The 12 Best Castles In The UK

We love a mighty fine fortress in this country, which is a great thing considering we have more than 4,000 of them dotted across the region. What were once occupied by royalty (and some still are), used as defences and have even seen a few murders in their time are now acclaimed visitor attractions. So, whether you’re keen to check out a Downton Abbey filming location, or walk in the footsteps of Anne Boleyn (not literally), we’ve compiled a guide to the most beautiful castles in the UK to help you on your way.

The Tower of London

Even though it isn’t technically one by name, The Tower of London is up there with some of the most famous castles in the UK. Home to the iconic crown jewels and Tower ravens, it stands tall beside the River Thames, only a short walk from the tube station. It served as a royal residence, armoury, treasury and menagerie over the years, and has also been the location of many executions. Plan your visit today to embark on one of the Yeoman Warder Tours, or explore the White Tower, built by William the Conquerer.

Tower Of London Best Castles In The UK | DesignMyNight

Get a peek at the crown jewels at this iconic landmark. 

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle leads the way in our jam-packed guide of UK castles to visit. Boasting a thousand years of incredible history, its walls and grounds are steeped in ancient myths. The medieval building was originally developed from a wooden fort built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and sports 14th-century military architecture. It’s seen deaths, surrenders, and families reside there up until today where it operates as a major tourist attraction, owned by Merlin Entertainments. If you happen to visit this year, you’ll find bird shows, jousting and grisly happenings taking place in The Castle Dungeon.

Warwick Castle UK Visit | DesignMyNight

You'll be sure to find this gem in every top 10 castles in the UK list.  

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world; founded in the 11th century, it has seen 40 monarchs reside in its grounds and is the official home of His Majesty The King. It’s open to visitors from Thursday to Monday throughout the week with tickets averaging around £30 per person - make a day out of it and check out St George’s Chapel nearby, or the gorgeous Edwardian Theatre Royal Windsor. Another highlight includes witnessing The Changing of the Guard, as well as a quiet spot of tea and a slice of cake at the Undercroft Café.

Windsor Famous UK Castle | DesignMyNight

This fort is bound to Windsor you over. 

Cardiff Castle

Get two for the price of one with Cardiff Castle - a Victorian Gothic revival mansion and a medieval fortress located in the city centre. It was built in the late 11th century and has been attacked several times throughout its 2000 years of history. Flittering between Roman occupation as well as Parliamentary, today it operates as an attraction with the much-loved, sculpted Animal Wall on its grounds. It also serves as a live music venue where you can see bands such as The Smashing Pumpkins and Weezer play. 

Cardiff Castle In Wales UK | DesignMyNight

It's not every day you get to watch concerts at castles in Wales, UK.  

Hever Castle And Gardens

Located within Kent and previously the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Hever Castle and Gardens is a must-visit for Tudor enthusiasts. It spans 125 acres, dates back to the 14th century and consists of gorgeous panelled rooms, fine tapestries, antiques and captivating Tudor paintings to rival that of the National Portrait Gallery collection. It was restored in the early 20th century by William Waldorf Astor and exhibits two prayer books owned by Anne, as well as falcon experiences and craft fairs, and is home to an incredibly fun maze.

Famous Hever Castle And Gardens Kent | DesignMyNight

Full of Tudor trinkets, Hever is one of the best castles in the UK to visit.  

Alnwick Castle

Most known for being a filming location for Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, The Last Knight and more, Alnwick Castle is a Northumberland-based legend. The fort itself dates back to the Norman period and has existed as a military outpost, teaching college and refuge for evacuees among many other things throughout its years. Today it remains a family home and attraction, where visitors can watch longbow demonstrations, medieval falconry and attend book talks.

Alnwick Free Castles To Visit In England | DesignMyNight

Follow in the footsteps of movie stars at this prime filming location.  

Caernarfon Castle

A medieval fort found in Gwynedd, north-west Wales, Caernarfon Castle lies on the banks of the River Seiont and is recognised as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages. It’s grouped with Edward I’s other castles (Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech) as a World Heritage Site and boasts incredible imperial Roman architecture. Visit today and you’ll find exhibitions, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers Museum and a delightful cafe serving a selection of local food and drinks.

Caernarfon Castle Wales UK | DesignMyNight

We fort you might like this one.  

Edinburgh Castle

Another big hitter on the list, Edinburgh Castle is home of the Honours of Scotland and the Scottish National War Memorial. Its history is laced with royal residences, military garrisons and prisons, with the occasional pirate coming into play. It’s located on a large rock, making its wartime strategy clear, and during the Iron Age a hill fort was built. While it’s not always been so successful with its defence over the years, it has evolved and remains the location of Mons Meg, one of the greatest medieval cannons ever made.

Iconic Edinburgh Castle Scotland | DesignMyNight

Catch this castle looking out over the whole of Edinburgh. 

Tintagel Castle

Make sure to stop off at Tintagel Castle on your pasty-munching tour of the south coast of England. The grounds are intertwined with the legend of King Arthur, and the fort itself was built as a result of Earl Richard's obsession. Half on the mainland and half on a jagged headland, it’s inspired authors and poets alike, and even though it's succumbed to decay it still holds many mythical associations that compel visitors to walk its ruins today.

Tintagel Castle Cornwall UK | DesignMyNight

Its ruins are filled with mythical legends.  

Bodiam Castle

When it comes to castles in the UK, this National Trust-owned one is a beauty. Built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dallingridge and his wife Elizabeth with a surrounding moat, it survived a series of unfortunate historical events such as the Black Death. Bodiam Castle in Sussex features a handful of ritual protection marks at the entrances and windows that were thought to ward off evil spirits, which you can still see today if you look closely enough. While the castle exists as mainly ruins now, it's still of public interest and features an open-air interior available to stroll around, surrounded by rich parkland.

Bodiam Castle Sussex UK | DesignMyNight

With turrets that look this good, Bodiam has captured our hearts.  

Bamburgh Castle

Gazing out across the Northumberland coastline is the regal Bamburgh Castle that spans nine acres of land atop a plateau. It was the first fort in the world to fall to gunpowder in the War of the Roses and is believed to be the site of Sir Lancelot’s fictitious castle, Joyous Garde. Book your trip and check out the Armstrong and Aviation Museum on site, as well as the Victorian stables and half-round turret that remains of the original Neville Tower. It’s also currently home to the props and costumes of The Last Kingdom, too.

Bamburgh Castle Northumberland UK | DesignMyNight

If it's good enough for Sir Lancelot, then it's good enough for us.  

Kenilworth Castle And Elizabethan Garden

The great love of Elizabeth I, Robert Dudely, used to inhabit Kenilworth Castle, the once medieval fortress turned Elizabethan palace. Now an English Heritage site, it invites visitors to explore its keep, Tudor towers and the luscious gardens that have been recreated and filled with colourful flowers. You can catch sky-high views 18 metres up, similar to what the queen would’ve had, as well as a glimpse of her private staircase and imagine what it would’ve been like to live there while musing on your day over a hot drink in the Stables Tearoom.

Kenilworth Castle And Elizabethan Garden UK | DesignMyNight

POV: You're Elizabeth 1 and this is your bedroom. 

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