Top 10 castles

Wars, ghosts, royal skulduggery – the castles we look after have seen it all. Encounter characters from the past, explore the ruins and step back in time when you visit one of our top 10 castles.

Bodiam castle in the spring

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex

With its full moat, original wooden portcullis, murder holes, spiral staircases and battlements, a visit to Bodiam Castle gives a glimpse back in time to the 14th century. Enough of the interior ruins survive to give an impression of castle life, and on selected dates, look out for tours, talks, armour demonstrations and family trails to find out more about the people who lived and worked in this medieval castle.

A view of Castle Drogo in Devon

Castle Drogo, Devon

High above the ancient woodlands of the Teign Gorge stands Castle Drogo. Inspired by the rugged Dartmoor tors that surround it, the castle was designed and built by renowned 20th-century architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. Outside, the Lutyens designed garden is colourful in all seasons. There are miles of pathways to explore in the Teign Gorge, along the bubbling river to Wooston hillfort, high above the gorge.

Close view of the north face of Chirk Castle, Wales

Chirk Castle, Wrexham

Chirk was built in the early 1300s as a stark symbol of Edward I’s power – intended to subdue the unruly lords of the Welsh Marches. During its 700 year history the many inhabitants of Chirk have all left their mark – from the medieval tower and dungeon, to the 17th-century Long Gallery and grand 18th-century state apartments. If you want to explore further then why not take a stroll through the gardens, or head out into the 480-acre parkland?

Visitors approaching Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle, Dorset

It’s hard to miss the dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle, perched high on the hill above the sleepy Dorset village to which it has given its name. There’s a long and dramatic history surrounding the castle – from its beginnings as a Norman stronghold to being besieged during the Civil War. It's continued to inspire people ever since – the ruins are thought to have been Enid Blyton’s inspiration for Kirrin Castle in the ‘Famous Five’ novels. Follow the trail out of the village and see if you can imagine 18th-century smugglers hauling contraband across Corfe Common on their way from the Purbeck coast to London.

View of Dunster Castle through the trees

Dunster Castle, Somerset

The high wooded hill top at Dunster has been home to a castle for more than 1,000 years. The current building was re-modelled into a comfortable family home for the Luttrell family in the mid-19th century, but the medieval gatehouse and ruined tower give reminders of Dunster’s turbulent past as a frontier fortress against Celtic and Viking raiders. There are also plenty of ghost stories to discover and secret passages to explore - if you feel brave enough.

Lindisfarne Castle from the main gate

Lindisfarne Castle, Northumberland

Reopened in February 2019 following a period of major conservation and repair work, Lindisfarne Castle is really two buildings; an Edwardian holiday home – the work of Edwin Lutyens – and behind this the old fort. Discover the castle on an island (that's not an island).

Please be aware that you'll need to pre-book your tickets before visiting the castle.

Penrhyn Castle, North Wales

Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd

Penrhyn Castle is the former home of the Pennant family, and was rebuilt between 1820 and 1833 for George Hay Dawkins-Pennant on the proceeds of the North Wales slate industry and sugar plantations in Jamaica. The castle was built by the famous architect Thomas Hopper. Hopper opted for a neo-Norman design, which had already been tried at Gosford, County Armargh – but was perfected at Penrhyn. A notable feature of Penrhyn’s interiors is the exquisitely painted Chinese wallpapers, hung in the 1830s.

View of the Sizergh Castle in Cumbria

Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

Looking like the set for a romantic fantasy, this imposing house is at the gateway to the Lake District. It's still home to the Strickland family, so you'll find 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, plus a beautiful garden rich with seasonal blooms.

The house is due to open towards the end of March. The café, garden and shop are open daily.

Tattershall Castle from the Tiltyard

Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire

Rising proudly from the flat Lincolnshire fens, Tattershall Castle, with its huge Gothic fireplaces and church-like windows, was designed to impress. Built in the 15th century by Lord Ralph Cromwell, Treasurer of England, it was made to show off his wealth, position and power. Climb the 150 steps from the basement to the battlements and enjoy the magnificent views, then explore the grounds, moats, and the largest parish church in the country.

The font of Wray Castle in the summer sun, Ambleside Cumbria

Wray Castle, Cumbria

Wray is a mock-Gothic castle sitting on the shores of Lake Windermere, with turrets and towers galore. It was donated to us without any contents, but the empty rooms still provide hints of its grand past and varied history. Beatrix Potter spent her summer holidays at the castle when she was 16 years old, and to this day the castle's a great place to explore as a family.