Just for a bit of fun, here are ten of A Bit About Britain’s favourite castles. They have been selected randomly – I just like castles and could easily have chosen ten different ones. Some obvious choices, like the Tower of London, have been omitted because I wanted to include a couple of castles that are less well-known. I have also left out a few magnificent fortresses, such as Bamburgh, Caernarfon, Kenilworth and Stirling, because they have yet to be featured on A Bit About Britain. There are hundreds of castles in Britain, many of them ruined, some, like Windsor, still lived in, others, like Warwick, close to being theme parks. There were once more than 600 castles in Wales; the sharp-eyed reader will notice a lack of Welsh castles on this list – the simple reason is that Wales is long overdue a visit with a digital camera…
Each one of the favourite British castles listed below has been featured on A Bit About Britain, which means each one has been visited personally and that the photographs are original. Enjoy!
Click on each castle’s photograph to take you to the featured article. You will also find all the castles listed in the Attraction Directory, with links to relevant external websites giving you opening times, prices etc.
Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
Bodiam is pretty, of course, like something from a fairy-tale. But I also like the fact that you can clamber round the battlements, with care, and gaze over a vineyard just behind the castle. On a sunny day, it’s gorgeous. I’m also fascinated by the fact that there’s a Second World War pillbox just outside; centuries apart, and someone was still building fortifications.
Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries and Galloway
Caerlaverock is another, lovely, moated castle; exceptionally, it is triangular. And, inside the medieval wall, the owner, Robert Maxwell, the Earl of Nithsdale, built a beautiful Jacobean House. It’s all ruined now – but a wonderful spot; a little sad. So many people steam up the M74 and by-pass Dumfries and Galloway; they’re missing out.
Castle Acre, Norfolk
Castle Acre was the Norfolk home of the Earls of Surrey. Despite there not being much left to see, the earthworks are fascinating – and the castle’s curtain wall once ran round the entire village. At the other end of the village is Castle Acre Priory – delightful.
Leeds Castle, Kent
Well, Leeds Castle is advertised as being ‘the loveliest castle in the world’. That’s a matter of opinion, but it’s undeniably impressive and in a wonderful setting. Leeds is more of a stately home than a castle and it’s the kind of place where you could easily lose yourself for at least a day. What I particularly like about it is its history and association with no fewer than six queens.
Middleham Castle, North Yorkshire
Oh, Middleham Castle is such a magnificent ruin, once owned by the powerful Neville family and Richard III. Your imagination can run riot at Middleham, with visions of hunting parties, feasts – and, of course, the bloody Wars of the Roses. Then there’s the beautiful Middleham Jewel…
Orford Castle, Suffolk
There may be very little left of Orford Castle except its keep – but that is pretty much complete and it is fascinating. You need to hear the story of the merman that they held captive in the castle. But the best thing about it is the view across Orford Ness and the Suffolk coast from the top.
Portchester Castle, Hampshire
Portchester Castle began life as a Roman coastal fort – it has the most complete walls of any Roman stronghold in northern Europe. But its history since then is so varied too, from being a palace, to an embarkation point for an invasion of France to a POW camp holding Dutch, French and American captives.
Scotney Castle, Kent
There’s an old Scotney Castle, which is a romantic, haunted, ruin surrounded by beautiful garden – and a newer Victorian thing. Guess which one I prefer? Visit when the rhododendrons and azaleas are out.
Stokesay Castle, Shropshire
English Heritage describes Stokesay Castle as “the finest and best-preserved fortified medieval manor house in England”. They may be right. It’s a peach, anyway – not much fortification, but a wonderful, atmospheric, medieval house. Watch out for bats.
Threave Castle, Dumfries and Galloway
Threave Castle is another place that people speeding up to Edinburgh or the Highlands will miss. Now, in fairness, there’s not much of it left. But to see what there is you have to ring a bell to summon a boat… To cap it all, it was the stronghold of the Black Douglases and built by Archibald the Grim. Now you really have to go, don’t you?
I hope you enjoyed this little selection of favourite castles. If you’d like to see other castles that are already featured on A Bit About Britain, simply click on the ‘Castles and forts’ tag, or do a search. Even more castles are listed on the Attraction Directory, of course. If you just like photographs, visit A Bit About Britain on Pinterest where a British Castles board has been set up.