13 most beautiful castles in England
There are about 800 surviving stone fortresses in this country, some of which date back to the 11th century.
Whether you're a devoted fan of Harry Potter or Downtown Abbey, a passing history buff or a true history buff, let us tell you about the most popular castles in the United Kingdom to add to your next English itinerary.
Arundel Castle, West Sussex
Arundel, located one hour by car or train from London, has been the home of the Dukes of Norfolk for more than 850 years, and they have done an excellent job of maintaining it. It was one of the first castles in Europe to have central heating, electricity and elevators in its towers, and today it is in excellent condition. Visitors can tour many of its magnificent rooms, as well as the 14th-century chapel and exquisite gardens. Meanwhile, the quaint town of Arundel, located at the foot of the castle, is also worth a visit (especially the legendary Black Rabbit Pub, which serves one of the best Sunday meals in Sussex).
Highclere Castle, Hampshire
"Real" Abbey in the center of Highclere was built in the late 17th century, making it one of the youngest major castles in England. It is also undeniably one of the most beautiful, with its intricate grand halls, elegant parlor, and sumptuous dining room. Much of the attraction of this place is its vast grounds. Best of all, enjoy one of the castle's famous picnic baskets containing impeccable sponge cakes, scones and sandwiches, as well as a half-bottle of Joseph Perrier champagne.
Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Royal watchers (and crown admirers) are quite familiar with Windsor Castle, the family home of British kings and queens for more than 1,000 years - and still the residence of King Charles III. Famous as the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world. Many of the properties are now open to the public, including the grand ceremonial apartments and the Gothic Chapel of St. George, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle were married.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Olnwick, which became Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter movies, was occupied for over 700 years by the Dukes of Northumberland. The current Duke and Duchess live in a private part of the 11th-century fortress, but the rest is open to the public for seven months of the year, with such attractions as an important gallery of Italian paintings, a rich library, and a special Harry Potter tour, including broom lessons in the courtyard (Golden Snitch not included).
Warwick Castle, Warwickshire
One of England's oldest fortified citadels, Warwick Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068 but has been rebuilt several times since. Today, the huge castle is "packed to the brim" with family entertainment, including dungeon tours, fire ballistic demonstrations and jousting tournaments. Rooms are available for overnight stays in the castle (including suites in the tower with four-poster beds) or in the coastal knight's village, where you'll find a cozy collection of forest lodges.
Castle Bamburgh, Northumberland
Forget your usual dukes and lords; Bamburgh Castle was home to the Anglo-Saxon kings of Northumbria even before England became a country. Today this breathtaking building, perched on an impressive rocky ledge overlooking the stormy North Sea, is considered one of Europe's finest coastal fortresses. When you visit, don't miss the magnificent collection of medieval armor in the ceremonial halls or the famous Bamburgh sword, a seventh-century weapon shrouded in myth.
Leeds Castle, Kent
Despite its name, you'll find Leeds Castle hundreds of miles from the city of Leeds, on a quiet lake island in the middle of the county of Kent. The history of this fabulous fortress, surrounded by a beautiful moat, goes back 900 years, and no fewer than six queens have called it home (hence its nickname, "The Lady's Castle"). The gardens are almost as photogenic as the castle itself, and include a devilish circular maze that replicates the shape of the queen's crown.
Sudleigh Castle, Gloucestershire
Given its importance in the history of England, it is incomprehensible why Sudley Castle is not better known. Tucked away in the idyllic Cotswolds near the beautiful market town of Winchcombe, it has been a favorite of influential monarchs, from Richard the Lionheart to Queen Elizabeth I. Highlights include Sudley's 20 Treasures, a collection of important artifacts that have altered the historical narrative, and the charming 15th-century Withers Chapel, the final resting place of Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's sixth wife and the most infamous "survivor" of the Tudor era.
Framlingham Castle, Suffolk
Framlingham Castle, a fine example of 11th- and 12th-century Mott and Baillie fortifications, is located in the hilly Suffolk countryside, about a 30-minute drive northeast of Ipswich. Known as the site where Mary I was first proclaimed queen of England, modern visitors can stroll around the intact outer wall of the castle, enjoying a magnificent view of the nearby River Ore before heading to the Castle Café for a well-deserved cup of tea.
Rochester Castle, Kent
Strategically located at a vital river crossing on the old London Road, Rochester Castle is a wonderfully well-preserved 12th-century fortress, especially given the number of battles it has seen over the centuries. One of the main strongholds of the rebellion against the bad King John, it lost an entire tower to a pork fat bomb in 1215, but was rebuilt under Henry III, remaining a viable fortress until the 16th century.
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
If you like your forts surrounded by a deep moat, Bodiam Castle is for you. Built in 1385 to protect England from a dangerous French invasion, it meets all classic fortress standards: sturdy round towers, a traditional gatehouse, and an intimidating downcast lattice. Sadly, this medieval beauty - just 14 miles from the picturesque Sussex coast - is now largely just an outer stone shell. But what a shell.
The Tower of London
Although the Tower of London was known as England's most infamous prison in the Middle Ages, it was built as a fortified castle and royal residence and remains so to this day. Supposedly one of the most haunted buildings in the country (Henry VIII's two wives were beheaded here, for starters), it's also one of London's top tourist attractions. Nearly three million visitors flock here each year to see ravens, dungeons, and crown jewels or Beefeaters.
Dover Castle, Kent.
Nicknamed the "Key to England" because of its defensive importance, Dover Castle looks out over the blue waters of the English Channel toward France-just 21 miles away. Built in the 12th century, it is unique among the ancient fortresses of England in that it continued to perform defensive functions until the 20th century. The main attractions here are the secret wartime tunnels that are impossible to miss, the rugged Great Tower itself (now an interactive museum) and the remains of the Roman lighthouse, which dates back to 50 and is one of the oldest buildings in Britain.
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