From stunning Medieval 11th Century structures to more modern mansion constructed during the 17th and 18th Century, England is full of castles that are worth visiting and you should make a list of the best castles to visit in England. If you are planning a longer trip to the United Kingdom, you should certainly consider taking a few castle tours in the UK. Going to the countryside and escaping the busy and hectic British streets while immersing yourself into the British heritage and taking a step back in time can be an extremely rewarding experience.
You might be still thinking but how many castles are in England? The answer is that the country is home to over 4000 stunning palaces! Are you also wondering what are the best castles to visit in England? Do you want to take a step back in time and experience the luxurious way of life of the English Kings throughout the years? Then here are the top 20 Best Castles in England!
1. Tower of London
As the most widely-known English Castle, Tower of London is one of the main symbols of the capital city. With its rich history dating back to the 11th century when William the Conqueror started the construction, Tower of London is a must-visit for anyone who is willing to learn more about the British heritage.
Also used as a prison and fortress this London castle has a bit of a “bloody history” as well. Make sure to book a guided tour, which will take you to the crown jewel and hear interesting stories about one of the most famous castles in England.
Admission Fee: £25.00
2. Warwick Castle
Situated along the River Avon, Warwick Castle is one of the oldest, yet one of the best preserved British Castles. What was once just a wooden fort, built by William the Conqueror, is now a massive construction consisting of numerous towers, two entrances, tall fortification walls and a wide open courtyard.
As the palace is just an hour away from London, it is a perfect spot for a day trip, where you can learn more about the reigns of both King Henry I and King Henry II, as well as the castle’s strategic importance throughout the years.
Admission Fee: £20.00 – £25.00
3. Windsor Castle
When considering what to include in the list of the best castles to visit in the UK, we certainly need to mention Windsor Castle. Known as the home to the Royal Family, Windsor Castle is the oldest castle in England. Its history dates back to the 1070s, however, it took over 16 years for the construction to be completed.
Covering a territory of around 13 acres, it is also the largest of the English castles. The best part is that Windsor Castle is easily accessible, situated just a 30-minutes-train journey from London. The bad news, though, is that the Queen of England keeps using it as her summer and weekend residency, so it is often closed to the public. Even still it is one of the compulsory castles in England to visit.
Admission Fee: £23.50
4. Alnwick Castle
If you are a Harry Potter fan, you should certainly plan a trip to Alnwick Castle. Surrounded by green forests, narrow ravine and the peaceful Aln River, this is one of the most picturesque England Castles. Following the Norman conquest, the palace was built during the 11th Century.
During the last 1,000 years, it was used as a military center, teaching college, as well as the home of the popular and powerful Percy Family. Another interesting fact about Alnwick Castle is that it is the second biggest inhabited United Kingdom Castle.
Admission Fee: £13.00 – £15.00
5. Bodiam Castle
Completely surrounded by a deep moat, Bodiam Castle is one of the best castles to see in England. With the first look of this stunning palace, you will be impressed by the medieval architectural exterior reflecting into the blue peaceful water.
Unfortunately, the interior has not managed to remain as untouched and a large part of the rooms inside are in ruins. Exploring the outside, however, is equally amazing as you will not only enjoy the scenic views, but will also get to learn more about the castle’s importance as a protection during the French invasion.
Admission Fee: £10.00
Location: East Sussex
6. Dover Castle
Dover Castle is one of the best castles in South England. Located on top of a hill, this 11th Century palace is also known as “The Key to England”. Take a walk to the Great Tower, as well as the underground hospital and learn more about the castle’s importance during both World Wars.
Wandering through this great British castle will also allow you to reach the unusual and interesting secret tunnels beneath the structure and you will get to experience more than 9 centuries of history and legends. Besides immersing yourself into the British heritage, a day trip to Dover Castle means that you can get to enjoy a bit of the English coast!
Admission Fee: £17.00 – £19.00
7. Arundel Castle
Another castle built by William the Conqueror is the Arundel Castle located in West Sussex. Dating back to the 11th Century, the palace keeps a lot of stories, especially from the English Civil War, when the structure was largely destroyed. Later on, during the 19th Century, the castle went through significant alterations, as well as, the extensive gardens, which are now some of the most beautiful across the different English Castles.
With its combination of Medieval and Gothic features, Arundel Castle will certainly impress you. Do not skip taking a stroll down the fortification walls, from which you can admire the beautiful scenery of River Arun. An interesting fact about the palace is that it was the first among the castles in the United Kingdom to offer luxuries such as central heating and electricity.
Admission Fee: £15.00
Location: West Sussex
8. Rochester Castle
The construction of Rochester Castle started back in the 11th Century, which makes it one of the old castles across the UK that deserves your attention. Despite still preserving some medieval features, the main symbol of the palace is the 12th-century Norman stone tower.
Rochester Castle was damaged and abandoned multiple times throughout the centuries, however, it remains a crucial point into the English history as it carries stories from the reign of Henry I until Henry III. Take the stairs and reach the top to enjoy some beautiful views of River Medway.
Admission Fee: £7.00 – £10.00
9. Leeds Castle
Completely surrounded by the waters of the River Len, Leeds Castle is one the most beautiful castles in Britain. First thing that you should keep in mind, is that despite its name, the palace is actually located in Kent, just 5 miles away from Maidstone, and not in the city of Leeds. During the 11th and 12th Centuries, the structure was relatively simple and was used as a military center.
In the 13th Century, however, it became King Edward I’s most preferred residence. Henry VIII and his wife Catherine of Aragon also used the castle as their Royal home 300 years later. Due to the large number of restoration projects, though, the current palace actually dates to the 19th Century. The castle grounds are surrounded by stunning green nature and visitors can also enjoy a nice afternoon picnic.
Admission Fee: £27.00
10. Sudeley Castle
Situated at the heart of the Gloucestershire county, Sudeley Castle is a real hidden gem among the UK castles. Despite not being as widely-known and often overlooked by tourists, this 15th Century palace is definitely worth the visit! Not only will you be able to take a step back in time, but you will get to admire the 10 stunning gardens surrounding the structure.
The castle might be relatively new compared to other castles In England, however, it is believed that some form of fortress used to exist on the same place during the 12th Century and might have been used by King Stephen. An interesting fact about Sudeley Castle is that it is still an active residency of Elizabeth, Lady Ashcombe, so the castle can only be accessed on particular days.
Admission Fee: £12.00
11. Durham Castle
If you are planning a trip to North East England, you should certainly visit Durham Castle. The construction began during in the 1070s by William the Conqueror with the idea to protect and control the Scottish border. A few years later it became the main residence of the Bishop of Durham, however, in 1837 it was appointed as one of the buildings of the University College of Durham.
As you are wandering through the courtyard you will find it difficult to believe that this amazing 900+ years old structure is home to approximately 100 students. Make sure to book a tour, who knows, you might even end up even signing for some classes.
Admission Fee: £5.00
12. Bolsover Castle
Known as one of the spookiest United Kingdom Castles, Bolsover Castle is an impressive 17th Century castle still keeping some of its original medieval features. The remaining ruins date back to the late 11th century, when the first construction started by William Peveril. The main “Little Castle”, however, was built in 1612 as a residency to Sir Charles Cavendish.
You will certainly be impressed by the luxurious interior with massive suite rooms, painted with rich colors and high ornated ceilings and fireplaces. Do not be surprised, though, the main purpose of the castle was never defense, but comfortable and elegant living. It is extremely interesting, that various mysterious footsteps and muffled voices have been reported as recurring events across the luxurious halls and rooms.
Admission Fee: £12.00 – £14.00
13. Bamburg Castle
Covering a territory of nine acres, Bamburg Castle is situated on a volcanic hill overlooking the stunning Northeast Coast of the United Kingdom. With history dating back to 420 AD, Bamburg Castle is one of the oldest palaces in England.
What was once just a small Celtic fort is now a massive structure that could easily impress you with its exterior. During the 15th Century, the castle was the first to be defeated by the artillery during the Wars of the Roses. Do not be fooled, though, there is so much more to be explored that just ruins. The inside is absolutely impressive with various wall paintings and ornaments.
Admission Fee: £12.00
14. Highclere Castle
Dating back to the 17th Century, Highclere Castle is one of the best castles near London that are worth visiting. If you have ever seen Downtown Abbey, you will quickly recognize the stunning Victoria structure and the impressive 1000 acres of green park and gardens. The current mansion was built over the ruins of the medieval residency of the Bishop of Winchester.
Throughout the years, the building was redesigned multiple times, hence, the current architectural style has Victorian, Italianate and Renaissance Revival features. The interior is equally impressive as the exterior. Take a tour through the library, drawing, dining and even smoking rooms, which are all decorated with intriguing pieces of art. Take a picture of this UK castle and it would top your other castle pictures due to it’s elegance.
Admission Fee: £24.00
15. Highcliffe Castle
Constructed during the late 18th century, Highcliffe Castle is one of the newest castles of England. Even still a large portion of the stones were once part of the structure of the Medieval Benedictine Abbey of St Peter and the Grand Maison des Andelys in France.
The mansion was designed in a Gothic Revival style, which makes it extremely picturesque, especially with the stunning surrounding gardens. For anyone who is planning on getting married soon, it is worth noting that the castle is also used as a wedding venue. Certainly a great UK castle for nice event.
Admission Fee: £7.00
16. Cowdray Castle
Cowdray Castle is one of the great castles of England that you should certainly consider visiting especially if you are planning a trip to West Sussex. The original mansion was built around the 1270s – 1280s, however, it was massively destroyed in 1793 after a massive fire. Mostly known as Cowdray Ruins now, visitors can only imagine the palace’s past glory.
Despite not being one of the most famous castles in England, Cowdray House is an interesting location to visit and you can also plan a nice picnic in the surrounding parks. Unfortunately, if you are looking for a castle to stay in overnight, this is castle in UK is mostly for day time visits only.
Admission Fee: £7.00
Location: West Sussex
17. Lancaster Castle
The 11th-Century-Medieval Lancaster Castle is one of the United Kingdom castles hiding a much older history! Taking a stroll down the castle’s halls is like taking a step back in time. As you start exploring the palace, however, you will realize that the current structure was built on top of the ruins of an even earlier Roman fortress!
Despite being extensively used during the English Civil War, the castle is mostly known as a prison and the location for the trial of the Lancaster witches. Nowadays, there is a 51-mile walking route called the Lancashire Witches Walk, that finishes by the castle’s gates.
Admission Fee: £8.00
18. Portchester Castle
With history dating back to the 3rd Century, Portchester Castle is one of the oldest castles of England. The palace is known as the most impressive and well-preserved “Saxon shore” forts across the country.
Only used as a defense fortification for a hundred years, the Portchester Castle also served as a prison and one of King John’s most favorite hunting lodges. Despite the fact that visitors can only explore the remaining ruins, nowadays, climbing up the staircases and admiring the views from the tower is certainly worth it.
Admission Fee: £7.00
19. Beeston Castle
One of the top castles in England that is worth visiting is Beeston Castle. Located on a hill 360 feet above the Cheshire Plain, the palace can uncover more than 800 years of history.
The architectural style of Beeston Castle is quite interesting as it does not have a keep. Instead, the defenses were divided into two parts – a rectangular palace at the center of the summit and an outer ward with large gates at the lower side of the hill. Used only shortly during the English Civil War, Beeston Castle is widely known as one of the most beautiful royal castles in the UK.
Admission Fee: £10.00
20. Carisbrooke Castle
Situated on the Isle of Wight, Carisbrooke Castle is one of the most remote and secluded castles to visit in England. With its history dating back to the 12th Century and the picturesque scenery, however, taking a trip to the South is certainly a good idea, especially if you want to escape the hectic and busy streets of London.
Evidence was found suggesting that a fortification wall existed on this spot during the Roman times. The castle, however, became popular later on when it was used as a summer residence during the 20th Century.
Admission Fee: £12.00
Location: Isle of Wight
Are you still wondering which are the best castles to visit in England? Or did you find our list of the 20 best castles in the UK useful? Are you already adding any of these palaces to your itinerary and planning some interesting and intriguing castle tours in England? Let us know which of these best castles in England would you love to visit first!