Castle Holidays

The Complete Guide to Castle Holidays in the United Kingdom

Planning a castle break in the UK? This may be the best choice you have ever made. The United Kingdom is home to more than 1800 castles, some of which have vanished or are in ruins but some are in nearly perfect condition. Whatever kind of castle floats your boat, the UK is the ideal location to find it. 

Castles are a huge part of British history and heritage, spanning centuries and major historical events. They are astoundingly amazing to see and explore. A diverse array of castles and manors provide perfect getaways for castle lovers.

A little Trivia about Castles

The earliest castles were built in the Middle Ages, specifically in France during the 10th century and in England in the 11th century. They were fortified structures created to keep out invaders. Most of the first castles were built with earthwork and timber (called motte-and-bailey castles) and a few were made of stone. Many castles were rebuilt with stone and the ones still standing today are built with stone or brick. 

8 Famous Castles You Must Visit in the United Kingdom

Wondering where to start your castle holiday from or what castle to start with? Start by visiting some of the most famous castles in the United Kingdom. If you are pressed for time, you might be unable to visit all of the castles you want to see, but these castles must not be missed. 

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle, home to the royal family of England, holds the title for the world’s oldest castle occupied by royalty. It is more than 900 years old. Located in Berkshire, it sprawls across hectares of real estate, making it the largest castle in the world. Its original purpose was to guard London against invasion from the Western side but its location and proximity to the royal hunting grounds made it the royal residence.


Windsor Castle was built in the 11th century over a span of 16 years. It has served 39 kings and queens and their families. One of its prominent features is the Round Tower which can be seen from many miles away. Presently, the castle serves as the Queen’s weekend home and residence for official obligations. 

What to do here: 

    • See the Changing the Guard ceremony 3 times a week
    • Visit the chapel where the amazing royal weddings took place
    • See Queen Mary’s Dolls House
    • Take the kids to the Legoland Windsor theme park
    • Go on a tour of the state apartments ( choose between the ceremonial and historic routes)
    • Take the Long Walk from the park to Windsor Castle
  • Sample beer from the Windsor and Eton brewery

             

Leeds Castle

The Leeds Castle is actually located in Kent and it was built in 1119. The present castle structure was restored in the 20th century, by Lady Baillie, an English-American heiress. In the 13th century, it served as a home to King Edward I and Catherine of Aragon – 1st wife of King Edward I – in the 16th century. Leeds Castle has been tagged “the loveliest castle in the world” due to its stunning beauty. It is surrounded by a lake and beautiful gardens with outstanding architecture.

What to do here: 

  • Attend the open-air opera
  • Watch a film at the Leeds Castle cinema and theatre
  • Keep your kids entertained with visits to the maze, adventure playgrounds and grotto
  • Partake in a Mystery Quest
  • See the Junk Orchestra
  • Go punting in the moat
  • See the magnificent falcons in the falconry exhibition.

The Tower Of London

At the very center of the Tower of London lies the White Tower. It was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror and is the a major tourist attraction for visitors to the Tower of London. Almost 3 million visitors flock to the Tower of London each year lured by gory tales of executions and witch hauntings. Built in 1066, the Tower has served as a prison, a palace and a fortress, it is reportedly the most secure castle in the United Kingdom. 

tower-2223305_1280

 

What to do here

  • See the Crown Jewels
  • Watch the Ceremony of Keys performed by the Yeoman Warders
  • Find the six ravens who save the kingdom from ruin
  • Get the best view of the Tower Bridge
  • Walk on the Tower’s Walls
  • Visit the Royal Mint Museum and the Bloody Tower.

Bodiam Castle

The Bodiam Castle was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge in 1385 for purely defensive reasons. It provides a good picture of a Medieval castle retaining most of its external features such as circular towers, a gatehouse with twin towers and a moat. Bodiam Castle is located in East Sussex and is described by locals as “the Castle floating in water.”


 

What to do here:

  • Enjoy a picnic on the lush castle grounds 
  • Walk along the gorgeous moat
  • Climb to the very top of the Tower
  • Play fish-spotting in the moat
  • Discover secret hideouts in the castle courtyard

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle, Warwick, Warwickshire is a popular stone castle standing on the bend of the River Avon. It was built in 1068 with wood by William the Conqueror and was rebuilt in the 12th century with stone. It sits comfortably on more than 64 acres of land. It is very well-preserved for a castle has been through an attack in 1264, was besieged in 1642 and caught fire in 1871. The Earl of Warwick owns and lives in the Warwick Castle. 


 

What to do here: 

  • See a live re-enactment of the War of the Roses. 
  • Go medieval glamping on the castle grounds
  • Explore the Horrible Histories Maze. 
  • See the trebuchet: the trebuchet is also called a siege engine. It is a basically a giant catapult which was to lob huge boulders or flaming balls of tar at the enemies. The one at Warwick Castle still works!
  • Watch the daily Falconry show, the Falconer’s Quest
  • Experience the castle itself: climb the Ramparts and Tower, visit the great hall
  • Visit the time tower and see how Warwick Castle was formed
  • See the Kingmaker attraction and the Castle Dungeons
  • Be a guest of the Countess of Warwick at the royal weekend party

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle is a UNESCO world heritage site. More than 700 years old, Conwy Castle lies cradled between the majestic mountains of Snowdonia and the picturesque seaside. Till date, an unbroken circle of town walls stretching 1.3kilometers protects Conwy. It was built in just four years (1283 and 1287) by King Edward I and Master James of St George, his architect. Its high towers are a major attraction.


A bridge provides entrance to this well-preserved castle which has royal apartments in near-perfect condition. 

 

What to do here:

  • See its eight towers
  • Hear about the myths and legends of Wales in the celebration of  the oral traditions of Wales
  • Fans of swords and sword fighting will enjoy The Tournament, a realistic living history event 
  • See some birds of prey up-close
  • Be transported back in time: try your hand at sword-fighting and archery .
  • Take a walk around the battlements, stand at the top and stage your most vivid medieval war.

Dover Castle

The Dover Castle is also called the ‘Key to England” because of its strategic position overlooking the English Channel to Europe. This allows incoming visitors and invaders to be easily seen. The present structure was built by Henry II in 1180 and it continuously modified to shore up its defenses against invaders, its walls are 21 feet thick for this purpose.

images

This castle is over 900 years old and has survived two siege attacks. Its wartime events did not end with Henry II, it was also used during World War I and World War II. Visitors to this fortress will never have a dull moment as there as various activities for all age groups. 

 

What to do here:

  • Navigate the medieval tunnels and the secret wartime tunnels
  • Visit the World War I Fire Command Post
  • Visit the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment and The Queen’s Regiment museum
  • Attend the Arthur’s Hall exhibition and see the Great Tower
  • Get souvenirs of your memorable trip at the Great Tower shop 
  • Visit the underground hospital and watch the drama of the wounded soldier, complete with original smells and sounds.
  • Watch the live re-enactment of Operation Dynamo, the greatest rescue mission 
  • Take pictures in front of the oldest lighthouse in the United Kingdom
  • Escape from the Bunker: an escape room strategy game
  • Attend the jousting tournaments

Tintagel Castle

This 800 year old castle was built by the Earl of Cornwall. It is famous for it’s resemblance to the Court of King Arthur in Camelot. Folktales have linked the legendary tales of the Knights of the Round Table to it. It is also proposed that King Arthur might have been born at Tintagel.

 

Adding to the magic of it’s appearance, a wooden footbridge and a threacherous staircase provide the only accessway to the castle.

Tintagel Castle/ Credit: English Heritage

What to do here:   

  • Learn about Tintagel’s history which spans 1500 years with the novel outdoor exhibition
  • See the legend of Arthur performed by a drama troupe 
  • Explore the rock pools, caves, beach and  arresting landscape around the castle. 
  • See the controversial carving of Merlin in Merlin’s cave
  • Take pictures with Gallos, a new statue of King Arthur located on a nearby clifftop.
  • Enjoy a scenic coastal walk with vibrantly coloured butterflies and flowers
  • Marvel at the thundering waterfalls during the rainy season
  • Climb the ruins and take awesome pictures 

Castles You Must See if You Have The Time

Amberley Castle

Not many castles are documented in the Domesday Book, but this one is. This castle was initially built for the Bishop of Chichester in the structure of a manor house.

images (2)

It underwent renovation and fortification in 1377 boasting walls 60 feet high. Till date, it has a working portcullis which is lowered every night.

Arundel Castle

Arundel Castle, located in Sussex, was built in the 11th century with modifications to its structure made in the 18th and 19th centuries. It was built by William the Conqueror. Arundel Castle was a pioneer in implementing electricity, central heating systems and lifts into the structure.


Herstmonceux Castle

Presently serving as the base for the Queen’s University, Canada, this 15th century castle was first a manor house. Herstmonceux was renovated with red brick, very rare and unique in that time. Its red brick facade sitting on 600 plus acres of gardens and woodlands creates a stunning picture.

Framlingham Castle

This castle, built in the 12th century by the Earl of Norfolk, Roger Bipod, has served as residence to multiple dukes of Norfolk for more than 400 years. Framlingham Castle, overlooking the River Ore,  is surrounded by farmland, parkland and estates.


Bolsover Castle

Derbyshire, England is home to this 17th century castle. The Cavendish family built Bolsover Castle as a welcoming family home, ironic when observing its intimidating appearance. In fact, it was awarded the title for Spookiest Heritage Site in England in 2017. Fans of the mysterious will enjoy visits to this castle. Its Little Castle, the square-shaped main building, captures your attention once you see the structure.

Edinburgh Castle

The Edinburgh Castle in Scotland is built upon Castle Rock. It has served as a royal home, fortress, prison and military stronghold. It is a pretty of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site. It is a world-class attraction filled with stories and wonder. 

Edinburgh Castle is the most attacked and besieged castle in Britain and it still bears it’s marks. You can still see the hole in the castle wall, a relic from escaping French prisoners of war.


Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle is a World Heritage Site built in the 13th century by Edward I. If you have no other reason, see the Caernarfon for its awe-inspiring beauty. Boasting polygonal towers and a  huge Eagle Tower with 10 sides, Caernarfon paints a mind-blowing picture of might on the River Seiont. 


Glamis Castle

This Castle is one for the books, Macbeth by Shakespeare was set within its walls. Glamis Castle, Scotland provides a stunning picture when looking at its numerous towers set against the lush green countryside and it’s manicured gardens. The entire sense you get with Glamis Castle is one of splendour, riches and majesty.


Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle is surrounded by a whooping 1000 acres of land. It was built in the latter half of the 17th century and is located in Hampshire. Highclere Castle has been home to the Carvanon family since it was built and is one of the most picturesque castles in England. Its interior is a sight to behold featuring beautiful staterooms, a music room, a dining room and a library complete with beautiful artwork.

Castles to See for Movie Buffs : 8 Castles That Have Been on The Big Screen

Castles have served as awe-inspiring backdrops and locations for countless movies and TV shows. You might have been wondering where some of your favorites shows and movies were shot, well, wonder no more. Here are 8 castles that are celebrities in their own right.

Alnwick Castle

Starting this list with  a personal favorite, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England is the second largest castle in England still occupied by people. It is a famous location for filming and more than 20 movies have come to life on its grounds. (‘Harry Potter’)

It served as the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in two Harry Potter movies (The Sorcerer’s Stone and the Chamber of Secrets). Harry and Ron crashed into the Inner Bailey in Chamber of Secrets and Harry discovered his prodigious Seeker skills in the Courtyard. Let out your inner potterhead when you visit Alnwick Castle.


 

It has also featured in Television shows and movies such as Transformers: The Last Knight, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Ivanhoe, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Watercolour Challenge, The Virgin Queen, Elizabeth, A Knight In Camelot,  Blackadder, Robin of Sherwood, Mary, Queen of Scots and The Famous Five. Alnwick Castle also appeared in the 2015 and 2016 Downton Abbey Christmas Specials as Brancaster Castle.

Arundel Castle

Wonder Woman fans will be excited for this one. Arundel Castle, Sussex provided a stunning location for several scenes of Marvel’s Wonder Woman shot in 2017. The amazing scene where Diana Prince shows up at the ball in a stunning dress with a sword in the middle of her back is just one of a few. It has also featured in the Young Victoria and Doctor Who.


Eilean Donan Castle

The Scottish Highlands have always been a place of magic. The Eilean Donan Castle, standing on a castle overlooking the point where the Lochs Duich come together, has lent its magic to various movies all over the world. It has been a MI6 headquarters in The World is Not Enough, stayed true to its origins in Highlander as the home of the MacLeod Clan and housed the groom in Made of Honor. 

In Elizabeth: The Golden Age, it stood in as Fotheringay Castle. In a feat few have accomplished, it crossed continents to star as a backdrop in the 1998 Hindi movie, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.

Leeds Castle

Southern Kent, England is home to the Leeds Castle which has featured in a number of movies and television shows. Fans of Doctor Who  may recognize this castle from a retro episode set in the 1970s and Elizabeth: The Golden Age has used this castle as one of its filming locations. 

 

The Androids of Tara and the 1958 movie, The Moonraker has also featured this beautiful castle.

Bamburgh Castle

Another Northumberland castle, Bamburgh Castle was built in the 11th century and has featured in a variety of movies. Renowned among these are Ivanhoe, Robin Hood and King Arthur.

 

Highclere Castle

Fans of Downton Abbey will recognize this Southern Hampshire castle as the elegant residence of the Granthams. According to hear-say, Fellowes, the creator of the highly popular series, pictured Highclere Castle as a backdrop when he wrote it. 

Fans of the 1990 show, Jeeves and Wooster will enjoy a visit to Highclere where it was filmed for 3 years.

Dover Castle

Movies and TV series of various genres have been shot at the Dover Castle.  Its most common role has been as a substitute Tower of London, this can be seen in Kevin and Perry Go Large and The Other Boleyn Girl. Its imposing structure can also be seen in Mel Gibson’s Hamlet, The Avengers and Notting Hill.

Broughton Castle

Broughton Castle can be found in Branbury, England. Just like its counterparts, it has lent its beauty to many films such as  Shakespeare in Love, Three Men and a Little Lady, Wolf Hall, The Madness of King George and Jane Eyre. Broughton Castle was built in the 1300s by Sir John de Broughton.



Record Breaking Castles

The Oldest Castle

Built by Robert of Mortain in 1067, the Berkhamsted Castle is the oldest castle and is protected by an act of parliament. It was captured in 1216 by Louis VIII and subsequently served as home to a number of royal families until the 15th century when it a gained a negative reputation and was considered unfit for royal leaders.

berkhamsted-castle-hero

The Largest Castle

This title goes to Windsor Castle which measures a whopping 54835 square meters. However, the Caerphilly Castle in Wales, is a close second standing firm on over 30 acres of land. Built in the 13th century and surrounded by water defenses, it is the second largest in Britain and the largest in Wales.  Even more amazing, the bulk of the castle was built in just three years ( 1268 – 1271) with a concentric design that protected it from invasions. It is a wondrous sight to behold with two moats, the leaning South Eastern tower, five gate houses including the intimidating Eastern gatehouse and its four siege engines.

The First Stone Castle

The White Tower was the first castle to be built with stone in the United Kingdom. It was built by William the Conqueror in 1070 and is located in the center of the Tower of London. William the Conqueror built 86 stone castles before his death in 1087.

The Smallest Castle

 A Grade II Listed castle called Molly’s Lodge holds this title. Located on the northern border of the Cotswold, close to Long Compton, Warwickshire, Molly’s Lodge lays on 0.61 acre of land. It was built in the 1830s by Edward Blore, a renowned British architect famous for the restoration of the Lambeth Palace and the extension of Buckingham Palace.  

It contains just a living room, one bedroom, a bathroom, dining room with mullion windows and a Victorian fireplace and an ornamental spiral staircase.

The Youngest Castle

Castle Drogo, located in Drewsteignton, Devon is the youngest castle in the UK built by Edwin Lutyens between 1911 and 1930. Castle Drogo was commissioned by Julius Drewe and it was surrounded by almost 1500 acres of land. In 1974, it was handed over to the National Trust, along with 600 acres of land.  

The Castle Trapped in Time

Corfe Castle has remained in the same state since the English Civil War when it was destroyed. It’s ruins are beautiful and the coastline provides a beautiful backdrop for pictures.

 

corfe-caste-gb-2969900_1280

The Most Expensive Castle

The exact amount spent building the Dover Castle is not known but it is one of the most expensive stone castles. What we do know is that refurbishing the castle in the 1250s cost Henry II £6,440, a considerable amount from an annual income of £20,000.

In present time, the Windsor Castle has an approximate worth of  £180m pounds making it the most expensive castle. 

Eat Like A Royal: 5 Castle Restaurants to Visit

The Largest Castle

 Food is an essential part of any holiday trip. Complete your castle break by enjoying your meals at any of these gorgeous locations.

dish-918613_1280

Amberley Castle

Amberley Castle is located in West Sussex, England. The Amberley Castle has a restaurant that serves dinner, afternoon tea, a kid’s menu, an all day package and even makes accommodations for lovers of private dining with a minimum starting price of £200.

Private dining for small parties take place in the King Charles room for a party of 12 or less and in the Green room which seats 14 people. More boisterous parties of up to 40 people can dine in the Great Room. Enjoy beautiful sights and great ambience at the Amberley Castle.

Thornbury Castle

The seasonal menu at Thornbury is an added touch that sets it restaurant above many others. Even better, the fruits, edible flowers and vegetables used at Thornbury are grown in the kitchen garden with utmost care. Delicious, fresh dishes are served in four different dining rooms, depending on your preference, with expert drink suggestions from experienced sommeliers. Have a quiet private dinner in the Baron’s Sitting Room or celebrate an achievement with friends in Tudor Hall. A lavish afternoon tea is also served each day. 

restaurant-691397_1280

Inverlochy Castle

The award winning restaurant at Inverlochy Castle, run by father and son duo, Albert and Michel Roux Jr, has received AA 3 Red Rosette. Dinner starts with a delicious drink in the Great Hall, followed by a mouth-watering five course meal. The cuisine at Inverlochy is made up of modern British dishes with a French touch. Afternoon tea and lunch are also served at the Inverlochy Castle restaurant.

Conwy Castle Hotel

 

The restaurant at Conwy is one of its major attractions. Apart from great food, excellent customer service has lured many customers back. The Conwy has a menu so diverse, even the most picky palates will find something satisfy to them. There is a sandwich menu, breakfast menu, afternoon menu, wine menu, Sunday lunch menu, dessert menu, and a tea and coffee menu.

 Want to experience a premium dining experience, the new Shakespeare’s Exclusive Dining is a good fit. The menu changes with the seasons to ensure that fresh vegetables and produce are incorporated into your meal.Apart from wine, an array of drinks are served at the Conwy ranging from tasty cocktails to local beers and ales to soft drinks.  Each month also brings a new featured drink.

 

food-712665_1280

Château Rhianfa

The Chateau Rhianfa is the ideal choice for fine dining in Wales.  Delicious canapés tickle your taste buds before a sumptuous three course dinner with a menu boasting at least 5 different options for each course is served at just £35 per person. Seating settings are quite flexible, allowing for romantic dinners, family meals or a corporate retreat. 

The Princess And The Pea Experience: Spend The Night In A Castle

 

There should be no holds barred during this holiday. Complete your royal experience by spending the night at any of these lovely locations below.

room-252422_1280

Langley Castle

Want to be transported back in time for a night or more? Langley Castle, Northumberland is the place for you. Built in the 14th century, it has retained most of its original structure and fortifications. To experience the full effect, you might spring for the more expensive rooms but it will be worth it. 

These rooms contain four-poster beds, window seats, opulent swags, exquisite candelabras, and lush carpets. A night at the Langley Castle will never be forgotten.

Amberley Castle

Amberley Castle is located in West Sussex, England. The Amberley Castle has a restaurant that serves dinner, afternoon tea, a kid’s menu, an all day package and even makes accommodations for lovers of private dining with a minimum starting price of £200.

Private dining for small parties take place in the King Charles room for a party of 12 or less and in the Green room which seats 14 people. More boisterous parties of up to 40 people can dine in the Great Room. Enjoy beautiful sights and great ambience at the Amberley Castle.

The Dalhousie Castle Hotel

The Dalhousie is Scotland’s oldest inhabited castle. Dating back to the 13th century, it has a temptuous history. Although the exterior retains some of its history (make sure to see the musket shot still lodged in the wall), its interiors have undergone a complete transformation into a luxury hotel and spa. 

The Mary, Queen of Scots themed room is a must-see for die hard royal fans. It contains a huge four-poster bed, made just for queens like Mary. The other rooms in the hotel feature period features seen in its furnishings, its use of tartan tweed and toiletries by Molton Brown. The Dalhousie is located in Bonnyrigg, Scotland.

Battel Hall, Leeds Castle

 

Battel Hall is a medieval manor house which has been privately managed since the 14th century but opened to visitors in 2018. Battel Hall is located on a cloistered border of the Leeds Castle estate. This elegant manor house has five ensuite bedrooms and can comfortably house  a couple, a whole family or a group of friends. If you have a large party, the nearby Battel Hall Oast, provides extra accommodation. Battel Hall can only be booked for exclusive hire all year long. 

 

room-4962276_1280

Appleby Castle Holiday Cottage

Appleby Castle provides three luxurious holiday cottages for guests. Located within the inner bailey of the castle, the cottages have been completely renovated with modern appliances and features. Each cottage is fully self-contained and sleeps between two to six people. The castle has  free WiFi as well as free parking throughout the property. An airport shuttle is also available for guests on departure. Book an Appleby Holiday Cottage on Bookings.com.

Booking.com has a variety of houses, cottages and hotels that will surpass your expectations. Have a peaceful stay at any of these places: 

  1. Holiday Inn Express Windsor
  2. Windsor Garden Lodge
  3. The Hope Anchor, East Sussex
  4. Rye Lodge Hotel, East Sussex
  5. Tudor Park Marriott Hotel and Country Club, Maidstone
  6. Hilton, Maidstone
  7. The Rose and Crown, Warwick
  8. Tilted Wig, Warwick
  9. Castle House Guest House, Dover
  10. Maison Dieu Guest House, Dover
  11. Gwynfryn, Gwynedd
  12. Camelot Castle Hotel, Cornwall
  13. Bowood Park Hotel, Camelford




20 TRAVEL ESSENTIALS BEFORE YOU GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD

 

  1. Comfortable walking shoes ( you do not want miss all the great sights because your shoes were pinching, do you?)
  2. Phone Charger and adapter to ensure you do not run out of juice. For the Instagrammers, a power bank might be necessary.
  3. Camera: commit your trip to memory forever by taking as many pictures as possible
  4. Wallet ( with money in it) and passport holder
  5. A first aid kit (especially useful if you are taking kids with you)
  6. Sunglasses
  7. Sunscreen/Sunblock
  8. Umbrella or Raincoat and Wellies
  9. Water bottle
  10. A strong carryall bag to fit the essentials
  11. A adventurous spirit 
  12. Insect repellent
  13. Comfortable clothes
  14. Journal and pen 
  15. Essential medication: if you have allergies or any chronic condition such as diabetes or hypertension, remember to bring your medication. 
  16. Vaccination: if you are coming from a different country, certain vaccinations might be necessary.
  17. Binoculars for bird watchers
  18. Sweater and a cozy scarf if you are visiting in the latter part of the year
  19. Skincare essentials
  20. Hand sanitizer, paper towels, tissue paper and other instant cleaning products