Favourite Fortress: The 10 best castles in the UK
Myths, legends, knights and more await, as we uncover the best castles in the UK. Bursting with history and proud protectors of the realm from years gone by, discover hidden stories, secrets and more in some of the UK’s most impressive buildings.
Featured in films, favoured by royalty and the best place to practice your cameo for Game of Thrones, take a look at our pick of the best castles, and don’t forget to let us know your favourites too!
Windsor Castle, BerkshirePay a visit to the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, which still holds the title of the official residences of Her Majesty The Queen! Given the royal seal of approval, you can discover over 900 years of British history at Windsor Castle, explore 13 acres of grounds and maybe even see the changing of the guard if you’re lucky. Windsor Castle earns the number one spot on our list of the best UK Castles.
Best for: Fans of the royal family and all ages
Powderham Castle, DevonThis picturesque castle stands proudly in Exeter, and has something for all ages to enjoy. The guided tour runs throughout the day offering a behind the scenes look at the history and heritage of Powderham Castle, whilst the Play Fort is a must for little explorers thanks to its suspension bridge, nets, slide and even a daring zip wire too.
Best for: Medieval mystery and little adventurers
Mountfitchet Castle, Essex
As well as being one of the grandest named castles in the UK, Mountfitchet is also home to grand adventures. Roam around the Norman village hidden behind the castle walls to soak up the atmosphere of years gone by, meet a range of animals across the 10-acre site, and if you’re feeling brave, don’t miss the Haunted Manor! It’s about an hour’s drive from London, but you can find more castles near London here.
Best for: A unique castle experience, those wanting to test their bravery
Harlech Castle, GwyneddAt the heart of this seaside town, Harlech Castle keeps a watchful eye over Snowdonia. Built by Edward I back in the late 13th century, this formidable fortress is steeped in history, much like the 200-foot-long stairway leading from the castle down to the base of the cliff!
Best for: Welsh warriors and active explorers
Dover Castle, Kent
There are plenty of castles in Kent to choose from but, perched above the iconic white cliffs, Dover Castle is a place where imaginations can run wild for visitors of all ages. Commanding the gateway to the realm for nine centuries, this iconic castle is a great place to immerse yourself in fascinating history. From exploring secret Wartime Tunnels and climbing the great tower, to meeting a host of costumed characters, there are also plenty of events all year round to captivate the little ones.
Best for: Budding historians and war enthusiasts
Barnard Castle, County DurhamWith fantastic views over the Tees Gorge, Barnard Castle is a great place to visit for a family day out. Turn your visit into a game of I-spy by trying to spot Richard III’s boar emblem carved above a window in the inner ward, before exploring the incredible ‘sensory garden’ and the nearby working town, known as Barney!
Best for: Kids who love sensory play, eagle-eyed family members
Alnwick Castle, NorthumberlandYou may recognize this castle from its various film appearances, including none other than everyone’s favourite, Harry Potter! Alnwick Castle is a day out to fire the imagination, with legends of knights, dragons and wizardry to explore. From broomstick training in the same spot Harry has his first flying lesson in The Philosopher’s Stone, to the ultimate medieval test in Knight’s Quest, adventure definitely awaits at this castle.
Best for: Harry Potter enthusiasts and kids up for a challenge
Newark Castle, GlasgowThis rediscovered treasure was long eclipsed by great shipyards, but now can be seen in all its glory so you definitely won’t miss it. With striking Jacobean exteriors, the chance to catch a glimpse into the working lives of the servants ‘below stairs', dressing up for kids and stunning views over the Firth of Clyde, Newark Castle is one of the most exquisite castles in the UK.
Best for: Instagram worthy photos and those looking for a quieter castle to explore
Bodiam Castle, East SussexIf you asked your kid to picture a castle, it’s likely they wouldn’t come up with something far off Bodiam Castle. With striking symmetry, massive towers and a moat complete with fish, it’s a great place for imaginative kids. See original features and interior ruins at one of Britain’s most picturesque ancient monuments, plus with a programme of kids events during the holidays, it’s great for a family day out.
Best for: Classic castle fun for all ages
Bamburgh Castle, NorthumberlandFilled with hundreds of years’ worth of dark tales, myths and more Bamburgh Castle is home to an impressive 14 public areas, so there’s plenty to keep the whole family entertained. See several grand State Rooms, the Library and Clock Tower, plus The Keep, the oldest surviving part of the castle. With a local sandy beach right outside the castle walls, don’t miss your chance to join fun archaeological excavations during the summer.
Best for: Keen diggers and those looking for a full day out
Just in case 10 castles weren't enough to whet your appetite, then why not check out Sudeley Castle? This Gloucestershire gem gets an honourable mention, thanks to its Willow Maze, Wooden Fort and Adventure Play Park, plus family focused events all year round. Book tickets for Sudeley Castle now!
Reckon we’re missing one of the best UK castles off our list? Let us know where, and why in a comment below!