25 Enchanting Castles in the UK
The UK is home to over 4,000 castles, all in various states, ranging from scattered ruins and rubble to wonderfully restored and cared-for fortresses. Whether you’re interested in the UK’s turbulent past, want to enjoy a day exploring beautiful architecture or fancy setting your little one’s imagination on fire, these are some of the best castles to visit.
Explore the best castles in
England's castles 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. Some of the best castles in England include,
- Sudeley Castle, Cotswolds
- Windsor Castle, Berkshire
- Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
- St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall
- Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
- Dover Castle, Kent
- Pevensey Castle, East Sussex
- Arundel Castle, West Sussex
- Warwick Castle, Warwickshire
- Tamworth Castle, Staffordshire
- Kenilworth Castle, Warwickshire
- Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
- Barnard Castle, County Durham
- Muncaster Castle, Lake District
- Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire
- Nottingham Castle, Nottinghamshire
- Tintagel Castle, Cornwall
- Stirling Castle, Stirling
- Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire
- Culzean Castle, South Ayrshire
- Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh
- Harlech Castle, Gwynedd
- Criccieth Castle, Gwynedd
- Dolwyddelan Castle, Conwy
- Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd
Situated in the heart of the Cotswolds, the breathtaking Sudeley Castle is surrounded by magnificent gardens. Although the castle is now a private residence to Lady Ashcombe and her family, it was once used as a home for royals, and it’s the only castle in England to have a queen buried within its grounds.
Queen Katherine Parr, the last wife of King Henry VIII, lived and died in Sudeley Castle and her body is still buried on the grounds. For those fascinated by history, you can visit St Mary’s Church, where Queen Katherine Parr lies entombed.
The other royals who have owned, lived or frequently visited Sudeley Castle include King Edward IV, Richard III, King Henry VIII and his second wife, Anne Boleyn.
On your visit to the castle, not only can you check out St Mary’s Church, but you can also take a guided tour around the castle and discover more of its history, explore the many exhibitions taking place and relax in the ten stunning gardens. There is also an adventure playground that children will love, which is included with the entry fee.
Nearest campsite: Winchcombe Club Site (10 minute drive)
The famous Windsor Castle in Berkshire was built by William the Conqueror more than 900 years ago. Since then, 39 monarchs and counting have lived at Windsor Castle, including the late Queen, who was brought up there and spent many of her weekends at the castle.
While visiting Windsor, there are tons of things to do and explore, including viewing the splendid State Apartments, which contain many fascinating pieces from the Royal Collection – A particular highlight to look out for is Queen Mary’s Doll’s House, a world-famous miniature masterpiece. You can also visit the country's oldest working kitchen and see all the books lined up in the library.
St George’s Chapel also sits in Windsor and holds significant value to the royals. It’s a place of worship for The King and the Royal Family, as well as a church serving the local community. St George’s Chapel also hosts private and public royal affairs, including the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (Duke and Duchess of Sussex). That’s not all. It’s the burial place of 10 monarchs, including Henry VIII, and a part of St George’s Chapel is King George VI Memorial Chapel, where the late Queen, her parents, sister and husband rest.
Nearest campsite: Chertsey Club Site (23 minutes drive)
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Situated on a rocky plateau 150 feet above the sea, Bamburgh Castle is a stunning sight on the Northumberland coastline, with grounds that span nine acres.
Inside this inhabited castle, there are 14 rooms to explore, with more than 3000 artefacts on display, including fine art, furniture, porcelain and armour. There are a number of myths and legends associated with Bamburgh Castle that include dragons and ghosts. The castle is also believed to be the setting of “Joyous Gard”, Sir Lancelot’s fictitious castle.
Nearest campsite: Dunstan Hill Club Site (23 minute drive)
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St Michael’s Mount is a fascinating little island, with a castle and small village at its heart. It’s located in Mount’s Bay, with the sea separating the island from the town of Marazion, Cornwall.
Discover the captivating history behind the castle walls at St Michael’s Mount and how it’s changed over time to become the family home of the St Aubyn family. They have lived there since the 17th century. Visitors can explore the delights of the castle gardens, where a great range of unexpected plants and flowers thrive. Finally, witness first-hand what island life is like for the community of around 30 islanders that currently live at St Michael’s Mount.
Nearest campsite: Sennen Cove Club Site (22 minutes drive)
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Bodiam Castle is a romantic and picturesque castle that was built in 1385. Today it still has a moat surrounding it and beautiful green scenery complementing its rustic brickwork.
This castle was first built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge with the intention of defending East Sussex from a possible invasion by the French during The Hundred Years’ War. It was then passed down through the Dalyngrigge family until the bloodline became extinct. The castle was handed to the Lewknor family, who were linked via marriage before being sold as a way to pay Parliamentary fines.
Unfortunately, this was when the castle was dismantled and left in (beautiful) ruins. After being sold in 1829, restorations finally took place. Now, the castle is a Grade I listed building owned by The National Trust.
Nearest campsite: Crowborough Club Site (40 minutes drive)
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Rising high above the Channel and sitting proudly atop the White Cliffs, Dover Castle is a breathtaking fortress which carries plenty of interesting stories.
Although the origins of the castle aren't quite certain, what we do know is that Henry II, in 1179-89, spent time and money creating the most advanced castle design in Europe.
On your visit, you can climb the Great Tower, meet the costumed characters, explore the private chambers and uncover the history of the Secret Wartime Tunnels.
Nearest campsite: Folkestone Club Site (15 minutes drive)
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Pevensey Castle was built inside the ancient Roman Fort of Anderitum in 290 AD. In 1066, William the Conqueror’s army famously landed there at the start of the Norman Conquest. The castle was back in service as an emergency stronghold in World War II, and visitors today can still spot the machine gun posts camouflaged into the castle walls.
There are many things to see and do for both adults and children alike at the impressive ruins of Pevensey Castle. Visitors can explore the dark dungeons and perhaps catch a glimpse of the “Pale Lady of Pevensey”, the castle’s alleged ghost!
Nearest campsite: Normans Bay Club Site (7 minutes drive)
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Arundel Castle is a magnificent motte and bailey castle situated in Arundel, West Sussex. It has been the seat to the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for more than 850 years.
Arundel Castle is full of fascinating history, beautiful furnishings and interesting artefacts. Visitors can spend several hours exploring the many rooms open to the public and taking a stroll through the stunning gardens. Look out for the legendary Victoria Rooms, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert stayed during a 3-day visit in 1846.
Nearest campsite: Slindon Club Site (9 minute drive)
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The history of Warwick Castle, in Warwickshire, goes back over 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 centuries.
Over the years, the castle has seen plenty of turbulent events, including battles, siege, murder, various power struggles and fire damage!
But now, Warwick Castle is a must-see family attraction. You can enter the Castle Dungeon (if you dare), explore the Horrible Histories Maze and even join the Kingmaker in battle! There’s plenty to do for everyone, and, depending on what time of year you visit, there are live shows, entertainment and special events - including concerts and a drive-in cinema.
Nearest campsite: Clent Hills Club Site (35 minute drive)
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The wonderfully preserved Tamworth Castle in Staffordshire has Anglo-Saxon origins and boasts plenty of 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. Today, visit the 15 fully furnished rooms that move through significant periods on the castle's historical timeline.
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 head into the grounds? Here you’ll find a children’s play area and a pleasant walk by the river with plenty of benches along the way, so you can stop and admire the view.
Nearest campsite: Drayton Manor Club Site (10 minute drive)
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For much of its 900 years, Kenilworth Castle has been right at the forefront of England's affairs, offering a long and interesting history.
At Kenilworth, you can explore the castle and the Elizabethan Gardens, walk along the paths that the former Queen would have taken through the beautiful gardens, and view the stunning marble fountain. If you’d like to feel even more like royalty, why not ascend the steps of the tower? Imagine the rooms filled with every luxury and enjoy the views across the estate.
Nearest campsite: Kingsbury Water Park Club Site (30 minute drive)
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Currently, home to the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle is one of Britain’s most iconic castles.
There are many fine examples of art and antique furniture to see at Alnwick Castle, including work by Canaletto and Van Dyck in The State Rooms. The world’s only surviving pair of Cucci cabinets are also on display at the castle. These are from the Palace of Versailles, and they were originally created for Louis XIV.
That’s not all. Harry Potter fans will love visiting Alnwick Castle as it was one of the filming locations for the 2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and the 2002 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The Outer Bailey is where Harry and his fellow students learnt to fly broomsticks with Madam Hooch and where Harry learns the rules of the wizarding sport Quidditch.
Nearest campsite: Beadnell Bay Club Site (24 minute drive)
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Built in the 12th Century, Barnard Castle was named after its founder, Bernard de Balliol, who was an Anglo-Picard baron. During the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century, the castle was taken over by Richard III and was used as one of his preferred residences.
Set in an elevated position above the River Tees in Teesdale, Barnard Castle is a fine example of a medieval ruin. There are spectacular views to be enjoyed over the Tees Gorge and a beautiful sensory garden to explore. Visitors can also look out for Richard III’s boar emblem, which is visible above one of the windows. The interesting market town of Barnard Castle is close by and also worth a visit.
Nearest campsite: Barnard Castle Club Site (9 minute drive)
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Muncaster Castle, set in the idyllic surroundings of the Western Lake District, is home to the Pennington Family, whose ancestors have lived there since 1208.
Muncaster Castle is a magnificent historic house with breathtaking views over the Ravenglass estuary. There are many things to see and do at Muncaster Castle, including exploring the castle’s public rooms and seeing some of the original medieval features.
If you’re looking for a spooky adventure, Muncaster Castle is the perfect place. Since 1992, scientists have been regularly researching the building, and they're still unable to explain many of the strange occurrences reported at Muncaster. If you’re interested in exploring the spooky rooms and learning about the residents that once lived there, you can book a ghost experience tour by contacting the castle directly.
Nearest campsite: Ravenglass Club Site (5 minute drive)
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Standing proud and tall in the 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.
Tattershall Castle has been described as one of the finest examples of English medieval brickwork. It truly 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.
Nearest campsite: Woodhall Spa Club Site (12 minutes drive)
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The face of Nottingham Castle has seen a few changes over its lifetime. It started out as a motte and bailey castle in 1067 under the orders of William the Conqueror. A century or so later, it was largely rebuilt in stone by King Henry II.
Nottingham Castle has associations with Robin Hood, the heroic outlaw. Learn the tales of Robin Hood and see the castle’s caves that Robin used to escape back into 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.
Tintagel Castle is situated on the north coast of Cornwall at Tintagel Island. The site where the castle stands has an ancient history, having thought to have been inhabited during the late Roman period.
Visitors can discover the legend of King Arthur at Tintagel Castle and explore the dramatic ruins of the castle itself, including what would have been the Great Hall. Only fragments of the castle now exist due to it falling into disrepair over time; however, the parts you’ll see are original and date back to the 13th century.
Nearest campsite: Bude Club Site (20 minutes drive)
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Scotland’s castles are a treasured part of the country’s extensive history. It’s thought that up to 3,000 castles have been built in Scotland at one time or another, with a large number of them still in existence today.
Historically, Stirling Castle was seen as the key to the kingdom of Scotland. It’s situated on Castle Hill, an expansive volcanic rock, above the river Forth, where the Lowlands and Highlands meet.
There are a number of castles in Stirling, but this is one of the most important ones to see and explore because of its role in times of Scottish feuding. Discover the Great Hall and the largest banqueting hall built in Scotland, which was used for feasts and dances. Also, a highlight is the Great Kitchens, where pies, venison, salmon and beef were often prepared for the castle’s royal inhabitants.
Nearest campsite: Milarrochy Bay Club Site (44 minutes drive)
Balmoral Castle is the Scottish holiday home of the Royal Family and has been ever since it was purchased by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1852. It was said that this castle was the late Queen's favourite place.
"It's the most beautiful place on earth. I think Granny is the most happy there.” – Princess Eugenie.
Most of the rooms at Balmoral are the late Queen’s private rooms; however, visitors can explore and admire the magnificent Castle Ballroom, the largest room in the castle. It’s still used for dances today. There are a number of exhibitions on display, including works of art by Landseer and Carl Haag and artefacts from within the Castle. For the green-fingered amongst you, the extensive gardens at Balmoral Castle are well worth a visit. You’ll find a kitchen garden commissioned by The Duke of Edinburgh and a beautiful water garden with three acres of formal gardens.
Balmoral Castle is open to the public for just a few months of the year, usually April, May, June and July. Visit the Balmoral Castle website for full details about when the castle is open.
Nearest campsite: Tarland by Deeside Club Site (28 minute drive)
Set on a dramatic cliff top and surrounded by the grand estate of Culzean Country Park, Culzean Castle has been part of the National Trust since 1945. It was formerly the home of an ancient Scottish family – the Kennedys – who were descendants of Robert the Bruce.
Visitors of this family-friendly attraction can explore the Round Drawing Room, the magnificent Oval Staircase and the Armoury, which contains a fantastic collection of swords and pistols. Outside, you can wander in the colourful, formal gardens or explore the three miles of sandy and shingle shoreline close by. Children will love the adventure playground and interesting wildlife within the country park.
If you don’t want to travel too far, our Culzean Castle Club Site is on the same grounds as the castle.
Edinburgh Castle sits impressively on a massive Castle Rock, part of an ancient extinct volcano which was formed 350 million years ago. Upon research, it’s been found that humans have occupied the rock since the Iron Age. From then to now, the castle has served many purposes. It burnt more witches than anywhere else in the country during the 16th Century, and it was used as a prison in the 18th century and early 19th century. Prisoners from the Seven Years’ War, the American War of Independence, World War I and the Napoleonic Wars were locked away in the dungeons.
The castle also has a history of royal residence and military garrison. When you walk up Castle Hill, you’ll be able to follow the footsteps of soldiers, kings, queens and maybe a pirate or two.
Nearest campsite: Lauder Club Site (46 minutes drive)
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There are more than 600 castles in Wales, and “powerful”, “impressive”, and “daunting” are three words that could be used to describe many of them. Particularly those built during the 13th century, when the English monarch Edward I invaded Wales.
Standing impressively on elevated rock near the Irish Sea and surrounded by magnificent views, Harlech is a Welsh castle not to be missed.
Harlech Castle is classed as a World Heritage Inscribed Site. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) deem it to be one of Europe’s finest examples of military architecture built during the late 13th and early 14th century. The twin-towered gatehouse at Harlech Castle is still more or less intact, and visitors can enjoy outstanding views of Snowdonia from its tall battlements.
Nearest campsite: Llanystumdwy Club Site (29 minute drive)
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Built in the 13th century on a rocky peninsula overlooking Tremadog Bay, Criccieth Castle is one of the most spectacular castle ruins to visit in Wales, not least for its amazing views.
It was once wanted so very badly by Welsh princes and English monarchs, and even now that it lies in ruins, Criccieth Castle is a fascinating landmark to see. Scorch marks can still be seen on some of the stonework where it was burnt down.
On a bright sunny day, visitors can see as far as Snowdonia when looking to the north and the Llyn Peninsula to the west. The castle’s beautiful and almost romantic setting has inspired the work of various artists, including JMW Turner, whose painting of storm-wrecked mariners includes a portrayal of the castle in the background.
Nearest campsite: Llanystumdwy Club Site (5 minute drive)
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If you appreciate spectacular scenery, Dolwyddelan Castle shouldn’t disappoint. It’s a magnificent keep that blends beautifully into the surrounding rugged landscape.
Visitors can enjoy amazing views across the valley from the roof level of the remaining tower and find out more about the castle’s history via information displays.
Nearest campsite: Bala Club Site (45 minute drive)
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Caernarfon Castle is an imposing stone fortress built by Edward I, who used it as his administrative centre during his invasion of Wales in the 13th century. It was previously the site of a Norman motte and bailey castle.
This is an Edwardian castle that has been awarded World Heritage status. Part of Edward I’s “Iron Ring” of castles, its impressive architecture alone is worth a visit.
There are various exhibitions and displays to see at the castle, including the opportunity to explore the polygonal towers, which are simply magnificent.
Nearest campsite: Llanystumdwy Club Site (27 minutes drive)
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