Top 10 castles
Royal visits, wars and ghosts; our castles have seen them all. Head down into the dungeons (or just send naughty children there) or up to the battlements to survey the kingdom. Hunt for bats in the battlements and meet the resident ravens with psychic powers in the gothic world of these beautiful buildings.
Here are just some of our must-see castles:
An iconic, picture perfect castle and one of the most famous in Britain. Built in 1385 as both a fortress and comfortable family home, it is virtually complete and enough of the interior survives to give a wonderful impression of castle life (which perhaps wasn’t so wonderful). No castle is complete without a full moat, spiral staircases and battlements, with views stretching for miles to scour for enemies.
In the impressive gatehouse is the castle's original wooden portcullis, an extremely rare example of its kind.
Down a narrow lane which is subject to extreme moor land wind and fogs lies the imposing Castle Drogo. This 20th-century Lutyens masterpiece is undergoing a five year conservation project to make the castle watertight. The inside of the castle has been completely redisplayed with theatrical installations, open storage areas and a chance to get up close to the building work by climbing up the project viewing tower (restrictions apply).
Chirk is the last Welsh castle from the reign of Edward I that is still lived in. Its 700 year history includes a medieval tower and dungeon, the 17th-century Long Gallery, grand 18th-century state apartments, servants’ hall and historic laundry, perfect for washing the underwear of the aristocracy!
Your adventure starts when you arrive at this dramatic ruin by steam train. Take time out from exploring the battlements to meet the resident ravens, much like the ones that live in the tower of London, which legend tells will leave if they predict something terrible happening.
More ruin than castle, Dunstaburgh lies on one of the most beautiful stretches of Northumberland coastline. Use your imagination to recreate the fairytale castle that once stood here, whilst you enjoy the stunning surrounds. A reminder of the importance to preserve our precious castles today, so they are still standing in the future.
Commanding the wooded hill it sits on, a castle has existed here since at least Norman times, with an impressive medieval gatehouse and ruined tower giving a reminder of its turbulent history. Home of the Luttrell family for more than 600 years, the present building was remodelled in 1868–72 by Antony Salvin. The Tor at Dunster has been home to a castle for more than 1000 years. During Saxon times, the spectacular hilltop location served as a frontier fortress against Celtic and Viking raiders. It is recorded in the Domesday Book as being owned by the Saxon Aelfric before 1066. It also has its fair share of ghosts and secret passages if you feel brave enough to find them.
Another iconic looking castle, it looks much older than its 200 years. It is crammed with fascinating items, such as a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria, elaborate carvings, plasterwork and mock-Norman furniture, in addition it has an outstanding collection of paintings. The restored kitchens are a delight and the stable block houses a fascinating industrial railway museum, a model railway museum and a superb dolls' museum.
Looking like the set for a romantic fantasy, this imposing house is at the gateway to the Lake District, standing proud in a rich and beautiful garden. You’ll find a pond, lake, National Collection of Hardy Ferns and a superb limestone rock garden.
Still lived in by the Strickland family, Sizergh has many tales to tell and certainly feels lived in, with centuries-old portraits and fine furniture sitting alongside modern family photographs. The 1,600-acre estate includes limestone pasture, orchards and ancient, semi-natural woodland.
The 130 foot, six-storey medieval tower of Tattershall is striking in the flat Lincolnshire landscape, though it sits on the site of a much older castle, the ruins of which can still be seen today. An audio guide is here to create a picture of what life was like at the Castle in the 15th century. Climb the 150 steps from the basement to the battlements and enjoy the magnificent views of the Lincolnshire countryside from the roof. Then explore the grounds, moats, Guardhouse gift shop and neighbouring church, the largest parish church in the country.
Wray Castle is a mock-Gothic castle sitting on the shores of Lake Windermere with turrets, towers and informal grounds. It came to us without its contents so you will not see a 'typical' house full of paintings, furniture and antiques with an accompanying owner-family history through the ages. What you will see is a 'tired' but fascinating building with hints of its grand past and plenty of signs of its varied history.
The Wray Castle estate when it was created in the 1840s included a church (now closed), an impressive Gatehouse (now a private home), a jetty and several boathouses. Explore the tracks and grounds and see what you discover.