Royals, ghosts and turrets: The top 20 castles around the UK
From Cornwall to the Scottish Highlands, the UK s towers, fortresses and strongholds offer stunning architecture plus amazing stories of murderous queens and lake monsters. But which are the finest examples? Here s our list of the top 20 castles around the UK.
Dubbed the castle where legends come to life, Dunnottar has hosted everyone from William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots to Charles II.
As you roam the evocative fortress, you hear the waves crash and spot the adorable puffins. You ll also find out how it helped to preserve the Scottish Crown Jewels during the Civil War.
Dating back to the 12th century, this may just be the world s most romantic castle. Perched on two islands and complete with a picturesque moat as well as beautiful formal gardens, it s no wonder it has attracted an illustrious list of guests spanning centuries from Catherine of Aragon to JFK.
Today you can get lost in the maze or duck into the grotto. And do drop by the world s only museum of dog collars on your trip.
From ancient clan rivalries to Jacobite uprisings, Braemar has been at the epicentre of Scottish history. While you re there, you can check out the Bronze Age sword and Bonnie Prince Charlie s plaid tartan.
Its location in the Cairngorms National Park is stunning too so keep a sharp eye out for red squirrels and golden eagles.
It wouldn t be a proper trip to Cornwall without visiting the iconic castle on St Michael s Mount. Set on a rugged outcrop just off the Cornish coast, you can hike over the causeway to reach it. When you arrive, it offers medieval cobbles and a vast stone shaped like a giant s heart.
You can also stroll down to the picturesque harbour at the foot of the castle and watch traditional boats bobbing around on the water.
Watch out for ghosts of the Muncaster Boggle and the wicked jester Tom Fool; this really is most-haunted territory. Then to calm your nerves, take a walk along the terrace which boasts breathtaking vistas over the gorgeous Lake District landscape, or admire the extensive collection of rhododendrons and azaleas in the woods.
Home to the Earls of Antrim for four centuries, this is a gorgeous Jacobean building in lovely parkland. A highlight of any trip here is the impressive Walled Garden; one of the oldest in Ireland, its creative herbaceous borders and pretty water features will fascinate green-fingered types.
You can also admire the fruit and vegetable gardens or simply relax in the tranquil atmosphere.
A fortified manor house perched on the top of a hill, Hoghton Tower boasts the complete castle check-list. Ramparts? Yep.
Dungeons? Sure. Underground passages too.
You can also tour the panelled state rooms and enjoy the imposing Elizabethan architecture. And don t miss the opportunity to check out the picturesque Minstrels Gallery and the grand Banqueting Hall.
With a rich history stretching back to the 14th century, Dundonald Castle is the ultimate medieval tower house. Built to celebrate the accession of Robert II, it has been described as the cradle of the Stewart dynasty (later the Royal House of Stuart).
For an unforgettable experience, emerge from the eerie dungeons and take in the stunning panorama of the Firth of Clyde.
As the real Downton Abbey, visiting Highclere Castle feels like stepping into the TV show. You are invited into the Drawing Room, where Maggie Smith delivers many memorable putdowns. Then head to the cellars where you ll admire Egyptian jewellery and ancient pottery, learning how one of the castle s previous inhabitants uncovered Tutankhamun s tomb.
One of biggest and most intact keeps in England, you can easily imagine the opulent d cor that made this a suitable place of exile for a queen; after all, Queen Isabella was banished here after she allegedly murdered her husband, Edward II.
Today, you can wind up spiral staircases and spot the ruins of a Norman church. The surrounding earthworks are seriously impressive as well.
A powerful motte-and-bailey castle dating from the thirteenth century, this is a classic Welsh Borders fortification. It s a comparatively small site, but from the tower you re treated to big views over the Black Mountains.
To complete your adventure, how about bringing a picnic to tuck into on the grass? It s the perfect place for lunch on a sunny day.
This is the castle that is, quite literally, fit for a Queen. Indeed, if you see the Royal Standard flying, then you ll know that Her Majesty s in residence.
With a history extending back to William the Conqueror, it s the world s biggest and oldest occupied fortress. While you re there, check out Queen Mary s Dolls House and admire its miniature Crown Jewels.
Bamburgh Castle is straight out of the pages of a storybook, so it s no surprise that Malory claimed it as it Sir Lancelot s mythical home when he wrote his version of the Arthurian legends. It boasts super-romantic views over to the Farne Islands.
You can also admire the Armstrong and Aviation Artefacts Museum s extensive display of artillery and engines.
Set in the gorgeous Cotswolds, Sudeley Castle has welcomed monarchs from Richard III to Charles I. It is, though, best known as the home of Catherine Parr, Henry VIII s surviving wife. Today you can glimpse love letters to her subsequent husband Thomas Seymour and see rare copies of books she wrote.
Then why not stroll through the Mulberry Garden and catch the harpist in residence?
For the ultimate Monarch of the Glen experience, you just have to drop by Inveraray Castle. The seat of the Dukes of Argyll for over 300 years, it offers a fantastical display of decorative battlements and elaborate turrets. Gaze up at the country s highest ceiling in the Armoury Hall and imagine the lavish banquets that have been held in the State Dining Room over the centuries.
An imposing five-storey tower house is the remaining section of this castle; much of the rest was blown up to stop Jacobite rebellions.
Now, there s an impressive collection of medieval artefacts that were unearthed in the castle. And, since it stands proudly on the shores of Loch Ness, it s only right to see if you can spot the elusive Nessie too.
Famously the Pearl of the North , this castle shimmers in its stunning Spey Valley setting. The Macpherson-Grants have lived here since the sixteenth century, and you can admire mementoes that the family has acquired over the years; a real highlight is the impressive collection of 17th-century Spanish art with paintings by masters like Murillo.
Or maybe stop and smell the delicately perfumed Ballindalloch Castle Rose, which was developed here.
The ghoulish will be thrilled to hear that a skeleton was uncovered in the Great Hall during early 20th-century restoration. The chapel and keep of this building have been restored more recently, but there are still picturesque ruins aplenty too. These days, the Laird himself conducts tours of the buildings and you can also enjoy a candlelit meal there.
Powderham may date back to 1390s but it s got a very strong flavour of Victoriana too, so you can appreciate the wood-panelled Great Hall and then head to the kitchen to soak up life below stairs .
When you re done inside, it s great fun to saunter through the vast deer park and spot over 650 real-life Bambis.
Picture-perfect Hever is Hollywood s idea of a castle from the elegant turrets to its double moat; ducks and swans complete the picturesque scene.
Once the family home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII s most notorious wife, if you drop by you can look at her prayer books and take in the gallery of Tudor paintings.
Alternatively, row around the shimmering lake or study the statues in the immaculate garden.
- ^ Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire (www.dunnottarcastle.co.uk)
- ^ Leeds Castle, Kent (www.leeds-castle.com)
- ^ Braemar Castle, Aberdeenshire (www.braemarcastle.co.uk)
- ^ St Michael s Mount, Cornwall (www.stmichaelsmount.co.uk)
- ^ Muncaster Castle, Cumbria (www.muncaster.co.uk)
- ^ Glenarm Castle, Northern Ireland (www.glenarmcastle.com)
- ^ Hoghton Tower, Lancashire (www.hoghtontower.co.uk)
- ^ Dundonald Castle, Kilmarnock (www.dundonaldcastle.org.uk)
- ^ Highclere Castle, Berkshire (www.highclerecastle.co.uk)
- ^ Castle Rising, Norfolk (www.castlerising.co.uk)
- ^ Longtown Castle, Herefordshire (www.castlewales.com)
- ^ Windsor Castle, Berkshire (www.royalcollection.org.uk)
- ^ Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland (www.bamburghcastle.com)
- ^ Sudeley Castle, Gloucestershire (www.sudeleycastle.co.uk)
- ^ Inveraray Castle, Argyll and Bute (www.inveraray-castle.com)
- ^ Urquhart Castle, Scottish Highlands (www.urquhart-castle.co.uk)
- ^ Ballindalloch Castle, Banffshire (www.ballindallochcastle.co.uk)
- ^ Balgonie Castle, Fife (www.balgoniecastle.co.uk)
- ^ Powderham Castle, Devon (www.powderham.co.uk)
- ^ Hever Castle, Kent (www.hevercastle.co.uk)
- ^ The best castles in the UK (www.holidaylettings.co.uk)
- ^ The best UK castles (www.holidaylettings.co.uk)
- ^ The top UK Castles (www.holidaylettings.co.uk)
- ^ Top castles around the UK (www.holidaylettings.co.uk)