Ten favourite British castles

Favourite British Castles, Corfe Castle, DorsetJust 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 Castle, East Sussex, fairy-taleBodiam 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 Castle, Dumfries, ScotlandCaerlaverock 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

Bailey Gate, castle, Castle Acre, NorfolkCastle 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

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

Middleham Castle, Yorkshire, Warwick the Kingmaker, Richard IIIOh, 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

Orford Castle, SuffolkThere 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, HampshirePortchester 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

Scotney Castle, KentThere’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

Stokesay Castle, St John the Baptist churchyardEnglish 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, Dumfries and GallowayThreave 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.

51 thoughts on “Ten favourite British castles

  1. pollymacleod

    Thank you for a lovely tour Mike. I’ve been to Leeds Castle and fell in love with it. My mother lived in Leeds and we did a lot of days out when we visited, but never got around to visiting Middleham. Scotney Castle looks like one I would like and it’s just in the next county to me so no excuses not to visit. I will try to remember it for next year!

  2. Tina

    Oh, so many choices, I want to see them all. There is a castle built in Pennsylvania near where I grew up that was based on Stokesay. I am including the link so you can see/read about it’s history and how authentic it was. Sadly, it’s commercial now and used for banquets and weddings.

    https://stokesay.net/overview/history/

    1. Mike@bitaboutbritain Post author

      I think you should see them all, Tina. Thanks for mentioning the castle in Pennslvania – you’ll hopefully be proud of me for picking that up before and mentioning it in the original feature about Stokesay – I even included a link 🙂

  3. cleemckenzie

    What a splendid castle tour. I can never get enough of those. I suppose a part of my fascination is that Disneyland is the closest castle to me here in the U.S. We have nothing so cloaked in mystery and ancient intrigue. Thanks for more destinations on my travel list.

    1. Mike@bitaboutbritain Post author

      Well, I’m not sure I’d like to actually live in any of the above – only only one of them, Leeds, is habitable anyway, and I’d have to put up with people like me gawping at the gardens etc in order to have half a chance of paying for the upkeep. Maybe a more compact castle, provided it’s got modern plumbing, electricity etc! Go on then, you haven’t mentioned your favourite..?

          1. jmnowak

            Cheating! Well, one man’s palace is another’s castle, you may have heard, Mike. If Bodiam were still livable…does the vineyard belong to them, what are they growing? I enjoy a nice wine occasionally, reds mostly.

            1. jmnowak

              Haha, grapes, really!
              It’s an intriguing thought. I don’t envision any part of Britain being wine growing country. Sussex must have a wonderfully conducive climate. *wink wink

  4. Stew Hilts

    Well, I didn’t do very well on that one, only been to two of those. We hit both Scotney (the old one of course), and Bodiam, while staying at Sissinghurst nearby. But I do feel like I’ve been to Threave Castle, after reading some of the Scottish history that involved a castle seige or two there, by James II I think. Quite the fortress!

    1. Mike@bitaboutbritain Post author

      You’d enjoy the wildlife around Threave, Stew – as you probably saw from my feature about it. The highlight for me was that our ‘boatperson’ was a self-confessed part-time Viking…

  5. hilarymb

    Hi Mike – there are so many castles in the UK … but the way you write about them is so good and brings them to life … when I’m back home I hope to spend some time visiting many that I haven’t seen; then I’ve my own eclectic take on 23 castles in one of the A-Z years – cheers Hilary

  6. Anne Clare

    What fantastic photos- a visit to some castles was just what was needed today! You ARE going to publish all of these posts into a guidebook so that (someday, fingers crossed) when we finally get to that part of the world, we know where to go, right? 🙂

  7. milliethom

    There are so many castles to see in Britain, and I’ve visited dozens of them over the years but, oddly enough, only three of the ones on this list – plus Corfe Castle, shown in your ‘header’. I love the fact that they’re all so different and in different states of repair. We’ve been to Leeds, Scotney and Midddleham and will have to visit at least a few you’ve show here in the not-too-distant future. Lovely post, Mike. Thank you.

  8. Rosie

    What a great idea. Loved Caerlaverock when we visited but we didn’t get to Threave which I regret as it looks wonderful. Love Middleham for its Richard III connections and Stokesay is a firm favourite. Two other favourites of mine are Castle Rising in Norfolk and Bamburgh:)

  9. Jackie Stockley

    Only recently found your blog, I used to travel a lot(Camper van) but now am moored up in Hants, but I love that I can travel with you, you go to all the places I love, and new places I had not known about, Thank you.

  10. Marcia

    They are all beautiful. Maybe I’ll see one of them for myself one day. I still need to write posts about our visit to Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle as well as Castle Campbell that I did see in Scotland.

  11. Martha Ellen

    How can you ever choose a favorite? They are all unique and so special. I’ve been to Bodium on your list of favorites as well as Stirling that didn’t make the favorite list. Amazing! There’s so much to see in your lovely country! ♥

  12. Kay Guest

    I have seen three of them…Bodiam Castle, Leeds Castle and Scotney Castle.
    All are unforgettable!
    Did you see what was discovered in a drawer of an old chest in Scotney Castle? Check it out!

  13. CherryPie

    I have only been to three of them. Bodium, Leeds and Stokesay.

    Bolton Castle and Skipton Castle both in Yorkshire are two other good castles to visit

  14. 1066jq

    Middleham is my favorite, but that’s because of its association with Richard III, I felt very emotional when we visited it.
    Stokesay is my favorite moated manor house, have visited it many times.

  15. artandarchitecturemainly

    Leeds Castle really is more of a stately home than a castle, and an historically important one at that. And the geographical setting is a central part of the beauty.

    I know why important families felt they needed to build fortresses instead of homes, but if I was the wife or child, I would rather have had comfort and beauty rather than battlements.

  16. Lisa G.

    Well, from the photos, I thought I’d pick Portchester as my favorite, but then I saw the picture of Scotney and I liked it better; then Stokesay came along and looks so pretty, although the photo of Threave is lovely. Can’t pick one. 😀

Thanks for visiting A Bit About Britain. What do you think?

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