This meant a wooden keep was built on a raised mound (the motte) with an enclosed courtyard (the bailey). The “keep” was the center and most fortified part of the castle.

the White Tower, the central keep of the Tower of London

Soon enough, wooden castles gave way to stone castles with elaborate gatehouses, towers, and curtain walls. Towers were of supreme importance. They were used to fire weapons, sling arrows, or pour boiling liquids down on the invading enemy through “murder holes.”

Some castles fell into ruins. Sometimes they remained in ruins because their strategic value had diminished or because the owners couldn’t afford to rebuild them.

In the Tudor era, comfort became more important than defense and castles were given less fearsome facades. Many castles became royal property with lavish interiors more akin to palaces.

Long after these castles in England ceased to have a practical defensive function, they were often kept by their owners for sentimental or historic reasons. Some, like Windsor Castle , are still in use.

Despite their sometimes violent past, many of these English castles are the epitome of romance.

If you are not a resident in England and want to visit several castles, you may benefit from buying an  English Heritage Pass for Overseas Visitors . This pass is valid at over 100 properties and is available for 9 or 16 days.

Alnwick Castle

Best Castles In England To Visit

Here are my picks for the 28 best castles in England. I’ve put them in alphabetical order for ease of reference. So cue up your dreamy sighs and let’s explore some amazing English castles.

1. Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

Alnwick is one of the best known castles in England. It’s popular partly for its fame as a Harry Potter filming location.

Alnwick is the seat of the Dukes of Northumberland and is England’s second largest inhabited castle (after Windsor).

The de Veschy family began building the castle in the 12th century. It was one of the first castles without a square keep. When the family line died out, the Percy family claimed the castle.

The first Percy transformed the defensive castle into an even more formidable stronghold and palatial residence. He and his son built the massive towers on each side of the keep’s entrance.

Alnwick Castle, one of the best castles in England

The Percys were intertwined with important events in British history. Hotspur Percy helped Henry Bolingbrook ascend to the throne as Henry IV and became guardian of his son, a young Henry V.

Alnwick Castle also has a spectacular garden renovated by the current duchess. It’s home to over 4,000 species of plants, orchards, pathways, ponds, and the Grand Cascade fountain.

Alnwick Castle starred as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the 2001 film Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and the 2002 film Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets . The Outer Bailey is where Harry learned to fly a broomstick.

You can visit Alnwick Castle on a guided day trip from Edinburgh .

Arundel Castle

2. Arundel Castle, West Sussex

The town of Arundel is home to one of the best medieval castles in England.  Arundel Castle  is 1,000 years old.

For centuries, it was the seat of the Earls of Arundel. Since Richard III’s reign, it’s been the Duke of Norfolk’s principal home.

The castle fell into ruin in the mid 17th century after the English Civil War between parliamentarians and royalists. It was later rescued and restored in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

The castle follows much the same plan as Windsor Castle. It has a central moat and two baileys to the north and south, curtained with thick walls. 

Arundel Castle

While, it looks medieval, Arundel was actually restored in a Norman style in the Victorian era. So it’s a bit ersatz.

If you climb up the steps of the keep, you’ll have a spectacular view of the River of Arun, the sea, and the town itself.

Arundel Castle also has some magnificent gardens to explore. If you plan to visit in the spring, you can admire the 60,000 tulips that bloom on the property.

In 2021, thieves broke into the castle and made off with artifacts valued at over $1.4 million, including the enameled rosary beads carried by Mary Queen of Scots at her execution in 1587.

You can combine a visit to Arundel castle with the romantic Amberley Castle, just 4 miles down the road. Fortified in the 14th century, Amberley has a dramatic 60 foot wall and twin tower gatehouse.

The castle is privately owned, but you can stay overnight in unabashed luxury by booking one of 15 rooms in the manor house, tower, or Bishop’s Hall.

Bamburgh Castle

3. Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

The history of Bamburgh Castle dates back to 420 A.D., when it was a Roman citadel. This makes it one of the oldest and best castles in England to visit.

Situated on a hill overlooking the North Sea, Bamburgh remained an impregnable fortress and royal stronghold for around 400 years. It was intended to stave off Scottish invaders and Viking raids.

The castle’s great keep was the work of Henry II. In the 15th century War of the Roses, Bamburgh became the first castle to be ever defeated by artillery, a new weapon of war.

By the 16th century, the castle was in ruins with only the keep intact. Lord Armstrong bought the castle in the Victorian era and began a massive renovation.

Nowadays, you can head inside to explore the staterooms, grounds, and the magnificent beach it looks over. There are 14 rooms open to the public with over 3,000 artifacts and exhibits. The King’s Hall is the most impressive room, with an intricate wooden ceiling.

Belvoir Castle, Image RJ Brown

4. Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire

Belvoir Castle is a romantic mock castle in England with an interesting 1,000 year history. It’s a romantic amalgam of architectural styles that make it movie set pretty. And, in fact, Belvoir doubled as Windsor Castle in season 3 of The Crown and in Young Victoria .

The name “Belvoir” translates to “beautiful view.” But the castle’s name is actually pronounced “Beever.”

The first castle on the site was built after William the Conqueror’s ascension to the throne. Belvoir was then in the hands of the Albini and de Roos family for centuries.

The castle was damaged in the War of the Roses. The first Earl of Rutherford got rid of the medieval remnants and turned it into a Tudor manor home.

That castle was then destroyed twice and rebuilt, for the final time, in the Victorian era in a Regency style. Queen Victoria was one of the castle’s many illustrious guests.

A must see room inside is the Regent’s Gallery. It displays Gobelin tapestries that once belonging to Louis XIV of France. The tapestries tell the story of Dion Quixote. 

Bodiam Castle, one of the best castles in England

5. Bodiam Castle , East Sussex

Bodiam Castle  is one of England’s true storybook castles. It’s a square fortress completely surrounded by a large lake-like moat. 

Built in the 14th century by the wealthy Sir Edward Dallingridge, Bodiam is one of the last medieval castles in Britain. It has a perfect symmetry with stout drum towers at each corner and crenellated walls. Conceived as a courtyard castle, it has unusually open middle grounds.

Like many castles of this period, Bodiam combined a fearsome facade with luxury elements. There were big rooms, toilets, and fireplaces.

By the 17th century, Bodiam was a celebrated and romantic ivy clad ruin. The exterior was restored in the 19th century. 

You can take the free guided tour or explore each nook and turret on your own. There’s a parking lot on site and you pay at the kiosk.

Bodiam Castle offers free tours that occur almost every day and give a brief history of the castle. The tours start at 12:15 pm and 2:15 pm and last around 35-45 minutes. 

Camber Castle

6. Camber Castle, East Sussex

Camber Castle is a one mile walk from the picturesque town of Rye in Kent. It’s also known as Winchelsea Castle.

It’s a 16th century Henry VIII “gun fort” built in the shape of a flower. It was built to defend Rye Harbor against French attacks.

The castle lies in ruins. You can’t go inside, but you can admire the atmospheric exterior.

Colchester Castle

7. Colchester Castle, Essex

Colchester Castle was built in the 11th century and has the largest keep of any castle in England. It was built on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius, linking the Normans with the glory of Rome .

Today, it’s more museum than castle. But the Castle Museum is well worth the visit.

It houses important archaeological artifacts covering 2,500 years of history, including the most important Roman finds in Britain. The most famous piece is the Sheepen Cauldron, a huge and mysterious vessel dating from the Bronze Age in the 2nd century B.C.

An interactive tablet also shows you how the castle would have looked in its heyday.

Corfe Castle ruins

8. Corfe Castle, Dorset

The once powerful Corfe Castle now lies in jagged ruins. This English castle was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and destroyed in the English Civil War.

Corfe was an important castle in England. Its location gave William access to southern coast and his homeland. Unlike other Norman castles, it was built out of stone, not wood, further underscoring its importance.

After William, Corfe Castle was a favorite of John and Henry III, who built curtain wall, towers, and a gloriette (a castle within a castle). It remained in royal hands until Elizabeth I sold it to one of her favorite courtiers. In 1635, Sir John Bankes bought the caste.

In 1642, the English Civil War broke out, pitting parliamentarians against royalists. Lady Bankes held out against the parliamentarians until she was betrayed by one of her own officers. As punishment, Corfe Castle was destroyed.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Corfe Castle was returned to the Bankes family. But they chose not to rebuild it. In 1982, they bequeathed the castle to the National Trust.

Today, you can wander through the picturesque archways and explore the west bailey, the oldest surviving section of the castle.

Deal Castle

9. Deal Castle, Kent

Built in 1539-40, Deal Castle was the largest of Henry VIII’s “gun forts.” It was built to protect England’s southern coast against the threat of invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire. The castle was funded by Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries after the Reformation.

Deal Castle has a large central keep with six huge round bastions and an outer moat. It was meant to appear menacing, and it looks almost extraterrestrial.

In total, the castle features 66 firing positions. When viewed from the air, the castle takes on the sexfoil pattern of the Tudor rose.

Deal was famous as the spot where Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, landed when she came to England in 1539.

The castle’s information center gives you a good history of the castle and Henry’s military strategies. There are beautiful coastal views from the top of the bastions.

Dover Castle

10. Dover Castle, Kent

Dover Castle  is awesome in scope and size. Medievalists will be delighted by one of the oldest and best castles in England.

The first fortification on the site dates from the Iron Age. The strength of Dover’s position on the sea was so impressive that even Julius Caesar said it was “no place to attempt a landing” when he attacked England. The Romans further fortified it and then the Saxons moved in.

One of the greatest Norman monarchs, Henry II, built the imposing 12th century keep you see today. He was determined to keep England safe from France, which was just 17 miles away. Dover was a formidable castle the likes of which had never been seen before.

The central keep was 80 feet tall and the walls 100 feet long. The inner wall had 14 towers to accommodate archers.

Dover Castle

The castle was never breached, though Prince Louis of France almost succeeded in 1216. You’ll find a multi-media exhibition dramatizing the event.

After that close call, Henry III improved Dover’s fortifications once again. He also added the great hall and royal accommodations.

Much of what you see today is unchanged from that era. The castle could take all day to explore, if you wanted to poke into every nook and cranny.

The castle’s highlight is the central keep with its Great Hall, royal chambers, and private chapel. 

The Constable’s Gateway is also impressive, with a labyrinth of tunnels that were important to medieval defense and served as an operations center during WWII. You’ll see examples of Medieval and Tudor arms and weaponry.

You can visit Dover castle along with the town of Canterbury on a guided day tour from London . You can also check out my complete guide to spending one day in Dover on a day trip from London .

Hastings Castle

11. Hastings Castle, East Sussex

Hastings Castle is an 11th century ruined castle built by William the Conqueror after landing in England. With a good harbor and site at the end of a peninsula, it was easy to defend.

The building of the castle is depicted in the famed Bayeux tapestry, which chronicles the events leading up to William’s invasion of France.

From this stronghold, William rampaged through southeast England, leading a campaign of intentional destruction and looting.

All the remains of the historic castle is a few walls and crumbling stone structures.

Because it’s perched high on a steep cliff, Hastings is not the easiest castle to visit. The only way up is via a steep staircase or funicular.

While visiting Hastings, you can watch 1066 Story , a 20 minute film on the fascinating history of the castle and the battles that decided England’s fate.

top 10 castles to visit in england

12. Herstmonceaux, East Sussex

Like Bodiam Castle, Herstmonceaux Castle was built to stave off possible French invasion. The 15th century castle is really more manor house than craggy castle.

Still, the castle has a battlements, a moat, and 300 acres of lovely gardens and woodland. The Elizabeth Garden is the most exquisite, with its rambling roses and daisies.

The red brick exterior is original, but the interior has been completely remodeled.

Hever Castle, one of the best castles in England

13. Hever Castle, Kent

If you’re a Tudor enthusiast, Hever Castle is one of the best castles to visit in England. Hever is a petite double-moated castle with a craggy romantic visage that’s largely unaltered by time.

It’s famously linked to the ill-fated royal couple, Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII . Their story is a fascinating one, one of the most dramatic in English history.

Hever was the childhood home of Anne, Henry’s second wife. It’s also linked to Henry’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, who was installed there after Henry divorced her in favor of Anne.

On a visit to Hever Castle, you can walk in the footsteps of these famous Tudor monarchs. And you can admire the castle’s medieval keep and gatehouse, Tudor rooms, original portraits, and exquisite gardens. 

rose gardens at Hever Castle

The award-winning gardens are set over 125 acres. The peerless Italian Garden is the highlight of the castle gardens. It’s the setting for a collection of classical statuary from Roman to Renaissance times. 

You can also row boats on the 38 acre lake, wander through yew and water mazes, sniff roses, or try your hand at archery. There’s even an open water swimming course.

Here’s my complete guide to Hever Castle . You can get to Hever Castle from London on several guided day tours:

  • a  full day guided Tudor tour of Hever Castle and Hampton Court Palace
  • a  private half day tour to Hever Castle
  • or a  6-8 tour of Hever Castle and Garden

Highclere Castle

14. Highclere Castle, Hampshire

Highclere Castle  is the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon and one of England’s best and most beautiful castles. The stunning 300 room castle is most famous, though, as the real life  Downton Abbey from the hit British period TV series. 

Originally built in 1679, the castle was remodeled in the 1840s by the same architect who designed the Houses of Parliament in London. Famous landscape architect Capability Brown designed the gardens.

Royalty, politicians, famous writers, and film stars have stayed at Highclere Castle.

The current Earl’s family has been living on the estate since 1679. The Carnarvon are a busy lot. They’ve been involved in the founding of Canada, the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt, scandalous affairs, and sordid court cases.

reception hall in Highclere Castle

The main things to see are the State Rooms, the Egyptian Exhibition, and the gardens.

The castle is open seasonally, so check opening dates on the website before planning a visit.

Highclere has some special events throughout the year, including an Easter Egg Hunt, Afternoon Tea, and various Christmas events. These events sell out quickly, so you should pre-book tickets online in advance.

The easiest way to get to Highclere is by car.

If you’d rather take a guided tour, this one includes a  visit to Highclere Castle and other  Downton Abbey  filming locations . You can also book a guided tour from London that combines  Highclere and Stonehenge .

ruins of Kenilworth Castle, one of the best castles in England for history buffs and ruin lusters

15. Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire

Kenilworth Castle was once the seats of medieval nobles. Today, the former castle lies in a heap of evocative ruins.

But what lovely ruins they are for ruin lusters. This is a place where your imagination can run wild.

Kenilworth has a compelling history and a colorful cast of characters. Sir Geoffrey de Clinton began work on the castle in 1122. But he didn’t hold it for long.

Henry II confiscated it to defend himself against his rebellious son. The king’s other son, King John, added a curtain wall and three defensive towers. He was later forced to surrender the castle as proof of his intent to comply with the Magna Carta.

When Henry III ascended the throne, he grabbed Kenilworth back and gave it to his sister and her husband Simon de Montfort. Bad move.

Montfort was angered by Henry’s chipping away at noble rights and soon led a rebellion. He lost in one of the most famous sieges of the Middle Ages.

ruins of Kenilworth Castle

After this battle, violence gave way to a more genteel castle. The Lancastrians took ownership, gussied up the place, and built a Great Hall. Under Henry IV, the castle officially became a royal residence.

Kenilworth’s swan song came when Elizabeth I gave the castle to her favorite courtier, Robert Dudley. He built enormous guest quarters to accommodate and delight the queen and her entourage on her famous visit in 1575. After that, the castle went into decline through disinterest and abuse.

Today, you can stroll the castle grounds and reconstruct its history. Take a walk along the curtain wall and see Mortimer’s Tower and Water Tower (the best preserved bit from the 13th century).

Near the Water Tower is Leicester’s Stables, which houses an exhibit on the castle’s history. Admire the gatehouse and then venture into the inner court.

Inside, you can admire the ruins of a Norman keep with turrets. You can see balls imbedded in the walls that date from the great siege of 1266. You can also visit the former Great Hall, ascend the Strong Tower for views, and see the ruins of Dudley’s buildings for Elizabeth.

Leeds Castle, one of the best and most beautiful castles in England

16. Leeds Castle, Kent

Leeds Castle  is one of Britain’s best and most beautiful castles. The castle has a picturesque island setting on a lake in the wooded countryside of Kent.

Leeds’ history is no less romantic. Leeds Castle has been a Norman Stronghold, a Royal Palace, and the stately home of an American heiress. 

Today, you can visit the New Castle, the 13th century Gloriette tower, Maiden’s Tower, and the extensive grounds and gardens.

The castle was a royal residence until Tudor times and known as the “Ladies Castle.” Seven queens lived at Leeds. 

The castle was also a favorite abode of Henry VIII, who shuttled his ex-wife Catherine to live there permanently after their divorce. 

library of Leeds Castle

With Henry’s deep pockets, he lavished improvements on it, transforming Leeds from castle to royal palace. He added grand reception rooms, suites of rooms in the Gloriette, the graceful Maiden’s Tower, expensive glass, and fireplaces.

Thereafter, the castle fell into ruins. In 1926, American heiress Olive Paget (later Lady Baillie) purchased the castle. She saved it from centuries of neglect and restored it to medieval perfection.

You’ll be dazzled by its pristine landscaping, tasteful period furniture, and collection of medieval memorabilia.

The highlight is the Gloriette. You can visit the Banqueting Hall, the royal bedrooms, and climb the 16th century spiral staircase.

The castle is set on 500 acres of park land, landscaped by Capability Brown. The gardens include the Culpepper Garden, the Princess Alexandra Gardens, and the Lady Baillie Mediterranean Garden.

Leeds Castle

Children will enjoy the mazes, the duckery, the aviary, and the archery station.

For more information, here’s my complete guide to visiting Leeds castle . In high season, you should  pre-book a skip the line ticket  for the castle. It’s a bit pricey, but good for an entire year.

There are also guided sightseeing tours from London that stop at Leeds Castle. Here are some options: 

  • 1 0 hour tour combining Leeds, Canterbury, and Dover
  • 11 hour tour combi ni ng Leeds, Canterbury, and Greenwich
  • 8 hour private t o ur to Leeds and Canterbury

Leeds Castle is also one of the few castles where you can stay overnight in the lap of luxury and feel like a royal. There are traditional cottages and bed and breakfasts available to book, including:

  • Weir Cottage  ( 1 bedroom)
  • The Oast  (3 bedroom)
  • Stable Courtyard  (bed & breakfast)
  • Maiden’s Tower  (bed & breakfast)
  • Holiday Cottages

Leicester Castle Gatehouse

17. Leicester Castle, Leicestershire

Leicester Castle played a pivotal role in the English history. The first iteration of the castle was built just after the Norman conquest in 1066.

By the reign of Henry I, the castle had passed into the hands of the Earl of Leicester. In 1150, he set about improving the defensive structure and built a great medieval hall.

Unfortunately, Henry II sacked the castle in 1173 to squelch a rebellion. Only the Great Hall survived.

Simon de Montfort rebuilt the castle and, in the great hall, held the first English parliamentary session. But royalist forces caught up to de Montfort. He was killed and the castle passed to the Earl of Lancaster, who transformed the stronghold into a primary Lancastrian residence.

During the late 15th century, the castle was still occasionally used as a royal residence — Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, and Edward IV all stayed there.

Despite taking a beating during subsequent battles, two important medieval structures remain onsite: the Great Hall and the ancient Church of St. Mary de Castro.

The 12th century Great Hall is believed to be the oldest surviving castle hall with a bay, aisles, and timber roof in all of Europe. The church was the castle’s lavish chapel.

Unfortunately, the interior of Leicester Castle is mostly inaccessible, open only on special event days or Heritage Sundays . You can also attend mass at the church.

READ : One Day In Leicester Itinerary

Ludlow Castle

18. Ludlow Castle, Shropshire

Ludlow Castle has been dubbed the “the very perfection of decay,” so ruin lusters will think it’s one of the best castles in England.

The de Lacy family began building Ludlow in the 11th century. You can see remnants of their efforts in the gatehouse, keep, and Norman chapel. The chapel’s unique round nave, associated with the Knights Templar , still stands.

The castle came into the hands of the de Genevieve family in the 13th century and the infamous Roger Mortimer in the 14th century.

Mortimer was the secret lover of Queen Isabella and implicated in the murder of Edward II. When he grew too powerful, he was executed. The tower named for him, Mortimer’s Tower, has a semi-circular design and still stands in the bailey.

ruins of Ludlow Castle

In 1461, Ludlow became a royal castle and would stay that way for the next three centuries. Edward IV’s son, Edward, was sent to live there. When his father died, he traveled to London.

But Richard III imprisoned the presumptive new king and his brother Richard in the Tower of London and they disappeared, while Richard was crowned king.

Did Richard murder the princes? It’s one of England’s most famous legends and mysteries. Even today, the fate of the princes is uncertain.

The last royal Ludlow occupant was Arthur, the son of Henry VIII, who died there. After that, the castle was abandoned and fell into the well-preserved medieval ruins you see today.

The Earl of Powis purchased Ludlow in the early 19th century. The family invested heavily to halt its decline and allow it to open as a tourist attraction. Make sure to climb up the tower for the best views over the picturesque Shropshire town of Ludlow.

Corfe Castle ruins

19. Pevensey Castle, East Sussex

Pevensey Castle is one of the oldest castles in England. Some scholars call it the first Norman castle in history.

Pevensey is where it all began. It was here that William the Conqueror landed to claim the throne of England in 1066.

The crumbling ruins of the castle stand high on a hill with sweeping views of the English Cannel. In its heyday, Pevensey was an impregnable fortress that never fell to assault during its turbulent history.

After the Conqueror landed, he converted an ancient defensive fort into a motte and bailey castle. Later, the Earl of Richmond built a tall curtain wall and towers.

In the 15th century, the castle was abandoned. What you see today are the remains of the impressive curtain walls, the ruins of a medieval building in the inner bailey, and a 13th century gatehouse with dungeons.

Legend holds that the ghost of Lady Pelham walks the outer walls of the castle at night. She was the wife of the castle constable.

aerial view of Baby Castle

20. Raby Castle, Durham

Raby Castle is one of the finest intact medieval castles in England.

Built in the 14th century by the powerful Neville family, it has a storied history. Raby was home to Cecily Neville, the mother of two kings of England.

It was the the scene of plotting and a parliamentary stronghold during the English Civil War. When that rebellion failed, the castle was forfeited to the crown.

Originally moated and accessed via a drawbridge, Raby was built as a palace fortress. It boasts a sequence of massive towers linked by curtain walls.

Inside, the castle has Medieval, Regency and Victorian interiors. The entrance hall has tall Gothic vaulted ceilings, a massive fireplace, and armory decorating the walls.

Raby Castle

The Baron’s Hall was where much of the civil war machinations took place. Today, you can admire an art collection and a beautiful Neo-Gothic beamed ceiling.

The castle’s distinctive blue kitchen is really a pretty space. Dating to the 14th century, it has a collection of Victorian copper cooking utensils

Raby Castle offers 1 hour guided hours . You’ll get an informative history of the castle during its heyday, from the medieval Neville family up to the Vane family who still owns the castle today. You’ll hear tales of family disputes and the many royal visitors that Raby has hosted.

Raby is also a popular filming location. The castle doubled as the temporary Royal Family residence in the new  Downton Abbey  film. It was also featured in film Elizabeth  (1998) and the popular drama series  Victoria  (2016-19).

Rochester Castle, one of the bet castles in England

21. Rochester Castle, Kent

Rochester Castle  has one of England’s best preserved Norman keeps. Dating from the 12th century, it’s also one of the tallest at 113 feet high. 

The castle is just a shell now, but still steeped in history. William the Conquerer granted the castle to his half brother Odo, who built a strong motte and bailey castle. He was a powerful and clever man, but was brought down by his own ambition.

Odo made a bid for the crown in 1082. But lost a siege of Rochester Castle and was banished from England.

The present day castle dates from 1127. For almost a century, it remained in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Later, barons rebelling against King John (the evil king from the Robin Hood tales) stole the castle. John took them down in a long, slow siege where the resistors were starved to death.

Rochester Castle was damaged during Simon de Montfort’s rebellion and again in the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Later kings weren’t enamored with the ancient keep and it fell into ruins, although the outer keep was preserved.

You can enter the keep and, if you are game, tackle the steep spiral staircase to the top of the battlements for views of the countryside. 

Rockingham Castle

22. Rockingham Castle, North Hamptonshire

Rockingham Castle is a former royal castle and hunting lodge in Rockingham Forest. Rockingham has been the home of the Watson family since the 16th century. Before that, it was a royal enclave for 500 years.

Fortifications have been on the site since the Iron Age. The Romans and Saxons were there. William the Conqueror built the first castle after the Norman Conquest.

Rockingham is known for its sprawling hunting grounds and beautiful countryside views. This made it a favorite of medieval monarchs.

By the 15th century, the castle was no longer in favor. Henry III sold it to Edward Watson in 1533.

Unlike many castles in England, Rockingham still has vestiges of its medieval past. The castle’s Norman walls are partially intact, as is the 1290 gatehouse.

Inside, the Great Hall is filled with some important Tudor portraits, including one of Jane Seymour (Henry VIII’s favorite wife) and of Elizabeth I surrounded by her councilors.

The Long Gallery has some of finest paintings and furniture in the Castle. There are 18 acres of gardens with a 400 year old “elephant hedge.”

Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens in Cranwood

23. Sissinghurst Castle, Kent

Just 40+ minutes from Hever,  Sissinghurst Castle  is a National Trust property and major highlight for garden lovers.

Laid out in the 1930s, the castle boasts one of the world’s greatest 20th century romantic gardens. 

Former owner and writer Vita Sackville-West designed the gardens to look like rooms of a house. Each one has its own color scheme and theme.

The gardens are most beautiful in spring.

St. Michael's Mount

24. St. Michael’s Mount, Cornwall

1,600 feet from the Cornish coast in Mount’s Bay is a small tidal island called St. Michael’s Mount . It’s reminiscent of France’s Mont Saint-Michel . Often overlooked, it really is one of the best English castles.

The castle is accessible on foot via a cobblestone causeway that resurfaces during low tide or by small boat transfer.

During a history that began in the 12th century, St. Michael’s Mount has been a priory, fortress, place of pilgrimage, and, finally, the private home to the St Aubyn family.

In 1954, the St. Aubyns partnered with the National Trust to open the castle to the public. As you pass through the medieval doors, you can tour the armory, the Gothic drawing room, and a 14th century church.

The castle also boasts some exotic terraced gardens. In the summertime, the castle’s lit up to appear as if it’s floating in mid air on a calm sea.

Tonbridge Castle

25. Tonbridge Castle, Kent

Tonbridge Castle is one of England’s most authentic medieval   castle, standing guard (rather menacingly) over the market town of Tonbridge in Kent. 

After being gifted the plot by William the Conqueror, Richard Fitz Gilbert built a wooden motte and bailey castle on the site. But Fitz Gilbert backed Odo against William in the civil war of 1088. William laid siege to Tonbrige and it fell.

Nonetheless, Fitz Gilbert’s son, Gilbert de Clare, became fast friends with William and rebuilt a stone castle.

In the late 13th century, another de Clare, the notorious “Red Earl,” built the mammoth 5 story gatehouse. The structure contained guard rooms, a great banqueting hall, and living quarters.

Today, you can enter the gatehouse and explore the great hall, winding stairs, and basement. Climb the battlements for breathtaking views across the town.

If you’re a fan of Madame Tussaud’s, you’ll love Tonbridge. Life size wax figures are scattered through the castle to give you slices of life from the Middle Ages. You can also get the complete scoop with the castle’s audio guide.

READ : One Week In Kent Itinerary

Tower of London

26. Tower of London, London

After Warwick Castle, the Tower of London is the second most popular castle in England. The Tower is also the most famous, with 900 years of history and blood. 

It has served as a royal palace, a fortress, an infamous prison, a mint, a military storehouse, a treasury, home to the Crown Jewels, an armory, a public records office, a royal observatory, and a royal zoo. Even as a place of execution. 

You will be blissfully immersed in the various successions of the Edwards, the Richards, and the Henrys.

It was here that Richard II abdicated, Henry IV was crowned, Henry VI was imprisoned (and possibly murdered), the princes of Edward IV were imprisoned, and Anne Boleyn was both crowned and executed.

William the Conqueror built the first version of the tower. In 1078, he authorized construction of what is now known as the White Tower, which took almost 20 years to build.

Byword Tower

Over the centuries, Henry III and Edward I   expanded William’s fortress. They added huge curtain walls with a series of smaller towers and enlarged the moat. Medieval kings and queens added luxurious apartments. 

Here’s my complete guide to visiting the Tower of London . If you loathe queues, be sure to purchase a skip the ticket in advance .

The Tower is also free with the  London Pass , which you will likely want to purchase if you’re in London for several days.

For a more in depth experience, you may want to book your own tour with an expert. I’ve taken this  3 hour guided tour  and it was excellent. If you’re traveling with your family, check out this special  3 hour guided tour  for kids.

Warwick Castle, definitely one of the best castles in England

27. Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

Warwick Castle is one of the most significant castles in English history and the most visited castle in England. Your first glimpse will take your breath away.

The legendary Warwick Castle shaped 900 years of British history. The castle was built by a king. In 1449, it passed into the hands of the warmongering Duke of Warwick, Richard “the Kingmaker” Neville.

The castle was the backdrop for one the most famous dynastic conflicts in England, the War of the Roses . It was an epic battle for the throne between the House of York and the House of Lancaster.

The wealthy Kingmaker played chess with his Yorkist cousins, backing the monarch who best served his interests at the time. At one point, he imprisoned Edward IV in Warwick Castle and attempted to rule as uncrowned king.

Caesar’s Tower

After his defeat at the Battle of Barnet, the castle eventually landed in the hands of John Dudley, an ally of Edward IV. He claimed the earldom, but then lost his head when he tried to promote Lady Jane Grey to to the throne.

With that rich history as a backdrop, you will love visiting Warwick Castle and there’s a tremendous amount to see.

Warwick is everything you’d expect in a storied fairytale castle – crenellated turrets, moats, and dungeons. You’ll want to walk the 127 feet tall high walls and climb Caesar’s Tower, the most majestic of the castle’s three primary towers.

Displays in the castle are also stellar. There is a magnificent Great Hall.

Richard Neville exhibit

You’ll also see period furnishings, extraordinary life-like waxwork models, the state rooms, and reenactments that aim to give you insight into what life was like in a medieval castle.

The castle also prides itself on bringing history to life. The exhibition on “a day in the life of Richard Neville” is quite good. But other exhibitions make the castle seem a bit Disney-fied.

Here’s my complete guide to visiting Warwick Castle . Click  here  to book a skip the line ticket.

From London, you can book a  self guided tour that includes train and entry tickets or a  private guided tour from London .

the Long Walk to Windsor Castle, one of the best castles in England to visit

28. Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Windsor Castle is a striking 11th century castle that’s the official home of the royal family. This is my favorite castle in England and a must visit for history buffs.

Windsor Castle’s history is deep indeed. By legend, Sir Aurther and his knights of the Round Table met regularly in Windsor. William the Conqueror was the first builder, making Windsor one of his “ring around London” castles meant to subdue the city.

The castle is the longest occupied royal residence in the world. It’s been the symbol of the monarchy for 1,000 years. The castle was expanded by Henry II, Edward III, and Henry VIII.

Later, George III and George IV redesigned interior portions of the castle, wiping away some of its medieval roots.

You enter the castle through St. George’s Gate. At the castle, you can see the sprawling grounds, take the “long walk,” admire lavish royal staterooms and apartments, and visit a magnificent Perpendicular Gothic chapel. 

St. George's Chapel

St. George’s Chapel is simply gorgeous. It’s the place to pay homage to ancient dead kings, including the infamous Henry VIII. The chapel is also the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter, England’s most prestigious club.

Not only is Windsor an authentic medieval castle, it’s home to some of the finest and most famous paintings in the British Royal Collection . You’ll find master works from English portraitists, the Northern Renaissance, the Italian Renaissance, and the Baroque eras.

Here’s my complete guide to visiting Windsor Castle . Click  here  to book a skip the line admission ticket. If you want to see the changing the guard, visit on Thursday or Saturday.

Windsor Castle is also included in the  London Pass , if you have that card. Windsor is easy to reach from London. You can also book a guided half day tour to Windsor from London . 

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guide to the best castles in England. You may enjoy these other England travel guides and resources:

  • 3 Day Itinerary for London
  • 5 Day Itinerary for London
  • Hidden Gems in London
  • 30 Day Trips from London
  • Tourist Traps To Avoid in London
  • Best Museums in London
  • One Day In Canterbury Itinerary
  • One Day in Oxford Itinerary
  • One Day In Stratford-upon-Avon
  • Harry Potter Places in London
  • Guide to Westminster Abbey
  • Guide to St. Paul’s Cathedra l

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Last Updated on June 14, 2023 by Leslie Livingston

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Britain’s 20 most spectacular castles

top 10 castles to visit in england

Hundreds of castles dominate the landscape of Britain and are testament to the engineering prowess of previous generations. From vast fortresses overlooking the coast to former strategic strongholds, and others which remain inhabited to this day, these monuments stand as a reminder of the island’s turbulent past. These spectacular castles allow visitors to explore the nation’s beautiful outdoor spaces and lush autumnal scenery, while delving deep into Britain’s history and heritage…

England is home to many striking castles, built over the centuries to protect and to control. From acting as royal residences to being the stars of TV and the silver screen, as the leaves begin to fall and the countryside becomes a burnished carpet of reds, golds and yellows, these immense fortifications are sure to spark the imagination…

Windsor Castle

Just to the west of London lies the world’s oldest and largest inhabited castle, having been a royal residence for around 950 years. First developed by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor Castle is regularly used by the Queen as a weekend retreat, as well as hosting state occasions and royal weddings. The Round Tower dominates the skyline and sits atop the oldest part of the castle, while St George’s Chapel acts as the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter – an order of chivalry dating back to the reign of Edward III in 1348. Advanced booking for the castle is recommended.

Warwick Castle

An imposing fortress in the heart of the Midlands, Warwick Castle provides a taste of medieval British life. Pass beneath the castle’s impressive portcullis, wander along its ramparts, take in archery exhibitions and explore 64 acres of landscaped gardens on the way to discovering 1,100 years of history. Children can venture back through time in the Horrible Histories Maze, or book in to the Castle Dungeon to unravel some of Warwick’s darkest secrets with the help of live actors and spine-tingling special effects.

Tower of London

Once a royal residence and notorious prison, the Tower of London is a World Heritage Site with 1,000 years of history at its core. The imposing fortress is now home to the Crown Jewels, a collection of more than 23,000 dazzling gemstones, while visitors can meet the guardians of the tower – its legendary ravens! Learn more about this feast of Norman architecture from the Yeoman Warders, often known as Beefeaters, who have guarded the tower since Tudor times.

Highclere Castle

One of the stars of TV’s Downton Abbey , Highclere Castle in Hampshire provided the backdrop for four series of the show and the hit movie. Initially a medieval palace, Highclere was transformed in the mid-19th century by Sir Charles Barry, the architectural mind behind the Houses of Parliament in London. Alongside tours of its many rooms, including those used as the state rooms from the Downton Abbey movie, visitors can explore gardens dating back to the 13th century and 1,000 acres of stunning parkland, designed by the renowned landscape gardener, Capability Brown. The castle is home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, whose family have lived there since 1679, and also houses a unique display of Egyptian antiquities celebrating the 5th Earl of Carnarvon’s role in the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. This year, the castle will also hosts special autumn and winter tours, including Real Lives and Film Sets and Christmas at Highclere.

Hever Castle

With a history spanning more than 700 years, Hever Castle was the childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn. Initially a moated defensive castle dating back to 1270, this romantic setting is packed full of Tudor portraits and tapestries, and features fine views out over Hever Lake. Set within the 125 acres of grounds is a 100-year-old Yew Maze, as well as award-winning gardens, with startlingly beautiful dahlia displays and the warming sugary scent of the Katsura tree perfuming the frosty air. Pre-booking to explore Hever Castle and its grounds is essential.

Alnwick Castle 

As the UK’s second-largest inhabited castle behind Windsor, the impressive walls of Alnwick Castle have acted as a military outpost, a teaching college and a family home over the centuries. Another castle with its origins in the Norman period, the fortress in Northumberland will be recognisable to fans of Harry Potter, as the wizarding hero was filmed learning to fly a broomstick within its walls for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone . The castle is no stranger to the world of film, having also featured in Downton Abbey , Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and Elizabeth . Pre-booking is required.

Bamburgh Castle

Perched on an outcrop overlooking the Northumberland Coast, Bamburgh Castle started life as an Anglo-Saxon citadel and has a rich and varied history. The mighty keep dates back to just after the Norman invasion, while it acted as a royal palace for numerous kings in the centuries that followed. Bamburgh holds the distinguished title of being the first castle in the world to fall to gunpowder, having been attacked during the War of the Roses, while a delightful array of artefacts and heirlooms reveal more about its past. Today it stands as the family home of the Armstrong family, descendants of Victorian engineer William Armstrong, who purchased the castle to return it to its former glory. Purchasing pre-booked advance tickets online is recommended.

Leeds Castle

Occupying 500 acres in the heart of the Kent countryside, Leeds Castle celebrated its 900th anniversary in 2019. Visitors can trace its journey from its Norman roots, through royal ownership and its time as a magnificent Tudor place for Henry VIII, to the country retreat that stands today. The Gatehouse Exhibition explores this history, while the castle’s Bird of Prey Centre features displays from hawks, owls and eagles, among other majestic birds. All visits must be reserved online.

Scotland’s castles provide a glimpse into the nation’s past, showcasing struggles for power amid some of Britain’s most spectacular scenery – from jewel-like forest foliage in autumn to misty lochs and frost-kissed glens…

Edinburgh Castle

From its dominating position atop Castle Rock in the heart of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh Castle offers commanding views of the city. Having acted as a military fortress, prison and royal residence in the past, it stands proud as being the most besieged location in Britain. Within its thick grey walls it’s possible to explore tales of treachery and treason, to look out from the Half Moon Battery which overlooks the castle approaches, and to imagine the destructive force of Mons Meg, a 15th century six-tonne siege gun that was capable of blasting a 150kg projectile up to two miles! The Castle is also home to the Royal Palace, the living quarters of many medieval kings and queens throughout the centuries, as well as the National War Museum and the Scottish National War Memorial. Reopening on 1 August, pre-booking is essential.

Craigievar Castle

Having served as the muse for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle, the fairy-tale setting of Craigievar , with its pink façade and carefully crafted stonework, is a sight to behold, and no time more so than in autumn, when its soaring turrets are offset by atmospheric skies and fiery autumn foliage. Surrounded by picturesque countryside and woodlands, this enchanting tower house was completed in around 1626 and little of its exterior has changed since. In fact, there is no artificial light on the upper floors, meaning an incredible collection of artefacts, art works and weaponry can be viewed in the same way as when they were first created. The castle’s grounds are open, with visitors encouraged to look out for the rare pine marten, which inhabits the woodland.

Stirling Castle

Found at the point where the Lowlands and Highlands meet, Stirling Castle dominates the skyline from its position atop a vast volcanic rock. It served as a powerful stronghold during the Wars of Independence, changing hands on several occasions, before becoming an important royal residence. The Royal Palace depicts life for royalty in the 1500s, while The Great Hall, built on the orders of James IV, is the largest banqueting hall in Scotland and is testament to the skills and craftsmanship of those who built it. From learning more about the castle’s past and its role as the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots, to admiring its striking Renaissance architecture, visitors can discover why Stirling is one of Scotland’s most impressive castles. Reopening on 1 August, pre-booking is a must.

Eilean Donan Castle

Surrounded by lusciously rugged mountain scenery, Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands marks the meeting point of three vast sea lochs, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. What began as a 13th century fortress was rebuilt several times, before being largely destroyed in the Jacobite Risings of the 17th and 18th centuries. However, the site was restored to its former glory some 200 years later, and is now recognisable as one of Scotland’s most iconic locations. Reopening on 5 August, pre-booking is essential.

Urquhart Castle

Sat on the banks of Loch Ness, the ruins of Urquhart Castle provide spectacular views both up and down the loch. With a history spanning around 1,000 years, the castle was once a medieval fortress and it’s easy to imagine what life was like here during the Wars of Independence. The last soldiers left the castle in 1692, blowing it up as they left, but the ruins remain resplendent against the striking backdrop of the freshwater loch and surrounding hills. Reopening on 1 August, pre-booking is essential.

Dunrobin Castle

With its conical spires, walled gardens and stunning outlook over the Moray Firth, Dunrobin Castle can really ignite the imagination. Situated on the eastern coast of the Northern Highlands, the great house has nearly 200 rooms and has been inhabited since the early part of 14th century. Look out for the influences of architects Sir Charles Barry, who was tasked with transforming the castle into a home in 1845, and then Sir Robert Lorimer, who redesigned the interior after it was gutted by fire in the early 20th century.

From UNESCO World Heritage Sites to eccentric gothic revival architecture, Wales is home to around 600 awe-inspiring castles. Ranging in size from small ruins to imposing citadels, these commanding structures played a key role in shaping Britain’s history. Cadw , which overseas castle sites in Wales, is gradually reopening its locations on a phased basis from early August.

Caerphilly Castle

Built in the mid-13th century, Caerphilly Castle covers a massive 30-acre site, making it Britain’s second largest castle, behind the royal residence at Windsor. Initially developed as a means of control, the concentric design with its huge walls and extensive water defences was lovingly restored in the early half of the 20th century by the wealthy fourth Marquess of Bute, although its famed south-east tower continues to lean precariously at more of an angle than the Leaning Tower of Pisa!

Castell Coch

With its conical towers poking out of the Fforest Fawr on the hills overlooking Cardiff, Castell Coch appears fresh from a fairy-tale. But while its exterior is impressive, the striking interior design from architect William Burges is what really captures the imagination – making it an enchanting location for some indoor exploration in the autumn and winter months. Supported by the wealth of the third Marquess of Bute during the Victorian period, Burges introduced a gothic revival style and rich furnishings to the remains of the 13th century castle, creating the opulent surroundings found today.

Harlech Castle

One of four coastal fortresses built during the reign of Edward I to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site – along with Beaumaris, Caernarfon and Conwy – Harlech Castle sits atop a vast rocky crag in north-west Wales. Dunes now separate the castle from the sea, while the rugged peaks of Snowdonia provide the backdrop, ensuring visitors can easily imagine how its commanding position would have dominated the medieval landscape. Besieged on a number of occasions, including for seven years during the War of the Roses, the castle inspired the tune ‘Men of Harlech’, a rousing song still used in the British military to this day.

Caernarfon Castle

Another of Edward I’s great fortresses, the sheer scale of Caernarfon Castle is what captures the imagination. Having stood overlooking the banks of the River Seiont for 700 years, its polygonal towers were designed to mirror those found in the Roman city of Constantinople, while the huge curtain walls and intimidating gatehouse were built with defence in mind. At the western corner of the castle is its most impressive feature, the ten-sided Eagle Tower with three turrets and walls that are an incredible 5.5 metres thick – a true feat of medieval military engineering.

Conwy Castle

Delve into 700 years of history at Conwy Castle , home to the most intact set of royal apartments from the medieval period. Restored spiral staircases in the castle’s eight towers provide access to the impressive battlements, with stunning views of Snowdonia National Park in the distance, giving visitors the chance to combine historical discovery with outdoor autumnal exploration. The UNESCO World Heritage Site includes a ring of town walls that stretch just under a mile, while those looking closely at the castle walls can see remnants of lime rendering – a sign that this immense fortress was originally white.

Beaumaris Castle

Found amid the picturesque beauty of Anglesey, Beaumaris Castle was the fourth and final of the main royal strongholds to be built in Wales. But for all its splendour, the fortress of near-perfect symmetry was never actually finished. Its many towers, high walls and D-shaped gatehouses are considered by UNESCO to be among the best examples of late 13th century and early 14th century architecture in Europe and serve as a reminder of Edward I’s efforts to exert power over the region.

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Top 10 Castles & Palaces in England

England has no shortage of castles and palaces, especially given its very small size. In fact, one of the nations favourite pastimes is to visit the vast number of spectacular heritage sites dotted around the country. Our pick of the top 10 castles and palaces in England lists some of the all-time classics as well as some of the more quirky and unusual choices.

1. Windsor Castle:

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is the oldest inhabited castle in the world! At nearly 1,000 years it is an official residence of the British Royal Family, and is often used and lived in by the King. No visit to the United Kingdom would be complete without a stroll around the castle including its state rooms, chapel and dolls house that make up this impressive display of British history and heritage.

2. Blenheim Palace:

Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace is one of Britain’s most impressive palaces. If first impressions are anything to go by, then the imposing and flamboyant landscaped gardens will blow you away!  The inside of Blenheim Palace equally doesn’t disappoint with impressive state rooms and lavish furnishings. The palace was in fact the birthplace of the great Winston Churchill and there’s an exhibition showcasing Churchill’s connection with the palace.

Tour of Blenheim Palace:  Click here

3. Leeds Castle:

Leeds Castle

Once described as the loveliest castle in the world, this fairy tale castle is surrounded by a moat and landscaped gardens. Located in Southern England, 40 miles from London, Leeds Castle dates back over 900 years and includes extensive grounds, gardens, a moat, a rampart and several towers. You can visit it on our day tour of Southern England from London.

4. Hampton Court Palace

top 10 castles to visit in england

Just a 30 minute ride from Central London, Hampton Court Palace is a pristine example of British Tudor architecture. 60 acres of gardens are combined with an impressive artwork collection and grand royal rooms. Its certainly one of the top castles and palaces to visit from London and is a great day out for all the family.

5. Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

The London residence and administrative headquarters of the King of the United Kingdom. Every day, visitors from all over the world line up outside the Palace gates to watch the changing of the guard ceremony, an impressive display of the British monarchy. The Palace is open during the summer months to visitors, who can view the impressive state rooms and take a tour of the extensive landscaped gardens. Don’t miss the Changing of the Guard Ceremony that takes place outside Buckingham Palace which you can view as part of our London sightseeing day tour .

6. Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House

Number 6 of our top 10 castles & palaces in England is the country estate of Chatsworth House. Officially the home of the Duke of Devonshire, this grand house is set in the Peak District which is one of the most beautiful regions of the UK. The house includes impressive paintings by da Vinci and Rembrandt and many grand rooms filled with lush furnishings and decor.

7. Warwick Castle:

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is a perfect day out for the family and one of the finest medieval English Castles . This impressive 1,000 year old castle has been re-imagined as a kind of adventure playground for kids with loads of activities for all the family. There’s a maze, a dungeon, and plenty of towers to climb.

8. Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle

For those looking for an off-the-beaten path castle to visit then this one might just be for you. In terms of dramatic settings it doesn’t get more impressive than Bodiam! This castle moat was built in the 14th Century to defend the area against a French invasion and has been carefully restored in recent years, with plenty of fascinating rooms to explore. Given its remote location, Bodiam Castle is best reached by car, although there are a few transportation options that will get you there… eventually!

More info:  Click here Private Tour:  Click here

9. Tintagel Castle

For those who like myths and legends this is the castle for you! King Arthur’s legends are closely connected to Tintagel . The story goes that it was here that Arthur was conceived and he would of course later go on to be a legendary warrior renowned for his extraordinary bravery.

10. Stay in a Castle

Don’t just visit a castle, but stay in a castle ! There are lots of castles and country houses that have been converted into luxury hotels. Many of these are located within driving distance of London and are an amazing way to experience the life of a king or queen!

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The 10 Best Castles to Visit in the UK

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I still remember the first time I saw the Tower of London. I was awed by the site of a medieval building that still towered over much of modern London , and as a child, I quickly came to love the myths, history, and legends embedded in the UK’s best castles. 

From then on, I was hooked, and ever since, I’ve taken every opportunity to explore my home country’s heritage through its castles. In Edinburgh , the battlements of Edinburgh Castle still dominate the Scottish capital, while in Northern Ireland and Wales , imposing fortresses tell stories of blood conquests and rebellions. 

With so many famous castles in the UK, you might not know where to begin. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of the absolute best castles to visit for you. Stick to these fun and fascinating recommendations, and there’s no doubt you’ll have an incredible time exploring the UK’s history!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase or booking through one of our links we may earn a small commission (don’t worry, it’s at no extra cost to you).

1. The Tower of London

The Best Castles in the UK: Tower of London

Looming large over the banks of the River Thames, the Tower of London is one of the most iconic castles to visit in the UK. Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Norman king ordered the construction of a mighty fortress to lord over his newly conquered kingdom. 

The original White Tower still stands today, but successive monarchs have added layer upon layer of ramparts and fortifications through the centuries, resulting in an impressive walled castle that still guards the royal family’s Crown Jewels to this day. 

The Tower of London is steeped in bloody and brutal history. Take a guided “Yeoman Warder Tour” with the famous Beefeaters who guard the gates, learn about the Ravens, see the armory, and hear the harrowing tale of the Princes in the Tower. 

2. Warwick Castle

Best Castles to Visit in the UK: Warwick Castle

One of the most instantly recognizable UK castles, Warwick Castle is a postcard of medieval England. Overlooking the historic town of Warwick on the banks of the River Avon, it was originally founded as a wooden motte and bailey castle in 1068. 

The vast bastions, ramparts, and stone towers that you see today were added during the ferocious Barons’ Rebellions of the 12th and 13th centuries, while many more defensives were upgraded when England was under constant threat during the later Hundred Years’ War with France. 

In the 17th century, large parts of the walls and facade were turned into a lavish country home for the Earls of Warwick, creating a uniquely contrasting picture of war and peace through the ages. 

Warwick Castle is now one of the best-preserved medieval sites in England, but in more recent times, the Earl of Warwick sold their ancestral seat of power to a theme park company. They’ve added less-than-accurate jousting tournaments, medieval reenactments, and even a medieval glamping site, but it’s all part of the fun for kids and families!

3. Caernarfon Castle

Must Visit Castles in the UK: Caernarfon Castle

There are more castles in Wales than anywhere else in Europe, and that’s thanks to the endless attempts by medieval English kings to conquer their neighbors. Caernarfon Castle , with medieval walls designed to emulate the grand fortifications of Constantinople, is by far the most impressive, and you’ll find it overlooking the Menai Strait in northwest Wales. 

Caernarfon Castle was one of the most expensive and technologically advanced castles of its day because King Edward I intended it to be a big statement to the rebellious Welsh princes who refused to submit to English rule. 

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Caernarfon Castle still holds huge significance today, and it’s here where the Prince of Wales (the next in line to the British throne) is always invested in a grand ceremony. 

4. Edinburgh Castle

The Best Castles in the UK: Edinburgh Castle

When you’re in Scotland, you’ll find one of the best castles in the UK in Edinburgh. The Scottish capital has long been dominated by Edinburgh Castle , which sits on a volcanic outcrop that towers above the city.

Take a stroll along the Royal Mile, and at the western end of this historic medieval thoroughfare, you’ll find the imposing gates to Edinburgh Castle. Castlehill has been fortified since the Iron Age. Even today, the castle is home to active units of the British military, and you can learn more at the National War Museum inside. 

Edinburgh Castle hosts the annual Royal Military Tattoo every August. It’s home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, and after touring the ramparts and towers, you can even enjoy an afternoon tea in the tea house.  

5. Bamburgh Castle

Best Castles to Visit in the UK: Bamburgh Castle

Thousands of years of British history are etched into the stone battlements of Bamburgh Castle , which has long guarded the Northumbrian coast. Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, and Normans have all fought fierce battles to control this strategic fortification in northeastern England, and today, it’s one of the best castles to visit in the UK.

You’ll be struck by the isolation when you first visit Bamburgh Castle. Located atop volcanic rocks, from the windswept ramparts, you’ll have sweeping views across an undeveloped coastline and over the sea toward the Farne Islands. 

6. Dover Castle

Must Visit Castles in the UK: Dover Castle

Overlooking the English Channel, Dover Castle is one of the largest and most intact medieval castles in England. The port town of Dover has long been the gateway between England and France, and you can still see the crumbling remnants of a Roman Pharos, or lighthouse, within the castle grounds.

While Dover has been fortified for thousands of years, the medieval castle you see today was largely constructed by King Henry II in the 12th century. He built the Great Tower – a stone keep that was intended as much to be a statement of power to the French as it was a fortress. 

Dover Castle continued to evolve in later centuries, with gun batteries and forts added during the Napoleonic Wars and air raid shelters and command tunnels dug out during World War II. 

7. Tintagel Castle

The Best Castles in the UK: Tintagel Castle

The northern coast of Cornwall is a rocky and rugged place, and the mist-strewn cliffs overlooking the Bristol Channel hide as many legends as they do history. This is the mythical land of King Arthur, the great savior of the ancient Britons, and within the crumbling ruins of Tintagel Castle , it’s difficult to know where myths meet reality. 

Tintagel Castle is inextricably linked to the stories of King Arthur, with medieval writers presuming that this was where the mythical figure was conceived. King Arthur probably never existed, but Tintagel Castle was the seat of power of the last independent Cornish kings, and the strategic coastal location had been occupied for thousands of years.

Drawn by tales of Merlin, Arthur, Lancelot, and Guinevere in the 13th century, Richard, the 1st Earl of Cornwall, decided to build a modern castle on the ruins. The remains of this castle are what you see today, once you’ve crossed the windswept footbridge separating the eroding island-fortress from the mainland.

8. Leeds Castle

Best Castles to Visit in the UK: Leeds Castle

Not to be confused with the Yorkshire city of the same name, you’ll find Leeds Castle in southern England, where tales of royal intrigue await. One of the most picturesque castles in the UK, you’ll love how Leeds Castle was built on the islands of the River Len. 

Cross the natural moat by walking over the stone bridge, and inside, you’ll find a history dating back to the 9th century AD. Leeds Castle fell into royal hands in the 13th century, and King Edward I spent much time here when he wasn’t battling with the Welsh and the Scots. 

King Henry VIII would later present the castle to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and during the English Civil War, it would be used as a prison. In the 20th century, Leeds Castle became a hospital during World War II and was then used as a venue for peace talks between Egypt and Israel in the 1970s.

9. Carrickfergus Castle

Must Visit Castles in the UK: Carrickfergus Castle

Cross over the Irish Sea, and you’ll find that just as they did in England and Wales, the conquering Normans made a habit of constructing impressive castles in Northern Ireland, too. You’ll find one of the best castles in the UK on the shores of Belfast Lough, where Carrickfergus Castle has seen more than its fair share of sieges and battles in this turbulent part of the country. 

Dating back to 1177, Carrickfergus Castle controlled the gateway to Belfast for centuries, and the cast of characters that have played a role in the castle’s legend include the likes of Robert the Bruce and King John.

Take a day trip from Belfast , or call in while driving the Causeway Coastal Route, and you can discover how Carrickfergus Castle has shaped Northern Ireland’s history through the centuries.  

10. Dunvegan Castle

The Best Castles in the UK: Dunvegan Castle

Beautifully remote and romantically placed on the shores of the Isle of Skye, Dunvegan Castle is one of the most incredible castles in the UK and a must-visit when you’re exploring Scotland. Part of the sprawling MacLeod Estate (and the traditional seat of power of the MacLeod Clan), the castle is perched atop a craggy outcrop above Loch Dunvegan.

The oldest parts of Dunvegan Castle date back to at least the 13th century, but in the Victorian era, much of the crumbling masonry was replaced with a more romanticized style of Baronial architecture that was popular at the time. Even if you’re not into history, you’ll love the scenic beauty of this outstanding UK castle!

There you have it! The best castles in the UK. What are your favorite UK castles to visit? 

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Best Castles to Visit in the UK

Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities. Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot). When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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25 Most Beautiful Castles in England

By Jamie Gambetta · Last updated on March 3, 2024

Built to keep enemies out while protecting the safety and comfort of those within, England ‘s castles have long captured the imagination of travelers from around the world. Castles first appeared in Britain during the 11th century during the Norman Conquest and continued to be constructed well into the 18th century, although the later castles were built more for show than for fortification.

Today, there are hundreds of castles in England in various stages of restoration or states of decay. Many have become popular tourist destinations, offering visitors the chance to see how life in a real castle compares with storybook tales of towers, turrets and untold treasure.

25. Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle

Built as an 11th century border stronghold, Ludlow Castle is a place to experience the historic lodging of former kings, queens, and nobility. It peels back the curtains and reveals life in the Medieval era and Tudor society for those in power.

The castle came to be two decades after the Norman Conquest. In the 15th century, it was the scene for the Wars of Roses before becoming property of the Crown. From then, the upper echelon of society resided and married here.

Today, the castle has a balance of ruins and preserved buildings, including accommodation and wedding space. With views over the beautiful Shropshire countryside, take pause on your adventures to admire the resounding scenery.

24. Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle

Owned by His Majesty the King (King Charles III), Lancaster Castle boasts over 1,000 years of heritage. Tales of justice, felony, victory, and defeat ring throughout its hallowed walls.

The castle grounds date back to the Roman era. It was chosen thanks to its commanding position overlooking the River Lune and Lancaster town. After years defending it against the Scots and Picts, witch trials took place here. Dozens of them.

Over 200 souls lost their lives here. So, you can only imagine the haunting tales and spirits that reside here. Head to the Drop Room to find out more.

Aside from being a fortress, the castle also served as the Europe’s longest operation prison until it shuttered in 2011.

23. Herstmonceux Castle

Herstmonceux Castle

In East Sussex, Herstmonceux Castle is surrounded by a moat, formal gardens and seemingly endless woodlands. Take one look and it’ll be clear why this estate was such a beloved retreat among Victorians and other nobility.

Built in 1441, it immediately became the largest private home at the time. With great preservation, it remains a gem to explore. Begin with a walk to the moat’s right side for amazing views of the facade reflecting on the water.

After entering through the gate, you can explore the seven formal gardens and the ancient avenue of chestnuts. Inside the castle, you’ll find rooms and chambers complete with period furniture.

22. Dunster Castle

Dunster Castle

A thousand years of history welcomes all who visit Dunster Castle. In Somerset, the ancient castle combines with its dramatic views and subtropical gardens to create a memorable experience.

On a quick-rising wooded hill, the ruins of the Norman-era castle showcase the effects of its turbulent past. But, beyond the crumbling tower and the head-turning medieval gatehouse, much remains intact.

This is due to the Luttrell family, who lived here for six centuries, transforming the castle into a luxurious country home. It helps to show the castle at its zenith, without taking away the history.

In addition, you’ll find gorgeous gardens complete with local and Mediterranean plants. A trail guides you through, eventually leading you down to the river and the still-operating windmill.

21. Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle

On the clifftops of North Cornwall, the ruins of Tintagel Castle stand. Believed to be the birthplace of the iconic King Arthur, Tingtagel is shrouded in legend – aplace that has gone on to inspire endless authors, poets, and romantics.

An utterly dramatic landscape awaits all who visit, and it all begins with an unforgettable traverse of footbridge. One that runs across a 190ft gorge.

On the other side lies the legend of Camelot, the myths of Merlin, ancient catapults, and armory. From there you can scramble across the ruins and retrace the steps of historic figures on your way to the King Arthur statue. The more you climb, the more grand the coast views become.

20. Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle

The historic beauty and haunting ruins of Kenilworth Castle are merely the appetizer for those who visit. What’s left of one of England’s most formidable medieval fortresses helps tell the tale of royal scandals as much as famed sieges.

With the help of the castle docent, you’ll be able to explore the true nature of the royal romance between Robert Dudley and Elizabeth I. Including how he transformed this castle into an opulent palace as a way to impress his queen.

Later, after extensive renovations, you can enter Elizabeth I’s private rooms. Before completing your journey in the castle’s resplendent garden, home to a bustling aviary and marble fountain.

19. Warkworth Castle

Warkworth Castle

A hilltop fortress and hermitage, the Warkworth Castle will have you ready to anoint yourself as king or queen. Set above the rolling River Coquet, the castle is a portal to the era of the Dukes of Northumberland and the world of the Percy family.

Enter Warkworth Castle to explore the chambers and state rooms that are spread across the majestic cross-shaped keep. As you do, you’ll follow in the footsteps of Harry Hotspur, the bane of Scottish raiders, who was immortalized by Shakespeare.

Interactive trails later take you through the castle grounds and the circuit of towering walls. Sculptures are set along the way the unveil the lives of other inhabitants from as far back as the 15th century.

18. Durham Castle

Durham Castle

The centerpiece of the town’s World Heritage Site, the Durham Castle is one of the oldest, continuously occupied castles in England.

Dating back to the 11th century, the castle is far removed from its days as a Norman fortress. While the Prince Bishops of Durham have also moved on. Today, it welcomes the students of Durham’s University College. A unique educational experience if you ask me!

The presence of students and the university culture infused Durham Castle with a sense of living history. The atmosphere draws you in and makes it a fun place to explore.

As you do, you’ll come across some of the castle’s 250 pieces of art, a large number of which are oil paintings. To finish off, check out the incredible Arms and Armour collection.

17. Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle

Many English castles were strategically placed to deal with battles. The others were the homes of kings, queens, and nobles. There are a few exceptions, however. Bolsover Castle is one of them.

A visit here is a journey back to the lavish aristocratic extravagance of the late Renaissance. Although it was built in the 11th century, the castle rose to prominence 400 years later when Sir Charles Cavendish came to town.

The horse-mad, playboy son inherited the grounds. Today, you can see the Little Castle luxurious state rooms, laden with rich murals and opulent luxury.

But that’s just the beginning. The entire estate is an allegorical journey through the best of Renaissance luxury and heavenly delights.

16. Tattershall Castle

Tattershall Castle

On the flat fens of Lincolnshire, Tattershall Castle has weathered the storms, the decay and the conflicts to showcase much of its original medieval designs.

Built in the 1400s, the moated castle reached its prime during the Tudor period. The Civil War changed the fortunes of Tattershall, with only the Great Tower remaining. However, restoration efforts put much of the castle’s former pieces back together. You can still spot the Gothic fireplaces and cathedral-esque windows.

Once the home of the Treasurer of King Henry VI, a big part of exploring the castle and surrounding grounds are its archaeological finds. Your adventure back in time then leads to the gorgeous wildflower meadow that bodes for great photography.

15. Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle

It’s a castle, but not a castle. It stands on an island that’s also not an island. Lindisfarne Castle is like few others.

Originally built in 1550, it spent the better part of three centuries as temporary garrisons. But today it’s more renowned for its contemporary history and not its ancient past.

This is because the castle was built and transformed into a holiday home for Edward Hudson. It remains open to explore. At low tide, you can walk to Holy Island across the causeway.

Once you’ve arrived, you can explore the surprising grandeur behind the 19th century kilns, wander the shoreline and summer gardens. Inside, check out the galleries and Upper Battery for exception views of the Northumberland coast.

14. Dover Castle

Dover Castle

Standing upon the striking White Cliffs, Dover Castle is a veritable icon. Built in the years following infamous 1066, this enormous fortress has been at the forefront of royal affairs and momentous battles.

Thanks to Napoleon’s rise to power, Dover Castle underwent vital modifications mere decades after it was first built. These fortifications remain to this day and can be seen along the memorable Battlement Walk.

Soon the one of the world’s oldest lighthouses will come into view. A tower that once helped guide Romans across the English Channel. Speaking of towers, don’t forget to step into the Great Tower and take a journey back to the Middle Ages to discover the Medieval Court of Henry II.

13. Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle

The beauty of a visit to Sudeley Castle is the architecture and history is matched by the surrounding natural aura. In the Cotswolds, you’ll have ten magnificent gardens waiting to be explored.

Each one is different from the last, with the garden’s paths allowing you to follow the footsteps of the castle’s famous inhabitants. At the forefront is Queen Katherine Pire, the last of King Henry VII’s wives. She’s buried onsite, the only such queen to rest on private grounds.

As you move beyond the gardens and into the castle itself, you’ll find rooms filled with exhibits. These feature fascinating discoveries from as far back as the Roman era.

The castle is also a great destination for kids, with an Adventure Playground, safaris, and fun events throughout the year.

12. Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

Ever watched or heard of Downton Abbey? Well, the Highclere Castle is the show brought to life. Fans of the show will have a blast wandering the lush grounds, spotting the locations where pivotal scenes took place.

But there is more to Highclere Castle than being the set of a TV show. Records here can be traced back to the mid-8th century, a remarkable timeline.

Travelers can book tours of the castle, where you can wander the bonnie 13th century gardens that have been maintained for over 700 years. Later, you’ll enter the state rooms for a look into noble life. Afterwards, explore the Egyptian Exhibition within the former staff quarters which commemorates the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun.

11. Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle

In Kent, the Rochester Castle has been incredibly well-preserved. Strategically placed along the River Medway, along the Old London Road, the castle was first built in the 1100s.

In just its infancy, Rochester Castle would see plenty of action. In fact, the fortress walls and castles allowed it to be a chief stronghold in the rebellion against Bad King John. The only casualty? Losing an entire tower after a pig fat bomb exploded.

The keep would remain a viable military piece until the 1600s. Today, explorers can discover some of England’s finest Norman architecture and the tallest tower of its kind in Europe – all just steps away from the Cathedral which is an equally powerful symbol of medieval life.

10. Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

The ruins of Corfe Castle rest on a hill near a quaint village of the same name in the southern county of Dorset. Built in the 11th and 12th century, the castle was designed to intimidate would-be attackers with a limestone keep that stood 20 meters (70 feet) tall. The castle was famously defended for three years during the English Civil War by Lady Bankes.

During the final attack, Lady Bankes rained hot coals down at Parliamentary soldiers from her personal chambers. Like many of the fortified castles in England, the inner keep of Corfe Castle was then slighted, or dismantled, by its captors so that it could not be used by Royalist forces. Arrow slits and murder holes are still visible in the castle ruins today.

9. Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

The seat of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick is the second largest inhabited castle in England after Windsor Castle, the Queen’s favorite weekend home. Built during the 11th century, Alnwick Castle has been home to the Percy family for the last 700 years.

Although the present Duke and Duchess still live in a section of the castle, the rest is open to the public seven months out of the year. Alnwick Castle has been revamped, renovated and refurbished many times over the last seven centuries.

The castle’s rooms serve as rich backdrop for one of the finest collections of paintings in England, including works by Titian, Reynolds and Gainsborough. The exterior of the castle has been featured in several films and served as exterior shots for the Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter movies.

8. Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle

Located in the east of England in Suffolk, Framlingham castle is a perfect example of the classic “motte and bailey” fortifications of the 11th and 12th century. Bailey is the term for the protective outer wall of the castle; motte refers to the hill or raised earthwork upon which the castle is constructed. Today, the stockade and 13 towers attract visitors who come to walk along the top of the castle wall.

Framlingham played an important historical role during the Tudor Period when the Howard family owned the castle. Henry VIII seized the estate, Queen Mary returned it and Elizabeth I took it back again. After her death, the castle was once again returned to the Howards. The castle was donated to Pembroke College in 1636, and the inner buildings were tore down to build a poorhouse. Visitors can explore the castle’s history at the “From Powerhouse to Poorhouse” exhibition and can view the Howard family tombs at the nearby Saint Michael Church.

7. Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle

Large, grand, intact and surrounded by a wide moat, Leeds Castle is what many people imagine when they think of an English castle. Located in Kent in the southeast corner of England, the castle was constructed during the reign of Henry I and served as residence for royalty for much of its more than 900-year-long history.

Six queens called Leeds home, earning the castle the nickname “The Ladies Castle.” The castle’s last private owner was a woman as well. Olive Wilson Filmer, Lady Baillie, inherited the estate in the early 1900s and established the foundation that has run the castle as a tourist destination since her death in 1974.

From its lavish palace to its lush grounds, the vast 500-acre estate has more attractions than can be experienced in a single visit. The moat that surrounds the castle is actually a lake fed by the River Len, and punting on the water is a favorite activity. The castle grounds boast an elaborate yew maze as well as a turf maze designed for young children.

6. Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle

The seat of the Duke of Norfolk, Arundel Castle is located in West Sussex in the south of England. One of the best of the continually inhabited castles in England, Arundel Castle features a well-preserved interior filled with rare paintings, tapestries and furnishings. The castle’s oldest feature is its motte, the earthwork mound that lifts the castle 30 meters (100 feet) high from the now-dry moat below.

Arundel Castle has remained the residence of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for more than 850 years. Nearly destroyed during the English Civil War of the 17th century, the structure underwent many renovations over the centuries, and in the 19th century, the 15th Duke of Norfolk completed a long restoration project. Today, the estate’s 14th-century chapel, its exquisite gardens and many of the castle’s breathtaking rooms are open to the public.

5. Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Situated on the shore of England’s northeast county of Northumberland, Bamburgh Castle stands on an outcrop of volcanic stone along the coastline. With origins that date back as far as the 3rd or 4th century, Bamburgh Castle may have been the capital of the kingdom ruled by the native Britons known as Din Guarie. The core of present castle was built by the Normans in the 11th century, and it’s believed that Henry II ordered the construction of the castle keep.

In 1894, the Victorian industrialist William Armstrong purchased the castle and restored it. It remains the Armstrong family home today, but 16 rooms are open to visitors. Some rooms have been converted into exhibit halls for artifacts like Medieval armor, including the famous 7th-century Bamburgh Sword excavated from the site during an archaeological dig.

4. Tower of London

Tower of London

Construction for the Tower of London began in 1066 on the north bank of the River Thames. Although built as a fortified castle and royal residence, it was mostly used as a prison from 1100 to 1952. Many famous figures of English history were imprisoned within its walls, including royals like Richard II, Henry VI, Edward V and Elizabeth I. Two of Henry VIII’s six wives were beheaded on the Tower Green.

Although the castle’s official name is Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, the royal family has not used the Tower as residence since the Tudor period. The castle has been a popular tourist destination since that time, attracting visitors who come to see the castle’s menagerie, its amazing displays of armory and the nation’s Crown Jewels. Yeoman Warder tours led by knowledgeable, friendly and chatty “Beefeaters” are the highlight of a visit to the Tower of London.

3. Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 on a bend of the River Avon. Since its construction in the 11th century, the castle has undergone structural changes with additions of towers and redesigned residential buildings. Originally a wooden structure, it was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century.

During the Hundred Years War, the facade opposite the town was refortified, resulting in one of the most recognizable examples of 14th century military architecture. It was used as a stronghold until the early 17th century, when it was granted to Sir Fulke Greville, who converted it to a country house. It was owned by the Greville family until 1978 when it was bought by a leisure company.

2. Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle

Located to the southeast of London in East Sussex, Bodiam Castle is considered one of the best examples of a Medieval fortress, despite the fact that the 14th century structure was built more for status than for strength. After the conclusion of the 100 Years’ War, Richard II granted veteran soldier and landowner Sir Edward Dalyngigge a license to fortify his home as a measure of protection against French invasion.

Looking like something out of a fairytale, Bodiam has all the attributes that people expect when visiting a Medieval castle, from its soaring towers and battlements to its forbidding portcullis and moat. The interior of the castle lies in ruin, however. It was dismantled during the English Civil War in the 1600s to prevent the castle from being used by the enemy. In 1829, art philanthropist John Fuller purchased the castle for 3,000 guineas to save it from demolition.

1. Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Located about an hour west of London , Windsor Castle is often called the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world. It is one of the official residences of Queen Elizabeth II who spends many weekends of the year at the castle, using it for both state and private entertaining.

The earliest surviving buildings at Windsor date from the reign of Henry II who came to the throne in 1154. Originally designed to protect Norman dominance around the outskirts of London, Windsor Castle was built as a motte and bailey castle, with three wards surrounding a central mound. Gradually replaced with stone fortifications, the castle withstood a prolonged siege during the First Barons’ War at the start of the 13th century.

During the Tudor period, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I made increasing use of the castle as a royal court and center for diplomatic entertainment. Today, much of the castle, including the magnificent State Apartments and St Georges Chapel can be visited.

Map of English Castles

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Home » Travel Guides » United Kingdom » England » 15 Best Castles in England

15 Best Castles in England

England is home to some of the world’s best and most beautiful castles. Considering that England has had a long royal history that is still ongoing these days, it comes as no surprise that you would find beautiful castles and noble manors across the country.

Let’s have a look at some of the best castles in England:

1. Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Let’s jump straight in and start this list with Windsor Castle that proudly bears the title as the oldest castle in the world that is still inhabited by the royal family. On top of that, it’s also the largest, occupying approximately 5 hectares or 13 acres.

This Berkshire-based royal residence was built in the 11th century and took around 16 years to complete. Originally the castle was supposed to guard London against being approached from the Western side. Quickly, however, it became a royal residence due to its location and the fact that it was close to the royal hunting grounds.

The design of the castle is made up of two four-sided building complexes which are divided by the Round Tower that can be seen from far away.

Nowadays, the Queen uses the castle as both her weekend home as well as a royal residence for official duties.

2. Tower of London

Tower of London

Normally you wouldn’t expect to find a castle amidst a buzzing metropolis. However, if there is one place where it can happen, it’s England and its capital London. The Tower of London attracts nearly 3 million tourists each year, and even though it is notorious for being used as a prison, it is one of the most well-known castles and fortresses in England.

At the center of the complex is the White Tower, built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, and nowadays is the main attraction for tourists visiting the Tower of London.

3. Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle, England

Bodiam Castle is one of the best examples of Medieval castles in England and to this day retains its picturesque appeal featuring a moat and circular towers as well as a gatehouse entrance with twin towers.

Despite its near-perfect exterior, the interior hasn’t survived the test of time, however, enough of it remains to represent the inner layout of the castle.

The East Sussex-based castle was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, who deliberately built it to serve a defensive purpose.

4. Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

To anyone who has ever watched Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle will immediately seem familiar. The Victorian castle in Hampshire, built in the second half of the 17th century, is among the most beautiful castles in England.

Surrounded by 1000 acres of parkland, Highclere Castle was the home of Carnarvon family that lived there ever since the castle was built. However, previously the site was owned by Bishops of Winchester and an earlier home stood in the place of where Highclere Castle is now.

The castle features beautiful staterooms including a saloon with leather wall coverings, a state dining room, a library, music, drawing, and smoking rooms, all of which feature artwork and intricate interior details.

5. Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle

Despite what the name suggests, Leeds Castle isn’t actually located in Leeds but in Kent. A castle in the same location dates back to the 11th century, and two centuries later it became one of the preferred residences of King Edward I. In the 16th century, Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII also resided in Leeds Castle.

What is known as Leeds Castle today dates back to the early 20th century. The earlier castle had succumbed to a ruined state by the late 18th century, and in 1823 the new castle was finished in Tudor style. In 1926 Leeds Castle was bought by Anglo-American heiress Olive, Lady Baillie, who finished restoring the castle.

6. Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Few people would be left indifferent upon seeing Bamburgh Castle, which graciously sits perched on a volcanic dolerite hill on the northeast coast of England in Northumberland. Built on the site of a previous Celtic fort, Bamburgh Castle occupies nine acres on a rocky plateau.

Due to its unique look, Bamburgh Castle has been featured in various films and series over the decades.

7. Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle

Another well-known castle loved by both locals and foreigners alike is the Warwick Castle in Warwickshire. Originally a motte-and-bailey castle established after the Norman conquest of England, in the 12th century it was rebuilt in stone.

Located on the bend of River Avon, Warwick Castle features a dry moat along the northern side since there is no protection by the river. In the 14th century additions for defense were made by adding a gatehouse, Caesar’s Tower and Guy’s Tower, as well as a barbican.

8. Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle

The West Sussex castle of Arundel dates back to the 11th century even though just like many other English castles, large parts were entirely rebuilt later on, during the 18th and 19th centuries.

Arundel Castle is among one of the castles that were built by William the Conqueror.

During the English Civil War, the castle underwent serious damage but a new folly overlooking Swanbourne Lake was built in the 18th century.

Arundel Castle was one of the first English castles that enjoyed the luxury of central heating, electricity, and lifts.

9. Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle

Set amidst beautiful estates and parkland, Framlingham Castle is a late 12-century castle that was built by Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk. For over 400 years it housed dukes of Norfolk.

Framlingham Castle is a typical example of Medieval castle design. It overlooks River Ore and is made up of three parts. Surrounded by a mere and farmland, the castle consists of the Inner Court, the Lower Cour, and the Bailey.

Around the Inner Court, you can find carved chimneys, only three of them functional, the rest are ornamental, and these date back to the Tudor period.

Framlingham Castle is thought to be rather advanced for its time regarding military defense.

10. Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

In the English county of Northumberland, built after the Norman Conquest, Alnwick Castle is one of the first castles in England that was built without a square keep. The castle is separated from the town by a deep ravine on one side and has the River Aln passing on the other.

The castle consists of two parts – the inner ring contains principal rooms, and another part was constructed later to provide more accommodation. Both parts are connected by a link building. Along the outer bailey, the castle features towers at regular intervals.

Its uniquely picturesque appeal has made it a favored filming location for several films and series. Famously, it was featured in the first two Harry Potter films. Everyone who has seen the films will recognize the Outer Bailey as the location, where Harry and his fellow students learned to fly. The inner courtyards were also used to represent the Hogwarts school.

11. Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle is located at the very heart of England, in Derbyshire. The early 17th-century castle was built by Cavendish family on the site of a previous medieval castle. The castle is renowned for its slightly mysterious character, and in 2017 it was voted the spookiest English Heritage site.

Sitting on a ridge above the Vale of Scarsdale, Bolsover Castle was designed to be a comfortable residence rather than a defensive castle despite its visual appearance.

The main building that attracts attention from the whole complex is called the Little Castle. That’s the impressive square-shaped building overlooking the whole site, and it features beautiful wall paintings and interiors.

12. Dover Castle

Dover Castle

Dover Castle sits perched on a hill overlooking the blue waters of the English Channel. It has had significant importance historically thanks to its strategic location.

The current castle was built by Henry II, and the works started in 1180. Over the next centuries, the site and the buildings on it were changed. The adjustments were needed to meet the requirements of warfare. The walls reach a thickness of up to 21 feet and serve a defensive purpose.

In its lifetime, the castle has gone through two sieges. It also served an important purpose during both World Wars, again, due to its strategic location, overlooking the crossing to mainland Europe.

13. Rochester Castle

Rochester Castle

One of the best-preserved castle stone towers in England and even France belongs to Rochester Castle in Kent. The 12th-century Norman architecture keep is the main feature of the whole castle. Unfortunately, to this day, only the walls of the keep survive while floors and roof are no longer intact.

The castle’s construction began at the end of the 11th century by Bishop of Rochester, and the square towers were added approximately 40 years later.

The castle was one of the main strongholds in the rebellion against King John.

14. Durham Castle

Durham Castle

One of the English castles occupied by a university nowadays is the Durham Castle in the north of the country. Sitting on top of a hill above River Wear, the castle is an example of motte and bailey castles signature to Norman architecture.

Up to the 15th century, the Great Hall within the castle was the largest great hall in any castle in Britain.

Durham Castle had a strategic purpose controlling the Scottish border as well as English rebellions.

15. Herstmonceux Castle

Herstmonceux Castle

Herstmonceux Castle features a unique red brick design that beautifully sits in the surrounding landscape with a moat and a thick cover of trees. Built in the 15th century, the castle was originally a manor house which got rebuilt in a grandiose way using red brick – a rather rare and luxurious material for the time.

The castle grounds and gardens consist of over 600 acres of woodlands.

Nowadays the castle is occupied by Queen’s University, Canada and its international study centre.

15 Best Castles in England:

  • Windsor Castle
  • Tower of London
  • Bodiam Castle
  • Highclere Castle
  • Leeds Castle
  • Bamburgh Castle
  • Warwick Castle
  • Arundel Castle
  • Framlingham Castle
  • Alnwick Castle
  • Bolsover Castle
  • Dover Castle
  • Rochester Castle
  • Durham Castle
  • Herstmonceux Castle

Bamburgh Castle castles in England

The 15 Best Castles in England to Visit in 2023 – Which you’ll LOVE!

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  • Posted by by Elle-Rose
  • Updated: February 13, 2023
  • 7 minute read

Are you looking for a list of the most impressive and best castles in England to visit this year? This list should help!

If there is one thing England has in spades… It’s history and CASTLES!There are so many incredible castles in England to explore – and I’ve put some of my favourites in this list.

If you’re looking to explore some of the UK’s local history this year, then finding some of the best castles in England is a great place to start.

This list features some of my favourite castles in England, picked for their impressive architecture, or notable historic significance!

So let’s get into it! These are the best castles in England!

top 10 castles to visit in england

Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire

One of the best castles in England to visit this year is Sudeley Castle , Gloucestershire. The castle itself is a sight to behold, and it’s said that Katherine Parr is buried here on the castle grounds.

We do love some great royal connections when it comes to castles!

However, it’s not just the castle’s awesome royal history that makes it worth visiting. The grounds of the castle are possibly more beautiful than the castle itself.

With perfectly preened hedges and stunning, flowery gardens, it’s unsurprising that many people visit this area to relax and unwind in the castle grounds. It’s such a great choice for castles in England!

Admission to Sudeley Castle is reasonable, coming in at £16.50 for adults, and £7.50 for children. So, if you’re looking to live your best royal life, then be sure to head down for the day!

top 10 castles to visit in england

Warwick Castle, Warwick

Warwick Castle is not only one of the best castles in England to visit for its beauty, but it’s also got some great activities and extras that kids love.

This castle is old, and it’s been standing for about 950 years –impressive if we do say so ourselves.

Though some of the activities held here can be a bit cheesy, they’re great fun for the whole family. From creepy dungeons and ghost shows to excellent themed summer shows, Warwick Castle is a must-visit.

This is one of the best castles in England for activities and shows.

If you’re looking to experience the best of what the castle has to offer, then you’ll need to cough up a little bit of extra cash (if you’re looking to visit the dungeon for example).

However, we really do think it’s worth it, so consider splashing out on the full ticket if you pay Warwick Castle a visit, as it’s one of the top castles in England. 

Read more: 40 things to do in Warwickshire

top 10 castles to visit in england

Corfe Castle, Dorset

Next on my list of castles in England, it’s Corfe Castle. This is another really old castle that has a great deal of history behind it.

Though a lot of the history associated with Corfe Castle is difficult to prove (as it dates to the Saxon era), some of it’s gnarly and well worth learning about!

Much of the castle itself is a bit worse for wear, but much like Stonehenge, much of this castle’s beauty lies in the fact that it was built so long ago.  Sure, this option for castles in England isn’t ‘whole’ but it is beautiful!

If you fancy it, there are some great places to stay nearby that give you some excellent castle views.

If you really want to splash out (and we’re talking over £300 a room), you can book into Castle Cottage which is only five minutes from this landmark. 

top 10 castles to visit in england

The Tower of London, London

We couldn’t write a list of the best castles in England without mentioning the Tower of London! Though you might not immediately consider this a proper castle, we can promise you, it is.

The Tower is better known as one of London’s finest fortresses (as well as one of the best castles in England), and it’s even more well-known for its gruesome history.

If you’re partial to horrible histories, then a visit to the Tower of London will be just what the doctor ordered.

Covering everything from the execution of Anne Boleyn to the stories of the Princes in the Tower, you’ll never look at the Royal Family the same way again! 

This is one of the most important historical castles in England.

top 10 castles to visit in england

Dover Castle, Kent

Dover Castle is another one of our top picks for the best castles in England. The great thing about Dover Castle is that it offers a little bit of everything.

So, whether you’re keen on Roman Britain or Churchill’s office as Prime Minister, you’ll be able to find something out about it at Dover Castle !

This place is home to a great deal of British History, so you really need to spend more than one day exploring this castle to really appreciate it. 

With entry fees around £22 for adults and £13 for kids (which makes it an affordable choice for castles in England), it’s not an unreasonable day out for the family if you’re trying to cut costs!

A family ticket will probably save you even more, so it’s certainly worth looking into as there’s plenty to do. 

top 10 castles to visit in england

Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle is another great choice for castles in England to visit. Lindisfarne Castle certainly has the WOW factor, perched high on top of a hill, overlooking the Northumberland coastline – it’s a picture-perfect location.

This incredible looking castle was built in the 16th-century, and it’s definitely one of the most unique castles in England to visit!

top 10 castles to visit in england

Bolsover Castle, Derbyshire

Bolsover Castle is next on my list of castles in England! This Stuart Mansion was originally built as a massive entertainment venue, and it’s still got a reputation for being THE place to be.

With great views of Derbyshire on offer as well as a host of lavish rooms to explore, it’s the perfect place to visit with the family.

We highly recommend checking out the Riding House first (which makes this place unique on our list of castles in England), and then moving on to the extensive ground to let the kids run wild.

Well, not too wild, but there is a great fun play area that kids adore. 

Oh, and if you really want to be fancy, why not book in for a tearoom treat while you’re at Bolsover Castle? It’s been said that the scones with fresh cream and jam are just delightful. 

A great choice for castles in England to visit!

top 10 castles to visit in england

Middleham Castle, Yorkshire

A visit to Middleham Castle is a must if you’re heading to the Yorkshire Dales – and it’s a great option for castles in England to visit.

Known as one of the best castles in England to visit because of its awesome history (Richard III lived here once upon a time!), it’s certainly one to add to your must-see list.

This castle in England no longer has a roof, but the walls of the castle have survived well, and its ruins are truly a sight to behold.

If the castle itself wasn’t enough of a draw, you get some great views of Wensleydale from the viewing platform, so it’s a great place to visit for some photos.

Oh, and be sure to keep an eye out for the horse mill too! Castles in England are amazing and this is one of the top ones!

top 10 castles to visit in england

Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire

Kenilworth Castle is next on my list of castles in England to visit this year. Having been around for over 900 years, Kenilworth Castle has plenty of history to teach you about!

Whether you fancy checking out the famous Norman keep or would rather explore the majestic Great Hall, you’re sure to have an awesome time at Kenilworth Castle.

However, it’s not just the castle itself that makes it one of the castles in England to visit. Its grounds are a huge draw too! So, make sure you don’t miss them out when you book in to visit!

top 10 castles to visit in england

Windsor Castle, Windsor

Another iconic choice of castles in England has to Windsor Castle. It had to be on our list of the best castles in England!

Home to the Royal Family, this is easily one of the most iconic castles in England.

Located only 30 minutes from Central London, you can be at Windsor in a jiffy!

If you’re choosing to visit Windsor Castle, we highly recommend booking your tickets in advance. Though you can buy them on arrival, it does tend to get incredibly busy, so we recommend planning ahead.

This place has been the host of many royal weddings too – so there’s plenty of modern history as well as ancient history!

top 10 castles to visit in england

Bodiam Castle

This castle in England isn’t one of the biggest, but it is unique and that’s what I love about it! I love the little moat around the castle, and the grounds are wonderfully well kept.

In short- this is a picture-perfect choice for castles in England that you won’t want to miss!

If I had to pick one of the castles in England on this list to live in… I think this might be the castle I would choose! What do you think?

top 10 castles to visit in england

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is next on my list of the best castles in England. For me, Leeds Castle is one of the best castles in England, because it has the typical grand castle-look to it.

If you were to ask someone to draw a castle – it’d probably look something like Leeds Castle!

Interestingly though, Leeds Castle isn’t actually in the city of Leeds. It’s 5 miles southeast of Maidstone in Kent, and named for the tiny village of Leeds nearby.

top 10 castles to visit in england

Bamburgh Castle

If you’re looking for castles in England that are by the sea, then Bamburgh Castle will likely be what you’re after!

It could be argued that Bamburgh Castle is one of the most magnificent castles in England – situated right on the coast with incredible views of the ocean to enjoy.

This castle is like something out of a fairytale, and for that reason alone, it’s worth a visit.

It has also stood guard above the beautiful Northumberland coastline for over 1,400 years – which is quite an achievement!

Read more: The best things to do in Northumberland.

top 10 castles to visit in england

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle is next on my list of the best castles in England… and it’s another castle located in Northumberland.

Alnwick Castle is a pretty spectacular castle in England, it has towering walls and structures, and remains pretty intact too – so it’s ideal for exploring.

This castle in England has been around since Norman times (the 1300’s) so it’s seen it’s fair share of history! It has also seen it’s fair share of TV and movie location filming too! So you may recognise it!

top 10 castles to visit in england

Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle is next on my list of the best castles in England. Lancaster Castle is actually in the heart of Lancaster, so if you’re in the city for a weekend or a day, chances are you’ll easily be able to check this place out.

Lancaster Castle has over 1000 years of history, fascinating stories weaving through history at this castle in England.

Lancaster Castle is a great choice for castles in England as it’s one of the most significant castles in the north west and a perfect place to watch history come alive!

top 10 castles to visit in england

We hope that our list of the best castles in England to visit has been useful!

As you can see, there are SO many options across the whole of the country to visit castles in England!

So you’re sure to find the perfect castle in England to explore that’s not too far from you.

If you don’t mind venturing a little further afield.. then this list of castles in Aberdeenshire is also worth checking out!

So, what are you waiting for? Get planning, history seekers and check out these castles in England!

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Elle-Rose is the owner and editor of The World and Then Some! She has been a professional travel writer for over 12 years, writing for many different publications, including this one. Elle-Rose is a city break expert, and she specializes in popular locations such as NYC, London, Las Vegas and Dubai, regularly visiting to stay on top of new attractions, restaurants and hotels. Elle-Rose is super active on TikTok (@theworldandthensome), and loves filming video content in the cities she visits - so go and say hello!

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The 13 Most Beautiful Castles in England

Visit these castles in England for a fairy-tale vacation.

VisitBritain/Yin Sun Photography 

If there’s one thing England does better than anywhere else in the world — aside from medieval playwrights, pub lunches, and 1960s boy bands — it’s castles. 

This is, after all, a country that is home to nearly 800 surviving stone fortresses, some dating back as far as the 11th century. Whether you’re a dedicated Harry Potter or Downtown Abbey fan, a passing history lover, or a genuine drawbridge devotee, read on for the ultimate fortified favorites to add to your next English itinerary. 

Arundel Castle, West Sussex

VisitBritain/Pete Seaward

An easy hour's drive or train ride from London, Arundel has been home to the Dukes of Norfolk for more than 850 years, and they’ve done a fine job with its upkeep. This was one of the first castles in Europe to have central heating, electricity, and elevators in the towers, and it remains in excellent condition today. Visitors can check out many of its magnificent rooms, as well as its 14th-century chapel and exquisite gardens. Meanwhile, the quaint town of Arundel, huddled about the foot of the castle, is well worth exploring, too (particularly the legendary Black Rabbit Pub , which serves one of the best Sunday roasts in Sussex). 

Highclere Castle, Hampshire

Peter Orr Photography/Getty Images

The “real” Downtown Abbey, Highclere was built in the late 17th century, making it one of England’s youngest major castles. It is also indisputably one of the most beautiful, with its intricate state rooms, elegant saloon, and palatial dining room. A big part of the appeal is its sprawling grounds — best enjoyed with one of the castle’s famous picnic hampers, containing impeccable sponge cakes, scones, and sandwiches, as well as a demi-bottle of Joseph Perrier Champagne. 

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Mark Kerrison/Getty Images

Royal watchers (and fans of The Crown ) will be well aware of Windsor Castle , the family home of British kings and queens for over 1,000 years — and still a residence of King Charles III today. Famously the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world, the good news is plenty of the property is now open to the public, including the grandiose State Apartments and gothic St. George’s Chapel, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married.   

Alnwick Castle, Northumberland

Gannet77/Getty Images

Doubling as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter movies, Alnwick has been occupied by the Dukes of Northumberland for over 700 years. The current duke and duchess live in a private part of the 11th-century fortress, but the rest is open to the public for seven months of the year, with highlights including an important gallery of Italian paintings, a lavish library, and a dedicated Harry Potter tour — including broomstick lessons in the courtyard (Golden Snitch not included).    

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

Jacob King - PA Images/Getty Images

One of the oldest fortified citadels in England, Warwick Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068 but has been refortified several times since. Today, the huge castle is “full to the turrets” with family-friendly activities, including dungeon tours, fiery ballista demonstrations, and jousting tournaments. Overnight rooms are available in the castle (including tower suites with four-poster beds) or the riverside Knight’s Village, where you’ll find a cozy collection of woodland lodges.

Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland

Forget your regular dukes and lords; Bamburgh Castle was home to the Anglo-Saxon kings of Northumbria before England was even a country. Today the breathtaking building, perched on a dramatic rocky outcrop overlooking the wild North Sea, is considered one of Europe’s finest coastal fortresses. When you visit, don’t miss the dazzling collection of medieval armor in the state rooms, or the famous Bamburgh Sword — a seventh-century weapon shrouded in myth.

Leeds Castle, Kent

ptaxa/Getty Images

Despite its name, you’ll find Leeds Castle hundreds of miles from the city of Leeds, on a peaceful lake island in the middle of Kent. Surrounded by a handsome moat, the history of this fairy-tale fortress goes back 900 years and involves no less than six queens calling it home (hence its nickname, “The Ladies Castle”). The gardens are almost as photogenic as the castle itself and include a fiendish circular maze, mirroring the shape of a queen’s crown.

Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire

Visit Britain/Sudeley Castle LLP

Considering its importance in English history, it’s baffling how Sudeley Castle is not better known. Tucked away in the idyllic Cotswolds near the pretty market town of Winchcombe, it was a favorite of influential monarchs ranging from Richard the Lionheart to Queen Elizabeth I. Highlights include the "20 treasures of Sudeley," a collection of important artifacts that altered the historical narrative, and a charming 15th-century chapel in the gardens, the final resting place of Katherine Parr, the sixth wife of Henry VIII and the most infamous “survivor” of the Tudor era. 

Framlingham Castle, Suffolk

Heritage Images/Getty Images

A perfect example of the “motte and bailey” fortifications of the 11th and 12th centuries, Framlingham Castle sits in the rolling Suffolk countryside, about a 30-minute drive northeast of Ipswich. Famed as the place where Mary I was first proclaimed Queen of England, modern visitors can hike around the castle’s intact curtain wall, enjoying magnificent views of the nearby River Ore before retiring to the castle café for a well-earned pot of tea.

Rochester Castle, Kent

Strategically placed by a vital river crossing on the old London Road, Rochester Castle is a miraculously well-preserved 12th-century keep — particularly considering the number of battles it’s seen over the centuries. One of the main strongholds in the rebellion against Bad King John, it lost an entire tower to a pig fat bomb in 1215 but was rebuilt under Henry III, remaining a viable fortress until the 16th century.   

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

David C Tomlinson/Getty Images

If you like your strongholds encircled with a deep moat, then Bodiam is the castle for you. Built in 1385 to defend England against a feared French invasion, it ticks all of the classic battlement boxes: stout round towers, traditional gatehouse, and an intimidating  portcullis. Sadly, this medieval beauty — just 14 miles from the picturesque Sussex coast — is largely just an external stone shell today. But what a shell. 

The Tower of London

VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett

Although best known as England’s most ignominious prison during the Middle Ages, the Tower of London was built as a fortified castle and royal residence and remains both to this day. Supposedly one of the most haunted buildings in the country (two of Henry VIII’s wives were beheaded here, for starters), it’s also one of London’s top tourist attractions. Nearly three million visitors flock here every year to see the ravens, the dungeons, and the crown jewels on popular tours led by the larger-than-life Yeoman Warders, or “Beefeaters.”   

Dover Castle, Kent

Medioimages/Photodisc/Getty Images

Nicknamed “The Key to England” due to its defensive significance, Dover Castle looks out over the blue waters of the English Channel towards France — a mere 21 miles away. Built in the 12th century, it is unique among England’s ancient fortresses in that it continued to serve a defensive purpose until well into the 20th century. The highlights here are the unmissable secret wartime tunnels, the robust Great Tower itself (now an interactive museum), and the remains of a Roman lighthouse, which dates from the year 50 and is one of the oldest standing buildings in Britain. 

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top 10 castles to visit in england

22 England’s Best Castles To Visit [Castle Guide]

For many people the word ”England” it’s always been associated with medieval castles, palaces, knights and queens.

Thanks to the filming industry, English Castles are advertised on a big scale.

Lindisfarne castle

It is indeed the land of castles which are spread across the country from sea to sea, and many of them are still standing mightily today!

If you find yourself a castle lover, below you have an ultimate guide to the most beautiful castles you can visit in England.

Each of the buildings has its own magnificent story behind where you can step back almost thousands of years.

1.Windsor Castle, the Queen’s Weekend Home. 

Windsor Castle

Being the home of 39 monarchs since the 11th century, Windsor Castle embodies almost a thousand years of architectural history.

William the Conqueror built Windsor Castle during his campaign in England designed to protect their presence in the outskirts of London.

Like many other castles at that time it was initially a wooden motte-and-bailey castle which later upgraded to stone fortifications.

Windsor Castle had seen all the ups and downs of England’s Middle Ages and modern history , from the Baron’s War up until Second World War when it served as a bombing refugee for the royal family.

To the present day, Windsor is the Queen’s weekend’s favourite residence which is also the world’s longest-occupied palace.

Daily thousands of tourists are heading to the Castle to find out more about its history, enjoy the guided tours or just to have a picnic on the family day.

As it’s located just on outside of M25, it will take you half an hour by car and 40 minutes by train which are running regularly from Paddington train station in central London.

Address : Windsor SL4 1LJ

Windsor Castle's location on the map

2.Warwick Castle, a great family escape.

Warwick Castle

Located in the town of Warwick, Warwick Castle is another famous English fortress which William the Conqueror built during his conquest.

First built in 1068 like Windsor, it began as a wooden motte-and-Bailey type castle located on the bank of the River Avon.

Normans founded Warick with the intent of strengthening and control in the Midlands while William advances his armies to the north.

Warwick was used as a stronghold up until the 17th century when the Greville family converted it into a country house and lived up until 1978 when they sold it to Tussauds Group.

Today Nick Leslau is the owner of the site, but Merlin Entertainments are operating the Castle through a 35-year lease. 

Warwick has recommended itself as one of the best family out of Castles in the UK.

Once there, you will experience the guided tour through well maintained inside and out architecture, castle dungeon show with real actors, restaurants, picnic area, Knights Village accommodation and open-air events which include the world’s biggest functional trebuchet.

Warwick is also one of few castles in England that has its doors open for those wh o wants to spend Christmas in a castle .

Address : Warwick CV34 4QU

Warwick Castle on the map

3.Tower of London a 900 year-old fortress.

Tower of London

Officially Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London.

Also called a “White Tower” the Tower of London is one of England’s most iconic buildings.

William the Conqueror built the Castle in 1066 to an unprecedented scale to demonstrate the power of the Norman Kingdom.

The Tower of London hosted significant events in England’s history, including the executions of three English Queens.

The Castle is also a surviving example of the best Norman military architecture.

Ones inside it’s hard to realise that our ancestors could build such a tower almost a thousand years ago.

If you are in London for a weekend, we encourage you to check out the White Tower, as it’s easily accessible in the centre among many other attractions.

You can get to the Tower of London by walking about 7 minutes from Tower Hill (Circle & District Line) underground station or about 15 minutes from London Bridges Station(Northern Line).

Address : St Katharine’s & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB

Tower of London on the Map

Opening Hours

Wednesday-Sunday 10:00-17:00

4.Bamburgh Castle, a Northumberland Gem.

Bamburgh Castle

Another gem on our bucket list was built by William the Conqueror rising overlooking the village Baburgh gracefully on one side and the North Sea on the other.

The originally Celtic Brittonic fort build in 420, later passed between Britons and Anglo-Saxons three times and Vikings wrecked the fortress in 993.

In the year 1095 Normans built a brand new castle which is the core of the present Castle.

As all the castles on our list, Bamburgh has a rich background of events and famous owners.

In 1894 William Armstrong bought and restored the Castle, later he opened it to the public and still belongs to its family.

It’s a great family-friendly castle where you can easily reserve yourself a full day for it.

Getting there early enough will allow you to take advantage of all assets of the Castle; the interior, shop, cafe, a walk on the beautiful beach or even stay overnight in the Bamburgh’s accommodations.

If you’re spending a whole weekend in Northumberland, you might consider visiting Alnwick and Lindisfarne castles; both are 17 miles away.

Address : Bamburgh NE69 7DF

Bamburgh Castle on the Map

5.Bodiam Castle, England’s Most photogenic castle.

Bodiam Castle

The most iconic Castle of England by many reviews, even if you are not a castle lover, you must’ve seen it on the cover of the book, magazines, music videos or movies.

Edward Dalyingrigge built Bodiam in 1385, and it is more of a gorgeous fortified country house rather than a robust medieval castle.

Even though England was going through the Hundred Years War with France at the time, Sir Edward built the Castle more for showing off his influence and surprise the guests rather than to resist an attack of an invasion.

Lord Curzon donated the Castle in 1924 on his death to the National Trust and now is open to the public.

Bodiam Castle is in just 1.5 hours drive from London, where you’ll also enjoy England’s stunning countryside views on the way to the Castle.

By public transport, you need to get a train from Charing Cross to Hastings and the bus 349 to Hawkhurst, the bus stops in front of the main entrance.

Address : Bodiam, near Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5UA

Ticket Prices:

There is free entry to the castle grounds; however, there is a small fee for those who want to enter the Castle.

Opening Hours:  10:00am -04:00pm

Bodiam Castle on the map

6.Dover Castle, the Key to England.

Dover Castles, Best castle to visit in England

Also called in the “The Key to England” Dover castle was one of England’s most strategic border garrisons.

It’s an absolute must-see for castle enthusiasts as some sources say it is one of th e tallest Castle in England, along with Warwick, Rochester and the Tower of London .

You will step inside Henry’s great tower and explore the recreated WWI interiors, astonishing views for the rooftop over the English Channel.

You can see and feel even the dramatic events of World War Two by experiencing the Castle’s underground hospital and tunnels where the people from Dunkirk’s evacuation are made real. 

Dover Castle on the Map

There is also the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country and an Anglo-Saxon church and many more things to do and see at Dover castle.

It is a great family-friendly castle as you are allowed with your food and just have a picnic in the Castle’s courtyard.

Getting to Dover Castle 

If you’re in London, it will take you about two hours drive or by national express buses.

If you take the M2 route, you can have a stopover in Canterbury on the way if you have time, which is a lovely city to visit.

Address : Castle Hill Rd, Dover CT16 1HU

Opening Hours:  

Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 4 pm.

7.Highclere Castle, great for Downtown Abbey fans.

Highclere Castle, Best castles to visit in England

A magnificent country house built in 1679 and famous worldwide as the primary filming location of a historical drama series Downton Abbey.

During the First World War 5th Countess of Carnarvon Converted the Castle Into a hospital for wounded soldiers, and in the Second World War as a home for children evacuated from London.

Highclere Castle is a perfect stopover on your trips to Cornwall or Wales and not far from London.

The palace is an excellent family day out destination where you can explore the grand oak staircase, the estate rooms, and vast gardens recreating every scene from the popular series.

Explore the newly opened Egyptian exhibition, standard and special guided tours or even spend Christmas at the Castle 

Address : Highclere, Newbury RG20 9RN

Highclere Castle on the Map

Opening Hours:  9:30 am – 5.00 pm.

8.Leeds Castle, loveliest castle in the world.

Leeds Castle. Best castles to visit in England

Moving back to the east you can visit another beautiful English moated stronghold, the Leeds Castle.

You are probably asking yourself why it is called Leeds Castle? When everyone knows the city of Leeds is 250 miles away in Yorkshire.

But not many people know there is a small village next to the Castle, also called Leeds village.

Like many other English castles, it has all the features that a real castle tourist would love to see; gatehouse, drawbridge, portcullis and a massive lake-size moat which makes it unique.

Leeds Castle is often referred to as the “Castle of Queens” as it was a home for six medieval Queens.

Getting There 

Leeds Castle is just in. One hour and fifteen minutes drive from London and about 30 minutes for Dover ferry port, 4 miles from junction 8 of M20.

Address : Broomfield, Maidstone ME17 1PL

Leeds Castle on the Map

Opening Hours:

Grounds and Gardens 10:00am – 06:00pm

Castle. 11:00 am – 04:00pm

9.Arundel Castle, stunning architecture and gardens.

Arundel Castle, Best castles to visit in England

Arundel Castle is a restored and remodelled medieval castle in Arundel, West Sussex.

Roger the Montgomery, one of the principal councillors of William the Conqueror, established the Castle in 1067.

Castle experienced severe damage during the civil war and restored in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Today opened to the public with many fun activities for any age.

You can climb on the stone keep , squeeze through narrow passages and enjoy the view from the top of the walls.

Contemplate the fine art, fabulous furniture, regency library and statues in the staterooms.

Wonder through the explosion of colours in the castle gardens where you can also meet the Fitzalan Chapel and the history behind it.

During the guided tours, you will have a chance to transform yourself into a real knight by wearing medieval costumes with a shield and a sword.

Address : Arundel BN18 9AB

Arundel Castle on the map

  Adults £15.00

 Opening Hours:  Arundel castle is due to open 1st of April 2021

10.Framlingham Castle 

Framingham Castle

Framlingham Castle is a Motte-and-Bailey Castle located in the market town of Framlingham, Suffolk.

Built in 1148 and then destroyed by Henry ll in the aftermath of the revolt of 1173 and then rebuilt to a new mighty stronghold by Roger Bigod.

It might not offer as much as the other castles on this list, but it is still worth checking out if you are on a road trip to the east coast or Norwich.

By the reviews of our subscribers, it is a lovely family and dog-friendly castle ideal for a day out!

You can take the audio guide, climb on top of the wall and enjoy the view of the countryside and including the Mere and Framlingham College.

Getting to the Castle will take you about three hours by car and two and a half by train service to Ipswich and bus 118 to the Castle.

Address : Church St, Framlingham, Woodbridge IP13 9BP

Framlingham Castle on the map

Opening Hours:  10:00am – 04:00pm

11.Alnwick Castle, Harry Potter’s filming location.

Alnwick Castle

The fans of Harry Potters and Downton Abbey will recognise these walls almost immediately.

Built in the 11 century is one of the largest castles in England sometimes called “Windsor of the North”.

Normans built Alnwick with the intent to control the border with Scotland during the Norman conquest.

Today the Castle gets visited by over a million visitors a year thanks to its appearance in popular movies like: “Elizabeth”, “Robin Hood”, “Price of Thieves”, and “Harry Potter” “.

So if you plan to bring your whole family, get some snacks with you cause the kids will want to spend some time here.

Moreover, the castles can be overcrowded according to the latest reviews so allow plenty of time to see everything that Alnwick has to offer.

If you come for far and have a couple of days available in Northumberland check out Bamburgh and Lindisfarne castles which are about 40 minutes drive from Alnwick.

Address : Alnwick NE66 1NQ

Alnwick Castle on the map

Opening Hours:  10:00am – 4:00pm daily

12.Bolsover Castle a 17th-century aristocratic retreat.

Bolsover Castle

The Peverel Family built the first Castle on the site in the 12th century. Later in the 17th century, the Cavendish family reconstructed a new luxurious castle for entertaining influential guests.

Today is in the care of English heritage, and it’s open to the public.

It will entertain you and your family with its lavish rooms of the little Castle, ruined terrace range and views for the wall walk.

The Castle is about 3 hours drive from London and 1,5 hours from Birmingham. By public transport, you can get a train to Chesterfield and then bus A1 to the Castle.

Address : Castle St, Bolsover, Chesterfield S44 6PR

Bolsover Castle on the map

Saturday – Sunday 10am – 4pm

13.Rochester Castle, the castle of great English Sieges. 

Rochester Castle

Construction of the Rochester started in 1087, and it was strategically important as it helped to protect the east coast of England from invasion.

Historians call Rochester the “castle of destruction and rebuilding” as it went through the most bloody sieges in English history.

One of them was the epic siege in 1215 when King John crushed the southern wall down using the fat of 40 pigs to fire a mine, and after two months of battle the rebels finally gave up.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, owners carried out restoration works, and today it is under the protection of English Heritage.

Rochester Castle is a fantastic preserved piece of the Norman military architecture.

It will please any history lover with its history and beautiful gardens, The majestic Rochester Cathedral in the vicinity and the old town with bars and restaurants so obviously everyone loves it.

Rochester is located just one hour drive from London on M2 and only at 5 miles from junction 2.

Address : Castle Hill, Rochester ME1 1SW

Rochester Castle on the map

14 Durham Castle, a home for students.

Durham Castle

Durham Castle is a Norman castle in the city of Durham, England, which has been occupied since 1837 by University College, Durham after its previous role as the residence of the Bishops of Durham.

Built in 1072 soon after William the Conqueror arrived in the north there are still debates whether or not Durham castle has initially been a stone or wooden structure.

The Castle stands on the top of a hill overlooking the river Wear and the Durham cathedral.

As the Castle now is used as a home for students, visiting the Castle is only possible through guided tours.

By booking a guided tour, you’ll get to see two chapels, the black staircase, the long gallery Norman doorway arch in the courtyard.

The guides are highly rated by visitors as knowledgeable and enthusiastic.

Address : Durham DH1 3RW

Durham Castle on the map.

15.Herstmonceux Castle, English fairytale castle.

top 10 castles to visit in england

Yes, this Castle is located in England! as you would think it’s a French castle judging by the name.

Herstmonceux is a brick-built castle dating from the 15th century in East Sussex, and one of the oldest buildings in the country built from such material.

Herstmonceux Castle has seven gardens listed as Grade ll in the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens.

Moreover, the Castle also operates as an International Study Centre for Queen’s University in Canada, where students are coming every year to study in such a chill place.

It’s well worth seeing with the whole family, a brilliant stopover on your trip to the south coast.

England’s fairytale castle as many visitors describes it surrounded by fantastic woodlands.

Herstmonceux is child and dog friendly, has a coffee shop, information Center, and a shop. 

Address : Hailsham BN27 1RN

Herstmonceux Castle on the map

16.Lindisfarne Castle, a fortress on the Holy Island.

Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne is a 16th-century castle used as a border garrison with Scotland, an area which was fought not only by English and Scots but also by Vikings.

The Castle sits on the highest point of the island, on a whinstone hill called Beblowe.

Building the Castle started in 1550 when the local Priory went out of use and the stones from its masons were used as a building material for Lindisfarne Castle.

After the death of Queen Elizabeth the Castle lost its strategic importance, skipping a few centuries by the end of the 19th century it fell into disrepair.

The Castle is well worth a visit even though the rooms are empty of furniture and art at the moment.

All interior belongings have been taken away during the major restoration 2016-2018 and have not yet been returned.

Lindisfarne Castle, it’s unique and has its spectacular feeling and look when you explore it from the outside and also enjoy the view of the harbour, village and Cheviot Hills from the Upper Battery.

The Castle is open mid-February to the end of October or the first week of November (exact dates vary, but the Castle is closed for winter). Opening times vary by day, depending on tide times you can check on  their website.

You can quickly drive to the Castle but allow yourself plenty of time to fit between the tides; otherwise, the tide will force you to stay on the island overnight.

If you plan to stay overnight on and enjoy the dinner while everyone rushes to leave the island, there are some great guest houses to choose from.

Address : Holy Island, Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 2SH

Lindisfarne Castle on the map

17.Lincoln Castle, a great medieval walk.

Lincoln Castle

Lincoln Castle is another crucial castle built by William the Conqueror on top of a pre-existing Roman court.

Built in the 11 century Lincoln is different from other castles which William the Conqueror constructed at the time.

The Castle has two mottes (main building in the Medieval Castle) there are only two such castles in England, the other one is in Lewes, East Sussex.

Things to do and see at the Lincoln Castle 

Castle Grounds

Lincoln Castle’s grounds are open even during England’s lockdown and are a perfect area for the rest, picnic and explore the Castle’s history.

Medieval Wall Walk 

We encourage you to take advantage of the unique experience of walking on the Lincoln castle curtain wall.

It costs 10£ and is accessible by a spiral staircase or lifts and where visitors can walk the whole circumference enjoying the stunning view of the city and Lincoln Cathedral.

Georgian and Victorian Prisons

You can also explore the prison built in 1788 the only original of its kind left in the world.

DAVID PJ ROSS MAGNA CARTA VAULT

The Castle is home to Lincoln’s Magna Carta 1215 and Charter of Forest 1217.

Lincoln Castle is the only place where you can see these two documents together which shaped the society that we know today.

Address : Castle Hill, Lincoln LN1 3AA

Lincoln Castle on the map

Opening Hours:  10am – 4pm

18.Warkworth Castle, a home of Percy family.

Warkworth Castle

Now we are moving back to Northumberland where mighty Warkworth Castle’s waiting for its visitors on a loop of the River Coquet, less than a mile from England’s northeast coast.

The actual date of Warkworth’s foundation is uncertain. However, It was first documented in a charter of 1157–1164 when Henry ll granted it to Roger Fitz Richard.

Warkworth has been a home for many Noble families including the Percy family, whose lion budges can be seen on many parts of the stronghold.

English Heritage is looking after the site since 1984, which is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

What tourists love about Warkworth is that the staff is friendly at the entrance and the shop, the audio guide is free and informative.

The Warkworth village itself is beautiful, with late medieval cave Hermitage and chapel of a solitary holy man half a mile away.

Address : Castle Terrace, Warkworth, Morpeth NE65 0UJ

Warkworth Castle on the map

Opening Hours:  10:00 – 16:00

19.Carisbrooke Castle, Medieval Fortress on Isle of Wight.

Carisbrooke Castle

Strategically located in the middle of Isle of Wight, village Carisbrook, (near Newport), Carisbrooke Castle is a Motte and Bailey castle also.

It’s believed that the history of Carisbrooke dates back to the Roman invasion, where they might have built fortifications, but historians never proved.

Carisbrook is an Anglo-Saxon stronghold in the 8th century with a curtain wall built by the year 1000 as a defence against Vikings raids.

Carisbrooke Castle hosted Charles l as a prisoner for 14 months before his execution, and princess Elizabeth died here.

Now the Castle is under the care of English Heritage and is open to anyone visiting the island.

Shame to miss Carisbrooke Castles if you visit the island as it’s very engaging for both adults and children.

You can explore the history, walking around the walls, views the surroundings and have a nice picnic area.

Children will love the Castle’s activities, enjoy watching the donkeys operating the wheel, sword fitting and museum can keep them captivated for hours.

The Isle of Wight is easily accessible by ferry from Portsmouth, Southampton and Lymington to which trains are heading from London regularly.

Address : Castle Hill, Newport PO30 1XY

Carisbrooke Castle on the  map

Opening Hours:  10:00am- 4:00pm

20.St Michael’s Mount, the Cornwall’s top tourist attraction.

St Michael's Mount

At first glance, St Michael’s Mount looks like a smaller copy of the Mont Saint-Michel in France, which is just about 500km away across the English Channel.

Usually, St Michael is why many people are heading to Cornwall, one of the prettiest travel destinations in the UK among Lake District and Snowdonia in Wales.

Some records are saying there might have been a monastery from the 8th to early 11th centuries on the site.

Ancestors founded the monastic buildings, and the Castle during the 12th century, since then St’ Michael’s Mount went through an endless list of rulers and challenging events. 

Today both National Trust and the St Aubyn family are managing the Mount together bringing a unique experience for anyone willing to visit the island.

The Mount has a designated car park at your disposal in the town Marazion from where you take the causeway when the tide is out. 

We recommend getting there a little earlier when the causeway is not accessible to get some stunning shots before many tourists arrive.

Booking the tickets in advance and checking the weather is essential as can be a quite a windy place sometimes.

St Michael's Mount on the Map

The Mount is closed during the winter.

21.Lancaster Castle, discover England’s dark history

Lancaster Castle

Another English medieval castle located in Lancaster with unclear early history is Lancaster Castle.

Some chronicles say that Lancaster originates in the 11th century, built on the site of a Roman fort overlooking a crossing of the River Lune.

Lancaster Castle is the oldest standing building in the region, and the first owner used it as a prison in 1196.

Fully functional HM prison until 2011 and in the next year The Duchy of Lancaster (Her Majesty the Queen is the Duke of Lancaster) regained the ownership of the stronghold, and major restoration works started.

We recommend Lancaster Castle to any history enthusiast who wants to discover this magnificent medieval building and its importance in English history.

An excellent family castle where you’ll enjoy an entertaining and informative guided tour, a well-presented courtyard, Priory and a Roman bathhouse.

Address : Castle Grove, Lancaster LA1 1YJ

Lancaster Castle on the map

Lancaster Castle is open seven days a week.               

Opening Hours:  9:30 – 5:00 pm

22.Belvoir Castle, “The Crown” series filming location.

Belvoir Castle

The last on our list but not an unpopular one, Belvoir Castle is frequently appearing on TV in recent years.

Belvoir is a historic castle and a stately home 10km west of the town of Grantham, Leicestershire.

Built immediately after the Norman Conquest of 1066 and since the following owners rebuilt the Castle at least three times.

Today the  Manners Family  owns a corner of the Castle, and the rest of it is open to the public and filmmakers who are usual guests here.

Belvoir Castle played a significant role in films like;

Little Lord Fauntleroy  1980,  The Da Vinci Code  

Young Sherlock Holmes ,  The Young Victoria  2007 and recent Netflix worldwide blockbuster “ The Crown” .

If you are on a trip to East Midlands, Belvoir Castle is well worth a visit with the whole family.

It offers everything you would expect from a castle plus its unique architecture is well maintained throughout.

Beaver Castle’s interior it’s easy to explore, has gorgeous gardens and great food in the cafe.

Many people don’t know that can spend Christmas at Belvoir Castle

Believe me or not, you can also spend  Christmas at Belvoir castle , what an incredible experience it could be.

Address : Grantham NG32 1PE

Belvoir Castle on the map

Opening Hours:  10:00am- 4:00pm (Monday-Sunday)

Summary 

Thanks for stopping by and we hope the bucket list above was helpful to you!

 We always add new guides and information about castles all over the world, and you can explore more interesting facts and history in our  blog section  any time you want to sit down with a cup of coffee.

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17 Best Castles In England To Visit

Best Day Trips From London (10)

There’s no doubt that our country has some of the best castles in England. Now, it’s no surprise that I’m slightly biased here, but we’ve got hundreds of incredible castles that are just too beautiful to ignore. 

That being said, with so many castles in England, it can actually be hard to pinpoint just a handful to visit; especially when they’re dotted all over the country. That’s why I wanted to share some of my very favourite and best castles in England that I think you shouldn’t miss. It doesn’t matter what part, or beautiful places in England you’re heading to, I’m almost certain you’ll find one or two stunning castles along the way.

After all, this is what makes exploring England so amazing! 

It’s always so incredible to see castles that have stood for, in some cases, millennia, especially. To be honest, England has a history spans many thousands of years, with the castles being one stunning example of this. 

With that in mind, I wanted to share some of the best castles in England to explore on your next trip. 

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (1)

Take a look, below, at the best castles in England. Have the best trip! 

1.) Bodiam Castle

Bodiam Castle might be smaller than most, but it’s certainly one of the best castles in England to visit on your next trip. 

Best Day Trips From London (9)

Perched in East Sussex, this 14th Century castle has hundreds of years of history and can be easily explored. Built by a former Knight of Edward III, it was created to protect against the French during the hundred year way. 

Best Day Trips From London (10)

Take a wander around the castle, head across the moat and explore the long history of this stunning place. 

Read more: Best places in Southern England to visit

2.) Bamburgh Castle 

Visiting The Beautiful Bamburgh Castle & Farne Islands, England (54)

Bamburgh Castle has a written history dating back to 420AD, making it one of the older castles in England to exploring.

Situated on the Northumberland coast , it became the first castle to be ever defeated by artillery during the ‘War of The Roses’ in the 15th Century. Nowadays, you don’t need to worry about the War of the Roses and can easily head inside to explore the staterooms, grounds and the magnificent beach it looks over. 

Visiting The Beautiful Bamburgh Castle & Farne Islands, England (51)

The whole area is totally stunning and it’s easily one of the best castles in England to exploring when in the north. 

3.) Warwick Castle 

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (7)

There is so much history to explore around Warwickshire, with Warwick Castle being no exception. 

It’s easily one of the most preserved and best castles in England to visit if you want a day trip from London or Birmingham . After all, it’s under an hour by train from London so you have no reason not to visit.

4.) Lindisfarne Castle 

Visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, England (25)

Lindisfarne Castle is definitely one of my favourites and easily, one of the best castles in England – perhaps especially as it sits on the holy island in Northumberland, which gets cut off from the rest of the UK several times a day when the tide rolls in and the road to the island disappears.

Once a defensive castle between Scotland and England, this castle and the island itself has a long history that dates back thousands of years. In fact, it’s said that the Viking Age truly began here when the Vikings invaded.

Visiting the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, England (31)

After exploring the Holy Island and exploring Lindisfarne Castle, make sure to stop off for some of the famous mead (made from honey).

Read more: Visiting Lindisfarne Castle

5.) Lancaster Castle 

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (2)

Founded in the 11th Century, Lancaster Castle has a much older history than it lets on, especially at first sight.

Now, you might think that Lancaster Castle is pretty old when it already dates back to the 11th Century. That being said, underneath the foundations of the castle itself is a much older Roman fortress that was used by (you guessed it), the Romans. 

Take a wander around the grounds and explore one of the best castles in England to visit. 

6.) Cawdray Castle

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (4)

Visited by Queen Elizabeth I and King Henry VII, Cowdray Castle has a long history that dates way back to the 16th Century. 

Nestled within the countryside of West Sussex, Cowdray Castle is a gem to see when exploring the South Downs National Park .

Plus, you can quite easily pair this up with a visit to Arundel Castle and a stay at Amberley Castle whilst you’re here. It really is a gorgeous area that’s filled with some of the best castles in England. 

Read more: Best places to see in South Downs National Park

7.) Totnes and Berry Pomeroy Castle

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (12)

One of the best examples of a Norman Motte, Totnes (and Berry Pomeroy) Castles is a stunning place to explore for a few hours.

Situated on the River Dart, it’s easily one of the best castles in England to see if you love Norman history.  Plus, you can easily partner this up with a visit to the South Devon coast and the beautiful fishing village of Salcombe. 

Read more: Best places in southern England to see

8.) Tattershall Castle 

Tattershall Castle is one of a kind and a totally beautiful place to visit for a little day trip.

This 15th Century castle is one of the best castles in England if you want to see a redbrick example of a castle.

Oh, and don’t forget to take your walking shoes and enjoy the spectacular grounds that surround the castle. It’s a gorgeous area. 

9.) Dover Castle 

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (9)

The 11th Century Dover Castle is commonly referred to as the key to England due to its significant location in protecting the southeastern shores from continental Europe.

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (13)

Nowadays, we obviously don’t need that protection and it’s been opened up for us all to enjoy.

Take a wander around the castle grounds, see the beautiful architecture and partner it up with a little trip to the coast. 

10.) Framlingham Castle 

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (8)

The totally dramatic castle of Framlingham has some of the highest defence walls in the UK and easily one of the best castles in England to visit.

Once here, make sure to see the historic workhouse, see the Tudor chimneys and learn more about the history of this place. Afterwards, head for a stroll across the top of the walls (as long as you’re not scared of heights).

11.) Windsor Castle

An Afternoon In Windsor Castle... (Plus, 10 Things To Know Before You Visit Windsor Castle). (10)

Let’s be honest, Windsor Castle needs little introduction.

Home to the Royal Family, it’s easily one of the most iconic and best castles in England. Especially when travelling around the London region. 

An Afternoon In Windsor Castle... (Plus, 10 Things To Know Before You Visit Windsor Castle). (26)

Hop on a train from central London (about 30-minutes) and you’ll arrive right at the gates of the castle itself. It really is a stunning place to visit .

An Afternoon In Windsor Castle... (Plus, 10 Things To Know Before You Visit Windsor Castle). (22)

Just make sure to book your tickets before you go (to avoid disappointment). Plus, make sure no special events are planned as certain areas will be closed depending on the day. 

Read more: Best things to know for visiting Windsor Castle

12.) St Michael’s Mount

Places To Visit On The The Coast Of Cornwall, England (3)

Just off the stunning Cornwall coast , St. Michael’s Mount is picturesque and easily one of the best castles in England to see. This is especially true if you’re already visiting some of the pretty places in Cornwall or the west coast generally.

Take a wander around St Michael’s Mount, learn more about the history and see if you spot the resident giant that apparently lived close by. 

13.) Leeds Castle

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (6)

First off, don’t get confused, Leeds Castle isn’t in Leeds (in Yorkshire) but actually much further south (in Kent).

Interestingly, a castle (in one form or the other) has been present on this site for a whopping 800 years. Nowadays, the castle is filled with much less military and many more parties, picnics and live music.

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (10)

It’s a great place to enjoy a sunny afternoon and take in the culture of Leeds while exploring the castle grounds.

Now, entry costs can be a little more expensive than some other castles, but it’s really beautiful and well worth it for a day trip.

14.) Arundel Castle

The Magnificent Arundel Castle... In West Sussex, England (33)

Established on Christmas day, way back in 1067, Arundel Castle is one of the most iconic and best castles in England to visit.

The Magnificent Arundel Castle... In West Sussex, England (17)

Still a family home, you can head inside to explore some of the staterooms, see some accommodation quarters and explore the magnificent beauty of the grounds. 

The Magnificent Arundel Castle... In West Sussex, England (27)

Afterwards, head across to explore Arundel Cathedral , stay at the nearby Amberley Castle and explore a tasty English vineyard that’s only 30-minutes away. 

Read more: Exploring Arundel Castle in England

15.) Highcliffe Castle 

17 Best Castles In England To Visit (11)

Nestled within Dorset, Highcliffe Castle is a relatively new castle that was built within the 19th Century.

Interestingly, the castle might seem relatively new (as the best castles in England go). Though don’t be fooled, there is so much history here.

You see, the stones that Highcliffe Castle are built with are from Medieval Benedictine Abbey of St Peter in Normandy (France). There’s a whole wealth of history to explore.

Plus, whilst in Dorset, make sure to visit places like Durdle Door, Corfe Castle and the Jurassic Coast to look for fossils. There is so much to see and do across this area. 

Read more: Visiting Durdle Door

16.) Highclere Castle 

If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey, you will recognise this castle immediately!

Perched within the countryside of Berkshire, it’s totally stunning and easily one of the best castles in England to see.

Now, unlike the fiction home of the Crawleys in Downton Abbey (set in Yorkshire), Highclere Castle is actually not too far from London. This all makes it easy to visit on a trip around southern England. 

Read more: Best things to do in southern England

17.) Tower of London 

10 Beautiful Palaces In London You Have To Visit (18)

Although technically considered a palace in London , the Tower of London is one of the most iconic and oldest structures to see when in London. 

The history of this place is absolutely fascinating, so much so that you could easily spend hours here. Once inside, you can also check out the Crown Jewels, see the famous ravens and explore the turrets and history.

Read more: Pretty places in England to explore

The 19 Prettiest And Best Places To Visit In England

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21 Best Castles in Southern England to Visit from London [2024] + Map

England , a land steeped in the rich tapestry of knights , castles, and tales that seem plucked from the pages of a fairytale, ignites the imagination with visions of princes, kings, and legendary battles. Among these, the best castles in Southern England stand as majestic landmarks , each telling a unique story of a storied past.

This storied country, where history is etched into every hillside and echoed in the corridors of grand castles, invites you to step into a world where the echoes of chivalry and the whispers of bygone eras are as real as the stones that build its ancient fortresses. England’s historical landscape, particularly in the south, is a vivid tableau that stirs the soul, beckons the curious, and enchants the heart with its timeless legacy.

I have visited many English castles on day trips over the years as I live within a stone’s throw of London, England. In this post, I have handpicked the very best of the fairytale castles in Southern England, gems of history and beauty that beckons for exploration. There is a castle here for each of you, no matter if you’re a history buff, a lover of architectural beauty, or simply in search of a memorable day trip from London.

These castles are a treasure trove waiting to be explored, accessible by a car or train ride away from London, inviting you to step into a world where history and legend intertwine. Some castles are included as part of an excursion from London, and I’ve offered these options also.

Timeless Travel Steps is supported by our readers. If you purchase through an affiliate link on my site, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission from qualifying purchases. Please read our Disclosure for further information.

Arundel Castle on of the Best casltes in Southern England

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21 Best Fairytale Castles in Southern England

Southern England, a region, encompassing the South East and South West of England, is dotted with an array of castles, each narrating a tale as unique as the stones that built them. From Windsor Castle , a royal home steeped in centuries of history, to the strategic Dover Castle in the East, which once stood as a defensive bulwark under Henry VIII, represent a diverse array of architectural marvels.

In the South East of England, castles like Bodiam Castle and Arundel Castle rise from the landscape as symbols of medieval might and noble grandeur. Heading towards the South West, you’ll encounter different stories, echoed in the walls of manor houses and fortified residences like Broughton Castle.

Each castle, whether it’s the stately home of Hever Castle , the Tudor elegance of Leeds Castle, or the strategic fortress of Carisbrooke Castle, offers a glimpse into a past era. The gardens of these castles, as much a part of their history as the turrets and keeps, provide a serene backdrop, enhancing their appeal.

Uncover the stories of these magnificent castles, and the families that called them home. Castles like Highclere Castle, a country house famed for its role in the television series “Downton Abbey,” and Herstmonceux Castle, blend historical significance with contemporary charm. These castles, along with others in Southern England, have been preserved as part of the country’s rich heritage. They stand as a testament to the architectural and historical diversity that has shaped England over centuries.

Tower of London and the Shard Southern England

1. Arundel Castle, Sussex

Arundel Castle, located in Sussex, is a monumental piece of English history. Founded on Christmas Day in 1067 by Roger de Montgomery, it’s one of England’s longest continuously inhabited country houses. The castle beautifully encapsulates medieval and Gothic architectural styles, a reflection of its evolution over centuries. The castle retains many original Norman features, including the Norman Keep, Medieval gatehouse, and Barbican, making it a living museum of architectural history.

Why Visit : It offers a unique journey through England’s medieval past, with its grand rooms and exquisite art collections. The grounds feature immaculately maintained gardens, providing a tranquil retreat. A variety of events, including historical reenactments and medieval tournaments, are added to the castle’s vibrant atmosphere.

Ownership and Management : Arundel Castle’s history is deeply intertwined with the lineage of the Dukes of Norfolk, who have played a pivotal role in England’s history, have owned Arundel Castle for over a millennium.

How to Visit :📍 Arundel Castle, Sussex : BN18 9AB

By car : the journey from London takes approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes, via A3 and A283, offering a scenic drive through the English countryside.

By Train: For those preferring public transport , a train journey from London Victoria Station to Arundel takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Arundel Castle best castles in Southern England

2. Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex is a quintessential medieval fortress, founded in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a knight of Edward III. Constructed on a former Saxon site, it was intended to defend against French invasion during the Hundred Years’ War.

Why Visit: Despite being a ruin today, the castle is renowned for its architectural features typical of the late medieval period, including a moat, battlements, and a well-preserved gatehouse. It offers a glimpse into the life and times of medieval 14th century England. The castle’s rural setting in the 1066 Country provides a peaceful contrast to the hustle and bustle of city life, making it a favourite among those seeking a historical and scenic escape.

Ownership and Management: Bodiam Castle is presently under the stewardship of the National Trust, a UK organization dedicated to preserving historic and natural places, allowing visitors to appreciate its historical significance.

How to Visit: 📍 Bodiam Castle, East Sussex : TN32 5UA

By Car: Bodiam Castle is accessible from London by a 2-hour car journey via A2.

By Train: Alternatively, visitors can travel by train from London Charing Cross Station to Robertsbridge Station, followed by a short taxi ride.

READ: A Fun Day Out in Bodiam: Guide to the Best 9 Things to Do

Bodiam Castle, best of the  Southern England castles

3. Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire

Often described more accurately as a fortified manor house rather than a battle-ready castle, Broughton was built in 1300 by Sir John de Broughton. Surrounded by a wide moat and set amidst picturesque gardens, the castle’s architecture predominantly dates back to the 1550s.

Why Visit: This idyllic estate, with its blend of medieval and 16th-century styles, is reflective of England’s rich architectural heritage and provides a fascinating insight into the country’s feudal past. The surrounding gardens are beautifully maintained, offering a tranquil setting for leisurely exploration.

Ownership and Management : Since 1447, it has been the home of the Barons Saye and Sele, and their family lineage continues to reside there. The castle remains privately owned by the Fiennes family, descendants of the Barons Saye and Sele.

How to Visit :📍 Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire : OX15 5EB.

By Car: Broughton Castle is situated near Banbury in Oxfordshire, around a 1 hour and 30-minute drive from London. The journey offers scenic views of the English countryside.

By Train: For public transport users, trains run from London Marylebone to Banbury, followed by a short taxi ride to the castle.

Broughton Castle Southern England

4. Deal Castle, Kent, Southern England

Deal Castle stands as a remarkable example of Tudor military architecture. Built in 1539 by Henry VIII, it forms part of a chain of coastal forts constructed as a defense against potential invasion from continental Europe. Characterized by its unique circular design and rounded bastions, Deal is the largest and most elaborate of Henry VIII’s coastal forts. It played a vital role in England’s coastal defense, including during the Napoleonic Wars, and remarkably withstood a three-month siege during the Second Civil War.

Why Visit: Discover the world of Tudor military engineering, and 16th-century defensive strategies. Explore the storerooms, captain’s residence, the bastions, and Henry VIII’s obsession with security and defense. Its coastal location provides picturesque views, making it a perfect blend of historical intrigue and natural beauty.

Ownership and Management: Currently managed by English Heritage, Deal Castle is preserved as an important historical site.

How to Visit: 📍 Deal Castle, Kent : CT14 7BA

By Car: Deal Castle is situated in the town of Deal, Kent, along the southeast coast of England. The journey from London to Deal is about 2 hours by car, offering a scenic route along the English coastline.

By Train: Alternatively, you can take a train from London to Deal, which is a convenient and enjoyable way to travel.

Deal Castle Southern England

5. Guildford Castle, Surrey, Southern England

Situated in Surrey, Guildford Castle is a medieval structure with origins tracing back to the Norman Conquest. Initially constructed as a motte and bailey castle in the 11th century, it was later rebuilt in stone in the 1130s, marking a significant phase in its development.

The Great Keep, added under the orders of Henry II, is a highlight of the castle’s architecture. Over the centuries, Guildford Castle transitioned from a royal residence to a county jail before its decline.

Why Visit: Visiting Guildford Castle in southern England offers an insightful glimpse into medieval English history. The castle’s preserved Great Keep invites exploration, providing panoramic views of Guildford from its top. The castle grounds, now beautifully maintained as public gardens, offer a peaceful retreat.

Ownership and Management: Guildford Castle is managed by the Guildford Borough Council.

How to Visit: 📍 Guildford Castle, Surrey : GU1 3SX

By car: It’s approximately an hour’s drive, via A3, making it an easy day trip.

By Train: Frequent trains run from London Waterloo to Guildford, with the castle being a short walk from the station.

Guildford Castle best Southern England castles

6. Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex, Southern England

Herstmonceux Castle symbolises the grandeur of 15th-century architecture. Built in 1441 by Sir Roger Fiennes, this majestic brick-built moated castle is one of the earliest examples of a brick building of significant size in England.

Originally a Tudor-style country home, Herstmonceux was the largest private residence in England at its time, reflecting the wealth and status of its owner. The castle underwent renovations in the 17th century and again in the 20th century after falling into disrepair. Today, it is the site of the Study Centre for Queen’s University, Canada.

Why Visit: The castle’s interior, though not always open to the public, offers a glimpse into the life of Tudor nobility. The castle is surrounded by 550 acres of woodland and formal Elizabethan gardens. These grounds provide an idyllic setting for exploration and relaxation.

Ownership and Management: Currently, it is owned by Queen’s University, Canada, and serves as an international study centre.

How to Visit:  Herstmonceux Castle, East Sussex : BN27 1RN

By car: The journey takes approximately 2 hours from London via A2.

By Train: There are also public transport options available, including trains from London to nearby stations, followed by a short taxi ride.

Herstmonceux Castle Southern England

7. Highclere Castle, Hampshire, Southern England

Located in Hampshire, Highclere Castle is a historic estate with roots dating back to 749 AD. The current Jacobethan-style country house, set within a 5,000-acre estate with a park designed by Capability Brown, was built in the 19th century by architect Charles Barry.

Highclere Castle gained widespread fame as the filming location for the TV series “Downton Abbey.” The castle’s history intertwines with the lives of the aristocratic Carnarvon family, who have resided there since the late 17th century, and it showcases a remarkable collection of art and antique furnishings.

Why Visit: Visitors to Highclere Castle can enjoy a range of experiences, from exploring the opulent state rooms and bedrooms showcased in “Downton Abbey” to strolling through the beautifully landscaped gardens and woodlands.

Ownership and Management: The 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon currently own and manage Highclere Castle.

How to Visit: Highclere Castle, Hampshire : RG20 9RN

By Car: Situated about 112.6 kilometers (70 miles) west of London, Highclere Castle is accessible by a 1 hour and 30-minute drive from the city via M4.

By Train: Public transport options include a train from London Paddington to Newbury, followed by a short taxi ride to the castle.

From London: Your One Day Excursion Includes:

3 Hours at Highclere Castle to Explore Independently; ✅ 🚍 Comfortable Return Transportation.

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Highclere Castle Southern England

8. Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire, Southern England

Kenilworth Castle, located in Warwickshire, has a storied history spanning over 900 years. Originally a medieval fortress built by the Normans, the castle is most famous for its connections to Queen Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester. The castle’s remarkable features include the Norman Keep, Tudor Gatehouse, and Leicester’s Building.

Why Visit: The castle’s extensive ruins are ideal for exploration, offering insights into the life of the Tudor nobility. The recreated Elizabethan Garden, based on Dudley’s original design, is a highlight, transporting visitors back to the 16th century with its vibrant plants and elaborate fountains. The castle’s setting in the Warwickshire countryside adds to its allure, providing a scenic backdrop for a journey through history.

Ownership and Management: English Heritage currently manages Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden.

How to Visit: 📍 Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden, Warwickshire : CV8 1NG

By Car: The castle is about a 2-hour drive from London via M40.

By Train: Public transport options include a train to the nearby Coventry or Leamington Spa stations, followed by a short taxi or bus ride to the castle.

Kenilworth Castle Southern England

9. Leeds Castle, Kent, Southern England

Beautifully set on two islands on the River Len in Kent, Leeds Castle boasts a history that spans over 900 years. Originating as a Norman stronghold in 1119, it evolved into a royal palace, serving as the residence for six of England’s medieval monarchs, including King Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Throughout its history, Leeds Castle has been rebuilt and renovated several times, resulting in a blend of architectural styles from different periods. Its rich history, coupled with its idyllic setting, has earned it the nickname “the loveliest castle in the world.”

Why Visit: The castle offers a journey through time with its beautifully furnished rooms, medieval gatehouse, and unique Dog Collar Museum. The surrounding gardens and parklands provide a peaceful escape into nature. Leeds Castle offers the ultimate in staycation experience in Kent.

Ownership and Management: Leeds Castle is currently owned and managed by the Leeds Castle Foundation.

How to Visit: 📍 Leeds Castle, Kent : ME17 1PL

By Car: Leeds Castle is located near Maidstone in Kent, approximately an hour’s drive from London via A2.

By Train: Trains run from London Bridge station to Bearsted Station, followed by a shuttle service to the castle.

Comfortable Return Transportation.

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Leeds Castle Southern England

10. Lewes Castle, East Sussex, Southern England

Lewes Castle stands as a prominent Norman landmark with a rich history dating back to shortly after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 . Constructed by William de Warenne, a close ally of William the Conqueror, the castle is one of the earliest Norman fortifications in England. Its two mottes, a rarity in English castles, and the remaining sections of the curtain walls, provide a glimpse into the Norman architectural and military prowess.

Why Visit : The well-preserved ruins, offer panoramic views of the surrounding town and countryside. The castle’s Barbican gate and the 14th-century Great Hall reflect the medieval grandeur of the fortress.

Ownership and Management: Lewes Castle is managed by the Sussex Archaeological Society.

How to Visit:  Lewes Castle, East Sussex : BN7 1YH

By Car: The castle is about an hour’s drive from London, via M23 and A23.

By Train: Hop onto the at London Victoria to Lewes, followed by a short walk to the castle.

Lewes Castle Southern England

11. Rochester Castle, Kent, Southern England

Initially built on a Roman site soon after the Norman Conquest. the castle has evolved from a wooden structure to a substantial stone fortress, and is one of England’s most well-preserved and striking medieval fortresses. Throughout its history, Rochester Castle has played a significant role, notably during the Barons’ War of 1264.

Why Visit: Its massive Norman Keep, constructed in the 12th century offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscape from its top. The castle’s ruins provide a tangible connection to its turbulent past, allowing visitors to step back in time and explore the history of medieval England.

Ownership and Management: Managed by English Heritage.

How to Visit:  Rochester Castle, Kent : ME1 1SW

By Car: From London, approximately a 50-minute drive, via A13 and A2.

By Train: Take a train from London Victoria to Rochester, with the castle being a short walk from the station.

Rochester Castle Southern England

12. Scotney Castle, Kent, Southern England

Scotney Castle is a unique historical estate featuring two distinct structures. You’ll find the medieval 14th-century moated castle built in the 1380s alongside the newer 1830s country house built in Tudor Revival style. The house was added by Edward Hussey III, using sandstone from the old castle, creating a romantic landscape.

Why Visit: A unique opportunity to explore two eras of English architecture and garden design. The old castle, set on an island surrounded by a moat, provides a picturesque ruin perfect for exploration and photography. The newer house showcases Victorian life and design. The estate’s gardens are renowned for their beauty, especially during the spring and summer months when they bloom with rhododendrons and azaleas. The property also features a unique collection of artifacts and a tranquil landscape for a leisurely walk.

Ownership and Management: Managed by the National Trust.

How to Visit:  Scotney Castle, Kent : TN3 8JN

By Car : Situated near Lamberhurst in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, about a 1 hour and 30-minute drive from London, via A13.

By Train: From London Victoria to Tunbridge Wells, followed by a short taxi or bus ride.

Scotney Castle Southern England

13. Southsea Castle, Portsmouth, Southern England

Built in 1544, and known historically as Chaderton Castle and Portsea Castle, it stands as one of the last fortifications commissioned by Henry VIII to defend the English coast. Southsea Castle played a significant role in the English Civil War and the Napoleonic Wars. In the 18th century, the castle suffered damage from a gunpowder explosion and underwent several reconstructions. A curved bastion was added and the eventual transformation into a military prison.

Why Visit: Visitors to Southsea Castle can explore its rich history and unique design. The castle’s strategic coastal location provides stunning views of the Solent, enhancing the visitor experience.

Ownership and Management: Southsea Castle is currently managed by the Portsmouth City Council.

How to Visit: Southsea Castle, Portsmouth : PO5 3PA

By Car: A journey time of approximately 2 hours by car via A3.

By Train: From London Waterloo Station to Portsmouth, followed by a short bus ride.

Southsea Castle Portsmouth Southern England

14. Tonbridge Castle, Kent, Southern England

Steeped in history, dating back to the Norman Conquest, Tonbridge Castle was built as an earth and timber motte and bailey castle by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, in southern England. The castle was later reconstructed in stone in the 13th century, and saw alterations and expansions over the centuries. Despite suffering damage and partial demolition, the gatehouse and some southern walls still stand, offering a glimpse into the castle’s formidable past.

Why Visit: Visitors to Tonbridge Castle can explore the well-preserved gatehouse and remaining walls, which tell the story of its rich history. The castle grounds, now a public park, provide a scenic and tranquil setting.

Ownership and Management: Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council currently manage Tonbridge Castle.

How to Visit:  Tonbridge Castle, Kent : TN9 1BG

By Car: Situated in the town of Tonbridge, Kent, and approximately an hour’s drive from London, via A13.

By Train: Direct trains run from London Bridge station to Tonbridge, making the castle easily accessible for day trips.

Tonbridge Castle Southern England

15. Upnor Castle, Kent, Southern England

Situated on the banks of the River Medway in Kent, Upnor Castle is a historic artillery fortress built in 1559 under the orders of Queen Elizabeth I, designed to protect the naval dockyard at Chatham. Despite its intended purpose, Upnor Castle is perhaps best known for its unsuccessful defense during the Dutch raid in 1667.

Why Visit: Visiting Upnor Castle offers a unique insight into the castle’s architectural design, a blend of medieval and Elizabethan elements. Visitors can explore its gun platforms, magazine buildings, and barrack rooms. The scenic location by the river and the charming village of Upnor add to the appeal, making it a picturesque and informative destination.

How to Visit:  Upnor Castle, Kent : ME2 4XG

By Car: Located in Upper Upnor, Rochester, Kent with approximately a 50-minute drive from London, via A2.

By Train: Take a train from London Victoria to Rochester and then a short bus or taxi ride to Upnor.

top 10 castles to visit in england

16. Walmer Castle, Kent, Southern England

Built in 1539 as an artillery fort for Henry VIII, it was designed to protect England against invasion from France and the Holy Roman Empire, and to safeguard the Downs anchorage off the English coast. Over the centuries, Walmer Castle evolved from a military fortification into a stately residence for the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports. It has been the residence of many notable figures, including the Duke of Wellington and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, each leaving their mark on the castle’s history and development.

Why Visit: Walmer Castle houses exhibits that tell the stories of its famous residents, particularly the Duke of Wellington. The gardens, developed during the Queen Mother’s residence, are a highlight, featuring a mix of formal and informal landscapes.

Ownership and Management: English Heritage manages Walmer Castle and Gardens.

How to Visit:  Walmer Castle and Gardens, Kent : CT14 7LJ

By Car: Situated in Walmer, Kent, along the south east coast of England. It’s an easy day trip with approximately a 2-hour drive from London, via M2 and A2.

By Train: Take a train from London Waterloo to nearby Deal, followed by a short bus or taxi ride.

Queen Mother's Garden in Walmer Castle, England

17. Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, England

Warwick is a monumental fortress with a history spanning over a thousand years. Originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068 as a wooden motte-and-bailey, it was later rebuilt in stone during the 12th century. The castle has witnessed significant historical events, playing roles in the Wars of the Roses and the overthrow of Edward II. Its evolution over the centuries has left a legacy of medieval military architecture, including impressive towers, ramparts, and dungeons.

Why Visit: Warwick Castle not only symbolizes the power of medieval English nobility but also the turbulent history of the British Isles, and is every bit a visit. The castle offers a journey back in time with its grand interiors, extensive armory, and wax figures depicting historical scenes. The beautifully landscaped grounds and gardens enhance the experience, providing a picturesque setting.

Ownership and Management: Currently managed by Merlin Entertainments, Warwick Castle is maintained as a major tourist attraction.

How to Visit:  Warwick Castle, Warwickshire : CV34 4QU

By Car: From London, with a journey time of approximately 2 hours by car via M1.

By Train: Board the train from London Marylebone to Warwick Station, which is about 1.6 kilometer (1 mile) from the castle.

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Warwick Castle Southern England

Special Features: In-Depth Explorations of Iconic Castles

In the compilation of Southern England’s fairytale castles, you might have noticed the absence of a few renowned names such as Carisbrooke Castle, Dover Castle, Hever Castle, and Windsor Castle. The reason behind this is quite special.

Each of these iconic castles is a story in itself, rich in history, architectural grandeur, and tales that span centuries. Recognizing their unique significance and the depth of their individual stories, I have dedicated an entire post to each of them. These posts offer a more intimate look into the castles’ past, their present standing, and the myriad reasons that make them not just structures of stone and mortar, but repositories of history and culture. These individual posts also offer practical tips for an all-round good journeys.

You can peruse these dedicated posts to dive deeper into the captivating tales of:

18. Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight

Located on the Isle of Wight, Carisbrooke Castle has been a central place of power and protection for over a thousand years in southern England. Its origins date back to a Saxon fortress, later transformed into a Norman motte and bailey castle. It’s perhaps most famous as the place where King Charles I was imprisoned.

Carisbrooke’s Royal Connections and the Unmissable Things to Do at the Castle on the Isle of Wight;

things to do in Carisbrook Castle IOW | Timeless Travel Steps

The Most Complete Guide to the Isle of Wight.

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4 Key Ways How to Explore.

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26 Top Places to Stay on the IOW.

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and much more >>

19. Dover Castle, Kent

Perched atop the iconic White Cliffs of Dover in Kent, Southern England, Dover Castle is known as the “Key to England” due to its strategic importance. This medieval fortress, with a history spanning nine centuries, was originally a motte and bailey castle built by the Normans. Over the years, it has seen significant developments, including the addition of the great Norman Keep by Henry II.

Dover’s Strategic Importance and How to Spend One Day here including Exploring the WWII Tunnels;

Dover Castle Southern England

20. Hever Castle, Kent, Southern England

Hever Castle in Kent, England, holds a special place in British history as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn , second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I. The castle’s architecture and interiors reflect the grandeur of Tudor design, housing a collection of Tudor relics, furniture, tapestries, and even Anne Boleyn’s prayer books. Visitors can explore its well-preserved interiors, stroll through its 125 acres of stunning gardens, and lose themselves in the famous yew maze.

Hever’s Tudor Elegance and It’s Connection to Anne Boleyn.

RELATED ARTICLES:

The Story of Anne Boleyn;

Who Were the Boleyns and What Happened to Them After Anne’s Death;

The Boleyn Descendants Today.

Hever Castle Kent Southern England

21. Windsor Castle, Berkshire, Southern England

Windsor Castle, located in Berkshire, is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world to this day. Built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, it has served as a royal residence for over 39 English monarchs. The castle’s architecture and interiors have been continuously updated by successive monarchs, reflecting changing tastes and royal needs.

Windsor’s Royal Grandeur and Things to Do in Windsor.

Windsor Castle Southern England

Bonus Castle!

an absolute beginner's guide to the Tower of London

The Tower of London

A historic fortress on the north bank of the River Thames, stands as one of the most iconic landmarks in the United Kingdom. With a history spanning nearly a millennium, it has served variously as a royal palace, a prison, an armory, and even a royal mint. Originally commissioned by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, the Tower has been continuously expanded and modified by successive monarchs. Famous for housing the Crown Jewels and its role in the darker chapters of British history , including the imprisonment and execution of various historical figures, the Tower of London is not just a symbol of London’s past, but a testament to the evolution of English history. Today, it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most visited historic sites in the world, attracting millions of visitors keen to explore its storied halls and bloody history. How to Visit: The nearest station is Tower Hill, London. READ: The Ultimate Guide to the Tower of London and the Best Ticket Options .

A Location Guide on Google Map of All the Castles Mentioned in this Article

How to navigate the above google my maps:.

  • On the top left corner, click the arrow  âž¡ to open the frame;
  • The frame opens, to show a list of icons and names of castles.
  • Click on the castle you would like to know more about and see where it is located on the map.
  • If you click on the icon on the map, Google provides you with additional information about the castle.
  • When you finish, click the arrow on the top left to close the frame.

FAQs about the Best Castles in Southern England

Windsor Castle, located in Berkshire, is not only the largest castle in Southern England but also the largest inhabited castle in the world. It serves as one of the official residences of the British monarch and has a history that spans over 900 years.

The title of the oldest castle in Southern England is often attributed to Rochester Castle in Kent. Its keep, built in the early 12th century, stands as one of the best-preserved examples of Norman architecture in England.

The town of Rochester in Kent is notable for having two castles: Rochester Castle, famous for its well-preserved medieval keep, and Upnor Castle, a smaller Elizabethan artillery fort located on the opposite bank of the River Medway.

Though not in Southern England, Northumberland, in the North East of England, holds the distinction of having the most castles. This county is home to over 70 castle sites, reflecting its turbulent history as a border region between England and Scotland.

…as the deliberate escapist and mindful wanderer…

Each castle explored in this article is a gateway to a past rich with history, intrigue, and architectural splendour. These castles, set against the backdrop of England’s picturesque landscapes, offer more than just a day’s visit; they invite you into a world where history comes alive, and tales of knights and royalty resonate through the ages.

But the adventure doesn’t stop here. England’s charm extends far beyond its castles. From the iconic landmarks dotting the vibrant streets of London to the quaint and serene countryside of the Cotswolds , England is a tapestry of diverse experiences. And let’s not forget the culinary journey that awaits in London , where traditional English fare meets the flavours of the world.

Moreover, for those enticed by the allure of the gentle giants amidst the rugged landscapes and ancient legends , the wild highlands and castle ruins of Scotland beckon. They offer a stark, breathtaking contrast to England’s genteel scenery and storied fortresses, promising an entirely different realm of exploration.

So, whether you’re a history enthusiast, an architecture admirer, or a wanderer at heart, these castles are just the beginning. I invite you to explore all that England and Scotland have to offer. Embrace the allure of historic sites, lose yourself in the beauty of the countryside , and indulge in the culinary delights of the cities. England and Scotland together weave a storybook waiting to be read, and your next chapter is just a journey away.

Happy and Safe Travels Always, Wherever Travel Takes You, xx

London, England 9 regions of England Timeless Travel Steps

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Introducing Georgina, the insightful Content Creator behind Timeless Travel Steps. A champion of off-season journeys and cultural immersion for the mature traveller, Georgina has explored 4 continents and over 30 countries. Her blog offers practical tips and personal insights into responsible, comfort-oriented travel along with slow travel destinations. Accompanied by classical, country, and jazz tunes, Georgina's solo adventures and time with her adult children, A & M, enrich her unique travel narrative. Join her for inspiring, immersive global explorations.

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The 30 Best Castles of England Worth The Journey From London

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With more than 4000 castles, how do you know which are the best castles in England to visit? With the help of travel writer friends, we have created a list of the best castles England has. Castles in Northern England include Alnwick Castle, famous as Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Castles in Southern England include Tintagel which is associated with King Arthur. For central England, there are beautiful castles in East Midlands, castles in West Midland and castles in East Anglia, many of which are steeped in important historical events that shaped the country’s path.

Best Castles of England – Central England

Some of the best castles of England lie in the middle of the country. As armies from the north and the south of England clashed, lots of the beautiful castles in England were left in ruins. There was lots of history made in the castles of the East Midlands, such as Nottingham Castle, and the castles of the West Midlands, such as Tutbury Castle. Castles in East Anglia, likewise, have plenty of history including Norwich Castle which is now a full-blown museum.

Baconsthorpe Castle

One of the most wonderful things about England is that beauty hides around every corner. As you trundle down the farm track towards Baconsthorpe Castle , you’d have no idea that the ruins of this 15th-century manor house are even there. Located in Baconsthorpe, just outside of Holt in Norfolk, this English Heritage site offers a fascinating insight into the history of the area. Once owned by the highly influential local family, the Heydon’s, the castle was passed down through many generations until too much spending meant that much of it needed to be sold off to pay debts. The castle sits in a truly idyllic setting, the highlight of which is the impressive moat where it is possible to see swans in the summer. There are also a number of beautiful circular walks nearby. Unlike many other English castles, Baconsthorpe offers remarkable value for money and is free to enter. The only costs that guests will incur are the cost to park in the car park which is charged at £2. English Heritage members park for free. Pet owners will also be pleased to hear that Baconsthorpe Castle is dog-friendly. Animals, however, should be kept on leads at all times.

– by Sheree Hooker at Winging The World

ruins of Baconsthorpe, a castle in East Anglia which lies in ruins

Bolsover Castle

Bolsover Castle is located within the beautiful village of Bolsover, Derbyshire. Set atop a steep hill, you can marvel at the spectacular 17th century fairy-tale mansion as you approach. The castle itself originates as a gift from William the Conqueror to one of his knights. As you wander around the grounds, you can see remnants of the lavish rooms that were designed to impress and entertain. Explore the fountain garden, the extensive terrace and the little castle. But best of all, gaze at the spectacular views of the countryside from the medieval style turret walls. Bolsover castle is part of English Heritage and accordingly, to enter the grounds you will need to purchase a ticket on the day, or in advance. There is a visitor centre where you can purchase audio guides for an immersive historical experience. You can also learn a lot from the free leaflets and posters. However, if you just want to enjoy the view of the castle itself, you can park on the hill, cross the small path and come out into the large open field at the foot of the castle. Best of all this part is free!

– by Kerry Hanson from VeggTravel 

Bolsover Castle in England

Kenilworth Castle

Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden is a large castle that is owned and maintained by English Heritage. The castle is located in the town of Kenilworth in the county of Warwickshire. The gardens had a major revamp at a huge cost of around 2 million but it was more than worth it as the gardens are stunning. They were originally created for Queen Elizabeth 1 by Robert, Earl of Leicester. In a huge Tudor stable you will find a cafe and next to here the staff often host family-friendly activities such as learning how to shoot arrows and build battle defences. The castle itself is largely ruined but that doesn’t mean there’s not much to explore. Some of the ruin has staircases and platforms now installed so that you can climb high up and enjoy some impressive views. The ruined Great Hall is also incredibly impressive with some fabulous views of the gardens from the Castle Keep. In the gardens, there are some lovely statues, flowers, plants and herbs that you can rub to smell. There is a cute aviary with canaries and other small birds. The centrepiece is a fountain made entirely out of marble. You can also look around Leicester’s Gatehouse which is an intact part of the castle with some interesting reconstructed rooms that you can look around. Kenilworth Castle is one of our favourite days out.

– by Suzy McCullough at Yorkshire To Do With Kids

Kenilworth Castle and Gardens

Norwich Castle

What Norwich Castle lacks in beauty, it makes up for with history. It is a Grade I-listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The castle was founded by William the Conqueror sometime around 1067. Up until the mid-12th century, when Henry II built Orford Castle, Norwich was the only major royal castle in East Anglia. Today only the castle keep still stands on a hill in the middle of the Norwich city centre. Since 1895, it has been a museum. Norwich Castle is one of the best things to do in Norwich and perfect for a day out with the kids. Allow at least two hours to visit Norwich Castle. Inside the keep nothing remains of the medieval layout. You can walk around the castle and learn about its history through interactive displays. They also offer tours of the dungeon and the battlements. In the exhibition area next to the keep, they have a diverse collection of fine art, including costume, textiles, jewellery, glass, ceramics, teapots, and silverware. There are also displays about Boudica (Queen of the Iceni), and the Romans, Anglo Saxons and Vikings. You will also find a section about the Egyptians as well as a Natural History Gallery. – by Anisa Alhilali of Norfolk Local Guide

Norwich Castle in East Anglia

Nottingham Castle

Nottingham Castle definitely comes under the bracket of epic castles in England. Although the castle doesn’t have impressive turrets or battalions that other castles have it is overflowing with historical significance and is one of the top Nottingham attractions . Nottingham Castle was originally built as a wooden structure in 1068 on top of a sandstone cliff known as ‘Castle Rock’ which was a huge vantage point. The wooden castle was replaced with a much stronger stone castle during the reign of Henry II. This castle was used as a royal residence and served as one of the most important fortresses in England due to its strategic position near a crossing point of the River Trent. For this reason, Nottingham Castle was used as a secondary location for parliament to be held. In 1642 Charles I chose Nottingham Castle because of its defensive capabilities as the rallying point for his armies at the start of the English Civil War. After many skirmishes at the site it was left in a semi-ruined state, and after Charles I was executed the medieval Nottingham Castle was razed to the ground to prevent it being used in future uprisings. The current Ducal Mansion was built on the foundations of the previous Nottingham Castle by the Duke of Newcastle between 1674 and 1679 and today it houses various art collections and galleries on the history and archaeology of Nottingham.

– by Stephanie Jackson from Book It Let’s Go!

Statue Of Robin Hood at Nottingham Castle, Nottingham, UK

Oakham Castle

All that is left of Oakham Castle is its Great Hall which has survived from Norman times. Unlike Pevensey Castle , it was not fortunate enough to have a Roman base which could withstand the test of time. The Castle is conveniently located in the center of Oakham, the county town of Rutland, the smallest county in England.

One of the unique things about Oakham Castle is its collection of horseshoes. No one knows where this tradition started but every visiting nobleman or royal has to provide a horseshoe to hang on the wall of the Great Hall on their first visit to Oakham Castle. The oldest horseshoe belongs to Edward IV from the 15th century. There are over 200 horseshoes now including horseshoes given by Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria.

The Great Hall at Oakham Castle is surrounded by a large field where the Castle’s outbuildings would have stood. The defensive walls are also still in place. From the top of the hill for the wall, you have fantastic views of the surrounding countryside.

The horseshoes at Oakham Castle

Rockingham Castle

Rockingham Castle stands on the “Rock” high above the River Welland Valley close to the border of Northamptonshire and Rutland. Rockingham Castle is a motte and bailey castle (which comes from the Norman French words for mound and enclosed land) and was built around 1070 by King William the Conqueror. Several Kings and Queens have stayed at the castle, including Richard the Lionheart, King John, and Edward I during its 900+ years. In 1544 the castle passed into private hands when Henry VIII gave Rockingham Castle to Edward Watson who turned the Castle into a family home. Since then Rockingham Castle has remained in the hands of the Watson family, undergoing many changes throughout the years, who still own it today as their private home. Rockingham Castle is open to visitors several times a year and its Civil War Themed Events are very popular. The gardens, set in 18 acres, are worth touring where a 400 year old Yew Hedge known as the “Elephant Hedge” is a prominent feature as well as seventeenth century terraces, a circular rose garden and a nineteenth century woodland garden. An interesting side trip you can make is a walk down Rockingham Hill to the village where you can see many tudor houses lining the road and even have a Pint in the 16th Century Sondes Arms Public House. – by Dave at the Silver Backpacker  Beautiful castles in England to visit include Rockingham Castle, one of the castles in East Midlands (Image credit: Silver Backpacker).

Shrewsbury Castle

Shrewsbury is a very historic town in the county of Shropshire and at the heart of it is the castle. Shrewsbury castle dates back to 1067 just after the Norman conquest, thus it has quite a story to tell. The Castle is a key attraction in Shrewsbury and is one of the first thing visitors see when arriving by train or road. They built Shrewsbury castle with red sandstone on some higher ground overlooking the River Severn. Shrewsbury castle dates back to 1067 when William the Conqueror ordered it to be built. William aimed to use it as a defensive fortification and base of operations for forays into Wales. The castle is open to visitors to explore the castle grounds or visit the Shropshire Regimental museum that calls the castle home. The museum is very interesting and contains uniforms, weapons and medals relating to the regiment. In the basement, there is an exhibit is about the castle’s history which is interesting. The grounds and outer fortifications are a haven for photographers and artists, these are free to explore. However, to enter the principal building and museum costs £4.50 for adults or £2 for children. There are also lots of things to see and do in Shrewsbury , a great town if you enjoy seeing historical buildings.

– Richard Meek of RJ on Tour

weapons display inside Shrewsbury Castle Museum

Tutbury Castle

Tutbury Castle , located in the Staffordshire countryside offers a fascinating opportunity to explore castle ruins whilst it is still being discovered. Large parts of this castle are still being unearthed, its fascinating history being pieced together, telling stories of British Kings and Queens. Following the Norman invasion Tutbury Castle was originally built in 1071. The castle later became an important medieval fortress in the rebellion against Henry II. It is currently owned by the Duchy of Lancaster. It is best known for being Mary Queen of Scots prison. She was imprisoned at Tutbury several times by Queen Elizabeth I. Its hillside location in the middle of the country far away from Scotland meant guards could easily watch for her supporters who may try to free her. The Castle is now a popular tourist attraction in the small town of Tutbury. The ruined walls are fascinating to explore and the views across the surrounding countryside to the River Dove are breathtaking. It is home to an authentic Tudor Garden and the “haunted” Great Hall. It is just £2.50 to visit and there’s a lovely tea room and bar during weekend evenings. Tutbury holds regular events such as historic re-enactments and fireworks displays and can be booked as a unique wedding venue.

– by Karen Quinn of Marvelous Middle England

Tutbury Castle in Staffordshire England

Warwick Castle

Warwick castle is a majestic English castle located along river Avon in Warwickshire. Founded by William the conquerer, the castle holds a rich thousand year history in its sleeve. Several wars have been fought around the castle. Many kings and famous people have been hosted as guests and struggled as prisoners. There are plenty of things to do inside the castle, enough to keep you occupied for a day. And if you are travelling as a family, there are interesting things to keep the kids occupied. Don’t miss out the Horrible Histories Maze, Princess tower, Trebuchet, and Castle dungeons. Explore the tower and ramparts and soak in the views from the castle. If you are travelling with a young princess, don’t forget to get the timed tickets for Princess Tower. The Trebuchet in the castle is one of the largest replica siege machines in the world. Don’t miss out the live demonstration of Trebuchet. The castle gardens are huge so be sure to picnic if the weather is good. There are also seasonal shows that run in the castle. Be sure to check their website for up-to-date information. Warwick can be explored by car or public transport. It is only 15 minutes from Stratford upon Avon and 45 minutes drive from Birmingham.

by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple

river and Warwick Castle in England

The Best Castles in Northern England

In terms of castles, Northern England seems full of them. In fact, Northumberland has the most castles of any county in England. The troublesome Scots were always raiding from across the border which explains all the castles in Northern England.

Alnwick Castle

Dating from Norman times, Alnwick Castle has been home to the Duke’s of Northumberland for the last 700 years. As England’s second largest inhabited castle (after Windsor Castle), Alnwick holds an important defensive position in the north of the country on the border with the Scots.

One of the best castles of England, Alnwick Castle rose to fame as the setting for Hogwarts on the Harry Potter movie series. Alnwick Castle has also been featured in the Downton Abbey film as well.

There is plenty to see and to do in Alnwick Castle including a large collection of Old Masters collected by the Dukes over the years. The Alnwick Castle gardens are extensive and the latest Duchess has created an intriguing Poison Garden.

Alnwick Castle is great with children too. There is broomstick training for Harry Potter fans, Peterkin the Jester demonstrates medieval comedy and Knight School for budding wannabe knights.

Alnwick Castle in Northumbria

Bamburgh Castle

You really can’t miss Bamburgh Castle on Northumberland’s coast, it towers over the village of Bamburgh, holding an incredible defensive position with marvellous views to both Holy Island and the Farne Islands. There has been a defensive building here since the Celtic fort of the year 420 and today’s Grade I listed building dates from Norman times, passing eventually into the ownership of the Armstrong family in 1894 where it remains now.  The castle has been used as a private residence, a free school and a pharmacy over the years and can be seen for miles around. There’s a lot to see within Bamburgh Castle and you should plan a full day to visit, have lunch at the café or bring a picnic, there’s lots of space here to enjoy the magnificent views from the walls and gardens.  There are even apartments that can be rented as holiday lets. Tickets to Bamburgh Castle cover access to all the open areas and there are fabulous activities for families during school holidays and weekends too. The State Rooms are particularly beautiful and kids will have great fun dressing up in the armour and chain mail. A visit to Bamburgh Castle is one of the top things to do in Northumberland , England’s most northerly county and shouldn’t be missed!

– by Sarah Carter at A Social Nomad

Bamburgh Castle as seen from the village

Chillingham Castle

Dating back to the 12 th  century, Chillingham Castle in the North of England was initially built as a monastery. It is still owned by descendants of the Chillingham family.

It was used as a fortress for English armies during the England and Scotland border wars. Plenty of captured soldiers were kept and tortured in the dungeons and are said to have never left. Chillingham Castle is notorious for being the most haunted castle in England .

Now, parts of Chillingham Castle England are open to the public for tours. The tours include a display medieval torture instruments. It’s also possible to spend the night in one of the eight en-suite rooms located inside the castle.

We took a ghost tour of Chillingham Castle and sadly did not encounter any paranormal phenomena.

aerial view of Chillingham Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle

The ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle are managed by the National Trust. Built in the 14th century, Dunstanburgh was built to show off positively in comparison to nearby Bamburgh Castle.

Dunstanburgh Castle was strategically important during the War of the Roses of the 15th century. The castle never recovered from these battles and fell into disrepair. When the Scottish and English thrones merged, the importance of castles in Northern England fell away.

The ruins of this most beautiful castle in England, standing in its isolated grandeur on a cliff overlooking the North Sea, attracted artists to feature it in their works. J.M.W. Turner featured Dunstanburgh Castle heavily in his works.

You can visit the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle by a 1.5 mile coastal walk from nearby Craster. Alnwick Castle is a mere 8 miles away.

Dunstanburgh Castle on top of hill near body of water

Durham Castle

The city of Durham is about 220 kilometers away from Edinburgh and merely 30 kilometres away from Newcastle upon Tyne. It is a university city with historic Romanesque features in England that may not be known to a lot of tourists. However, Durham is perfect for a day trip from Edinburgh or Newcastle upon Tyne. Take a train in the Waverley Station getting there from Edinburgh, trains depart every hour and the journey takes about two hours. The city’s skyline is defined by the striking Durham Cathedral, which has a history of over one thousand years. Together with the Durham Castle on the opposite side, these UNESCO World Heritage Site are open to the public for free unless they are used for ceremonies and events, including the congregation of Durham University. The Durham Castle is a Norman castle dated back to the year 1072; it was previously the residence of the Bishops of Durham, and a fine example of Norman architecture of citadel – round arches and massive proportions. Today, the castle served as a museum, and part of Durham University’s campus and dormitory, which visitors may take a guided tour to see the chapels and halls. – by Kenny Chow of Knycx Journeying Durham Castle, one of the best castles of England to visit (Image credit: Kenny Chow)

Raby Castle

Raby Castle, one of the most beautiful castles in England, has a picture perfect setting among a couple of hundred acres of deer park near Durham England. The castle is still privately owned by the Barons Barnard.

Raby Castle has a famous collection of paintings, including Old Masters, that have been collected by the owners. For children, there is a woodland adventure playground as well as special events, like open air cinemas and theatre, that are held at Raby Castle.

Raby Castle has appeared on film inthe 1999 Oscar-winning movie Elizabeth and the television drama series, Victoria .

Raby Castle is only open to the public during the summer. You can visit on your own or through a guided tour. The gardens are extensive with both a walled garden and a kitchen garden. You can rent bikes to pedal through the parkland to see the deer up close.

Raby Castle reflected in a pond and a parklike setting.

Ripley Castle

Ripley Castle, a 14th century castle located near Harrogate and the Yorkshire Dales, has been owned by the Barons Ingilby for 7 centuries. That’s 26 generations of the family that have called this place home!

Ripley Castle is open to the public for guided tours including a special children’s guided tour geared towards making a castle tour fun. It’s one of the castles in the best castles in England if you want to see a priest’s hiding hole.

The castle grounds are extensive and include various gardens like a walled garden and hothouses for a tropical garden. Ripley Castle puts on special events like the House & Garden Fair and outdoor concerts. The castle grounds are home to the national Hyacinth collection.

The grounds are also great for kids because there are a lot of outdoor activities available, such as archery and kayaking. The park walk is beautiful and includes deer (naturally) and an ornamental lake.

Ripley Castle reflected in a pond and green landscaping

Skipton Castle

The Yorkshire market town of Skipton isn’t necessarily the first place you would think of when considering grand castles in England. And granted, Skipton’s offering is more about functionality rather than finery, but it is definitely not one to overlook. At over 900 years old, Skipton Castle is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in England. On your visit, you will have a unique opportunity to explore the whole castle from top to bottom. Some notable highlights include the grand Banqueting Hall, the impressive Bedchamber, and the depths of the dungeon. Your tour is self-guided using a comprehensive information sheet, which is available in 10 different languages. Along the journey, you will discover how Skipton Castle was able to survive a three-year siege during the Civil War. You can also admire the pretty yew tree in the courtyard that was planted in 1659 to celebrate the restoration of the castle. To make the most of your visit to Skipton, you will also want to spend some time exploring the quaint market town. It is full of independent stores and a bustling market feel. You can also explore Skipton Castle Woods, a 36-acre ancient woodland, now maintained by the Woodland Trust. – by Hannah Ackroyd of  Get Lost Travel Blog

Skipton Castle in Yorkshire

Spofforth Castle

Spofforth Castle was once the seat of the prominent Percy family who now have a seat at Alnwick Castle further north in Northumberland. Although riginally constructed in the 11th century, the ruins seen today date back only to renovations done in the 14th and 15th-century.

Entry to the ruins of Spofforth is free. Spofforth Castle has an important backstory since it is where the rebel barons met to write the Magna Carta, a charter of rights for the nobles that has become an important part of the British constitution. The barons then went south to meet King John at Runnymede to force his hand.

Any castle ruins this old is bound to have a ghost story or two. People have reported seeing the figure of a phantom woman throwing herself from the ramparts in despair.

Spofforth Castle ruins

Wray Castle

Despite its name, Wray Castle is not actually a castle. It is a private home that was built in the Gothic Revival Style in 1840 along the shores of Lake Windermere in Low Wray, England. Wray Castle is possibly most famous as the holiday and summer home of Beatrix Potter, the author of “The Tale of Peter Rabbit.” Visitors can explore Wray Castle’s elaborate hall, private rooms, towers, turrets, and more. While none of the original furniture remains, many photos of the original home are prominently displayed. The castle also has mock ruins, hidden doors, and the Peter Rabbit Adventure to explore. Outside, visitors can enjoy a pleasant walk along the shore of Lake Windermere. There is also a cafe on-site, with large grounds and gardens to explore while enjoying a treat. The Castle is easily accessible via car from the nearby town of Ambleside. Parking at Wray Castle ranges from £5 (6.94 USD) for two hours up to £7.5 ($10.41 USD) for four or more hours. Visitors can take a fifteen cruise from Waterhead Pier, just outside Ambleside. Note: because of COVID-19, there are limited cruises being offered. It would be best to check what cruises are available while planning your trip. Visiting the grounds outside Wray Castle is free, with pets welcome to explore the area. Entrance to the Castle will cost you £10.40 ($14.45 USD) for adults and £5.20 ($7.22) for children. Wray Castle offers a group discount for groups of at least fifteen people. The most popular time to visit Wray Castle is during the summer. The warm evenings make watching the sunset nearly magical. Wray Castle is open year-round and hosts several seasonal events. No matter when you visit, Wray Castle is a destination not to be missed. – by Catalin Geangos from Travel Trained

Wray Castle, the summer home of Beatrix Potter

The Best Castles of Southern England

There’s a variety of castles in Southern England to visit from the haunted ruins of Berry Pomeroy Castle in Devon to the world class art contained at Longford Castle in Wiltshire. Then there are the castles in Southwest England that are tied to legend (Tintagel Castle) or located on their own island (Mount Saint Michael).

Berry Pomeroy Castle

Although maintained by English Heritage, Berry Pomeroy is still owned by the Dukes of Somerset.

Berry Pomeroy Castle was built in the 15th century to keep order in the area because Devon at the time was hotbed of unrest.

The Pomeroy sold it to the Seymours (the Dukes of Somerset) eventually. The Duke of Somerset was the Lord Protector for England because his nephew, Henry VIII’s son, Edward VI, was still a young boy. The Seymours kept enlarging it because they wanted to show their wealth and power. Then the Seymours abandoned Berry Pomeroy without actually finishing it.

Berry Pomeroy was a favourite of the Victorians who loved their romantic ruined castles. Lots of ghost stories were promoted about Berry Pomeroy Castle which still lead people to believe that it is haunted today.

Berry Pomeroy is a short distance from both Dartmouth Castle and Totnes Castle. The castle ruins are cool and the grounds are great for exploring.

Berry Pomeroy Castle

Carisbrooke Castle

If you’re looking for the best castles in England you can’t miss Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. This evocative stone building has had various uses through the centuries, from fortress, a king’s prison right through to a royal summer retreat. Carisbrooke has been a key building on the Isle of Wight for over 1000 years. It’s probably most famous for being the prison of Charles I who was held here during the Civil War before being taken back to the mainland for his execution. Charles I attempted to escape from the castle but wasn’t able to get through the bars. It’s very atmospheric to see where he would have been held and how desperate he must have felt. Today you can have a picnic on his bowling green which he had constructed. If you’re visiting on a family holiday to the Isle of Wight , the castle put on lots of events which kids will love. Visitors of all ages will enjoy winding their way through the rooms and discovering history through the ages in the various quarters. Walk along the battlements for some of the best views of the Isle of Wight. Carisbrooke also have a relatively new garden designed by the award winning garden designer Chris Beardhsaw, the Princess Beatrice Garden which is inspired by Edwardian times. So even today it is evolving and giving so much pleasure to countless visitors.

– by Nichola West at Globalmouse Travels

Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight

Corfe Castle

Built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, Corfe castle is one of the most beautiful castles in England. Located in the stunning Dorset countryside, this picturesque castle is part of the Purbeck Heritage Coast. Once upon a time, this castle stood at the top of the hill as a sturdy fort, yet now only ruins remain. However, these ruins are some of the most beautiful castle ruins around, making this site one of the most visited historic structures in the whole of England. With over a thousand years of history, this castle is an epic day out for everyone. From children to adults everyone can enjoy the unique history lesson as well as the incredible scenery. We advise that the best way to visit Corfe castle is by staying at one of the quaint campsites in Swanage and taking the steam train to the castle. The heritage railway at Swanage is one of the most popular heritage railways in Britain, with trains running every day between April and October. You will love arriving at the train station in Corfe as it is a postcard-perfect station with magnificent views of the castle and takes just 22 minutes to get to from Swanage station. – by Breanne Fleat of Family Camping Europe

Corfe Castle and Railway

Dartmouth Castle

The salty remains of Dartmouth Castle cling to the cliffs above the entrance to the River Dart in South Devon. Unlike many English castles, it has never been home to kings or courtiers. But since the 14th Century it has played an important role in protecting the nearby port of Dartmouth. French raids were common in the area, so over the centuries towers and batteries were added to the fortifications, giving the guns longer range into the English Channel. A chain could also be drawn across the river mouth between Dartmouth Castle and Kingswear to stop unwelcome vessels entering. Today you can visit the castle’s battery, casemates and gun tower where troops were stationed periodically right up until the Second World War. It’s also fascinating to wander around the gravestones of St Petrox Church, which has stood in the same location for nearly 200 years longer than the castle. One of this castle’s very best features are the panoramic views over the sea and down the River. Stand on the top of the gun tower and you’ll be able to see the Britannia Royal Naval College perched on the hill above Dartmouth and the comings and goings of hundreds of sailing boats. – by Claire Hall of Devon with Kids

Dartmouth Castle in Devon

Longford Castle

Salisbury is the perfect city to see an amazing English estate. It is the perfect English city and offers everything you’d expect from a travellers imagination from middle class town market to world class sites like the Salisbury Cathedral and Stonehenge as well as the spectacular Longford Castle. To get here, takes a quick 2 hour train ride from London Waterloo or Clapham Junction stations on South Western Railways. The best part is Salisbury is the beautiful Longford Castle. It is the same castle that is shown as the Castle of fictional Genovia in Princess Diaries movies. In reality, however, it is the seat of the Earl of Radnor. It is one of the most beautiful castles in England and definitely worth a visit. It is built in a hexagonal shape with all towers linked to each other. The gardens around the castle are vast and beautiful and perfect for a summer picnic or an evening stroll. If you want to visit the castle you must book it in advance though through their website and the tours happen only 28 days a year. – by Ucman Scher of Brown Boy Travels Longford Castle is one of the best castles of Southern England thanks to its important art collection, some of which is on loan to the National Gallery in London. (Image credit: Ucman Scher)

Powderham Castle

One of the beautiful castles in England, Powderham Castle, has been owned by the same family for hundreds of years. Lying near Exeter in Devon, Powderham Castle was built in the 14th century. 

Powderham started off as a fortified manor house and got upgraded to the castle designation in the 17th century. It’s still missing elements that would make it a proper castle like a moat even though castle-like elements were added in the 19th century.

There are plenty of things to do in Powderham Castle. You can take tours of the castle interiors, and visit the gardens. There are guided tours of the gardens or alternatively, just go on a ramble of the grounds. Among the gardens to see are the walled garden, the American garden, the rose garden and the secret garden. The Belvedere Tower on the grounds, formerly used as a ballroom, gives great views over the countryside.

You may recognise Powderham Castle from the 1993 movie, The Remains of the Day .

Powderham Castle in Devon

Saint Michaels Mount

Saint Michael’s Mount located in Cornwall, is one of the rare tidal islands in the U.K. that you can get to via a short walk. When the tide is high, the island sits detached from land, in the middle of the sea and is inaccessible. Located in Mount’s Bay near Marazion in Cornwall, the pathway to get to the island is actually man-made and can be used when the tide is low. The island is managed by the National Trust and contains a castle, chapel, and gardens. St. Michaels Mount, which looks quite similar to the Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France, is actually its cornish equivalent. Legend has it that the castle here was home to Cormoran the giant, of Jack the giant slayer fame. Till date, some believe that the boulders and scattered tree trunks around are due to the giant! Currently owned by the St Aubyn family, the castle has quirky items scattered all over. There’s a clock that tells the time of the tide as well as the time of day, a piece of Napoleon’s coat which he wore at the battle of Waterloo and even a mummified cat! It is also believed that St. Michaels Mount is haunted so if you like such places, the legend, history and all the mystery make it a must visit!

– by Lavinia Dsouza at Continent Hop

Saint Michaels Mount in Cornwall

Sudeley Castle

Sudeley Castle is a beautiful attraction in the Cotswolds AONB in England. Located near the village of Winchcombe, Sudeley Castle is a great place to spend a few hours while in the area. The history of the castle dates back to the 15th century and is associated with King Edward IV, King Richard III and King Henry VIII, and is also the burial place of a queen. The long and trembling history of the place is explained in detail in the indoor exhibition, while the Castle Rooms present an extensive collection of art pieces and other objects. Outdoors, visitors to the castle will be able to enjoy a large area of green space, featuring several gardens with various flower collections. Wander in the White Garden, the Secret Garden or even the Ruins Garden that is created around the remains of an old section of the castle. Nested in the gardens, you will find St Mary’s church. It is a small church that was hugely destroyed during the Civil War and it was restored in the 19th century. Bird enthusiasts will be able to find more than ten species of pheasants, many of which are globally endangered in the outdoor pheasantry. The easiest way to reach Sudeley Castle is by car; however, it is still possible to visit it using public transport. To do so, you need to take the train or bus to Cheltenham Spa, and from there you need to take bus W to Winchcombe. The castle is about 15 minutes on foot from there.

– by Elina Michaelidou at Empnefsys & Travel

Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds

Tintagel Castle

There is something magical and evocative about the medieval fortification that is Tintagel Castle . Set on Cornwall’s rugged north coast, the ruined Tintagel Castle is managed by English Heritage and has been open to tourists since the middle of 19th century. Built in 1233 by Earl Richard, the castle is prominently known for its connection to the legendary King Arthur. After Earl Richard, Edward, the 1st Duke of Cornwall, reworked the hall into smaller buildings. But over the years the castle remained largely deserted and became dilapidated as the following Earls of Cornwall were not interested in it. It was only in the 19th century that interest was renewed in the castle ruins, mainly due to Arthurian legends, and it became a tourist attraction. Today, visitors can follow in the footsteps of Tintagel’s medieval inhabitants, explore the ruins, enjoy outdoor works of art, take in the stunning scenery or relax on the lovely beach below the castle. Because of its clifftop location, there are some steep slopes and uneven surfaces to reach the top. But the dramatic views more than make up for the not-so-easy climb up. After you are done exploring, you can head to the Beach Café to enjoy tasty local dishes while enjoying the views out to the sea.

– by Deeptha at The Globetrotter

Tintagel Castle in Cornwall

Star Castle

Visiting the Scilly Isles? Star Castle Hotel is a must – whether you stay or just go for afternoon tea.

Built in the reign of Elizabeth I in 1583, it was intended to provide fortification and an early sighting of potential Spanish invaders! Thanks to its island setting, it became a Royalist stronghold and was a refuge for the Prince of Wales (later crowned Charles II) in 1643.

Now, it’s a charmingly restored hotel with the dungeon converted to a bar and with quirky rooms where you can stay in the look-out towers.

– by Fiona Maclean of London Unattached

Star Castle on the Scilly Isles

Map of the Best Castles in England

Here’s a map for your planning convenience that shows the best castles of England that are more than a day trip from London. Our choices of the best castles in England including beautiful castles in East Anglia, castles in East Midlands, castles in West Midlands, castles in Northern England and castles in Southern England.

Map of the Castles of England Longer than a Daytrip from London

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Britain's Top 10 Castles

Join the Travel Channel as we walk you through British History 101 and count down Britain's Top 10 Castles and Palaces.

Related To:

Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England

Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England

Photo by: Travel Ink / Gallo Images / Getty Images

Travel Ink / Gallo Images / Getty Images

Explore the mysteries and secrets of Britain's stone walls. Learn about the rich history, battles, murders and possible ghosts that still haunt its castles and palaces to this day. Join the Travel Channel as we take you back to British History 101, to count down Britain's Top 10 Castles and Palaces. Windsor Castle At 900 years old, Windsor Castle is the largest occupied castle and oldest official royal residence in the world. Windsor Castle is much more than a castle; the grounds include several homes, a large church and the royal palace. Situated 20 miles west of London, it is also the weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II. One of the monarchy's oldest traditions, the Knights of the Garter, continues to be honored at Windsor Castle. With roots in the Middle Ages, the Garter knighthood consists of the monarch, the Prince of Wales (whose title automatically qualifies him as a Knight of the Garter), and 24 knights.

Over a million people visit the castle each year. Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton have all been guests of the queen at the palace. Hampton Court Located a few miles from London, along the River Thames, this prestigious 1,000-room palace was once occupied by Henry the VIII, famous for having 6 wives and beheading 2 of them. Wife no. 5 was 15-year-old Katherine Howard. Accused of adultery, Howard was imprisoned but later escaped. She was caught and then tried for treason. When Howard was brought back to Hampton Court after trying to escape, she was dragged through a gallery that's now called the Haunted Gallery. Outside Hampton Court the grounds are brought to life by 60 acres filled with gardens, spectacular views of the River Thames, and a famous maze that has confused visitors for over 300 years. Edinburgh Castle Located 400 miles north of London is one of the most visited cities in Europe, Edinburgh, Scotland. Through sieges, invasions, power struggles, murder and imprisonment, Edinburgh Castle has withstood the test of time.

The castle is now the protector and safe-keeper of the Scottish crown jewels. The 500-year-old crown, sword and scepter were used at the coronations of the kings and queens of Scotland. Along with the crown jewels, the castle was the keeper of the clock. Every day for 150 years at 1 p.m. a loud gun would fire, signaling the correct time to sailors at sea and to the locals, because so many people couldn't afford a watch.

Visitors to Edinburgh Castle can see the dungeons used to incarcerate thousands of prisoners over the years. To show the real conditions back then, wax models are positioned throughout the dungeon. St. Michael's Mount Located roughly 600 miles south of London, St. Michael's Mount is connected to the mainland by a causeway. At high tide the mount is cut off from the village of Marazion. For many years and continuing today, Marazion has served as a great escape for the inhabitants of the mount, who sometimes crave a warm meal and a drink or 2.

Travelers have been visiting this rocky island since the 5th century, when legend has it the archangel Michael appeared to a group of people over the mount. A Benedictine monastery was later built there in the 12th century. Each year believers make the pilgrimage to the mount, where they walk up the ancient Pilgrims' Steps to the monastery at the top of the hill. Stirling Castle Stirling Castle, situated 450 miles from London, is a well-known symbol of Scotland. Just outside the walls of Stirling stands a monument to Scotland's great national hero, William Wallace, who led a small army against the English king, Edward I, at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. Seven hundred-plus years later, the memorial for Wallace continues to remind people of the victory at Stirling.

Among the 8 centuries of battles and murders at Stirling, something very positive and enlightening did occur at this castle -- one of the first attempts at flight. Roughly 500 years ago, during the reign of King James IV in Scotland, scientist John Damian announced he would fly from Stirling Castle to France. Assembling strips of wood, chicken feathers and glue, Damian performed his brief flight by jumping off a stone wall and then gracefully flew straight down, dropping like a stone. Caernarfon Castle Two hundred and fifty miles from London, on the Welsh coast, sits Caernarfon Castle. It was built 800 years ago, after King Edward I of England conquered North Wales. Edward I took the title of Prince of Wales from the Welsh. Since that time, the eldest son of the King or Queen of England has been known as the Prince of Wales. In 1969, during a ceremony at Caernarfon, Prince Charles was dubbed the 21st Prince of Wales by his mother, Queen Elizabeth II. Leeds Castle At 900 years old, Leeds Castle sits 30 miles from central London. It was the home of Henry the VIII. Despite its British location, Leeds Castle has many American connections. Two families who owned the castle also owned large tracts of land in Culpepper and Fairfax, VA. Today, the castle's connection to the United States continues.

William Randolph Hearst (Hearst Corporation) almost purchased Leeds Castle, until he discovered the missing bathrooms, lack of electricity and that the servants' quarters had served as dungeons. Another American, however, did acquire the castle. After purchasing it in 1926, Lady Olive Baillie set about refurbishing the castle and installing all the necessary items. Tintagel Castle Best known for King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, Tintagel Castle is situated in Cornwall, in the northwest corner of England. Tintagel Castle was built 800 years ago by the Earl of Cornwall, brother of the King of England. The earl was intrigued by the legends of King Arthur and his infamous Camelot. The castle was constructed to resemble the court where it's believed King Arthur reigned for so many years.

And what would make a castle complete? Like America, with its Civil War re-enactments, England has its King Arthur mock battles. Each summer, hundreds of enthusiasts come to relive the days of King Arthur and his knights. Warwick Castle Situated less than 100 miles from London, Warwick Castle is known for its beautiful interior and the medieval re-enactments that take place there. Until 25 years ago, generations of Earls of Warwick had resided in the castle. At the turn of the 20th century, Frances, Countess of Warwick, also known as Daisy, was known around England for her lavish, high-society parties. Some of her guests included Winston Churchill; Edward, Prince of Wales; and the future King Edward VII.

Six hundred years ago, Europe's most famous jousting champion was the Earl of Warwick. Each year, thousands of people arrive at Warwick Castle to watch re-enacted jousting competitions. Tower of London For over 1,000 years, the Tower of London has dominated the city's skyline. It has housed the royal family and the crown jewels, which have been on public display for 350 years. Over 2 million people visit the tower every year.

The Yeoman Warders, better known as Beefeaters, run the tower and tell stories of its past to eager listeners. The Tower of London has a dark past. Torture, murder and executions all took place at the tower at some time or another. Traitor's Gate, the entrance from the River Thames, is known for being the last stop for those on their way to their execution. Among the executed were 3 queens of England, including Ann Boleyn, wife of Henry the VIII.

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The 12 Best Castles In The UK

Published 04 July 2024 . By Kiera Chapman .

We love a mighty fine fortress in this country, which is a great thing considering we have more than 4,000 of them dotted across the region. What were once occupied by royalty (and some still are), used as defences and have even seen a few murders in their time are now acclaimed visitor attractions. So, whether you’re keen to check out a Downton Abbey filming location, or walk in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn  (not literally) , we’ve compiled a guide to the most beautiful castles in the UK to help you on your way.

The Tower of London

Even though it isn’t technically one by name,  The Tower of London  is up there with some of the most famous castles in the UK. Home to the iconic crown jewels and Tower ravens, it stands tall beside the River Thames, only a short walk from the tube station. It served as a royal residence, armoury, treasury and menagerie over the years, and has also been the location of many executions. Plan your visit today to embark on one of the Yeoman Warder Tours, or explore the White Tower, built by William the Conquerer.

Get a peek at the crown jewels at this iconic landmark. 

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle leads the way in our jam-packed guide of UK castles to visit. Boasting a thousand years of incredible history, its walls and grounds are steeped in ancient myths. The medieval building was originally developed from a wooden fort built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and sports 14th-century military architecture. It’s seen deaths, surrenders, and families reside there up until today where it operates as a major tourist attraction, owned by Merlin Entertainments. If you happen to visit this year, you’ll find bird shows, jousting and grisly happenings taking place in The Castle Dungeon.

You'll be sure to find this gem in every top 10 castles in the UK list.  

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle  is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world; founded in the 11th century, it has seen 40 monarchs reside in its grounds and is the official home of His Majesty The King. It’s open to visitors from Thursday to Monday throughout the week with tickets averaging around £30 per person - make a day out of it and check out St George’s Chapel nearby, or the gorgeous Edwardian Theatre Royal Windsor. Another highlight includes witnessing The Changing of the Guard, as well as a quiet spot of tea and a slice of cake at the Undercroft Café.

This fort is bound to Windsor you over.  

Cardiff Castle

Get two for the price of one with Cardiff Castle - a Victorian Gothic revival mansion and a medieval fortress located in the city centre. It was built in the late 11th century and has been attacked several times throughout its 2000 years of history. Flittering between Roman occupation as well as Parliamentary, today it operates as an attraction with the much-loved, sculpted Animal Wall on its grounds. It also serves as a live music venue where you can see bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer play. 

It's not every day you get to watch concerts at castles in Wales, UK.   

Hever Castle And Gardens

Located within Kent and previously the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle and Gardens is a must-visit for Tudor enthusiasts. It spans 125 acres, dates back to the 14th century and consists of gorgeous panelled rooms, fine tapestries, antiques and captivating Tudor paintings to rival that of the National Portrait Gallery collection. It was restored in the early 20th century by William Waldorf Astor and exhibits two prayer books owned by Anne, as well as falcon experiences and craft fairs, and is home to an incredibly fun maze.

Full of Tudor trinkets, Hever is one of the best castles in the UK to visit.  

Alnwick Castle

Most known for being a filming location for Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, The Last Knight and more, Alnwick Castle is a Northumberland-based legend. The fort itself dates back to the Norman period and has existed as a military outpost, teaching college and refuge for evacuees among many other things throughout its years. Today it remains a family home and attraction, where visitors can watch longbow demonstrations, medieval falconry and attend book talks.

Follow in the footsteps of movie stars at this prime filming location.   

Caernarfon Castle

A medieval fort found in Gwynedd, north-west Wales, Caernarfon Castle lies on the banks of the River Seiont and is recognised as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages. It’s grouped with Edward I’s other castles (Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech) as a World Heritage Site and boasts incredible imperial Roman architecture. Visit today and you’ll find exhibitions, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum and a delightful cafe serving a selection of local food and drinks.

We fort you might like this one.  

Edinburgh Castle

Another big hitter on the list, Edinburgh Castle is home of the Honours of Scotland and the Scottish National War Memorial. Its history is laced with royal residences, military garrisons and prisons, with the occasional pirate coming into play. It’s located on a large rock, making its wartime strategy clear, and during the Iron Age a hill fort was built. While it’s not always been so successful with its defence over the years, it has evolved and remains the location of Mons Meg, one of the greatest medieval cannons ever made.

Catch this castle looking out over the whole of Edinburgh. 

Tintagel Castle

Make sure to stop off at Tintagel Castle on your pasty-munching tour of the south coast of England. The grounds are intertwined with the legend of King Arthur, and the fort itself was built as a result of Earl Richard's obsession. Half on the mainland and half on a jagged headland, it’s inspired authors and poets alike, and even though it's succumbed to decay it still holds many mythical associations that compel visitors to walk its ruins today.

Its ruins are filled with mythical legends.  

Bodiam Castle

When it comes to castles in the UK, this National Trust-owned one is a beauty. Built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dallingridge and his wife Elizabeth with a surrounding moat, it survived a series of unfortunate historical events such as the Black Death. Bodiam Castle in Sussex features a handful of ritual protection marks at the entrances and windows that were thought to ward off evil spirits, which you can still see today if you look closely enough. While the castle exists as mainly ruins now, it's still of public interest and features an open-air interior available to stroll around, surrounded by rich parkland.

With turrets that look this good, Bodiam has captured our hearts.  

Bamburgh Castle

Gazing out across the Northumberland coastline is the regal Bamburgh Castle that spans nine acres of land atop a plateau. It was the first fort in the world to fall to gunpowder in the War of the Roses and is believed to be the site of Sir Lancelot’s fictitious castle, Joyous Garde. Book your trip and check out the Armstrong and Aviation Museum on site, as well as the Victorian stables and half-round turret that remains of the original Neville Tower. It’s also currently home to the props and costumes of The Last Kingdom, too.

If it's good enough for Sir Lancelot, then it's good enough for us.  

Kenilworth Castle And Elizabethan Garden

The great love of Elizabeth I, Robert Dudely, used to inhabit Kenilworth Castle , the once medieval fortress turned Elizabethan palace. Now an English Heritage site, it invites visitors to explore its keep, Tudor towers and the luscious gardens that have been recreated and filled with colourful flowers. You can catch sky-high views 18 metres up, similar to what the queen would’ve had, as well as a glimpse of her private staircase and imagine what it would’ve been like to live there while musing on your day over a hot drink in the Stables Tearoom.

POV: You're Elizabeth 1 and this is your bedroom. 

For more inspiration, check out our quirky activities guide and sign up to our UK newsletter for all the latest. 

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10 impressive UK castles to visit for a historical and memorable getaway

Posted: April 19, 2023 | Last updated: June 26, 2024

<p>                     <strong>UK castles are some of the most impressive and beautiful in the world, so why not pay a visit to one this year? Whether you're booking a getaway to see what the UK has to offer or are a UK resident planning a day trip, these culturally and historically significant castles should definitely be on your must-see list.</strong>                   </p>                                      <p>                     The castles of the British Isles tower over some of our most spectacular landscapes, from castles in Scotland steeped in grandeur to pretty châteaus straight from a French fairytale, and each has a unique story. When visiting some of these majestic castles, you'll get insight into some of the most fascinating history England has to offer.                    </p>

UK castles are some of the most impressive and beautiful in the world, so why not pay a visit to one this year? Whether you're booking a getaway to see what the UK has to offer or are a UK resident planning a day trip, these culturally and historically significant castles should definitely be on your must-see list.

The castles of the British Isles tower over some of our most spectacular landscapes, from castles in Scotland steeped in grandeur to pretty châteaus straight from a French fairytale, and each has a unique story. When visiting some of these majestic castles, you'll get insight into some of the most fascinating history England has to offer. 

By Helena Cartwright

<p>                     <strong>Location: </strong>Hampshire, RG20 9RN |<strong> Website:</strong> highclerecastle.co.uk                   </p>                                      <p>                     Downton Abbey fans will recognize Highclere Castle as the stately home of the aristocratic Crawley family. The Grade I-listed house was once the site of a medieval palace but was transformed in the 19th century by Sir Charles Barry—architect of London’s Houses of Parliament. The castle is set in 1,000 acres of parkland that was designed by landscape gardener Capability Brown and is also home to an impressive exhibition of Egyptian artifacts.                    </p>                                      <p>                     For a real treat, book in for the castle’s delightful afternoon tea, with sandwiches, scones, and a glass of bubbly.                   </p>

1. HIGHCLERE CASTLE

Location:  Hampshire, RG20 9RN |  Website:  highclerecastle.co.uk

Downton Abbey fans will recognize Highclere Castle as the stately home of the aristocratic Crawley family. The Grade I-listed house was once the site of a medieval palace but was transformed in the 19th century by Sir Charles Barry—architect of London’s Houses of Parliament. The castle is set in 1,000 acres of parkland that was designed by landscape gardener Capability Brown and is also home to an impressive exhibition of Egyptian artifacts. 

For a real treat, book in for the castle’s delightful afternoon tea, with sandwiches, scones, and a glass of bubbly.

<p>                     <strong>Location: </strong>Berkshire, SL4 1NJ |<strong> Website:</strong> rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle                   </p>                                      <p>                     A royal residence for more than 900 years, Windsor Castle is the world’s oldest and largest inhabited castle. To marvel at the castle’s full regal splendor, approach from the Long Walk, a three-mile tree-lined avenue that runs to the castle through Windsor Great Park, where 500 red deer roam.                   </p>                                      <p>                     Look out for the castle’s iconic Round Tower, which flies the Royal Standard when the Queen is in residence, and visit the elegant gothic masterpiece of St George’s Chapel in the Castle’s lower ward, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex tied the knot in 2018.                   </p>

2. WINDSOR CASTLE

Location:  Berkshire, SL4 1NJ |  Website:  rct.uk/visit/windsor-castle

A royal residence for more than 900 years, Windsor Castle is the world’s oldest and largest inhabited castle. To marvel at the castle’s full regal splendor, approach from the Long Walk, a three-mile tree-lined avenue that runs to the castle through Windsor Great Park, where 500 red deer roam.

Look out for the castle’s iconic Round Tower, which flies the Royal Standard when the Queen is in residence, and visit the elegant gothic masterpiece of St George’s Chapel in the Castle’s lower ward, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex tied the knot in 2018.

<p>                     <strong>Location:</strong> Derbyshire, S44 6PR | <strong>Website: </strong>english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bolsover-castle/                   </p>                                      <p>                     Built on the site of a medieval fortress, the grand halls, fountains, and gardens of Bolsover Castle were always meant to impress. The Stuart mansion sits high on a ridge above the Vale of Scarsdale, with sweeping views across the Derbyshire countryside. Its interior is lavishly decorated, but Bolsover has also been voted English Heritage’s spookiest site, with staff reporting mysterious footsteps, slamming doors, muffled voices, and the ghost of a boy holding visitors’ hands.                    </p>                                      <p>                     The castle is home to an indoor riding school, where regular performances of classical dressage take place.                   </p>

3. BOLSOVER CASTLE

Location:  Derbyshire, S44 6PR |  Website:  english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/bolsover-castle/

Built on the site of a medieval fortress, the grand halls, fountains, and gardens of Bolsover Castle were always meant to impress. The Stuart mansion sits high on a ridge above the Vale of Scarsdale, with sweeping views across the Derbyshire countryside. Its interior is lavishly decorated, but Bolsover has also been voted English Heritage’s spookiest site, with staff reporting mysterious footsteps, slamming doors, muffled voices, and the ghost of a boy holding visitors’ hands. 

The castle is home to an indoor riding school, where regular performances of classical dressage take place.

<p>                     <strong>Location: </strong>Cornwall, PL34 0HE<strong> | Website:</strong> https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/                   </p>                                      <p>                     Tintagel Castle is shrouded in magic and mystery. Teetering on the windswept north Cornwall coast, the castle’s ruins sprawl from the mainland across a rocky precipice above the Atlantic Ocean.                   </p>                                      <p>                     From the early Middle Ages, the headland was a stronghold of Cornish kings, and their tales inspired the legend that King Arthur was born here. This led medieval nobleman Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to build a castle at the site. After exploring the castle, head down to the secluded sandy beach below, where kids can paddle in rock pools and explore the magical Merlin’s Cave.                    </p>

4. TINTAGEL CASTLE

Location:  Cornwall, PL34 0HE  | Website:  https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/tintagel-castle/

Tintagel Castle is shrouded in magic and mystery. Teetering on the windswept north Cornwall coast, the castle’s ruins sprawl from the mainland across a rocky precipice above the Atlantic Ocean.

From the early Middle Ages, the headland was a stronghold of Cornish kings, and their tales inspired the legend that King Arthur was born here. This led medieval nobleman Richard, Earl of Cornwall, to build a castle at the site. After exploring the castle, head down to the secluded sandy beach below, where kids can paddle in rock pools and explore the magical Merlin’s Cave. 

<p>                     <strong>Location: </strong>Midlothian, EH1 2NG<strong> | Website: </strong>edinburghcastle.scot                   </p>                                      <p>                     Perched upon a mighty volcanic rock in the heart of the Scottish capital, the towering walls of Edinburgh Castle cut a striking silhouette against the skyline. The 12th-century castle was a key fortress of the Scottish Kingdom and has the dubious honor of being the most besieged place in Britain.                   </p>                                      <p>                     The castle’s lofty position provides spectacular views that stretch to the wild hills beyond Edinburgh, while the castle is also home to the nation’s crown jewels, the Honours of Scotland. Finish a visit at the castle tea rooms, to enjoy cakes or local specialties such as haggis and cured Scottish salmon. Grab a window seat for views across the city.                    </p>

5. EDINBURGH CASTLE

Location:  Midlothian, EH1 2NG  | Website:  edinburghcastle.scot

Perched upon a mighty volcanic rock in the heart of the Scottish capital, the towering walls of Edinburgh Castle cut a striking silhouette against the skyline. The 12th-century castle was a key fortress of the Scottish Kingdom and has the dubious honor of being the most besieged place in Britain.

The castle’s lofty position provides spectacular views that stretch to the wild hills beyond Edinburgh, while the castle is also home to the nation’s crown jewels, the Honours of Scotland. Finish a visit at the castle tea rooms, to enjoy cakes or local specialties such as haggis and cured Scottish salmon. Grab a window seat for views across the city. 

<p>                     <strong>Location: </strong>Kent, TN8 7NG |<strong> Website:</strong> hevercastle.co.uk                   </p>                                      <p>                     Set within 125 acres of Kent countryside, Hever ticks all the ‘fairytale castle’ boxes—and it's a great place for a UK staycation too.                   </p>                                      <p>                     The 13th-century building is surrounded by a large medieval moat, with a wooden drawbridge leading to a towering stone gatehouse. The castle was the childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, and Tudor tapestries and portraits decorate its grand halls. The gardens feature a 100-year-old yew maze, boating lake, and mock Tudor village. Guests can stay overnight in a luxurious 5-star B&B within the castle grounds.                    </p>

6. HEVER CASTLE

Location:  Kent, TN8 7NG |  Website:  hevercastle.co.uk

Set within 125 acres of Kent countryside, Hever ticks all the ‘fairytale castle’ boxes—and it's a great place for a UK staycation too.

The 13th-century building is surrounded by a large medieval moat, with a wooden drawbridge leading to a towering stone gatehouse. The castle was the childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife, Anne Boleyn, and Tudor tapestries and portraits decorate its grand halls. The gardens feature a 100-year-old yew maze, boating lake, and mock Tudor village. Guests can stay overnight in a luxurious 5-star B&B within the castle grounds. 

<p>                     <strong>Location: </strong>Isle of Anglesey, LL59 5NS |<strong> Website:</strong> chateaurhianfa.co.uk                   </p>                                      <p>                     The pointed turrets of Château Rhianfa emerge in glorious fashion from the hills of north Wales and are inspired by the chateaux of France’s Loire Valley.                   </p>                                      <p>                     Its ornate architecture, built in the mid 19th century, seems curiously at home on the Welsh island of Anglesey. The chateau enjoys spectacular views across the Menai Strait to the towering peaks of Snowdonia and has been tastefully converted into a stylish hotel and B&B, with 27 bedrooms and an award-winning restaurant too.                   </p>

7. CHATEAU RHIANFA

Location:  Isle of Anglesey, LL59 5NS |  Website:  chateaurhianfa.co.uk

The pointed turrets of Château Rhianfa emerge in glorious fashion from the hills of north Wales and are inspired by the chateaux of France’s Loire Valley.

Its ornate architecture, built in the mid 19th century, seems curiously at home on the Welsh island of Anglesey. The chateau enjoys spectacular views across the Menai Strait to the towering peaks of Snowdonia and has been tastefully converted into a stylish hotel and B&B, with 27 bedrooms and an award-winning restaurant too.

<p>                     <strong>Location: </strong>Western Highlands, IV40 8DX | <strong>Website:</strong> eileandonancastle.com                   </p>                                      <p>                     This picturesque castle is one of the most iconic sights in the Scottish Highlands. Perched on a tiny island at the meeting point of three great lochs, the castle looks out to the Isle of Skye and over the wild, forested mountains of Kintail. It's without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Scotland.                   </p>                                      <p>                     The original 13th-century castle was all but destroyed during the 1719 Jacobite uprising, but was restored to its former glory in the early 20th century, with the addition of a magnificent stone bridge that connects the island to the mainland.                    </p>                                      <p>                     Book into the charming Eilean Donan Cottage that overlooks the castle, an ideal base for exploring the spectacular Highland surroundings.                   </p>

8. EILEAN DONAN CASTLE

Location:  Western Highlands, IV40 8DX |  Website:  eileandonancastle.com

This picturesque castle is one of the most iconic sights in the Scottish Highlands. Perched on a tiny island at the meeting point of three great lochs, the castle looks out to the Isle of Skye and over the wild, forested mountains of Kintail. It's without a doubt one of the most beautiful places in Scotland.

The original 13th-century castle was all but destroyed during the 1719 Jacobite uprising, but was restored to its former glory in the early 20th century, with the addition of a magnificent stone bridge that connects the island to the mainland. 

Book into the charming Eilean Donan Cottage that overlooks the castle, an ideal base for exploring the spectacular Highland surroundings.

<p>                     <strong>Location: </strong>Northumbria, NE69 7DF | <strong>Website: </strong>bamburghcastle.com                   </p>                                      <p>                     Once the royal seat of the Kingdom of Northumbria, Bamburgh was a fearsome stronghold throughout the Middle Ages. The Norman-built fortress spans nine acres, and rests upon a rocky volcanic crag, with views stretching down the windswept Northumberland coast and across the North Sea to the Farne Islands.                   </p>                                      <p>                     Its fortified walls—11ft thick at points—were a formidable line of defense against marauding armies. Today, you can enjoy a more serene stay in the castle’s elegant, turreted guard towers, 150ft above the white sands of Bamburgh Beach.                   </p>

9. BAMBURGH CASTLE

Location:  Northumbria, NE69 7DF |  Website:  bamburghcastle.com

Once the royal seat of the Kingdom of Northumbria, Bamburgh was a fearsome stronghold throughout the Middle Ages. The Norman-built fortress spans nine acres, and rests upon a rocky volcanic crag, with views stretching down the windswept Northumberland coast and across the North Sea to the Farne Islands.

Its fortified walls—11ft thick at points—were a formidable line of defense against marauding armies. Today, you can enjoy a more serene stay in the castle’s elegant, turreted guard towers, 150ft above the white sands of Bamburgh Beach.

<p>                     <strong>Location:</strong> Warwick, CV34 4QU| <strong>Website:</strong> warwick-castle.com                   </p>                                      <p>                     On the banks of the winding Avon sits the towering medieval fortress of Warwick Castle. With a history dating back 1,000 years, the Midlands site was first home to a wooden fort built by William the Conqueror and was redesigned with stone ramparts and portcullis during the 12th century.                    </p>                                      <p>                     Today, the castle’s medieval history has been brought vividly to life, and kids will love exploring the Horrible Histories Maze, castle dungeons, replica trebuchet, and impressive archery exhibition. There’s even medieval-themed glamping—perfect for a family getaway on site.                   </p>

10. WARWICK CASTLE

Location:  Warwick, CV34 4QU|  Website:  warwick-castle.com

On the banks of the winding Avon sits the towering medieval fortress of Warwick Castle. With a history dating back 1,000 years, the Midlands site was first home to a wooden fort built by William the Conqueror and was redesigned with stone ramparts and portcullis during the 12th century. 

Today, the castle’s medieval history has been brought vividly to life, and kids will love exploring the Horrible Histories Maze, castle dungeons, replica trebuchet, and impressive archery exhibition. There’s even medieval-themed glamping—perfect for a family getaway on site.

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11 castles where you can spend the night in luxury despite their brutal past

Have a royally good sleep by staying in one of these lavish castles that have been converted into hotels, B&Bs, or self-catered accommodation

Hever Castle

  • 07:00, 7 Jul 2024
  • Updated 12:15, 7 Jul 2024

There are over 4,000 castles dotted across the UK, eight of these in the Royal Family's property portfolio, each with their own unique histories, and sometimes brutal stories from the past.

Plenty of the castles still standing today have been transformed into historical museums while others were left to fall into disrepair.

However, several castles have been turned into hotels, B&Bs and even glamping sites, meaning that you can experience what it would be like to sleep and wake up in your very own palace.

Here are just some of the castles you can stay in the UK...

Mingary Castle

Mingary Castle, or Caisteal Mhìogharraidh in Scottish Gaelic, is located in Lochaber, Scotland. The castle dates back to either the 13th or 14th century and was owned by many different clans throughout the years. At one point it was used by King James IV of Scotland to defend against Clan Donald and has been besieged on numerous other occasions throughout its history

Mingary is believed to have been abandoned sometime in the mid-19th century. Restoration work was conducted on the castle in the 2010s, including stabilising the walls to prevent the castle from falling into the sea. Following this it has been converted into a luxury hotel and restaurant, opening the doors to its first guests in 2016.

Prices start at £300. You can book a stay at Mingary Castle .

Bickleigh Castle

Listed in the Domesday book, Bickleigh Castle in Devon, dates back to at least the Norman invasion, although the Norman castle was dismantled in the 12th century. However, a fortified manor house was built on the site, incorporating some of the ruins of the old castle, in the 1400s by the owner, Lord Thomas Courteney.

After his death, the house was transferred to the Carew family, with all of Thomas's sons dying in the Wars of the Roses. The castle would then become a site of civil war once again, when Queen Henrietta Maria, the wife of Charles I, stayed at the castle in 1644 as a guest of Sir Henry Carew. The Royalist sympathies of the Carew family later led to their home being attacked and partially destroyed.

After passing through a number of different owners who lovingly restored the damage from the Civil War, Bickleigh was transformed into a wedding venue and bed & breakfast in 2002.

Prices start at £140 and can be booked on the Bickleigh Castle website .

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle started life as an Anglo-Saxon fort in 914, founded by Æthelflæd, the daughter of Alfred the Great. Following the Norman invasion, William the Conqueror built a wooden castle on the site in 1068, this was later rebuilt with stone in the 12th century.

The Castle has been a key location in numerous wars, with Henry of Anjou (later Henry II) taking the castle during The Anarchy, while King Edward IV was imprisoned by his former ally the Earl of Warwick in the castle during the Wars of the Roses. Prisoners were also held at the castle during the English Civil War.

In modern times the castle has become a popular tourist attraction and even opened up a glamping site in 2016. Alongside medieval-themed glamping, those wanting to stay the night can also choose to stay in luxury Tower Suites located in the castle's 14th-century tower. This summer, Warwick Castle is also set to open a new hotel, also located within the castle's walls.

Glamping tents, tower suites, and hotel rooms can all be booked on the Warwick Castle website .

The Castle at Edgehill

The Castle at Edgehill in West Oxfordshire is famed for being the site of the first major battle of the English Civil War in 1642. The castle was then built at the site a hundred years later, with architect Sanderson Miller claiming that the main tower was constructed on the same site where King Charles I raised the standard before the battle began.

The small castle was then converted into an inn in 1822 with rooms located in the property's two towers. In recent years it has become a bed & breakfast, with five rooms, all named after individuals who fought in the Battle of Edge Hill.

Rooms start from £140 and can be booked through the Castle at Edgehill website .

Langley Castle

Northumberland's Langley Castle was built in 1350, during the reign of Edward II, and has had numerous owners over the subsequent centuries. In 1405, the Castle was damaged by Henry IV's forces, when the Percy family, who resided in Langley at the time, rebelled against him.

Fast forward to 1715 and the castle was once again a hotbed of rebellion, when James Radclyffe the Earl of Derwentwater and Viscount Langley took part in the Jacobite uprising. After the uprising failed, James and his brother were executed and the Castle was confiscated by the crown.

In 1882 a local historian, Cadwallader Bates, purchased the property and worked to restore it to its former glory. After he and his wife died, the castle was used as barracks in the Second World War. In 1988 the castle ownership changed hands once again, and it was subsequently converted into a hotel.

Prices start at £150 with rooms both inside the castle and on the estate and can be booked on the Langley Castle website .

Amberley Castle

Numerous Royals have visited Amberley Castle in West Sussex throughout its 900-year history, including Henry VIII in 1526, and Queen Elizabeth II in her teenage years. The breathtaking castle started life as a timber-framed hunting lodge when it was built in 1103, before being transformed into a fortified manor house in 1377, amid fears of a French invasion during the Hundred Years War.

Unlike plenty of other castles on this list, Amberley's history remained relatively peaceful until the English Civil War when it became a Royalist stronghold and was subsequently attacked by Oliver Cromwell's forces.

In the following centuries, the castle was owned by several different wealthy families, before being converted into a a hotel in 1989. In recent years the castle has also served as a wedding venue, with former This Morning presenter Holly Willoughby and her husband Daniel Baldwin tying the knot there in 2007.

Rooms start from £285 and can be booked on the Amberley Castle website .

Sneaton Castle

A relatively young castle, Sneaton Castle in Whitby was built in the 1800s by former sugar plantation and slave owner and then MP for York, James Wilson. James bought what was known as Sneaton Manor in 1820 and then transformed it into Sneaton Castle.

Following James' death, the castle was used as a school for several years, before being purchased by John Morley in 2020, who has now transformed the castle into a hotel, wedding venue and conference centre.

Prices start at £220 with rooms available to book on the Sneaton Castle website .

Cawood Castle

Cawood Castle is believed to predate the Norman invasion of Britain, with the Saxon King Athelstan believed to have built the first fortifications on the site. However, Cawood's designation as a castle was first recorded in 1181.

The castle itself became a favourite among numerous Royal dynasties, with visitors including King John, Henry III, Edward I and II, and Henry VIII. Cawood has also gone down in history as the location at which the notorious Archbishop of York, Thomas Wolsey was arrested in 1530.

Following the English Civil War, much of the castle was destroyed after being captured by Parliamentarian forces. The only remaining parts of the original castle still standing today are the gatehouse and the banqueting hall, which have since been lovingly restored and transformed into a holiday home by the Landmark Trust.

Prices start at £528 and are dependent on length of stay and time of year. All accommodation is self-catered and can be booked on the Landmark Trust's website .

Roch Castle

Pembrokeshire's Roch Castle was built in the twelfth century and served as a border stronghold between Anglicised Wales and the independent Wales of the North. The first inhabitant of the castle was Adam de Rupe with his descendants continuing to inherit the property until the 15th century.

In the 17th century, it was home to the Walter family. During the English Civil War, the Walters declared for King Charles I and later were forced to flee from their home when it was taken over by Parliamentary forces. These forces set fire to the castle in 1644 and it remained abandoned for several years.

The Walter's daughter Lucy, later became the mistress of King Charles II, with whom had a son James, 1st Duke of Monmouth. As an adult, James resided in his ancestral home of Roch Castle, until his arrest and execution following a rebellion in 1685.

Following the Duke's execution, the castle remained abandoned until 1900, when it was purchased by John Philipps, 1st Viscount St Davids, who began restoration work on the property. In 2008 Roch Castle was purchased by Keith Griffiths, who transformed it into an award-winning hotel.

Rooms start at £190 and are available to book on the Roch Castle website .

Hever Castle

Kent's Hever Castle, which was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, was built in the 13th century before coming into the hands of the Boleyn family in 1462. Thomas Boleyn, Anne's father, inherited the castle in 1505, and it remained his residence until he died in 1539, three years after the executions of his daughter Anne and son George.

As his heir, George, had predeceased him, on Thomas's death the castle fell into the hands of Henry VIII, who then granted it to Anne of Cleeves as part of their annulment settlement.

Hever was then owned by several aristocratic families before being purchased by American millionaire William Waldorf Astor in 1903, who then sold the property to Broadland Properties Limited in 1983, and in 2012 some of the castle's buildings opened as B&B.

Rooms at Hever Castle and Gardens start at £120 and can be booked via the website .

Chateau Rhianfa

Chateau Rhianfa, in Anglesey, certainly looks more like a castle you would find in France, possibly within the grounds of Versailles, than it does a classic Welsh castle.

Chateau Rhianfa was built by Sir John Hay-Williams between 1849 and 1851 for his wife and daughters. He based much of the building's exteriors on his wife Sarah's sketches of the Loire Valley in France. He had decided to build the stunning property so that his family would have somewhere to live upon his death.

Rhianfa remained in the hands of the Williams family until 1957 when it was sold and converted into apartments. In 2011 the chateau was purchased by Mike and Carol Clare who renovated the property before opening it as a hotel in 2015.

Rooms start from £175.00 and can be booked on the Chateau Rhianfa website .

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COMMENTS

  1. 10 Best Castles to Visit in England

    Broomfield, Maidstone ME17 1PL, UK. Phone +44 1622 765400. Web Visit website. Leeds Castle, near Maidstone in Kent, is often called the most romantic castle in England because of its beautiful setting, surrounded by a moat. There is another good reason to think of romance here. For most of its 1,000-year history, it has been a lady's castle.

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    1. Dover Castle. The most iconic of all English fortresses, commanding the gateway to the realm for nine centuries, Dover Castle is your winner. "Beautiful castle, amazing secret wartime tunnels, fantastic backdrop of countryside meeting the sea. Not to mention the incredible events." 2.

  3. The Best 20 Castles To Visit In England

    The Finest English Castles (Updated October 2023): English castles are some of the most popular tourist destinations in England. These castles, like their counterparts in Wales, are great monuments to England's long history.Visitors flock there in droves, no doubt filled with stories of the knights and kings who lived there, and the events they have witnessed.

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    Cardiff Castle, Cardiff, CF10 3RB. 📍 Discover the best things to do in Cardiff. Book now. Advertising. 3. The Tower of London, England. Photograph: Shutterstock. Despite its deceptive name, the ...

  5. 10 of the Best Castles in England

    A castle was later built on the site by Richard, 1st Earl of Cornwall in the 13th century, which later fell into disrepair and ruin. 10. Portchester Castle. Portchester Castle is a medieval castle set within the walls of a 3rd century Roman fort, the most completely preserved example in Northern Europe.

  6. 18 Best Castles In England To Visit

    For Harry Potter fans: Alnwick Castle. 2. One of the best castles in England — Bamburgh Castle. 3. Leeds Castle — a true fairy tale palace. 4. The deeply historical Dover Castle. 5. For a picturesque English Castle — Bodiam Castle.

  7. Most Beautiful Castles in The UK

    Eilean Donan Castle. Immerse yourself in Scottish heritage. Eilean Donan sits in an incredible setting: the castle's stone turrets are surrounded by rugged peaks, and it sits at the meeting point of three west coast lochs - Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh. Urquhart Castle.

  8. 21 famous castles in England to explore

    One of the best examples of a medieval castle in England is Bodiam Castle in East Sussex. With its moat, dramatic gatehouse entrance and impressive circular towers, it very much looks the part of a castle from a fairytale. Built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, it was primarily a defensive structure. In 1926, it was given to the National Trust.

  9. 28 Best Castles In England To Visit

    4. Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire. Belvoir Castle is a romantic mock castle in England with an interesting 1,000 year history. It's a romantic amalgam of architectural styles that make it movie set pretty. And, in fact, Belvoir doubled as Windsor Castle in season 3 of The Crown and in Young Victoria.

  10. Britain's 20 most spectacular castles

    Urquhart Castle. Sat on the banks of Loch Ness, the ruins of Urquhart Castle provide spectacular views both up and down the loch. With a history spanning around 1,000 years, the castle was once a medieval fortress and it's easy to imagine what life was like here during the Wars of Independence. The last soldiers left the castle in 1692 ...

  11. Top 10 Palaces & Castles in England

    In fact, one of the nations favourite pastimes is to visit the vast number of spectacular heritage sites dotted around the country. Our pick of the top 10 castles and palaces in England lists some of the all-time classics as well as some of the more quirky and unusual choices. 1. Windsor Castle:

  12. The 10 Best Castles to Visit in the UK

    1. The Tower of London. Looming large over the banks of the River Thames, the Tower of London is one of the most iconic castles to visit in the UK. Founded in 1066 by William the Conqueror, the Norman king ordered the construction of a mighty fortress to lord over his newly conquered kingdom.

  13. 25 Most Beautiful Castles in England (+Map)

    9. Alnwick Castle. The seat of the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick is the second largest inhabited castle in England after Windsor Castle, the Queen's favorite weekend home. Built during the 11th century, Alnwick Castle has been home to the Percy family for the last 700 years.

  14. 15 Best Castles in England

    4. Highclere Castle. Source: Emily Marie Wilson / shutterstock. Highclere Castle. To anyone who has ever watched Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle will immediately seem familiar. The Victorian castle in Hampshire, built in the second half of the 17th century, is among the most beautiful castles in England.

  15. The 15 Best Castles in England to Visit in 2023

    A visit to Middleham Castle is a must if you're heading to the Yorkshire Dales - and it's a great option for castles in England to visit. Known as one of the best castles in England to visit because of its awesome history (Richard III lived here once upon a time!), it's certainly one to add to your must-see list. This castle in England ...

  16. 13 Most Beautiful Castles in England

    Bodiam Castle, East Sussex. If you like your strongholds encircled with a deep moat, then Bodiam is the castle for you. Built in 1385 to defend England against a feared French invasion, it ticks ...

  17. 22 England's Best Castles To Visit [Castle Guide]

    3.Tower of London a 900 year-old fortress. Officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London. Also called a "White Tower" the Tower of London is one of England's most iconic buildings.

  18. 17 Best Castles In England To Visit

    14.) Arundel Castle. Established on Christmas day, way back in 1067, Arundel Castle is one of the most iconic and best castles in England to visit. Still a family home, you can head inside to explore some of the staterooms, see some accommodation quarters and explore the magnificent beauty of the grounds.

  19. 15 Top Castles to Visit in England

    This is one of the best castles to visit in England by far. Dover Castle Details and Information. Address: Castle Hill Road, Dover, Kent, CT16 1HU Phone: +44 (0)370 333 1181 Operating Hours: 10 am-4 pm, Mon-Sun Entrance Fee: £21.80 for adults and £13.00 for children

  20. 21 Best Castles in Southern England to Visit from London [2024] + Map

    7. Highclere Castle, Hampshire, Southern England. Located in Hampshire, Highclere Castle is a historic estate with roots dating back to 749 AD. The current Jacobethan-style country house, set within a 5,000-acre estate with a park designed by Capability Brown, was built in the 19th century by architect Charles Barry.

  21. 20 of the best castles to visit in the UK

    3. Joust the ticket - Warwick Castle. This 950-year-old castle is the priciest and most commercial of Britain's castles, but boy is it fun: a trebuchet firing cannon balls (sadly no longer ...

  22. The 30 Best Castles of England Worth The Journey From London

    With the help of travel writer friends, we have created a list of the best castles England has. Castles in Northern England include Alnwick Castle, famous as Hogwarts in Harry Potter. Castles in Southern England include Tintagel which is associated with King Arthur. For central England, there are beautiful castles in East Midlands, castles in ...

  23. Britain's Top 10 Castles

    Join the Travel Channel as we take you back to British History 101, to count down Britain's Top 10 Castles and Palaces. Windsor Castle. At 900 years old, Windsor Castle is the largest occupied castle and oldest official royal residence in the world. Windsor Castle is much more than a castle; the grounds include several homes, a large church and ...

  24. Top 12 Castles In The UK

    Full of Tudor trinkets, Hever is one of the best castles in the UK to visit. Alnwick Castle. Most known for being a filming location for Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, The Last Knight and more, Alnwick Castle is a Northumberland-based legend. The fort itself dates back to the Norman period and has existed as a military outpost, teaching college ...

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    Location: Hampshire, RG20 9RN | Website: highclerecastle.co.uk Downton Abbey fans will recognize Highclere Castle as the stately home of the aristocratic Crawley family. The Grade I-listed house ...

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    Warwick Castle started life as an Anglo-Saxon fort in 914, founded by Æthelflæd, the daughter of Alfred the Great. Following the Norman invasion, William the Conqueror built a wooden castle on ...