England was home to more than four thousand castles scattered throughout the beautiful coastline and countryside in the past. However, the majority of castles in England have vanished. Today, more than 800 medieval castles are still visible in England. Some of them are only in ruins, while others are well-preserved. They stand as a reminder of the island’s turbulent past. Nowadays, British castles offer an excellent day out, as well as a chance to look into the past. Here are 21 of the best castles in England which are still very much with us.
Of course, castles in England are a must-see for anybody who loves royal history. Even if you don’t, there is something for everyone. History, stunning architecture and beautiful décor, pretty gardens and parks. British castles certainly deserve a place on your bucket list. They are an ideal attraction for a day of no matter the weather.
Best Castles in England
With hundreds of fortresses and palaces to visit, England offers countless opportunities to enjoy an epic getaway to the past. From romantic ruins to fully moated chateaus, here are 17 of the best castles in England you need to discover.
1. Colchester Castle
There are hundreds of castles around Britain, but Colchester Castle is the most unique of them all. It is the largest Norman Keep in Europe and one of the top heritage attractions in Essex. You probably do not know it, but Colchester is steep in history. This unique city is not only Britain’s First City, but it was also the first capital of Roman Britain. A construction of Colchester Castle began on the orders of William the Conqueror. Normans used bricks and stones from the ruins of Roman Colchester. They built Colchester Castle on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius, which was the largest temple of its kind in Roman Britain. It was also the most famous building in Roman Britain.
Today, you can see the remains of several buildings in front of the castle. Inside, you will find precious archaeological collections covering 2,500 years of history. Explore the Roman finds and unique displays, which are some of the best in Britain.
Colchester Castle certainly is one of the best castles in England. Here you can see the Temple foundations and learn more about Roman Colchester.
Do not forget to check out the prison cells.
2. Bodiam Castle
Head across the moat and see carp looking for food.
Bodiam Castle is undoubtedly an absolute must for anybody who wants to explore the best castles in England. This 14th-century moated castle is one of the best-loved British castles, and for good reasons. It has a dramatic setting, remote location and looks like something out of a fairy-tale. It might be smaller than other fortifications, but Bodiam Castle is a popular tourist attraction for anyone coming to East Sussex.
A castle floating on water has hundreds of years of history. This quadrangular castle with circular towers was once home to a knight of Edward III. He built the castle as his home, as well as a protection against the French invasion. Today, you can explore it on your own. Over the centuries, Bodiam Castle fell into ruin and, therefore, there is not much left to see inside. But you can still see its grounds, courtyard and some of the towers. Do not forget to bring a picnic which you can enjoy on the grass overlooking this majestic castle.
Even though Bodiam Castle has not survived the test of time, it is one of the most famous castles in England. Bodiam Castle is a National Trust attraction and one of the best examples of a moated castle.
3. Warwick Castle in England
Warwick Castle has a strategic position on the River Avon.
It is easy to see why Warwick Castle is one of the main attractions in Central England. The 950-years old fortress, located in Warwickshire, is one of the best-preserved British Castles. Warwick Castle is also one of the most beautiful castles in England and one of Britain’s most loved castles.
Many years ago, William the Conqueror built a wooden structure. Later it was rebuilt in stone and fully fortified to protect against attacks. Throughout its thousand-year history, Warwick Castle had numerous owners. The castle survived the attack, besiegement and also a fire.
Today, Warwick Castle is easily one of the best medieval castles in England. It might be more commercial than the others, but it certainly deserves your attention. Not only it hosts plenty of events and exhibitions throughout the year, but it is also a popular playground for kids. You can find a maze, plenty of towers, beautiful gardens and even a dungeon here. Moreover, Warwick Castle has an impressive armoury, and it is also home to the largest working trebuchet in the world. Plus, you can even stay overnight within its medieval walls.
Exploring the walls of Warwick Castle will transport you back in time. It is an excellent day trip from Stratford-upon-Avon, Birmingham and also London.
4. Framlingham Castle
You may not know it, but Framlingham Castle played an important role during the Tudor Period.
Of all the British castles you might want to explore, Framlingham Castle might not be at the top of your list, but it should be. The fortress, with a typical medieval castle design, has a long and colourful past. You may recognise it from Ed Sheeran’s song (Castle on the Hill), but Framlingham Castle is not famous only for this song. For many years it was home to many Dukes of Norfolk. This dramatic Tudor castle was the setting for a crucial moment in English History. Mary Tudor was pronounced Queen of England within Framlingham Castle’s walls. Therefore, Framlingham Castle is one of the best castles in England if you are a history lover. You can find Framlingham Castle deep in the Suffolk countryside.
Framlingham Castle looks untouched by the past from a distance.
Once here, see the historic workhouse and learn more about the history of this place. Climb up the 10-metre high defensive walls. Here you can get a closer look at the beautifully preserved Tudor chimneys and enjoy breath-taking views of the surrounding countryside. Afterwards, walk the ramparts of the castle and enjoy educational events, which are on during the school holidays. Alternatively, explore Framlingham Mere nature reserve at the foot of the fortress. The paths might be muddy after rain, but they offer stunning views of Framlingham Castle.
5. Arundel Castle in England
Arundel Castle, perched on the hill in West Sussex.
Another famous castle in England is Arundel Castle. This fortified castle, overlooking the River Arun, lies in the heart of Sussex. It has beautiful gardens, rare paintings and beautifully preserved rooms. During its long history, Arundel Castle underwent many renovations and also damage. Nowadays, it is an excellent example of the great works of Victorian England. Therefore, Arundel Castle is one of the best castles in England.
Many years ago, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the castle for a few days. Today, it is a family home of the Duke of Norfolk, and you can explore this West Sussex castle on your own. Lose yourself in Britain’s past, marvel at the skills of falconers, enjoy beautiful views of the South Downs National Park. After exploring Arundel Castle, do not forget to visit the prettiest village in West Sussex – Amberley.
6. Sudeley Castle
Would you like to combine history and natural beauty? Then Sudeley Castle might be the right option for you. The hidden gem of the Cotswolds has glorious gardens and also strong royal links. You probably do not know it, but King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited Sudeley Castle in the past. Later, this beautiful castle became the home of his sixth wife – Catherine Parr. Nowadays, Sudeley Castle is the only private castle in England, which has a queen buried within its ground. Yes, that is right – Queen Katherine Parr is buried in the chapel here. And you can even visit her final resting place!
After exploring Sudeley Castle, visit the famous villages in the Cotswolds.
7. Hever Castle in England
If you have time, take a trip to romantic Hever Castle in the South East of England. Here you will find a medieval castle, where one of the most powerful families in the country lived. In the past, Hever Castle was a childhood home of Henry VIII’s second wife – Anne Boleyn. Today, opulent Hever Castle with Tudor additions is one of the best medieval castles in England. It has stunning gardens, Tudor portraits, tapestries and offers beautiful views of Hever Lake. Make sure you add it to your list of the best British castles.
8. Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle overlooking the North Sea is, without doubt, one of the best castles in England.
England is home to many fortresses, and Bamburgh Castle is one of them. If you happen to be in Northern England, make sure you explore Bamburgh Castle. It has a rich history and also beautiful coastal views. Bamburgh Castle, situated on the Northumberland coast, has been built on the site of the Celtic fort.
GOOD TO KNOW:
You may recognise Bamburgh Castle from many movies – e.g. Robin Hood.
The castle is also famous for its legends. Some say that it is a probable site of Sir Lancelot’s fortress. Whether you believe it or not, Bamburgh Castle is certainly worth exploring.
9. Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Castle certainly is one of the most famous castles in England – and for a good reason.
Some visitors to Bamburgh Castle combine their visit with nearby Lindisfarne Castle. Lindisfarne Castle stands proudly on the Holy Island in Northumberland in the far north of England. The fortress, which gets cut off from the mainland when the tide rolls, is only accessible by a causeway during the low tide. Hence, plan your visit accordingly.
The castle and island, which you can see on Northumberland’s shores, have a long history dating back thousands of years. Vikings and later Scots made this border area between Scotland and England vulnerable to attacks. Later, there has been a monastery that Henry VIII destroyed during the Reformation. Even though Lindisfarne Castle looks like a medieval fortress, it is actually a 20th-century restoration of a Tudor fort. After exploring Lindisfarne Castle take time to stroll along the beach and enjoy the coastal nature reserve.
10. Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle, one of the first castles in England without a square keep.
Beautiful Alnwick Castle makes an ideal getaway from Newcastle in Northumberland. While the castle might be better recognised by Harry Potter fans, it is by no means the only reason to visit. The castle dating back to the Norman era was built to protect the northern border of England.
Alnwick Castle was once a motte and bailey castle. Today, this beautifully preserved castle with impressive walls is the second largest inhabited castle in England. It has picturesque appeal, extensive grounds and one of the finest collections of paintings in England. Therefore, Alnwick Castle is one of the best castles in England. Do not miss it when exploring this part of the country.
11. Windsor Castle in England
Windsor Castle, located within the English county of Berkshire, is one of the official residences of the Queen.
No visit to England would be complete without a visit to Windsor Castle. This beautiful castle is a sight to behold. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It is steep in royal history, has beautiful architecture and a medieval feel. The Queen regularly spends weekends here. Also, she hosts state visits from the castle. Therefore, Windsor Castle is one the most visited and the most famous castles in England. The castle is home to the Royal Family.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Many tourists wonder when the Queen is in the castle. If the Royal Standard is flying from the tower, then she is. If the Union Flag is, then she is not in residence.
It is not possible to visit many rooms because the Queen spends a lot of time in the castle. When booking an entrance ticket, make sure there are no special events planned.
The Round Tower dominating the skyline sits atop the oldest part of the castle.
Windsor Castle is undoubtedly one of the most iconic castles in England. The history of the castle stretches back almost 1,000 years. Again, William the Conqueror built the original castle for strategic defence in the past. Later, Henry III turned it into a luxurious home, and Edward III went even further. He rebuilt and turned it from a military fortification into a beautiful gothic palace.
Due to its location and the fact that the castle was close to the royal hunting grounds, Windsor Castle became a royal residence. It survived wars and also an almost devastating fire. Nowadays, this Berkshire-based royal residence is one of the most popular British Castles. You can take a guided tour of the castle and see its stunning rooms and gardens. The State Apartments, the Semi-State Rooms and the magnificent St. George’s Chapel are just some of the highlights of Windsor Castle. Also, do not miss the traditional Changing of the Guards ceremony and Queen Mary’s Doll House. Plus, the Long Walk offers unforgettable views of this impressive castle.
12. Leeds Castle
When visiting Southern England, be sure to explore idyllic Leeds Castle. Despite what the name suggests, Leeds Castle lies in the heart of Kent countryside, not in Leeds. This impressive moated castle dates back over 900 years. It has beautiful towers, extensive gardens, a maze and also a rampart. Henry VIII’ first wife Catherine of Aragon and five other queens called Leeds Castle a home during its long history. Therefore, many people call Leeds Castle “the Ladies Castle”.
Leeds Castle rising from the still waters of its moat
It is easy to see why Leeds Castle is one of the best castles in England. Some say that the fairy-tale Leeds Castle is one of the most romantic castles in Britain. Once here, punt across the water and enjoy the beautiful views of the castle. Also, catch a falconry display, enjoy picnics and live music.
13. Corfe Castle in England
The centuries-old Corfe Castle now stands in ruins.
From there, you will want to head towards the quaint village of Corfe in Dorset. On your way, you will spot one of the most spectacular ruins in England. Corfe Castle might be in ruins, but it doesn’t mean you should skip it. This castle on the hill has been one of the most important fortresses in England. The fortified castle has hundreds of years of history, and you can walk its ruins on your own. Learn more about Corfe Castle’s colourful past and discover one of the most famous castles in England.
After exploring the hillside castle, hike up to one of the nearby hills to admire the beautiful ruins.
14. Highcliffe Castle
Just about an hour drive from Corfe Castle, you will find Highcliffe Castle. This magnificent home is arguably one of the best castles in England. It might be relatively new compared to its siblings, but Highcliffe Castle has beautiful romantic architecture.
Learn more about the history and scars of Highcliffe Castle.
The castle, which was once furnished in the French Empire style, was once home to the rich and famous. It also hosted royalty in the past. Despite two devastating fires which destroyed its beautiful interior, Highcliffe Castle offers an excellent day trip in Dorset. After exploring the inside, take a stroll in its beautiful gardens. Also, head to nearby Highcliffe Beach and enjoy a view of the famous coastline.
15. St. Michael’s Mount
Monks from Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy originally owned St Michael’s Mount.
St. Michael’s Mount certainly is one of the most unique castles in England. This beautiful fortress does have it all: it is picturesque, has many legends and myths, and beautiful sub-tropical gardens. During its history, it has been a monastery, a fortress and an important place for pilgrims. Today, it is a private home to the St Aubyn family. This beautiful medieval castle witnessed many battles through the centuries. Nowadays you can explore St Michael’s Mount on your own.
You can find St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall on a rocky hill. Reach this spectacular offshore tidal island by the man-made cobblestone causeway when the tide is low. Alternatively, small boats will transfer you to the island when the tide rises.
GOOD TO KNOW:
The castle closes for the winter, and it also may close during unpleasant weather.
16. Herstmonceux Castle
Another beautiful castle in England is Herstmonceux Castle. This 15th-century moated castle is unique for its red brick design. The two-storey castle is famous for being one of the oldest brick buildings still standing in England. Also, the castle never saw battle or siege – it was originally a manor house.
After touring the castle grounds, leave yourself enough time to explore its lovely themed gardens and meadows. Walk the woodland trails and enjoy the unforgettable views of the castle, which is set within the East Sussex countryside.
17. Dover Castle in England
There are many reasons why to visit Dover in England and Dover Castle is one of them. This legendary seaside fortress is undoubtedly one of the most iconic English fortresses. Dover Castle is one of the largest castles in England and one of the most famous British castles.
Dover Castle played an important role in protecting the kingdom over the centuries. Due to its strategic position, Dover Castle protected the south-eastern shores from Europe. This 11th-century hillside castle provided a key lookout across the English Channel. Therefore, it was one of the most important fortresses in the country.
Wander around the castle grounds and learn more about its rich history. Explore Henry II’s private chamber, climb the Great Tower and see the secret wartime tunnels. Tour the Underground Hospital, secret medieval tunnels, and you can even discover some Roman ruins here.
The area is home to about 2,000 years of history. Here you can find a Roman lighthouse – one of only three surviving Roman-era lighthouses in the world.
A day trip to Dover Castle can easily partner up with a trip to the famous white cliffs.
18. Totnes and Berry Pomeroy Castle
Berry Pomeroy © britainexpress
Totnes and Berry Pomeroy Castle are photographer’s dream spots in South Devon. Both castles offer an excellent day out when in Devon in England. Totnes Castle surrounded by a curtain wall is a perfect testament to Norman history, while Berry Pomeroy Castle is one of the most haunted castles in England.
19. Cowdray Castle
You do not want to miss the remarkable ruins just east of Midhurst in West Sussex in Southern England. Cowdray Castle was once one of the finest buildings in England. It may not be the castle, but Cowdray Castle one of the most impressive English Tudor houses.
Absorbing English history at Cowdray Castle
Cowdray Castle is the fortified manor house, which dates back hundreds of years. You probably do not know, but King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I visited Cowdray Castle many years ago. The fire turned Cowdray Castle into ruins and almost destroyed it in the 18th century. Today, Cowdray Castle lies in ruins, and you can admire this enormous structure in the beautiful landscape of Cowdray Park. Walk around the ruins and imagine how Cowdray Castle could look like. After exploring Cowdray Castle, visit Arundel and Amberley Castle, which you can find only a short drive away.
20. Tower of London
Tower of London is a medieval site steep in a dark history.
When it comes to the best castles in England, the Tower of London is hard to beat. This World Heritage Site with almost 1,000 years of history lies at the bank of the River Thames. It is one of the most iconic structures in England and the symbol of the monarchy. The Tower of London is a reminder of Norman power. It was originally used as a palace for various queens and kings. During its long history, the Tower of London was a secure fortress and royal residence. It also housed Royal Mint and a private zoo. However, for many people, the Tower of London has become a symbol of torture and death. Tower of London has been a prison to four queens of England – three of them were beheaded here.
Today, the Crown Jewels are a popular attraction in the Tower of London. Also, once here, be sure to meet the London Ravens, who are synonymous with the tower.
21. Tintagel Castle in England
If you love myths and legends, then Tintagel Castle in North Cornwall is one of the best castles in England for you. These 800 years old ruins might have a dramatic setting but are probably the most famous for their links to the legends of King Arthur. Believe it or not, but the site dates back as far as the Roman Empire – some artefacts dating from this period were found here. Some visit Tintagel Castle because they believe that it was the birthplace of King Arthur. Others visit these romantic ruins for their beautiful clifftop location. Access the fortress via the footbridge, explore the 13th-century ruins and learn more about Arthurian legends and stories.
Did we miss anything? What is your favourite castle in England? Please let us know in the comments below.
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