10 of the best castles in Britain
We roundup the best of our nation’s powerful fortresses which are a testament to their owners displays of wealth and power.
Windsor Castle, Windsor
Windsor Castle is the largest occupied castle and oldest official royal residence in the world. Built by William the Conqueror, it’s 900 years old and is HM the Queen’s home of choice and where she looks likely to spend an increasing amount of time. At just 20 miles outside London, the grounds include several homes, a large church and the royal palace and some of the monarchy’s oldest traditions, such as the Knights of the Garter, continue to be marked at Windsor.
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh
Through sieges, invasions, power struggles, murder and imprisonment, Edinburgh Castle has withstood the test of time, sitting on an ancient volcano above the city. Built in 1130, the castle has been an ancient stronghold, a royal home and army headquarters. Now a World Heritage Site, visitors can see the dungeons used to incarcerate thousands of prisoners over the years and the Scottish Crown Jewels.
Leeds Castle, Kent
Set on two islands on the River Len in the heart of Kent, Leeds Castle is a striking medieval fortress and a former favourite of Henry VIII, who once brought along his entire court while on the way to a tournament in France with Catherine of Aragon in 1520. Today the castle is owned by the Leeds Castle Foundation, who have cared for the property since 1974 when it was gifted to them by the castle’s last private owner, Lady Baillie. After acquiring the property in 1926, Lady Baillie soon stamped her mark on the castle, employing some of the best architects and designers of the time, who were responsible for creating much of the exquisite interiors still viewable today.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Nestled in Northumberland, Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in the UK. Built 1,000 years ago, it is the seat of the Duke of Northumberland and was originally built to protect England’s northern border. Its dramatic setting has attracted tourists and filmmakers alike and the castle was recently used as the setting for Hogwarts School in two of the Harry Potter films.
Cardiff Castle, Cardiff
This stunning castles houses a double dose of history with a medieval castle and a dramatic Victorian Gothic revival mansion. The grand mansion was lavishly remodelled by William Burges during the 19th century and are considered some of the finest examples of his work.
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
This spectacular, late medieval castle in East Sussex was built in the mid 1380s and its external appearance remains much the same today as it did then. The complete walls and ramparts provide a dramatic addition to the surrounding scenery, allowing visitors to be transported back in time to when the castle was used as a stronghold as well as a home.
Stirling Castle, Stirling
This historic castle is one of the finest and best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK and was the favoured residence for many of Scotland’s kings and queens.
Caernarfon Castle, Caernarfon
A World Heritage Site, along with Edward I’s other Iron Ring castles in Wales, Caernarfon Castle’s pumped-up appearance is unashamedly muscle-bound and intimidating. Don’t miss its polygonal towers, with the Eagle Tower being the most impressive of these. and note the colour-coded stones carefully arranged in bands.
Warwick Castle, Warwick
Built by William the Conqueror in 1068, Warwick Castle was originally a Norman fortification. The beautiful castle we see today has undergone much restoration and development as its need as a defensive structure lessened and it was transformed into a country house.
Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
A magnificent coastal fortress, Bamburgh sits atop a granite outcrop on the North East coats in an Area of Outstanding Natural beauty and offers spectacular views of the surrounding coast and countryside. With documented records talking about a fortress here as early as 650AD it must certainly be one of the castles oldest in the country. There is stonework dating from virtually every period in history from the Anglo-Saxons through to the Victorians, when First Lord Armstrong spent over 1,000,000 pounds renovating it between 1894 and 1904.