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St Michael's Mount

UK castles embody the rich heritage and fascinating culture for which Britain is renowned, making them one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.

Walk in the shoes of medieval Lords and Ladies as you visit the incredible strongholds that are dotted across the UK and Ireland. Create your own fairytale story at Scotland’s enchanting Craigievar Castle, cross a medieval causeway to explore Lindisfarne Castle or admire the Welsh coastline from Gwrych Castle!

No matter where you are in the country, there is sure to be a magical UK castle just waiting to be explored.

Continue reading to discover the best UK castles below…

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Castles in England
Castles in Scotland
Castles in Wales
Castles in Ireland

Castles in England 

1. Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle, often known as the Windsor of the North, is the country’s second-largest residential castle!

The castle is one of the UK’s most significant heritage sites and offers one of the best days out in Northumberland. Browse spectacular mediaeval architecture in the elegant Italianate State Rooms, or head out on a variety of excursions, seminars, and walks.

On a guided tour, learn about the history of Alnwick Castle and its use as a filming location for Harry Potter. Try archery to put your bow skills to the test, or learn to ride a broomstick where Harry Potter first took flight, both of which are fantastic UK bucket list attractions for families.

When you’re done, visit the town centre and witness historic stone buildings with unique boutiques and cafes. Afterwards, head out on a Northumberland walk and catch a glimpse of the county’s breath-taking landscapes.

2. Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle is one of the most mighty UK castles and a history lovers’ dream! Watch the shoreline stretch out under you as you take in the expansive vistas of Holy Island the Farne Islands from this remarkable vantage point.

Explore the castle grounds and one of the top filming spots in the UK. Bamburgh Castle has been featured on the big screen in The Last Kingdom, Transformers: The Last Knight, and Netflix’s Frontier.

While sipping coffee in the Clock Tower Tearoom or Tack Room Café, take in the breath-taking setting you just saw on the big screen. Or explore its treasury-filled apartments, notably The King’s Hall, the castle’s focal point.

3. Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle

Situated among the beauty of the North Wessex Downs AONB is the real-life Downton Abbey! Highclere Castle is a must-see on any tour of UK castles.

With records dating back to 749, Highclere has a fascinating and long history. During the First World War, the castle was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. Whilst, during the Second World War, it was used to house evacuated children from London.

Experience the main state rooms used as filming locations for Downton Abbey by booking a tour and as a bonus, enjoy the Egyptian Exhibition in the old staff quarters, celebrating Tutankhamun’s discovery by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon.

Along with the castle, the 13th-century gardens surround 1,000 acres of parkland, which is one of Hampshire‘s most stunning sights.

This castle in the UK is only open to the public for 60 to 70 days each year – including Easter and May Bank Holidays.

4. Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle

Next on our guide to UK castles is a Northumberland gem with so much British charm. Lindisfarne Castle lies on the beautiful Holy Island near Berwick-upon-Tweed.

The castle, which overlooks a natural harbour, was originally used as a base for the Tudor navy! Today, however, this is a magical spot and is a fine example of an Edwardian holiday home. Admire the work of the young architect, Edin Lutyens before exploring Gertrude Jekyll’s enchanting walled garden.

Visiting the castle requires preparation and execution since crossing the causeway to Holy Island is an adventure in and of itself. The castle is open from mid-February until the end of October. The hours vary depending on the tide times!

With all of this and much more to explore, Lindisfarne Castle is one of the best Northumberland castles!

5. St Michael’s Mount

St Michael’s Mount

The National Trust-owned English castle of St Michael’s Mount stands proudly on a rocky island, linked to Marazion. This stunning stronghold proudly stands as one of the most mesmerising and best castles in the UK!

You can hop on a boat or stroll across the causeway during low tide to visit the jewel in Cornwall‘s crown. Enjoy a seamless blend of modern life with thousands of years of history and discover the oldest building dating back to the 12th century!

Be sure to marvel at the architecture and unpeel the legend of Jack the Giant Killer! On a summer afternoon, explore the subtropical terraced garden and soak up the views across Mount’s Bay.

It’s little wonder that this feat of architecture is one of the best castles in Cornwall.

Castles in Scotland

6. Craigievar Castle

Craigievar Castle

On a picturesque hillside that is said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella is one of the best castles in the UK. Craigievar Castle catches your eye with its elegant pink tower cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.

The tower house, which began construction in 1576 and was finished by William Forbes in about 1626, is one of Scotland’s most recognisable and revered structures.

Craigievar was home to a single family until the 1960s when it gained its distinct blend of cosy furniture and rare artefacts.

Per the previous owner’s request, no additional lighting has been added to the top levels. As a result, the castle’s enormous art and artefact collection are to be viewed in the natural light.

Admire Raeburn portraits, armour, and weapons, or take a stroll through the garden and estate during your visit.

7. Dunrobin Castle & Gardens

Dunrobin Castle

Located between the towns of Golspie and Dornoch on the eastern coast of the Scottish Highlands, Dunrobin Castle offers stunning views of the Moray Firth.

Among Scotland’s great houses, Dunrobin Castle is the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. Since the early 1300s, Dunrobin Castle has housed the Earls of Sutherland and their descendants.

Sir Robert Lorimer and Sir Charles Barry, who constructed London’s Houses of Parliament, inspired the castle’s conical spires. During World War I, the castle was a naval hospital, and from 1965 to 1972, it served as a boys’ boarding school.

Explore the surrounding area on your scenic road trip and stop off at attractions including Urquhart Castle, Culloden Battlefield, Blair Castle & Gardens, and Loch Ness.

8. Balmoral Castle & Estate

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle has served as the Royal Family’s Scottish residence since it was acquired for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852.

This famous Scottish estate was first exposed to the public in 1931, and since then it has grown to encompass more than 50,000 acres of forests, mountains, and, of course, beautiful gardens.

Indulge in a leisurely exploration of Balmoral’s gardens, fauna, exhibits, and Ballroom with the help of an audio tour, accessible in a number of languages.

Between the months of April and July of each year, visitors are welcome inside Balmoral Castle. If the Royal Family are not in residence, it may be possible to schedule group visits at other times of the year. Flora tributes for Queen Elizabeth II can also be left at a designated spot outside the Main Gates of Balmoral.

If you find yourself mesmerised by the royal treatment, browse some beautiful houses for a royal holiday here.

Castles in Wales

9. Conwy Castle

Conwy UK Castles

Conwy Castle is undeniably one of the most impressive and best castles in the UK. This incredible stronghold is perched on a rocky ledge, towers over the town centre and was constructed by Edward I of England as a display of his sheer power.

Explore the atmospheric chapel, climb the spiral staircases and step inside the most complete and well-preserved set of medieval royal apartments in England and Wales. As you pass through the castle, see lime render on the walls, a reminder of its once bright white appearance.

Walk a full circuit around the battlements of Conwy Castle using restored staircases within the towers. The towers provide a great view of snow-capped mountains as well as the narrow streets and harbour of Conwy below.

10. Gwrych Castle

Gwrych Castle

Gwrych Castle is one of the first attempts to recreate medieval architecture in Europe and is listed as a Grade I property. If you’re a fan of reality TV, then this might be one of the most recognisable UK castles!

The castle was the setting for ITV’s ‘I’m a Celeb…Get Me Out of Here!’ for two years over lockdown. I’m A Celeb fans will be pleased to know that they can visit an exhibition of the show and see the legendary phone box, privy and the Clink!

The castle is located with awe-inspiring views of the Welsh coastline which is just waiting to be explored! Abergele is located between the major towns of Colwyn Bay and Rhyl, making it ideal for a traditional day at the seaside in the North Wales region.

One of the coolest things the castle has to offer is Ghost Hunting events! Spend the evening as a ghost hunter and explore the castle grounds into the AM. If you’re a lover of all things spooky, why not further your investigation skills and check out these abandoned places in the UK?

11. Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle

Pembroke Castle, which dates back to the 12th century, is the biggest privately owned castle in Wales. It is the only castle in Britain to be built directly above a prehistorically used natural cave called the Wogan.

Formerly the family seat of the Earldom of Pembroke, this medieval castle lies in the heart of South Wales. As part of the Norman invasion of Wales, Arnulf of Montgomery built the castle along the Pembroke River in 1093.

Fancy a trip to the beach? Explore the surrounding area around Pembroke and spend your time exploring award-winning beaches such as Tenby’s Blue Flag North and South Beach, Barafundle Bay, and Llanelli Beach.

Castles in Ireland 

12. Enniskillen Castle

Eniskillen Castle

Immerse yourself in culture throughout the charming setting of Enniskillen Castle, found at the heart of County Fermanagh. Gaelic Maguires built this regal Irish castle around 600 years ago, offering noteworthy history and gentle walks around the nearby River Erne.

The grounds feature two museums, the Fermanagh County and The Inniskillings Museum. There’s also the time-honoured Military Barracks, ideal for history buffs and those looking for a cultural experience in Ireland.

If you’re feeling adventurous, venture out on the various Ireland walking trails along the nearby River Erne. 

13. Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle

Kilkenny Castle is an impressive structure dating back to the 12th century situated in the medieval County Kilkenny. Enveloped by 21 acres of countryside and parkland, this regal building was once the principal seat of the Butlers, marquesses, dukes and earls of Ormond for nearly 600 years.

The Castle Park and Gardens are beautifully presented, offering plenty of space for tourists to explore. Visit the castle’s Victorian Kitchen, the Rose Garden, the children’s playground and access to the Nore River.

Explore features dating back to the nineteenth century including 50 acres of parkland, a terraced rose garden, and a man-made lake. You can also enjoy a treat at the tea parlour, let the kids run around the playground, or wander orienteering trails.

14. Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle

Dunluce Castle is one of the most picturesque and romantic of all Irish castles. Today’s castle ruins date mainly from the 16th and 17th centuries, with evidence dating back to the first millennium.

The historic remains have a turbulent history spanning back to 1533, with evidence of occupation reaching back to the first millennium. Stop at the Magheracross Viewing Point to enjoy the surroundings while eating a prepared picnic. Alternatively, channel your inner archaeologist by digging deep into the ruins of Dunluce.

This stunning hotspot is perched on high coastal cliffs in the heart of County Antrim. It’s the perfect place to enjoy a romantic Irish getaway with your other half and take in breath-taking views of the surrounding seascapes.

Map of UK Castles

Ready to Explore

Do you want to visit some of the UK’s best castles? Book a holiday cottage today; you could even stay in your own castle accommodation! If you want to do some further research on UK culture, find a multitude of destinations with our Travel Guide.

Image Credits: Matthew Hartley (CC BY-SA 2.0), Adrian Evans(CC BY-SA 4.0), Raymond Millar(CC BY-SA 2.0), Bert Kaufmann(CC BY 2.0), Ognyan Petrov(CC BY-SA 4.0). Manfred Heyde(CC BY-SA 3.0)

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