Castles

Castle EntranceThe Castles and Stately Homes of the United Kingdom punctuate the landscape reflecting the lifestyles of kings and noblemen of the past. Many of these buildings are open to the public and all are worth visiting no matter how small or large. St. Briavels CastleSome have even been converted into hotels and nothing is better than spending a night in a stately room or even in the case of St. Briavels Castle in the Wye Valley in Gloucestershire - the Castle jail. St. Briavels castle provides accommodation and is open to the public but is actually used by the Youth Hostel Association of England & Wales so the accommodation is very basic. In some ways this gives a more realistic idea of what life might have been like at the time of the Castle's peak importance.

If an inn is close to a castle we will award a shield symbol within that inns entry. There are hundreds of castles in the United Kingdom and all are worth visiting. We cannot list them all here, but we would certainly recommend a visit to any that we do list and probably most that we don't.

Castles with accommodation include:

England
Amberley Castle - West Sussex, Caverswall Castle - Staffordshire, Langley Castle - Northumberland, Lumley Castle - Northumberland, Taunton Castle - Somerset and Thornbury Castle - Gloucestershire.
Scotland
Brothwick Castle - Lothian, Comlongon Castle - Dumfries, Culcreuch Castle - Central, Dalhousie Castle - Lothian, Dornoch Castle - Highland, Duns Castle - Borders, Fernie Castle - Fife and Kilravock Castle - Highland.
Wales
Gwydir Castle - Gwynedd, Penhow Castle - Gwent, Ruthin Castle - Clwyd and Brecon Castle - Powys.

Clifford Tower in YorkA castle is a fortified building or group of buildings, characteristic of medieval Europe. The castle underwent many changes, its size, design, and construction being largely determined by changes in siege tactics and the development of artillery.
The main parts of a typical castle are the keep, a large central tower containing store rooms, soldiers' quarters, and a hall for the lord and his family; the inner bailey or walled courtyard surrounding the keep; the outer bailey or second courtyard, separated from the inner bailey by a wall; crenellated embattlements through which missiles were discharged against an attacking enemy; rectangular or round towers projecting from the walls; the portcullis, a heavy grating which could be let down to close the main gate; and the drawbridge crossing the ditch or moat surrounding the castle. Sometimes a tower called a barbican was constructed over a gateway as an additional defensive measure.

The British Isles has a wide variety of castles from the tiny such as Lindisfarne in Northumberland, England to the huge such as the Great Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England - from the almost completely demolished such as Corfe Castle in Dorset, England to the superbly elegant such as Caernarfon in Gwynedd, Wales. Scotland has some of the most elegant architectural castles and often in the most stunning of locations. Castles became more of a feature of the landscape in Anglo Saxon times after the Romans had withdrawn from Britain in 410. Many were built to repel the Saxons, Angles and Jutes in the 5th & 6th centuries and then the Vikings in the 8th & 9th centuries.

11th century
The motte and bailey castle (the motte was a mound of earth, and the bailey a courtyard enclosed by a wall).
The first rectangular keep dates from this time; an example is the White Tower in the Tower of London.

12th century
Developed more substantial defensive systems, based in part on the Crusaders' experiences of sieges during the First Crusade of 1096; the first curtain walls with projecting towers were built (as at Framlingham, Suffolk).

13th century
Introduction of the round tower, both for curtain walls such as Pembroke Castle in Wales and for keeps such as Conisbrough in Yorkshire. Concentric planning in the castles of Wales, such as Beaumaris and Harlech and fortified town walls.

14th century
First use of gunpowder; inclusion of gunports in curtain walls such as Bodiam in Sussex.

15th century
Fortified manor houses now adequate for private dwelling.

16th century
End of castle as a practical means of defence; fortified coastal defences, however, continued to be built such as Falmouth in Cornwall.

 

Click for Official Website Alnwick Castle, an 11th-century castle, near England's border with Scotland which has been the historic seat of the Percy family,  dukes of Northumberland, since 1309. It was the site of battles 1092 and 1174 following Scottish invasions of Northumberland. The castle was much restored in the 19th century and is the second largest inhabited castle in England.

Arundel CastleArundel Castle, the seat of the Fitzalan-Howard family, Dukes of Norfolk, was built in 1067 by the cousin of William the Conqueror, Roger Montgomery, to defend the Arun valley; its large stone keep dates from the 12th century. During the English Civil War the castle was besieged from 1643 to 1644 and almost ruined by Oliver Cromwell's Parliamentary troops. It was rebuilt in the 18th century and much restoration work was carried out in 1890.
The church of St Nicholas, dating from 1380, has a pre-Reformation pulpit and 14th-century wall paintings. The 14th-century Fitzalan Chapel stands behind the altar, separated from the rest of the church by an iron grille and glass screen. Catholic services are held in the chapel, which belongs to the estate of the Duke of Norfolk and can be entered from the castle.

Bamburgh CastleClick for Official Website Bamburgh Castle in the village of Bamburgh on the coast of Northumberland, England is built on a rock which rises 46 m / 151 ft above the North Sea. Founded in the 6th century and rebuilt in Norman times, the castle underwent extensive restoration in the 18th and 19th centuries. An imposing structure of red sandstone - is open to the public.
According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Ida, the first king of Northumbria, built a fort in Bamburgh in 547. The great stone keep was first built during the Norman period. In 1095 Robert Mowbray, Earl of Northumberland, was forced to surrender Bamburgh to William Rufus after a siege. Bamburgh was the scene of many battles in the Border wars of the 14th century; during the Wars of the Roses it changed hands several times. Henry VI ruled briefly from Bamburgh, but after the Battle of Hexham in 1464 the castle was besieged and fell after a bombardment. It was the first English castle to fall to artillery. The castle was held for over a century by the Forster family, until it was bought by Lord Crewe in 1704. On his death the estate was devoted to charity, and large-scale restoration was carried out. In 1894 the first Lord Armstrong of Cragside bought the castle and rebuilt it for private use.

Beaumaris town and tourist resort on the Isle of Anglesey, northwest Wales is home to Beaumaris Castle, one of the finest European examples of the concentric type. Founded by Edward I in 1295, and is classified by the United Nations as a World Heritage site.

Belvoir Castle near Bottesford, Leicestershire, England originally dates from the 11th century, but has been rebuilt several times. The castle has an important art collection which includes works by Holbein, Poussin, Reynolds and Gainsborough.
The original fortress of 11th to 13th centuries was rebuilt in 1528 when the present owners, the Manners family, acquired the property. In 1654-58 it was rebuilt again as a mansion. Around 1800 the 5th duke employed James Wyatt to reconvert it to a castle, altering the apartments at the same time.
A fire in 1816 necessitated further rebuilding by Wyatt's sons (Benjamin Dean Wyatt 1775-1855; and Matthew Cotes Wyatt 1777-1862), supervised by the duchess and a relative, the Rev John Thoroton. The rebuilding included interior decoration of the principle rooms of the castle and the construction of a Romanesque-style mausoleum in the castle grounds (1820-30). The present castle is thus a handsome neo Gothic structure with interiors of various styles.
Belvoir Castle is the seat of the Duke of Rutland.

Bodiam Castle in East Sussex, England is situated 10 miles north of Hastings, on the River Rother. It was built by Sir Edward Dalyngruge in 1385, and was one of the last castles to be constructed in England. The towers, walls, gateway, portcullis, and moat of this large rectangular castle remain intact, although the interior is less well -preserved. The castle, attractively set in a large moat, now belongs to the National Trust.
Bodiam Castle was restored by Lord Curzon of Kedleston and left by him to the nation in 1925.

Caerlaverock Castle is a ruined triangular fortification in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, on the Solway Firth, 6 miles southeast of Dumfries. Dating from the 13th century, the castle contains some fine 17th-century Renaissance buildings. One of the finest castles in Scotland, Caerlaverock Castle is surrounded by moats.

Caernarfon or Caernarvon, the administrative centre of Gwynedd, north Wales, situated on the southwest shore of the Menai Strait and formerly the Roman station of Segontium (Caer Seint), it is now a market town, port and tourist centre.
The first Prince of Wales (later Edward II) was born in Caernarfon Castle; Edward VIII was invested here in 1911 and Prince Charles in 1969.
The Earl of Snowdon became constable of the castle in 1963.
The castle, one of the finest examples of medieval fortifications in the British Isles, lies to the west of the town. It was built by Edward I in 1284, and is in an excellent state of preservation. It is an irregularly shaped building with 13 polygonal towers; the famous Eagle Tower was built by Edward II.
The castle was besieged by Owain Glyndwr in 1402.

Conisbrough in South Yorkshire, England, is home to Conisbrough Castle, with a fine circular keep. The castle is a Norman castle built by Hamelin, a half-brother of Henry II, in around 1180.

Corfe CastleCorfe Castle a village in the Isle of Purbeck, Dorset, built around the ruins of a Norman castle, destroyed during the English Civil War.
The castle is situated on a high ridge, separated from the village by a ravine over which a bridge has been built. It was built in the 11th century on the site of a Saxon stronghold where King Edward the Martyr was murdered in 978. It was captured by the Earl of Devonshire in the reign of Stephen, and during the English Civil War the castle was a Royalist stronghold and the home of John Bankes, chief justice to Charles I. In 1643 his wife defended it for six weeks against 600 Parliamentary troops, but the castle was finally captured and largely destroyed in 1646.

Dunnottar CastleDunnottar Castle is one of Scotland's most impressive castle locations. The rocks which support the Castle have been fortified since the 5th Century when St. Ninian used it as a base. The present castle dates to the 14th century and in 1651 was under seige from Cromwell's Roundheads who were trying to capture the Scottish Crown Jewels after they were hidden here. The jewels were passed to a fishwife who managed to hide them in a basket and bypass the fighting to take them to Kinneff Church, 6 miles away.
The castle rock was formerly connected to the mainland by a ridge but this was destroyed to make it easier to defend.

Edinburgh CastleEdinburgh Castle contains St Margaret's chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, dating from the 12th century.
There is evidence of Bronze and Iron Age occupation of Castle Rock, and in Roman times the site was occupied by Celtic peoples; in about 617 the site was captured by Edwin of the Angles of Northumbria; the city took its name from the fortress of Din Eidin which he built.
Near to St Margaret's chapel is a cannon called `Mons Meg´, forged in Belgium in 1448. The Great Hall, built at the beginning of the 16th century, was restored in 1892; the room in which Queen Mary gave birth to James VI in 1566 is situated at the eastern end of the castle.
The Scottish National War Memorial, opened by the then Prince of Wales on 14 July 1927, is situated on the apex of the castle rock on the site of the old barracks; it contains the names of over 100,000 Scots who died in World Wars I and II.
A notable annual event in the cultural life of the United Kingdom is the Edinburgh International Festival, which includes music, drama, opera, and art exhibitions. It was founded in 1947 by Rudolph Bing and has been held annually ever since, in August - September. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival provides a showcase for amateur groups and new talent. The Military Tattoo is held a few days before the Festival on the Esplanade in front of the castle.
The Union of England and Scotland in 1707 aroused great excitement in Edinburgh, and attempts were made to intimidate the members of the Scottish Parliament who were favourable to the Act of Union, but the Act was eventually passed without bloodshed. An unsuccessful attempt was made by the Jacobites to surprise the castle in the rebellion of 1715. In 1745 the Jacobites were more successful and were masters of the town from 15 September to 31 October, but could not take the castle.

Eilean Donan CastleEilean Donan Castle at the end of Loch Duich in the Scottish Highlands became more widely known after the film 'Highlander' used the castle for it's opening scenes. The castle will be remembered by those that visit however, more for the spectacular location. Sitting on a small island conected to the mainland via a stone bridge, Eilean Donan Castle is a wonderful example of a castle come family home. Originally built in 1230 by Alexander II, it was destroyed by the Royal Navy in 1719. In 1912, Colonel MacRae restored the castle and it is still used to this day as a family residence, but is open to the public. Photographs of family weddings held at the castle can be seen along with older portraits and furniture from the past. A visitor centre and car park was added in 1999 built on the mainland.

Framlingham has the remains of a 14th century castle, which was the refuge of Queen Mary after Edward VI's death.

Glamis CastleGlamis Castle near Glamis village, Angus, Scotland, has been the seat of the Lyon family, later earls of Strathmore, since 1372. Its central tower dates from the 15th century, but the castle was greatly enlarged 1650-96.

Shakespeare refers to Glamis in Macbeth, and it is also famed for the legend of a secret chamber, supposedly known only to each heir.

Goodrich CastleGoodrich village in Herefordshire, England, on the River Wye, is home to an impressive ruined castle which dates from the mid-12th century. The castle keep was erected to guard the ford on the river, but it was not completed for around another 150 years. Goodrich Castle, which is guarded by a deep rock-cut moat, became the seat of the lords of the southern Welsh Marches. As a Royalist stronghold, it was destroyed by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War.

Castle HedinghamCastle Hedingham in Essex, Southern England has one of the finest Norman keeps in Europe. The keep is all that survives today of Castle Hedingham. It was built by Aubrey de Vere around 1140 making it the second oldest Norman Keep in Europe. The walls are 12 feet thick, except the east wall that is strangely 13 feet thick.
Aubrey de Vere was granted the Lordship of Hedingham by William the Conqueror. He married Beatrice the half-sister of King William. His son Aubrey II inherited and he built the castle. The Castle has the largest Norman arch in Europe.

Click for Official Website Hever Castle in Kent, England, dating back to the 13th century was the Boleyn family home in Tudor times but sank into obscurity with the family's decline after the dissolution of Anne Boleyn's marriage to Henry VIII. In the early 20th century it was modernized by William Waldorf Astor and includes an entire Tudor-style village built to augment the castle's accommodation, and magnificent gardens.
The oldest part of the Castle being built in 1270, consisted of a massive Gatehouse together with a walled Bailey surrounded by a moat and approached via a wooden drawbridge.
Two hundred years later, around 1505, the Bullen family, who had acquired the Castle in 1462, added a comfortable Tudor dwelling house inside the protective wall.
This was the beginning of the glory days for Hever Castle, although sadly short-lived when Anne Boleyn (Bullen) failed to produce a son and heir for King Henry VIII.
Despite the fact Hever Castle had been the home of two queens (Anne Boleyn and Anne of Cleves) the Castle slowly fell into disrepair until finally, in 1903, the Castle was bought by an American, William Waldorf Astor. With a keen appreciation for quality and a true respect of history he set about restoring the Castle and Gardens, lavishing millions of dollars of his personal fortune filling it with treasures, building the 100 room Tudor Village and creating the Gardens and lake making Hever Castle what it is today.

Inveraray CastleInveraray Castle in Argyll and Bute, Scotland, situated on Loch Fyne, 23 miles northwest of Greenock is the ancestral seat of Archibald, 3rd Duke of Argyll who laid out the town of Inveraray in 1743.
The castle, initially constructed in the 15th century as the stronghold of the 1st Earl of Argyll, head of the clan Campbell, was also redesigned in 1745 by the 3rd duke to provide a stately home.

Kenilworth in Warwickshire, central England, 5 miles north of Warwick has a Norman castle, celebrated in Walter Scott's novel Kenilworth. It became a royal residence. Edward II relinquished his crown here in 1327. The castle was enlarged by John of Gaunt and later by the Earl of Leicester - who entertained Elizabeth I here in 1575 - but was dismantled after the English Civil War.
There are some remains of an Augustinian priory dating from about 1122. The ruins of the castle were given to the British nation by the first Lord Kenilworth in 1937.

Leeds CastleClick for Official Website Leeds Castle in Kent, England, 4 miles southeast of Maidstone is situated on two islands in a lake, formed by the River Len. The earliest buildings on the site date from the late 13th century.
A wooden fort stood on the site of Leeds Castle as early as 857. The gatehouse of the present castle was erected by Edward I for his queen, Eleanor of Castile. The property remained in royal ownership until the 16th century. Major additions were made to the castle buildings in 1822.

Ludlow CastleLudlow Castle sits in the heart of the Shropshire town of Ludlow dating from about 1086 and has a large Norman keep. The Castle, owned by the Earl of Powis, is an extensive stone ruin, the entire castle surviving intact. The curtain wall is well preserved to the battlements, pierced by a much altered gatehouse and a square flanking tower. The large outer bailey has lodgings, a prison and stables backing onto the curtain. Opposite is the semicircular Mortimer's tower, with the Chapel of St Peter close by. A steep rock-cut ditch, surrounding curtain wall and four open backed square towers, defend the inner bailey. The original gatehouse was blocked off and raised to become a keep, a new arched entrance cut through on the right. The inner bailey has a fine range of buildings in the classic domestic plan and also an unusual circular Norman chapel.

Lindisfarne CastleLindisfarne Castle is situated on Holy Island in the North Sea, 2 miles off the coast of Northumberland, which is connected by a causeway at low tide. In the 16th century stones from Lindisfarne priory were used to construct the Castle, which was converted into a private house by Edwin Lutyens in 1903, and is now the property of the National Trust.
The Celtic manuscript known as the Lindisfarne Gospels, dating from about 698, was written at Lindisfarne as a memorial to St Cuthbert (prior of Lindisfarne from 664 to 676). The manuscript is now in the British Museum. Following his death on Farne Island in 687, St Cuthbert's body was returned to Lindisfarne, and the monastery became a place of pilgrimage until the monks were driven from the island by the Danes in 875. According to tradition, the monks took with them the remains of St Cuthbert and finally settled in Durham in 995. Benedictine monks from Durham returned to the island in 1082, renamed it Holy Island, and established a Benedictine priory here. Lindisfarne Mead is produced on the island, an ancient alcoholic drink made from honey.

Newark CastleNewark Castle in Nottinghamshire, England dates from the 12th-century and is where King John died in 1216.

Pembroke in Pembrokeshire, southwest Wales is home to Pembroke Castle. Henry VII was born in the Castle in 1457. Originally founded in 1090 by the Norman Lord Grimley de Montgomery, the castle was completely rebuilt around 1207 by William Marshall, the greatest English knight of the Middle Ages, and remains largely unaltered today. There is a bridge crossing the River Cleddau, an arm of Milford Haven.

Rochester in Southeastern England, on the Medway estuary was a Roman town, Durobrivae. It has a 12th-century Norman castle keep which is the largest in England, and a  12th -15th - century cathedral (containing a memorial to Charles Dickens). Of the castle, the impressive keep remains, 128 ft high, dominating its surroundings.

Scarborough CastleScarborough Castle overlooks the town and was built on a rocky headland 285 ft high which separates Scarborough's north and south bays. Bronze Age and Iron Age relics have been recovered from the site and in the castle yard are the remains of a Roman signal station. Remains of the Norman castle include the 12th-century keep and the 13th-century barbican. During the Civil War the castle surrendered to Parliamentary forces after a siege in 1645. George Fox, the founder of the Society of Friends, was imprisoned in the castle from 1665 to 1666.

St. Michael's MountSt. Michael's Mount - part of the lost Kingdom of Lyonesse where King Arthur's Knights once rode. Home of the St. Aubyn family, St. Michael's Mount is a magical island of granite which rises sharply out of the sea in Mount's Bay opposite the village of Marazion, near to Penzance. The Island was given to the National Trust in 1954 by Lord St. Levan and is accessed at high tide by small ferry boats from Marazion at a nominal charge. At low tide, a stone causeway links the island to the mainland. The 12th century Benedictine Priory perched on the summit is open to the public and is well worth a visit, not only for the delightful Chevy Chase room and Priory Church but also for the spectacular views of Mount's Bay.

Stokesay Castle GatehouseStokesay is not so much a castle as a fortified manor house and although it is fortified it is more domestic in character then military. No longer the focal point of its original town but standing alone, as do so many castles and churches today. This very distinctive castle lies in the valley of the River Onny along the border of England and Wales and was built in the late 13th century, Though its origins can be traced back to the Norman Conquest.
What can be seen today is largely the work of Lawrence of Ludlow, a leading wool merchant of that time. He purchased the site in 1281 and commenced building plans, which are believed to have been completed c1291, when he was granted a "license to crenellate" by Edward I. Sadly, Lawrence was not able to enjoy his new home for long; he was drowned in 1294. The moat which is now dry would have offered some degree of protection from minor disputes, which were an ever-present problem during the middle ages. J.D. Allcroft purchased it in 1869 and restored it to its present state of preservation. The entire castle is still under roof and even retains a medieval wood staircase. The half timbered gatehouse must be part of one of the most picturesque views in England.

The Tower of LondonThe Tower of London is an impressive Fortress on the bank of the river Thames to the east of the City of London, England. The keep, or White Tower, was built about 1078 by Bishop Gundulf on the site of British and Roman fortifications. It is surrounded by two strong walls and a moat (now dry), and was for centuries a royal residence and the principal state prison.
Today it is a barracks, an armoury, and a museum. In 1994 the crown jewels, traditionally kept in a bunker in the tower, were moved to a specially designed showcase, the Jewel House, situated above ground level.

Warkworth CastleWarkworth village in Northumberland, England, is home to the remains of Warkworth Castle, founded in the 12th century. The River Coquet forms an oxbow around the village providing the castle with a natural moat.

Warwick CastleClick for Official Website Warwick Castle stands on a site fortified in Saxon times. The main castle gateway and towers are fine examples of 14th-century military architecture.

Windsor Castle is probably Britain's best known castle. A British royal residence in Windsor, Berkshire, founded by William the Conqueror on the site of an earlier fortress. It includes the Perpendicular Gothic St George's Chapel and the Albert Memorial Chapel, beneath which George III, George IV, and William IV are buried. In the Home Park adjoining the castle is the Royal Mausoleum, Frogmore, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried.
Windsor CastleBeyond the Round Tower or Keep are the state apartments and the sovereign's private apartments. Windsor Great Park lies to the south. In 1990 the royal residence Frogmore House, near Windsor Castle, as well as the Royal Mausoleum, were opened to the public.
On 20 November 1992 the castle was heavily damaged by a fire in its 14th-century St George's Hall. In April 1993 the Queen decided to open Buckingham Palace to the public to raise money for the necessary repair work. St George's Hall was reopened in 1998.
Windsor Castle was constructed by William the Conqueror as an earthwork surmounted by wooden palisades, and has been in continuous royal possession ever since. The work of replacing the palisades with stone walls and towers was started a century later by Henry II (1165-79), and finished in the following century by Henry III, who built the three vast towers towards the town. Stone walls were followed by stone buildings, to which succeeding centuries have made many alterations and additions. The most notable are those made in the 14th century by Edward III, under the direction of William of Wykeham; in the 17th century by Charles II, whose architect was Hugh May; and the extensive renovations made in the 19th century by George IV, with Jeffrey Wyatville as architect.
Architecturally, the main feature of the castle is St George's Chapel, a masterpiece of Perpendicular architecture. It was built from 1475 to 1511, with a lierne vault and fan-vaulted aisles. The wooden stalls in the chancel were carved 1478-85; attached to them are the arms of the Knights of the Garter, painted from about 1390 onwards. Here the knights, under the sovereign, convene for their annual service. Opposite the chapel are the lodgings of the Military Knights of Windsor, dating from the 14th and 16th centuries.
Windsor Great Park 4,792 acres is connected with the castle by an avenue 3 miles long, known as the Long Walk.