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Home > The 8 Best Castles to Visit in England

Home to hundreds of beautiful and medieval castles, a rich historical and cultural legacy is woven into England’s landscape. These famous English castles, each a unique chapter in history, stand as a testament to the nation’s enduring heritage. 

From defensive forts to regal residences, English castles bear witness to a bygone era, where kings and queens shaped the course of history within their formidable walls. This guide on the best castles to visit in England presents a curated selection of the most famous English castles and iconic landmarks that offer a captivating glimpse into the past. Read on to explore these remarkable palaces where every stone tells a storied tale, and discover the allure of the best castles in England.

While you can’t stay in many of England’s castles, LTR Castles has a stunning selection of English mansions and country houses for you to choose from. Certainly, they’re the next best thing if you want to fulfil a fantasy of living like a royal for the night.

Best Castles in England: Cinematic Splendours 

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle, perched within Berkshire’s countryside, sits among the best castles in England, bearing witness to a rich history marked by notable figures and events. Constructed in the mid-19th century, the castle’s roots intertwine with the Carnarvon family, known for their contributions to Egyptian archaeology. 

The castle’s significance extends beyond its historical legacy to the world of cinema, serving as the main filming location for the much-loved British television series, Downton Abbey. This acclaimed series catapulted Highclere Castle to international fame, enticing visitors with its tangible connection to the fictional Crawley family and their early 20th-century aristocratic life.

Alnwick Castle

Located in Northumberland, Alnwick Castle is certainly one of the best castles to visit in England, revealing a compelling history dating back to the medieval era. Constructed shortly after the Norman Conquest, it played a crucial role in border warfare. It has been owned by the Percys, the Dukes of Northumberland, since 1309, and remains in their possession to this day.

Alnwick’s historical narrative takes an enchanting turn as it steps onto the cinematic stage. The castle gained prominence for its appearance in the Harry Potter series, portraying the iconic Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

This dual identity as a medieval stronghold and a cinematic wizarding school enhances Alnwick’s allure, making it a captivating destination for history enthusiasts and movie buffs alike who wish to explore the best castles in England.

Best Castles in England: Defensive Forts

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle stands prominently among the best castles in England, celebrated for its robust historical background and architectural grandeur. As one of the essential English castles to visit, it traces its origins to the Norman Conquest and has withstood the test of time as a medieval fortress. 

Renowned for its well-preserved architecture, visitors can explore the imposing structure that has witnessed centuries of history. The castle’s stunning gardens add to its allure, providing a picturesque backdrop to events and exhibitions that further illuminate its past. Warwick Castle, with its strategic location and captivating features, stands as a testament to England’s medieval history and is a must-visit for those exploring the nation’s defensive forts.

Dover Castle

Dover Castle, otherwise known as the ‘key to England’, is one of the most famous English castles, commanding attention due to its strategic significance near the English Channel. Its medieval origins date back to the 11th century, and over the years, the castle evolved to become a symbol of national defence.

Positioned atop the iconic White Cliffs, Dover Castle played a pivotal role in various wartime efforts, adapting to the changing needs of different historical periods. Exploring Dover Castle offers visitors a tangible connection to England’s defensive past, making it an essential stop for those intrigued by the historical and strategic importance of one of the best castles in England.

Best Castles in England: Royal Residences

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle requires little introduction, internationally renowned as one of the best and most famous castles in England. It holds pivotal historical importance as one of the official residences of the Queen. Its roots trace back to the 11th century, making it the oldest continuously inhabited castle in the world. 

The architectural beauty of this castle reflects a blend of medieval and Georgian styles, evolving over the centuries to embody the nation’s changing political landscape. Functioning not only as a royal residence but also as a symbol of enduring monarchy, Windsor Castle is a must-visit for those exploring English castles. 

Its storied halls resonate with the echoes of royal ceremonies, state banquets, and the everyday life of the British monarchy, offering visitors a real connection to the nation’s regal heritage, and the most famous English castle.

Tower of London 

Within the realm of famous English castles, the Tower of London stands as an iconic royal residence with a dual identity. The historical significance of this UNESCO heritage site extends beyond being a fortress, serving as a royal palace for monarchs since the Norman Conquest. It later gained notoriety as a prison, housing famous prisoners like Anne Boleyn and Thomas More. 

The castle’s role as a repository for the Crown Jewels further solidifies its place among the most famous English castles. For those seeking to delve into the intertwined history of royalty and imprisonment, the Tower of London remains an essential destination among the best castles to visit in England.

Best Castles in England: Fairytale Fortresses

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle, celebrated among the best castles to visit in England, is often hailed as the ‘loveliest castle in the world’. Although its name would suggest it belongs in Yorkshire, it’s actually nestled in the heart of Kent, and boasts a history dating back to the 9th century when it was originally a Saxon stronghold. Over the centuries, it evolved from a Norman stronghold to a royal palace, showcasing a stunning blend of medieval, Tudor, and early modern architecture. 

Built on islands in a lake formed by the River Len, its fairytale setting extends to its peaceful moat, lush gardens, and picturesque surroundings, all of which contribute to its fairytale charm. The castle witnessed a diverse array of owners, including six medieval queens and Henry VIII. Today, those exploring the best castles in England are captivated by Leeds Castle’s rich history and its beautiful scenery.

Bodiam Castle

Firmly placed as one of the best castles to visit in England is Bodiam Castle. As if it had been plucked straight from a fairytale, this castle is a picturesque marvel with a moat, fed by the nearby River Rother, surrounding the palace walls.

Constructed in the 14th century by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, the castle was strategically built in a quadrangular design during the Hundred Years’ War, serving as a defensive stronghold against French invasion. Despite being partially ruined, Bodiam Castle remains a splendid example of medieval military architecture, attracting those seeking to explore the intricacies of fairytale fortresses in England.


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