Fascinating castles to explore in Central England

England is renowned for its magnificent castles. They are an incredibly important part of the nation’s history and several of them have witnessed battle, secrets, tangled politics and changing fortunes over the centuries.

Read about some of the best castles to visit in Central England below. Most have royal connections and all certainly have a unique story behind them.

Sudeley Castle: 10 min drive from our Winchcombe Campsite

Sudeley

Situated in the heart of the Cotswolds, the breathtaking Sudeley Castle is surrounded by extensive gardens. Although the castle is now a private residence to Lady Ashcombe and her family, it was once used as a home for royals.

Ralph Boteler, Baron of Sudeley, constructed the present castle in 1442 but during the War of the Roses, he was forced to pass Sudeley Castle to the King, Edward IV.

Notable royals that have lived at the castle include Richard III and Queen Katherine Parr, the sixth (and surviving) wife of Henry VIII. King Henry VIII himself visited the castle in 1535 with his second wife Anne Boleyn. In 1592, Elizabeth I also visited Sudeley Castle for a remarkable three-day celebratory feast to mark the anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada.

Sudeley Castle lay derelict for around 200 years, following the Civil War. A renovation programme began at the castle in 1837 when it was bought by two brothers, John and William Dent. Their descendants carried on developing the castle into the magnificent place it is today.

Why is it worth a visit?

Sudeley Castle boasts not one, but ten stunning gardens to explore and enjoy! There are a number of exhibitions to see which explain more about the castle’s interesting history. Children will love the adventure playground which is accessible as part of the entry fee.

Warwick Castle: 37 min drive from our Clent Hills Campsite

Warwick

The history of Warwick Castle goes back 1100 years, having been first built as a wooden motte and bailey castle in 1068 by William the Conqueror. During the 12th century, the castle was rebuilt in stone with further buildings added in the 14th and 15th century.

The castle has always remained under the ownership of the Earls of Warwick (including at one point, Richard Neville, Kingmaker) and later the Greville Family. It was sold to The Tussard’s Group (now Merlin Entertainments Group) in 1978.

Over the years, the castle has seen plenty of turbulent events, including battles, siege, murder, various power struggles and fire damage!

Why is it worth a visit?

Warwick Castle is a must-see family attraction! Enter the Castle Dungeon (if you dare), explore the Horrible Histories Maze and even join the Kingmaker in battle! Grown-ups will appreciate the castle’s magnificent interior and 64 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens.

Tamworth Castle: 10 minute drive from our Drayton Manor Campsite

Tamworth-CastleThe wonderfully preserved Tamworth Castle has Anglo-Saxon origins and boasts over 900 years of history and stories to tell. The site has been home to fortifications since Anglo-Saxon times to defend Tamworth against the Vikings in 913.

After the Normans invaded in 1066 the castle was built upon the fortifications in the typical Norman motte and bailey fashion. Visit today and walk the 15 fully furnished rooms which move through different significant periods on the castle's historical timeline. 

Why is it worth a visit?

The tower, if you fancy venturing up it, gives 360-degree views of Tamworth including the castle grounds. If you still have some energy to burn off after exploring the Castle, why not venture into the grounds? Within the grounds you’ll find a children’s play area and a pleasant walk by the river with plenty of benches along the way if you’d like to stop and admire the view.

Tattershall Castle: 12 min drive from our Woodhall Spa Campsite

Tatershall

Standing proud and tall in beautiful Lincolnshire countryside is Tattershall Castle. It was built in striking red brick – at a time when such a material wasn’t often used for castles.

Originally, the site was thought to be a fortified manor house, built by Robert de Tattershall in 1231. It was during the 15th century that it was expanded and rebuilt as it is today, in brick, by Lord Ralph Cromwell the Treasurer of England.

Over time, the castle changed hands a number of times. After falling into neglect, it thankfully was saved by Lord Curzon of Kedleston who restored the castle and upon his death, left it to the National Trust.

Why is it worth a visit?

Tattershall Castle has been described as one of the finest examples of English medieval brickwork. It really is a well-kept storybook castle. Climb the Great Tower stairs to see fantastic views from the top and listen to an audio tour which explains more about the castle’s history.

Bolingbroke Castle: 22 min drive from our Woodhall Spa Campsite

Bolingbroke

Once the site of a grand castle, Bolingbroke now lies in ruins. It was originally built as an “enclosure castle” without a keep, by Ranulf de Blundeville, the Earl of Chester and Lincoln during the 1220s.

It originally had curtain walls and five towers, along with a twin-towered gatehouse. Inside the courtyard, there would have been some timber-framed buildings, including a Great Hall and service buildings.

Bolingbroke Castle was passed to John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, and his wife during the 1360s. Henry of Bolingbroke, their son, was born there. Henry later claimed the throne from Richard II and became King Henry IV.

The castle was used as an administrative centre for the Duchy of Lancaster in the 15th and 16th centuries before being destroyed at the end of the English Civil War.

Why is it worth a visit?

Discovering the romantic ruins of Bolingbroke Castle makes for a pleasant and peaceful walk - and it’s a great spot for picnicking! It’s free to visit and there are plenty of information boards to read that detail the events that happened there. The remains of the moat can still be seen.

Nottingham Castle: 43 min drive from our Teversal Campsite

Nottingham-CastleThe face of Nottingham Castle has seen a few changes over its lifetime. It started out as a motte and bailey castle in 1067, under orders of William the Conqueror. A century or so later, it was largely rebuilt in stone by King Henry II.

King Richard III reigned at Nottingham Castle in the late 15th century and set out from there as he rode to what would be his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

Nottingham Castle was made defensible and was held by parliamentarians during the Civil War. Under the orders of John Hutchinson, an English politician, the castle was demolished in 1651 to prevent it being used in war again.

That wasn’t the end of the story though – the present Ducal Palace was built on the site in the late 17th century by the 2nd Duke of Newcastle, Henry Cavendish. In 1831, it was burned down to just a shell by rioters! It lay derelict for more than 40 years until it was leased by the Corporation of Nottingham in 1875, where it underwent restoration. Today, Nottingham Castle is open to the public as a museum and art gallery.

Why is it worth a visit?

Nottingham Castle has associations with Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw. Learn the tales of Robin Hood and see the castle’s caves that Robin apparently used to escape back to Sherwood Forest!

The castle is home to collections of Fine and Decorative Arts as well as the Museum of the Mercian Regiment (WFR Collection), which explains the history of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire soldiers from 1741 to today.

Croft Castle: 41 min drive from our Hereford Campsite

Croft-CastleA family home for almost 1000 years, the picturesque Croft Castle in Herefordshire is set in 1500 acres of beautiful woodland, farm and parkland.

There have been three castles on the site during this time, the first being wooden and established to defend the English border by Bernard de Croft, a Norman knight. The castle is recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086.

A stone castle was added during Tudor times. Croft Castle fell into ruin towards the end of the Civil War but was rebuilt again into the castle it is today by Herbert Croft during the reign of Charles II.

In 1746, the Croft family moved away but were able to buy the castle and accompanying land back in 1923 for the sum of £30,000. When the castle was under the prior ownership, the English architect Thomas Farnolls Pritchard designed and installed many of the fabulous interiors that can be seen inside the castle today.

Why is it worth a visit?

The castle volunteers will be able to tell you more about the castle’s fascinating history as you explore various rooms such as the Saloon, Dining Room and Ambassador’s Room. Also see the castle’s beautiful 13th century chapel in the grounds outside.

Kenilworth Castle: 30 minute drive from our Kingsbury Water Park Campsite

Kenilworth-CastleFor much of its 900 years, Kenilworth Castle has been right at the forefront of England's affairs, offering a long and interesting history.

The sandstone keep dates to the 1120s but was expanded by King John and John of Gaunt. Gaunt's son went on to become Henry IV in 1399, and the castle stayed in the Crown estate for 150 years. When Elizabeth I passed the castle to Robert Dudley, her childhood friend and lover, in 1563 he converted it into a lavish palace.

English Heritage has worked hard to make the castle look as grand as the palace of the 1500s, and you can still scale the heights of the tower before marvelling at the keep. Visiting the castle from our Kingsbury Water Park Club Site makes a great day out, with plenty of great eateries and shops to explore in the nearby town.

Why is it worth a visit?

At Kenilworth you have the opportunity to explore not only the Castle, but also the Elizabethan Gardens. Walk along the paths that the former Queen would have taken through the beautiful gardens, and make sure you don’t miss the stunning marble fountain.

If you’d like to feel even more like royalty, why not ascend the steps in the tower? Imagine the rooms filled with every luxury and enjoy the views across the estate.

Why not immerse yourself in the exciting history of Central England’s castles if you’re planning a visit to this region? Each castle we’ve featured above is within easy reach of at least one of our Club Sites, so exploring them couldn’t be easier.