15 most beautiful castles in England

Now that the pandemic is slightly letting us get back to normal and we can visit different locations, it is time for you to discover famous castles in England, haunted castles in England, medieval castles in England, and all of the royal castles in England. Below we have selected 15 of the best castles in England in our opinion that you must visit when you’re in England or even as you are residing in the UK and just don’t know what to visit anymore.

15 most beautiful castles in England – famous castles in England

This was a pleasure to write about, discovering all the kings and queens, the earls of counties, men who fought wars within the walls of the castles. Some of them were renovated and refurbished throughout the centuries and can now be visited by tourists throughout the year. Others were not so lucky and only the ruins remain, however, they are as magical as ever and their ruins will sure remind you of how medieval times were. How many castles in England from our list have you visited so far?

1. Bodiam Castle

famous castles in england

Our first of the famous castles in England and medieval castle in England is the one and only Bodiam Castle. The castle was built in the 13th century and today the exterior still looks impressive and intact. The turrets and large moats are still visible. Bodiam Castle used to be in the possession of the Dalyngrigges family, however, the family became extinct.

After this, many have owned the castle, the Lewknor family, Lord Thanet, John Guller, Geroge Cubitt, and then Lord Curzon. The latest two decided to restore it and make it look as glorious as it is today. The castle that you see today has become a Grade I listed building and before Lord Curzon’s death in 1925, he gave it to The National Trust with the intention of having it open to the public.

This was never one of the royal castles in England but served as protection to the South Coast from the French. The castle was not only built to protect but also if you look at it from a plane, it’s surrounded by greenery and looks absolutely beautiful. We just love how the oldest castle in England from our list looks like.

2. Dover Castle

Let’s see these haunted castles in England, one being Dover Castle. This castle is known as ‘The Key to England’ as it has over 2000 years of History. Dover castle is one of the most famous castles in England and also the oldest castle in England. One of the most beautiful medieval castles in England from the 11th century, it was used as a frontier defence.

If you look at the map, the castle is strategically sited, guarding the nearest landing point to Europe. Dover Castle is also known to be one of the most haunted castles in England! The amazing thing is that the fortress later over more than nine centuries, more precisely from 1066 until 1958.

Did you know that it was an important defence point during the Napoleonic Wars? Or that the castle’s tunnels were turned into air-raid shelters during the Second World War. This castle has really seen it all and even today it stands there beautifully. You can’t help but wonder how did they manage to build such long-lasting fortresses. Due to its history and architecture, Dover Castle is one of the Norman castles in England.

3. Lindisfarne Castle

famous castles in england

The next one on our list is one of the Norman castles in England, Lindisfarne Castle. Just another one of the best castles in England that is owned by The National Trust and date back to the 16th century. As you can see, it still looks relatively intact. This castle was used as a holiday home to a wealthy Edwardian bachelor.

I guess you could even think of it as one of the castle hotels in England, or at least it used to be in the 16th century. If anyone wants to visit Lindisfarne Castle, they would have to get on by foot. There is also a shuttle bus that runs between the castle and the village, in case someone is not able to walk.

The interesting thing about this castle is that when there’s high tide, it is difficult to reach the castle. I wouldn’t want to stay there if the tide is high, so make sure to leave in time! How many castles in England are like this? Let’s see the rest of the famous castles in England and some of the royal castles in England.

4. Warkworth Castle

We love these royal castles in England and Medieval castles in England, castles in England map. Warkworth Castle has quite an interesting history. Nobody knows when exactly was it built. Warkworth Castle is believed to have been built around 1200 and was the residence of the Percy family from the 14th to the 17th centuries.

This castle is difficult to reach on foot as well, which is why it makes it one of the best Norman stone castles in England. It is only accessible by boat. The chapel is carved directly out of the cliff rock. Tourists became more interested in the castle after Bishop Percy’s popular poem ‘The Hermit of Warkworth’ dated in 1771.

Even though the castle was demolished around 1752, later in the 18th century it was rebuilt again. As much as they tried to restore the whole tower, the stones were limited. The castle was lived by the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland for a while. The castle was declared a scheduled ancient monument in 1915. The Duke’s rooms remained under the control of the Percy family until 1987. What do you think of these famous castles in England so far?

5. Durham Castle

We’re bringing you one of the most famous castles in England which also happens to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Durham Castle is many of the Norman castles in England still looking amazing as ever to this day. The castle’s main role was to serve as the residence of the Bishops of Durham.

Just like the rest of these Medieval castles in England, Durham was also important in defence against the Scots invading English lands. We are lucky to experience the castle today thanks to the Benedictine monks who built it for the Bishops of Durham. Because of its panoramic view of the Cathedral and Castle facing each other, it is described as ‘one of the finest architectural experiences in Europe’.

Today Durham Castle is in fact Durham University. Durham city is really a joy to look at. I can only encourage anyone to go and visit this spectacular place. In case you wish to view it from a different perspective, you can even jump on a river cruise and see the city from that angle. We’re curious to know how many castles in England have you visited?

6. Tintagel Castle

This castle has really caught my eye due to its interesting name. The name isn’t the only interesting thing about Tintagel Castle. This beauty also has a legend to share. Not just any legend, but the legend of King Arthur, which is what makes it one of the most famous castles in England. Before King Arthur, from the 5th to the 7th century AD the castle was an important stronghold and a residence of rulers of Cornwall.

Archaeologists found many fragments of luxury pottery that are believed to be imported from the Mediterranean. This might just be the oldest castle in England! Now let’s get back to the legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote in History of the Kings of Britain that King Arthur was conceived with the help of Merlin right at the site of Tintagel Castle in the 12th century.

Although the castle was actually built later by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, probably around the 1230s. Unlike the rest of the castles, Tintagel has no military value, so the only reason why they built it, was due to the famous legends. Do you also think this makes it one of the best castles in England?

7. Kenilworth Castle

famous castles in england

This interesting-looking castle, or should I say ruins, was established in the 1120s by Geoffrey de Clinton. That would make Kenilworth Castle one of the Norman Stone Castles in England. Later on, King John added an outer circuit of stone, due to this the castle was thought to be the most formidable fortress in the kingdom. The longest sieges in England’s medieval history happened at this very same castle.

The six-month siege was held by Simon de Montfort in 1266. Although it may not look like it now, this castle was actually developed as a palace by King Edward III, who had apartments and a great hall built. As you can see, many kings favoured this castle. One of them was Henry V who built a retreat at the far end of the lake.

One last time the castle was transformed into a magnificent palace by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester in 1563. Sadly, after the English Civil War in 1650, the castle was dismantled. Walter Scott’s novel ‘Kenilworth’, describing the romantic story of Robert Dudley and his wife Elizabeth I is what kept the ruins of Kenilworth famous to this day.

8. Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle is another one of the famous castles in England owned by the National Trust. The castle stands on a remote headland in Northumberland and looking at the castle from far away truly takes you back to medieval times. The reason why the castle was built in 1313 is due to King Edward II and Earl Thomas of Lancaster having hostile relations.

Archaeologists discovered that it may have been built more as a symbol of opposition to King Edward II rather than a military stronghold. After the Earl’s execution in 1322, the castle was passed down to John of Gaunt. As Dunstanburgh Castle was built in the centre of a medieval landscape, it is the largest castle in Northumberland.

Most of the castle is in ruins by now, there were multiple rectangular towers protecting the walls. Three internal complexes of buildings were also ruined, which supported the earl’s household. To the southeast of the castle, a harbour was built, however, only a stone quay survived. These buildings are fascinating, makes one question how were they built so high and so strong to sometimes act as fortresses.

9. Windsor Castle

famous castles in england

This magnificent castle is the oldest castle in England and also the largest one. One of the royal castles in England has been home to British kings and queens for almost 1000 years. This castle was built 16 years! No wonder they say good things take time. William the Conqueror began building Windsor castle in 1070. The castle is a mix of Gothic, Georgian, and Victorian architecture.

Windsor was used as a military headquarters by Parliamentary forces. The interiors were created by Hugh May in Baroque style. Queen Victoria also had a hand in changing a few things. The castle was used as a refuge by the royal family during the Second World War. Today it is used by Queen Elizabeth II on the weekends, and it is also open to the public eye. Thanks to our Queen, it was transformed into a major British tourist attraction.

Windsor contains a huge portion of the Royal Collection of art. The Royal Collection Trust announced a £27m project to reinstate the original entrance hall of the castle to visitors. Did you know that the Queen and her husband, Prince Philip shielded at Windsor during the pandemic? How convenient to have one of the castle hotels in England.

10. Highclere Castle

famous castles in england
Highclere Castle – Photo from House Beautiful

You might recognize Highclere Castle from the famous show Downtown Abbey. This Grade I listed castle was built in 1679, however, further renovated in the 1840s. You could also say it is the oldest castle in England because the first records of Highclere Castle are from 749. Of course, what we see today was expanded and renovated many times. Many lived in this castle during the centuries, such as Edward II and VI, Robert Sawyer, Miles and Pockocke families, and so on.

Today Highclere Castle is open to the public. There are various things one can see inside the castle. Lord and Lady Carnarvon created the Egyptian Exhibition which tells a story of the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Sadly, many of the previous owners didn’t invest in the renovations and by 2009 the castle was uninhabitable.

The repairs were estimated to cost around £12 million. Thanks to the visitors Lady and Lord Carnarvon managed to renovate the castle the best they could. Highclere Castle is one of the most famous castles in England, not just because of Downtown Abbey, but also because of the spectacular view and experience it has to offer.

11. Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle is one of the Norman castles in England and royal castles in England dated back to 857 AD. I talked about the oldest castle in England on this list, however, besides Windsor Castle, we have Leeds as well. The Royal Manor was owned by the Saxon royal family. Edward I and his Queen lived there in 1278.

The style of the castle is Barbican and this is a very unique castle as each of the three parts has its own entrance, drawbridge, gateway and portcullis. It is believed that King Henry VIII was the castle’s most famous owner as he transformed the castle for Catherine of Aragon. What an act of love!

We are able to see the castle as it is today thanks to the Culpeper family who sided with Parliamentarians during the English Civil War and saved the castle from destruction. Another contribution was made by Lady Baillie, who bought Leeds Castle in 1926, transforming and renovating the castle with the help of a French interior designer. Ever since 1976, the castle has been open to the public. This magnificent castle is set on over 500 acres of landscape. We recommend visiting the castle and don’t miss out on the maze with a secret grotto at the centre!

12. Warwick Castle

Remember I mentioned before that William the Conqueror built Windsor Castle? Here we have another one of the famous castles in England also built by Willaim the conqueror during 1068. Originally the castle was in a motte-and-bailey style, however, during the 12th century it was rebuilt in stone. The facade opposite of Warick town was refortified thus making it one of the most recognizable examples of 14th-century military architecture.

Warwick Castle was still used as a stronghold in the 17th century when it was granted to Sir Fulke Greville in 1604. Later it was converted into a country house while still in the possession of the Greville family. At the moment it is owned by Merling Entertainments. The castle is a Grade I listed building and also a Scheduled Ancient Monument which means that it is protected against unauthorized changes. Whether you want to take a walk or visit inside the castle, you will be taken back in time by this magical building.

13. Appleby Castle

Appleby Castle – Photo from Baldhiker

This castle is just one of those royal castles in England worth visiting. Appleby Castle was founded at the beginning of the 12th century by Ranulf le Meschin. The stone keep is known as Caesar’s Tower. The restorations were done by the Clifford family for over 400 years. Many royal families inhabited the castle over the years such as King James I, Lady Anne Clifford, Earls of Thanet, and so on. Earls of Thanet are the ones that converted the hall block into a classical mansion house. One of the amazing things about castles is that they were under renovation and restoration for centuries.

The castle was purchased by Ferguson Industrial Holdings in 1972 and became the primary residence of Denis Vernon and his family. What a building to live in, one of the many castles in England map! There was also a documentary made where Appleby Castle and Denis Vernon was featured in, ‘The Gypsies are coming’ directed by Sishannah White. Today the castle is owned by the Nightingale family and only a few parts are opened to the public. Whoever wants to visit the castle should book in advance.

14. Ludlow Castle

In case you are anywhere close to Birmingham, why not visit Ludlow this small market town where the ruins of Ludlow Castle lie? The castle stands high and overlooking the River Teme. Ludlow Castle is probably one of the oldest Norman stone castles in England, and castles in England map. During the civil war in the 12th century, the castle was fortified with a Great Tower and an outer bailey. The castle was part of another war and that of the Second Barons’ War. Later the castle was in the ownership of Richar Mortimer, the seat of the Council in the Marches of Wales when it was further renovated throughout the 16th century.

Sadly Ludlow Castle didn’t recover from the civil war years. A mansion was constructed by Edward Clive while he lived there in 1811. After 1900 it was inhabited by the Powis Estate who further refurbished it throughout the years. In the 21st century, Ludlow Castle is still in the property of the Earl of Powis and can also be visited by tourists. The Powis family lives in the outer bailey, Castle House, while the inner bailey is separated by a trench cut out of stone. English Heritage thinks that Ludlow Castle represents “a remarkably complete multi-phase complex” and we also think this makes it one of the best castles in England.

15. Richmond Castle

Richmond

We have the last one of the best castles in England we would like to introduce you to. Richmond Castle was originally called Riche Mount, ‘the strong hill’. How many castles in England do you know to have interesting names? Richmond castle is another one of the Norman stone castles in England built by William the Conqueror. The castle was later constructed by Alan Rufus to defend against rebellions and to establish a personal power base. After many years of war and endurance, the castle had fallen out of use as a fortress by the end of the 14th century.

Although it wasn’t acting as a fortress, Richmond castle was still used during the First World War. Today the castle is a scheduled monument, a historic building, archaeological site and is protected against unauthorized change. It is also listed as a Grade I building. The legend says that underneath the castle King Arthur and his knight are sleeping. This was discovered by a potter name Thompson, who got scared and ran away when they began to awake. It is also believed that a drummer boy was lost while investigating a tunnel. His ghostly drumming can still be heard. Does this make Richmond Castle one of the haunted castles in England?

Best Castles in England

We have reached the end of our lovely list of famous castles in England, castle hotels in England, and Norman stone castles in England. We are curious to know which one was your favourite from the castles on England map? Was it Windsor Castle, the oldest castle in England? Or Richmond, one of the haunted castles in England? We really can’t choose! Hope you get to enjoy these magnificent buildings in England!

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Piroska Vigh

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