Following the Norman Conquest in 1066, the construction of castles in England began. They served as a deterrent and a representation of Norman supremacy under William the Conqueror.
The first castles had a “motte and bailey” constructed of wood, which means it had a wooden keep with an enclosed courtyard built on an elevated mound (the motte) (the bailey). The most heavily guarded and central area of the Castle was the “keep.”
Stone castles with magnificent gatehouses, towers, and curtain walls eventually replaced timber castles. Buildings were of utmost significance. Through “death holes,” they were used to fire weapons, hurl arrows, or pour boiling liquids down on the advancing adversary.
Some castles were destroyed. Sometimes they were abandoned because their owners lacked the funds to reconstruct them or their strategic importance had declined. Defence was prioritised over comfort during the Tudor era, and castles were given less intimidating exteriors. With magnificent interiors more akin to palaces, many courts were turned into royal properties.
These English castles were frequently preserved by their owners for ideological or historical reasons long after they ceased to serve as effective defensive structures. Some are still in use, such as Windsor Castle. Despite their occasionally bloody histories, many of these English castles are the pinnacle of romanticism.
1. Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
One of the most well-known castles in England is Alnwick. Its fame as a Harry Potter filming location contributes to its popularity. Alnwick is the second-largest inhabited Castle in England and the home of the Dukes of Northumberland (after Windsor). In the 12th century, the De Veschy dynasty started construction on the fortress. One of the first castles to lack a square keep was this one. The Percy family acquired the Castle after the family line died out.
The first Percy strengthened the protective Castle into an even greater mighty fortress and opulent home. He and his son constructed the enormous towers on either side of the keep’s entrance. The Percy family was involved in significant historical occurrences in Britain. Hotspur Percy served as Henry Bolingbrook’s guardian as a young boy and assisted him in taking the throne as Henry IV.
The current duchess also had a magnificent garden at Alnwick Castle remodelled. It contains orchards, paths, ponds, the Grand Cascade fountain, and more than 4,000 plant varieties. Alnwick Castle served as Wizardry Hogwarts School of Witchcraft in the movies Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2002 and 2001. In the Outer Bailey, Harry developed his broomstick flying abilities.
2. Arundel Castle, West Sussex
One of the top mediaeval castles in England, Arundel’s town, is Arundel Castle which dates back a thousand years. It served as the Earl of Arundel’s residence for many years. Since Richard III’s rule, it has served as the Duke of Norfolk’s primary residence. Midway through the 17th century, the Castle began to crumble following the English Civil War between royalists and parliamentarians. Later, it was saved and repaired in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The layout of the Castle is very similar to that of Windsor Castle. It includes a moat in the centre and two baileys to the north and south, enclosed by high walls. Arundel was restored in a Norman style during the Victorian century, even though it appears to be mediaeval, making it a little flimsy. The River of Arun, the sea, and the town are visible from the top of the keep’s steps.
There are also beautiful gardens at Arundel Castle that can be visited. If you visit in the spring, you get to watch the 60,000 tulips in bloom there. Thieves stole items worth over $1.4 million from the castle in 2021, including the enamelled rosary beads that Mary Queen of Scots wore when she was put to death in 1587. Arundel Castle and the charming Amberley Castle can be combined into one trip since they are only 4 miles away. Amberley, fortified in the fourteenth century, includes a massive 60-foot wall and twin tower gatehouse.
3. Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
Bamburgh Castle’s history began as a Roman stronghold in 420 A.D. It is one of England’s best and oldest castles to see as a result. For around 400 years, Bamburgh, a fortification perched on a hill overlooking the North Sea, served as a bastion for the British monarchy. It was built to fend against Viking incursions and Scottish invasions.
Henry II built the massive keep on the fortress. Bamburgh was the first Castle to be ever defeated by artillery, a new weapon of war, in the fourteenth century, during the war of the Roses. By the sixteenth century, the Castle was in ruins, with only the keep remaining. Lord Armstrong purchased the Castle in the Victorian era and started an extensive renovation.
Today, you can go inside to check out the cabins, the property, and the stunning beach it overlooks. There are more than 3,000 objects and exhibitions in 14 public rooms. The King’s Hall has a detailed oak ceiling and is the most magnificent.
4. Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire
Belvoir Castle is among the magnificent replica castles in England, with a fascinating 1,000-year history. The romantic confluence of architectural forms creates its stunning movie-set appearance. Young Victoria and season three of The Crown used Belvoir as a stand-in for Windsor Castle. The word “Belvoir” means “beautiful view” in English. The name of the Castle is pronounced “Beever,” though.
Following William the Conqueror’s accession to the throne, the first Castle on the location was constructed. At that time, the Albini and De Roos families controlled Belvoir for many years. The War of the Roses caused damage to the Castle. The mediaeval relics were removed, and the building was transformed into a Tudor manor house by the first Earl of Rutherford.
The Castle has subsequently demolished again and finally reconstructed in the Regency style during the Victorian era. Among the several distinguished visitors to the Castle was Queen Victoria. The Regent’s Gallery interior is a must-see space. It exhibits tapestries by Gobelin that previously belonged to Louis XIV of France. The tale of Don Quixote is depicted in the tapestries.
5. Bodiam Castle, East Sussex
One of the real-life fairytale castles in England is Bodiam Castle. It’s a square fortification encircled by a moat that resembles a lake. One of the last mediaeval castles in Britain is Bodiam, which was constructed in the fourteenth century by the rich Sir Edward Dallingridge. Strong drum towers at each corner and crenellated walls give it excellent symmetry. Its centre grounds are surprisingly open for a castle intended to be a courtyard.
Like many other castles of the time, Bodiam blended a menacing exterior with abundant features. Large rooms, restrooms, and fireplaces were there. Bodiam was a well-known and picturesque ivy-covered ruin by the 17th century. In the 19th century, the exterior underwent restoration.
You can go through every crevice and turret or join the free guided tour. On-site parking is available, for which you pay at the kiosk. Free tours of Bodiam Castle are provided almost daily with a brief history of the building. The excursions take 35 to 45 minutes.
6. Camber Castle, East Sussex
The lovely Kent town of Rye is one mile away from Camber Castle. It also goes by the name Winchelsea Castle. It is one of the most remarkable castles in England. It’s a flower-shaped “gun fort” from Henry VIII’s reign constructed in the 16th century. It was built as a defence against French assaults on Rye Harbour. The Castle is destroyed. Although you can’t enter, you can enjoy the evocative outside.
7. Colchester Castle, Essex
The largest keep of castles in England may be found at Colchester Castle, which dates back to the 11th century. Being built on the ruins of the Roman Temple of Claudius, it linked the Normans to the splendour of Rome. It is now more of a museum than a castle. A trip to the Castle Museum is worthwhile.
It contains significant archaeological artefacts dating back 2,500 years, including Britain’s most important Roman discoveries. The Sheepen Cauldron, a vast and enigmatic vessel from the Bronze Age in the second century B.C., is the most well-known item.
8. Corfe Castle, Dorset
Corfe Castle, which was once strong, is now in ruin. William the Conqueror constructed this Castle in England in the eleventh century, but it was destroyed during the English Civil War. In England, Corfe was a significant castle. William could access the southern coast and his home country because of its location. It is constructed out of stones rather than wood, in contrast to other Norman castles, further emphasising its significance.
John and Henry III, who built a curtain wall, towers, and a gloriette at Corfe Castle after William, were fans of the fortress (a castle within a castle). Up until Elizabeth I sold it to one of her preferred courtiers. It remained in royal possession. Sir John Bankes purchased the castle in 1635. The English Civil War pitted parliamentarians against royalists, starting in 1642. Till one of her officers betrayed her, Lady Bankes resisted the M.P.s. and Corfe Castle was destroyed as retribution.
Corfe Castle was given back to the Bankes family in 1660 with the restoration of the monarchy. But they decided not to rebuild it. They left the Castle to the National Trust in 1982. Today, you may stroll through the charming archways and check out the west bailey, the oldest portion of the Castle still standing.
9. Deal Castle, Kent
Deal Castle, the largest of Henry VIII’s “gun forts,” was constructed in 1539–1540. It was built to defend England’s southern coast from French and Holy Roman Empire invasion threats. Henry’s dissolution of the monasteries following the Reformation provided funding for the fortress.
Deal Castle includes an expansive main keep, six enormous round bastions, and an exterior moat. It seems nearly otherworldly, which is how terrifying it was intended to appear. The Castle has 66 fire stations in total. When seen from above, the Castle resembles the Tudor rose’s sexfoil design. The deal is well-known as where Anne of Cleves, Henry’s fourth wife, landed when she arrived in England in 1539.
You may learn a lot about the Castle’s history and Henry’s military tactics from the information centre at the Castle. On top of the bastions, there are stunning coastal views.
10. Dover Castle, Kent
The scope and size of Dover Castle are incredible. One of the oldest and most incredible castles in England will fascinate medievalists. The Iron Age is when the area’s first fortification was built. Even Julius Caesar, who assaulted England, remarked that Dover was “no place to undertake a landing” because of its spectacular sea position. The Romans further fortified it before the Saxons settled there.
The majestic keep you see today was constructed by Henry II, one of the most fabulous Norman kings, in the 12th century. England was only 17 miles away from France, and he was determined to keep England secure. The likes of Dover’s formidable Castle had never been seen before. The walls around the central keep were 100 feet long and 80 feet height. The inner wall featured 14 towers.
Despite coming close in 1216, Prince Louis of France’s attempt to breach the Castle failed. There is a multimedia installation that dramatises the incident. Following their narrow escape, Henry III strengthened Dover’s defences once more. He also constructed the great hall and royal quarters. Most of what you see today is still the same as it was then. If you wanted to peek inside every crevice of the Castle, it might take you all day.
The Great Hall, royal chambers, and private chapel are located in the Castle’s central keep, which is its most notable feature. The Constable’s Gateway and its maze of tunnels, which were crucial to mediaeval defence and served as an operations hub during WWII, are spectacular.
11. Highclere Castle, Hampshire
The Earl of Carnarvon’s country residence is Highclere Castle, one of the best and most stunning castles in England. However, the magnificent 300-room castle is most known for serving as the actual Downton Abbey from the famous British historical T.V. series.
The 1840s renovation of the Castle was carried out by the same architect who designed the London Houses of Parliament. The Castle was first constructed in 1679. Renowned landscape architect Capability Brown designed the gardens. Highclere Castle has hosted prominent people from the worlds of politics, literature, and entertainment.
Since 1679, the current Earl’s family has resided on the estate, a bustling group of people, the Carnarvon. They have been involved in sleazy legal cases, scandalous affairs, the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in Egypt, and the establishment of Canada. The principal attractions are the Egyptian Exhibition, the State Rooms, and the gardens.
12. Tower of London, London
The Tower of London is the second most visited Castle in England, after Warwick Castle. The Tower is also the most well-known with its 900 years of history and blood. It has functioned as a royal observatory, an armoury, a public records office, a fortress, a notorious prison, a mint, a military storage, a treasury and a royal zoo, in addition to storing the Crown Jewels, even as a place for execution, the numerous Henry, Richard, and Edward successions will engross you blissfully.
The castle witnessed many incidents. Richard II abdicated, Henry IV was crowned, Henry VI was detained (and possibly murdered), the princes of Edward IV were detained, and Anne Boleyn was crowned and put to death. The Tower’s original construction was overseen by William the Conqueror. He gave the go-ahead to erect the White Tower in 1078, which took over 20 years to complete.
Henry III and Edward I added to William’s fortification throughout the years. They expanded the moat and built enormous curtain walls with numerous smaller towers. Mediaeval kings and queens added rich chambers.
13. Rockingham Castle, North Hamptonshire
Being a historic royal castle and hunting lodge, Rockingham Castle is located in Rockingham Forest. The Watson family has been in Rockingham since the sixteenth century. It was a royal enclave for 500 years before then. The area has been fortified since the Iron Age. There were both Romans and Saxons. Following the Norman Conquest, William the Conqueror constructed the first Castle.
Rockingham is renowned for its vast hunting grounds and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Due to this, it became a favourite of mediaeval kings. In the fifteenth century, the Castle had lost its appeal. In 1533, Henry III sold it to Edward Watson. Unlike many other English castles, Rockingham still has evidence of its mediaeval past. Some of the Castle’s Norman walls and the gatehouse from 1290 are still surviving.
Inside are some significant Tudor images, such as those of Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s favourite wife, and Elizabeth I, accompanied by her councillors. The Long Gallery houses some of the Castle’s finest artwork and furniture. A 400-year-old “elephant hedge” is located among the 18 acres of gardens.
Well! It is undeniable that some of these castles have a bloody and scary history that sends chills down the back of your neck; still, their unique architecture makes them worth the visit. Tell us which one is your favourite!
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