25 Best British CastlesPosted: 2009-06-02
I happened across a great list of the top 100 songs of all time yesterday. That got me thinking what my own 'top picks' are among all the thousands of wonderful historic places I've had the pleasure of visiting across the UK. So here's my first list: the top 25 castles to visit in Britain.
There are literally hundreds of marvellous castles to choose from, so this is not an exhaustive list; it is limited to those that the Britain Express family have personally visited. These are our favourite castles, places that we have enjoyed and think that you will too! Each castle has a link to more information, including location details and nearest accommodation.
- 25. Tattershall Castle - Lincolnshire. A tower house built of red brick in 1440 for Ralph Cromwell, the powerful Lord Treasurer of England. Tattershall was one of the first domestic buildings in England to utilise brick as a building material.
- 24. Warkworth Castle - Northumberland. Warkworth was built in Norman times as a motte and bailey fortress, but later rebuilt in the 14th century for the Percy family, Earls of Northumberland.
- 23. Stirling Castle - Central Scotland. The childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots was the scene of many of the most important events in Scottish history. The Great Hall and gatehouse of James IV have been restored.
- 22. Castle Stalker - Argyll and Bute. The west coast of Scotland is home to some of the most dramatically situated castles in the UK, but Castle Stalker is among the best. It is located on a small island in the bay near Appin. The castle itself cannot be visited, but for sheer drama, it is hard to beat.
- 21. Smailholm Tower - Borders. A small 16th-century tower house well known to Walter Scott, who lived nearby.
- 20. Sherborne Castle - Somerset. There are two castles at Sherbourne. This is the second, built by Sir Walter Raleigh in 1594 in the Deer Park of Sherborne Old Castle. The 'new' castle is set in wonderful gardens by Capability Brown.
- 19. Restormel Castle - Cornwall. One of the few complete examples of a Norman motte and bailey castle in south-west England.
- 18. Nunney Castle - Somerset. A stunningly beautiful moated castle in an idyllic village setting. Built in the late 14th century by Sir Walter de la Mare.
- 17. Kilchurn Castle - Argyll and Bute. This late 16th-century fortress stands in a stunning location on a promontory jutting out into Loch Awe.
- 16. Hermitage Castle - Borders. It takes determination to reach Hermitage Castle! It is located on a lonely road in stunning countryside in the south-west of the Scottish Borders. The 14th-century castle was famously visited by Mary Queen of Scots. 14th century Hermitage Chapel is nearby.
- 15. Harlech Castle - Gwynedd. One of Edward I's ring of late 13th-century castles meant to subdue the Welsh. The concentric fortress stands atop a rocky hill. The castle was captured by Owain Glyndwr in his revolt against the English.
- 14. Kenilworth Castle - Warwickshire. One of the most powerful castles in England during the medieval period. Kenilworth was begun around 1120 by Geoffrey de Clinton. Edward II abdicated under duress at Kenilworth. Site of a Banqueting Hall built by John of Gaunt.
- 13. Goodrich Castle - Herefordshire. A romantic 13th-century ruin in the Wye Valley. Goodrich was besieged during the Civil War, battered into submission by the huge cannon known as "Roaring Meg".
- 12. Chillingham Castle - Northumberland. Reputed to be among the most haunted castles in Britain, Chillingham was built in the late 13th century, with the addition of a long gallery built for a visit by James I of England on the way to his coronation. The gardens were designed by Capability Brown, and the park is famous for its herd of white deer.
- 11. Broughton Castle - Oxfordshire. This gorgeous moated castle was begun around 1300, and has been home to the Fiennes family for over 6 centuries.
- 10. Berkeley Castle - Gloucestershire. Scene of Edward II's gruesome murder, Berkely is a beautifully preserved castle with a great hall, dungeon, and central keep. Lovely terraced gardens run below the castle.
- 9. Arundel Castle - West Sussex. Two castles in one; within the walls of Arundel's Victorian Gothic walls stands an 11th-century motte and bailey castle that was briefly home to Queen Maud. A splendid fortress, Arundel has been the home of the Dukes of Norfolk for well over 600 years.
- 8. Bodiam Castle - East Sussex. A crenellated, moated castle that looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. Bodiam was begun in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge to counter the threat of French raids. The castle can only be accessed by three drawbridges and a barbican gate.
- 7. Warwick Castle - One of the great castles of England, Warwick dates back to a fortress erected by William the Conqueror. The castle was rebuilt after Simon de Montfort destroyed it in 1264.
- 6. Bamburgh Castle - Northumberland. Dramatically sited overlooking a fabulous Northumberland beach, looking out to the Farne Islands. The first castle here was built in the 6th century, but the current building is a comparative newcomer, built in the 12th century.
- 5. Edinburgh Castle - Lothian. The oldest part of Edinburgh Castle dates to the Norman period. There is a Great Hall built by James IV, and ornate royal apartments. Within Edinburgh Castle are kept the Crown Jewels of Scotland, and the Stone of Destiny. The courtyard before the gates is the site of the famous Edinburgh military tattoo.
- 4. Caernarfon Castle - Gwynedd. Perhaps the finest of Edward I's castles in Wales. The birthplace of Edward II, the first Prince of Wales. State of the art defences for the later 13th century.
- 3. Tower of London - Greater London. History oozes from every stone, but despite that, the Tower of London is not, surprisingly, in top spot, but it couldn't really come any lower than number three, could it? At the core of this complex of historic buildings on the banks of the Thames is the White Tower, built by William the Conqueror.
- 2. Eilean Donan Castle - Highlands. It is hard to imagine a more romantic sight that Eilean Donan Castle. Located on a small island in Loch Duich, reached by a narrow spit of land, the castle was besieged on several occasions. There are fine furnishings in the interior, but what really puts Eilean Donan near the top is the fabulous location.
- 1. Alnwick Castle - Northumberland. And here we are ... drumroll please ... my pick as the top castle to visit in Britain. The 14th-century stronghold of the powerful Percy family is built on even earlier Norman foundations. The staterooms feature 18th and 19th-century opulence, including a magnificent art collection The show rooms are magnificently furnished. Alnwick Castle benefits from a superb location, and Alnwick itself is one of the most beautiful and historic towns in England.
Whew! That was hard! It was very difficult to pare my list of favourites down to only 25! This list will be periodically updated as we visit more castles around the UK, but for now, you won't go wrong with any of the castles on this list.