Castles and forts
Alnwick Castle dates from the 11th century and has been in the hands of the Percy family, the Dukes of Northumberland, since 14th century. The family still lives there. Their castle is one of the most visited in England, steeped in Percy history with gruesome discoveries to be made as well as magnificent state rooms. Alnwick is often used for filming and has starred in Harry Potter and Downton Abbey (to mention just two). The castle also houses a number of special exhibitions, including the Regimental Museum of the Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. Adjacent to the castle is the Alnwick Garden, a formal garden built around a huge cascading fountain.
Arbeia Roman Fort stood guard on the south bank of the Tyne, guarding the sea route to Hadrian's Wall. The fort is situated in what is now a residential area, with a primary school opposite. It was originally built in the 2nd century AD and, with variations and rebuilding (the fort was destroyed in the late 3rd/early 4th century, for example), was occupied until the Anglo-Saxon period. There is a good museum, reconstructed gateway and living quarters (which are a bit tatty) and the excavated outline of the fort.
Bamburgh Castle is one of the dramatic icons of Northumberland's coast. There has been a fortress on the rocky crag poking out into the North Sea since before the Anglo-Saxons invaded. The Normans built a new castle, and its bloody history continued. But the present building owes much to Victorian restoration and idealism. And thanks for that goes to wealthy arms manufacturer and dealer William Armstrong, whose family still live there. Bamburgh is a popular visitor attraction, is 'bursting with history and has also featured in several film/TV productions.
Barnard Castle was founded by Bernard de Balliol in the 12th century and the ruins of this once mighty fortress dominate both the town named for it and the river Tees. Balliol College, Oxford, was named after Bernard's ancestor, John, and John's son (another John) was briefly King of Scotland. Afterwards, the castle came into the possession of the powerful Earls of Warwick - the Neville family - and subsequently, through marriage to Anne Neville, it then came into the hands of the Duke of Gloucester - Richard III. Later, it fell into disrepair and is now a spectacular ruin in an impressive setting.
Beaumaris was the last and largest of the massive castles constructed by English King Edward I to keep the Welsh subjugated. Construction began in 1295, but Beaumaris was never finished. Even so, it is often regarded as the most technically perfect medieval castle in Britain. And it is a World Heritage Site.
Ruined remains of motte and bailey castle dating from 11th to 15th centuries. Berkhamsted was home to kings, besieged by the French and scene of the Saxon surrender to William the Conqueror in 1066.
A brooding, ruined, medieval castle located atop a dramatic wooded cliff and with the remains of an unfinished Jacobean house inside its walls, which was intended to be the grand home of the Seymour family. Berry Pomeroy Castle has a reputation as one of the most haunted places in Britain.
Fairy-tale like ruined castle, originally built to help defend Southern England against French attack. One of the most photogenic castles in the country, it almost looks as though it could come alive. But it is a shell - with plenty of stairs to clamber up, crumbling battlements to fall off - and wonderful views from the top.
Astonishing Stuart mansion, mid-way between a castle and a country house, built to entertain and impress by the staunchly Royalist Charles Cavendish. The place is full of surprises, including some intriguing and lavish decoration, a beautiful garden, wall walk and an unusual riding house. There is an informative exhibition which puts things in perspective before you tour - and a great childrens' playground!
NB - this is nowhere near Bolton, Lancashire!
Bolton Castle is a 14th century fortress built on a grand scale by Sir Richard le Scrope - whose descendents still own the place. Mary, Queen of Scots, was held here for 6 months and was allowed to use the time hunting and learning English. It was besieged, and badly damaged, by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War, but is still remarkably intact and well worth a visit. Great views of the Yorkshire Dales from the battlements. Pleasant medieval gardens. The adjacent chapel of St Oswald and the village of Castle Bolton are both charming.
Warning: Bolton Castle is used as a wedding venue - check it is open to visitors before making a special trip.