Ten Best Castles in the UK

There are countless magnificent castles in the United Kingdom and Ireland. This list selects castles to thrill those seeking an authentic, exciting vision of history.

Visiting a castle should transport visitors back in time and bring them in touch with the gritty reality of history. The castles listed below are notable for their authenticity, their character and most of all, their ability to linger in the memory of those who enter through their ancient walls.

Conwy Castle (Northern Wales)

Conwy Castle © bamyz

For those dreaming of the perfect medieval castle, Conwy, a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, is probably it. Dating from the early 1200’s, this castle is distinguished by darkened, aged stone, tall towers and high-heaving turrets.

The town of Conwy is itself a breathtaking walled relic that is redolent of history. Located in Northern Wales, the castle may show a few signs of crumbling over the long years, but this simply adds to its feel of historic authenticity. Visitors to Conwy should have their cameras loaded and ready.

 

Warwick Castle (Southern England)

More of a Medieval Theme Park than a castle, Warwick aims to provide an entertaining look at historical times. This large castle is well maintained, with a host of actors in period costumes roaming about the grounds ready to perform and inform.

The entertainment includes jousting tournaments, falconry displays, a dungeon and the firing of the world’s largest trebuchet (a large wooden contraption like a catapult). With all there is to do, one day at Warwick Castle definitely isn’t enough.

 

Leeds Castle (Kent, South East England)

Dating from 1119, Leeds Castle has been very well maintained in modern times, and is notable for its massive grounds with beautiful garden and hedge maze. The castle itself was used as a stately home during the last century and is exquisitely decorated within. There are Jousting tournaments in summer, a nine-hole golf course and an amazing aviary hosting some rare and colourful birds from around the world. Leeds Castle is located around an hour from London, near the town of Maidstone, Kent.

 

Windsor Castle (Southern England)

The official residence of Her Majesty the Queen, Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world. Aside from the appeal of the castle as a royal residence, there is plenty to see and do. There are treasures from the Royal Collection, Queen Mary’s Dolls House and St George’s Chapel; a glorious building that is also the burial place of ten monarchs. Obviously, the castle is very well maintained due to the importance of its usage, and the gardens and frontage are amazing to view.

 

Castle Howard (Yorkshire, Northern England)

Located near York in Yorkshire, Castle Howard is quite a modern castle compared with many others in the UK, only around three hundred years old. For this reason the castle is different from many others, with exquisite interiors and its grandiose size – the external views of the castle are one of the biggest appeals. The other main appeal of Castle Howard is the huge gardens and arboretum, in which one can roam happily for hours.

Edinburgh Castle (Scotland)

Looming above one of the world’s great historic cities, Edinburgh, this castle is alive with dark and intriguing history, both old and recent. Free guided tours will bring this castle alive; particularly Scotland’s violent and fascinating history, and will allow visitors to see the extravagant and authentic interiors. Due to its central importance in Scotland, the castle is extremely well maintained and affords the best views of one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

 

Caerphilly Castle (Southern Wales)

Castle

Located in Caerphilly, not far from Cardiff Wales, Caerphilly Castle is the second largest castle in the UK, behind Windsor. This castle has age on its side too; built in 1270, much if it has been restored, but this just makes the castle more visually spectacular and authentic.

 

Blarney Castle (Ireland)

Famous as the home of the Blarney Stone, Blarney Castle is of further interest as so many of its nooks and crannies are steeped in legend and myth. The Irish know how to spin a tale and it’s evident in many of the areas in and around the castle. The Rock Close with its Witches Steps, the Witch’s Kitchen, the Dungeon and the Badger’s Cave all hold within them history that is half-truth, half-fairytale and will prove to be of full fascination for visitors to this magical castle.

 

Glamis Castle (Scotland)

Glamis Castle is the subject of many ghost stories, was the setting for Shakespeare’s play ‘MacBeth’, and was also the childhood home of the late Queen Mother. The Castle has a long, intriguing and varied history, with stories both true and legendary having woven themselves into the fabric of the castle over the centuries. These stories should be of greatest interest to visitors, and will likely entertain and unnerve. The castle is also very impressive from the outside, and, as it is a current residence, has been extremely well maintained.

 

Doune Castle (Scotland)

This impressive castle, dating from around 1340, is an excellent historic relic, as it was built during a single building period and has been virtually unchanged since. This lends the castle a certain historic authenticity, and reliability for the visiting history buff. The Castle is also notorious as the filming location for a large portion of ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, where scenes set in three different castles were shot in and around Doune. Fame aside, Doune is both visually glorious and kept well intact, allowing visitors to feel like they’re truly stepping back in time.