The verdict is in… drum roll please… these are the best castles to visit in Britain. If you’re a castle junkie who loves fairytale castles and stunning fortress, you must add them to your “must-see” bucket list.
However, we must warn you. It’s not all pleasant. These castles also tell morbid stories of death, murder and all kinds of gore that can haunt your worst nightmares. They’re not for the faint-hearted!
We’ve tried to spice up the article with a brief history of each castle but feel free to skip through those sections if you’re not a history buff. We don’t wish to bore you to death.
1- Arundel castle
Arundel castle is a magnificent castle on the south east coast of England. It’s one of the first castles in England to have electric light, central heating and running water. Dominating a hillside where the Sussex Downs roll towards the English Channel, the castle is quintessentially English and its lavish settings have been enjoyed and admired by queen Victoria herself who said the castle reminded her of her own home at Windsor.
However, the castle is not just remembered for its glory days. It also has a long history of war brutality and bloodshed that spans centuries.
Once a medieval fortress, the castle has also been used as a residence. The castle boasts a cricket ground and a formidable gate house. It is the seat of the Earl or Arundel and Duke of Norfolk. It is worth noting that the family line of the current duke of Norfolk has owned this castle and its lands for over 800 years although Arundel is not actually in Norfolk.
The cricket ground in the estate was originally the private cricket ground of the Duke. In the 70s the Sussex County cricket team started playing there too Even Prince Philip has captained a cricket team here.
The history of Arundel began when William the conqueror of Normandy defeated the Saxon king Harold Godwinson and claimed the English crown for himself. So, why did William set his sights on Arundel? Simple. The town of Arundel was geographically blessed. It possessed rich arable land and plenty of fresh water. Moreover, it was very easy to reach the town from the coast.
After Williams conquest, he gifted this land to his dearest friend Roger de Montgomery as reward for holding the fort together in Normandy while he was away conquering. Montgomery built the first castle in Arundel to protect his valuable new land from angry Anglo Saxons who sought to overthrow the Normans. At the time, it was built out of timber and surrounded by a defensive ditch.
Since the middle of the 14th century, the castle has belonged to the FitzAlan Howards. During the 16th century’s civil war, the castle suffered a series of catastrophic conflicts and eventually fell into disuse. However in 1786, Charles Howard became the Earl of Arundel and set about making some major renovations. He remodeled the castle according to the taste of the day.
Flamboyant new wings were added in the Gothic revival style (retro style in those day). He spent large amounts of money redoing parts of the castle, Almost 40 million pounds in today’s terms . Later he started letting paying tourists in to visit the castle possibly to offset some of those costs. In the turn of the 19 century, people had an obsession with rediscovering the past and the imagined English romantic middle ages.
2- Warwick castle
Warwick castle is a majestic Medieval castle located in on the banks of the river Avon in the county of Warwick in Warwickshire England. The original castle in this location was built of wood by William the conqueror in 1068. It was reconstructed in stone in the 12th century to bolster defenses. Warwick was of strategic importance to the Norman conquerors as it was situated smack bang in the middle of England and allowed them to control Wales, the midlands, and Scotland.
The castle has been home to many well-known personalities throughout history such as knights, royal mistresses, and Hollywood stars. The stone castle we see today was constructed in the 12th century. The enormous gate house and the seven huge towers were added in the 14th century.
At the base of the castle, deep below one of its towers, there a cold, grim dungeon that used to be one of the most feared dungeons in all of Europe. During the 100 years war with the French, prisoners used to be brought there and left to die.
Throughout the centuries, the castle grew to to lavish proportions owing to the spoils of countless wars. However, by the 20th century, the castle had become too expensive to maintain. In the early 1930s, Charles Greville became the last all of Warwick to actually live in the castle. He was forced to sell many of the family heirlooms just to meet the running costs of the castle and its lands.
In 1978 the castle was sold to one of Britain’s premiere entertainment groups – The Tussauds group. The castle is now open to tourists for tours
3- Stirling Castle
A stunning castle in the Scottish countryside, Stirling can literally make your jaws drop. It is situated on the top of a volcanic crag and surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides. Little is known about the true origins of the castle but the first fortifications were built by King Alexander I in the 1200s.
In the middle ages, the city of Stirling was known as the gateway to the Scottish highlands. The treacherous Forth Estuary stood between the highlands and the rest of Scotland and a narrow bridge in Sterling was the easiest way to access the highlands from the other side,
Throughout its history, Stirling castle has suffered many conflicts, sieges and wars. The castle was briefly held by the English in the 14th century but the English victory was short-lived. The Scots took back the castle under the command of one of Scotland’s most famous kings, Robert the Bruce.
The oldest parts of the Sterling castle date back to the 1380s when the Stuart family held it.Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in the castle in the early 1500s before which she was shipped off to France to marry the future French king. Mary’s son James the first was baptised in Stirling Castle and grew up here.
When James became the king of England after the death of Queen Elizabeth the first, he moved to England. Eventually, Stirling fell into disuse. The castle was fully restored in the early 19 century and is now open to tourists.