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.
Impressive UK castles to visit
1. HIGHCLERE CASTLE
Location: Hampshire, RG20 9RN | Entry: Adults from $23.43/£17, afternoon tea from $48.24/£35pp | Opening hours: 10am-3pm (but closed Friday and Saturday) | Booking required: Yes| 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.
2. 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.
3. BOLSOVER CASTLE
Location: Derbyshire, S44 6PR | Entry: Adults from $19.16/£13.90 (free for English Heritage members) | Opening hours: Daily, 11am-4pm| Booking required: Yes| 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.
4. TINTAGEL CASTLE
Location: Cornwall, PL34 0HE | Entry: Adults from $22.05/£18.70 (free for English Heritage members) | Opening hours: Daily, 10am-6pm| Booking required: Yes| 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.
5. EDINBURGH CASTLE
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.
6. HEVER CASTLE
Location: Kent, TN8 7NG | Entry: For gardens and castle: $26.46/£19.20—for overnight stays, double rooms are from $241.27/£175 per night | Opening hours: Daily, 9.30am-6pm | Booking required: Not essential for day visits, but advised | 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.
7. CHATEAU RHIANFA
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.
8. EILEAN DONAN CASTLE
Location: Western Highlands, IV40 8DX | Entry: Castle only—$13.79/£10. For overnight stays—from $689.96/£500 for four nights, sleeps four | Opening hours: Daily, 10am-6pm | Booking required: Yes | 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.
9. BAMBURGH CASTLE
Location: Northumbria, NE69 7DF Entry: Castle only—adults $17.25/£12.50. For overnight stays—from $1,625.93/£1,178 for three nights, sleeps five | Opening hours: Daily, 10am-5pm | Booking required: Yes | 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.
10. WARWICK CASTLE
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.
Helena is the Travel Editor for Woman & Home, Woman’s Weekly, Woman, Woman’s Own and Chat. As a journalist with 8 years’ experience, she has also worked for titles including Stylist, The Evening Standard and Heat.
She is a keen traveller who loves nothing more than exploring a new country. Of all the places she's visited, her favourite (and most talked about) has been a road trip around California. Starting in San Francisco, she travelled over 1,500 miles in 2 weeks exploring the length and breadth of the sunny state. One of her highlights was spending 2 days in Yosemite National Park walking the many trails. But she also loved lounging by the pool in Palm Springs’ 40 degree heat!
Her dream trip is a safari. A fierce animal lover, she dreams of seeing some of the big five out in the wild. She had a trip to South Africa in the diary for April 2020, but it was sadly cancelled as the pandemic hit the UK. As soon as travel is back on the cards, it will be pencilled back into the diary! Her wish-list also includes India – to explore her husband’s heritage more – as well as exploring more of America’s stunning national parks.
In the meantime, while the world recovers, she is being a tourist in her own country visiting places she’d never been before including Cornwall, Norfolk and Portsmouth. You can follow her travels on Instagram (@helenacartwright) or ask her a travel-related question on Twitter (@helenacart).
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