Top 10 castles

Wars, ghosts, royal skullduggery - the castles we look after have seen them all. Hunt for bats in the battlements and meet an unkindness of psychic ravens in our must-see castles.

View across the moat to Bodiam Castle in bright sunlight

Bodiam Castle, East Sussex 

An iconic castle and one of the most famous in Britain. Built in 1385, it is virtually complete and enough of the interior survives to give a wonderful impression of castle life. 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.

Castle Drogo with two thirds covered in scaffolding

Castle Drogo, Devon 

The imposing Castle Drogo is often shrouded by atmospheric moorland fog but also, at the moment, by scaffolding. This 20th-century Lutyens masterpiece is undergoing a five year conservation project to make the building 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.

Close view of the north face of Chirk Castle, Wales

Chirk Castle, Wrexham 

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.

Christmas illuminations at 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, which 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.

Looking across the rocks to Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland 

These days 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 of preserving our precious castles today, so they are still standing in the future.

Dunster Castle illuminated

Dunster Castle, Somerset 

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 also has its fair share of ghosts and secret passages if you feel brave enough to find them. Opens 5th March 2016.

A lovely day at Penrhyn Castle

Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd 

An iconic castle, Penrhyn 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 doll museum.

A couple walk in the grounds at Sizergh Castle, Cumbria

Sizergh Castle, Cumbria 

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. Opens 6 March 2016.

The east and north fronts of the Great Tower at Tattershall Castle

Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire 

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 available 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, then explore the grounds, moats, Guardhouse gift shop and the largest parish church in the country.

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

Wray Castle, Cumbria 

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 see 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.