11 Best UK Castles To Visit
If you’re hoping to enjoy a little history on your holidays around the UK, you’re in luck! Many of our staycations include visits to incredible castles with stories to tell and we’ve rounded up a selection of our favourites to inspire your adventures.
From Scottish castles with royal histories to a Welsh fortification whose gardens have a French and Italian influence – there are many to choose from.
1) Walmer Castle
The historic pleasure gardens of Walmer Castle in Kent have been dramatically brought back to life thanks to a £2.3m restoration project funded by English Heritage. It was originally built as a Tudor fortress but evolved into a stately home for the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports, and went on to become the residence of famous names from the Duke of Wellington to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Visit as part of our Walmer Castle & the Cinque Ports tour.
2) Powis Castle
Influenced by French and Italian styles, the amazing garden of Powis Castle in Powys, Wales (pictured below) is cared for by the National Trust and has some of the most flamboyant and stylish herbaceous planting of any garden in the British Isles, as well as billowing yew topiary and magnificent views over the River Severn and Border countryside. Visit on our Gardens of North Wales holiday.
3) Tattershall Castle
This magnificent 15th century red brick castle, built to be a statement of power and wealth, rises proudly from the flat Lincolnshire fens. It boasts huge Gothic fireplaces and church-like windows, and was built by Lord Ralph Cromwell, Treasurer of England – designed to show off his wealth, position and power. The Great Tower is one of the earliest and finest surviving examples of English medieval brickwork and was saved from exportation to America by Lord Curzon of Kedleston in 1911. Take the winding staircase, wander through vast echoing chambers and walk out onto the battlements revealing the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Visit on our Castles and Houses of Lincolnshire holiday.
4) Bamburgh Castle
An impressive fortress that has stood guard in its for over 1400 years, Bamburgh Castle (pictured below) is an impressive sight to behold. Sprawling over nine acres of land on its rocky plateau, Bamburgh is one of the largest inhabited castles in the country. The 150-foot-high escarpment and natural harbour made Bamburgh the obvious choice for the 6th century kings of Northumbria to build their royal capital, Din Guaydri. Throughout its colourful history, Bamburgh has been home to a succession of kings from Henry IV to James I and it was the first castle in the world to fall to gunpowder in the War of the Roses. Visionary inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Lord William George Armstrong bought Bamburgh Castle in 1894 and set about transforming it into his vision of the archetypal castle. The castle houses his unique collection of artwork, ceramics and objets d’art that Armstrong loved and brought him joy. Visit Bamburgh Castle on our Castles and Houses of Northumberland trip.
5) Brodick Castle
This Scottish castle (pictured below) occupies a splendid position, well protected from westerly winds and looking east across the Firth of Clyde. The present garden dates from 1932 when the Duchess of Montrose started an ambitious woodland garden with a collection of rhododendrons. From the castle, paths wind downhill towards the seashore, and in a shady place there is a fernery and a delightful Bavarian summer house embellished with rustic work and lovely inlaid panels of pinecones. A walled garden, dating from 1710, has been restored and mixed borders on three sides retain the gardener’s interest throughout the year. Both our Arran, Scotland in Miniature and our Autumn Tints of Arran holidays visit Brodick Castle.
6) Castle of Mey
Former holiday home of the late Queen Mother, the Castle of Mey was originally known as Barrogill Castle and it was first seen by the late Queen Mother in 1952, while mourning the death of her husband King George VI. Falling for its ruined, isolated charm she declared she would save the castle from ruin. Having acquired the most northerly castle on the British mainland, she renovated and lovingly restored it and for over half a century she spent her summers here and created the beautiful gardens you see today. Visit on our Scotland’s Northern Edge and Gardens of the Far North holidays.
7) Duart Castle
A much photographed site, Duart Castle was the 13th century home of the Chief of Clan MacLean. During a visit here, you can explore the dungeons, the state rooms and appreciate the strategic position of the castle from the top of the keep. Visit on our Grand Tour of the Inner Hebrides or our Lord of the Glens – Highlands & Islands cruise.
8) Cawdor Castle
William Shakespeare immortalised Cawdor in Macbeth as the scene of Duncan’s murder, however, both the castle and its history are colourful enough without the aid of myth. A turreted 14th century tower, protected on one side by a gully and on the other by a dry moat, rises majestically from the woods of the Nairn Valley. The magnificent gardens here include vast herbaceous borders, a rose garden, a peony walk and a kitchen garden – there is also a fascinating holly maze and a romantic bluebell woodland walk. Visit on our Gardens of the Far North tour.
9) Dunrobin Castle
This is the château-style ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland. The castle is a wonderful early 19th-century fantasy castle with a touch of the Loire and a dash of Bavaria. Below the castle (pictured below) is a magnificent example of a formal 19th century garden, which is laid out on terraces that descend to the sea. Our Gardens of the Far North holiday visits this magnificent castle.
10) Drumlanrig Castle
Surrounded by the 120,000 acre Queensberry Estate, Country Park and grand Victorian gardens, Drumlanrig Castle was completed in 1691 by William Douglas, 1st Duke of Queensberry and is one of the first and most important Renaissance buildings in the grand manner in Scotland. Drumlanrig hit the headlines in 2003 following the audacious theft of the Leonardo da Vinci painting ‘Madonna with the Yarnwinder’ and it was as a consequence of this that formal guided tours of the castle were introduced! Visit Drumlanrig Castle on our Gardens of Dumfries & Galloway tour.
11) Eilean Donan Castle
This must be one of the most photographed castles in all of Scotland, with its impossibly romantic setting on Loch Duich. The beginnings of Eilean Donan Castle (shown below) reach back into the early mists of time – evidence of a Pictish fort was found in vitrified rock uncovered during excavations, some of which has been kept for visitors to see. Visit as part of our Lord of the Glens – Heart of the Highlands tour.