The Best Castles in the UK to Wow You

What’s not to love about looking at old castles, whether it’s the royal history behind them or the magnificent architecture that still stands today.

On a trip to the UK, castle viewing is one of the musts to add to your list, but with thousands of them scattered across the country, how do you know which ones are worthy?

What are the best castles in the UK?

Dover Castle, Bamburgh Castle, Lindisfarne Castle, Edinburg Castle, and Lancaster Castle are just a few of the most popular castles that visitors to the UK like to see.

Britain is home to some of the world’s finest and oldest castles, with many being expertly preserved, so there is plenty to enjoy.

The UK offers visitors a vast collection of grand estates to marvel at, and whatever type of castle you can dream up in your head, there’s a good chance they have one that looks like that.

This guide to the amazingly preserved and historically wondrous palaces of the UK will ensure you see the best castles of the land.

The Best Castles in UK Worth Visiting

Whether you’re a UK history buff who loves to research the royal family or find yourself entrenched in one of the many period dramas on Netflix, there are plenty of good excuses to check out the UK’s magnificent castles.

With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the must-see estates and buildings that you won’t want to miss.

#1 Dover Castle

Dover Castle

Dover Castle is considered England’s greatest fortress and with over 2,000 years of history on its grounds, it’s essential that you check it out.

While there, you can climb to the rooftop and see views of the English channel or explore the many rooms that have been recreated to look like the originals.

The coolest thing here is the secret wartime tunnels that you can explore and envision yourself in the middle of the action.

If you attend on a weekend, there are even reenactments that tell the story of the court of Henry II which he held at Dover Castle.

#2 Caernarfon Castle

Caernarfon Castle

If a trip to Wales is on your itinerary, you must pay a visit to Caernarfon Castle.

Officially listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the town was originally modeled on the architecture of historical Constantinople, and is a charming place to visit, castle or not.

However, as the main attraction of the town, Edward I’s castle is known as one of the most prolific buildings of the Middle Ages.

Today, you can visit the remains of the royal fortress, check out the King’s Gate, solid curtain walls that surround it, and get guided tours around the grounds to learn about the military history of the building.

#3 Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Royal family fanatics would be wise not to miss Windsor Castle on a trip to the UK, and it’s the place where the current reigning Queen spends a lot of her time today.

39 monarchs have called the castle home and with over 39 acres on its grounds, there’s no shortage of places to explore and learn about.

Windsor Castle has over 1,000 years of history behind it and is known as the largest and oldest occupied castle in the entire world.

Today, there are opportunities to take guided tours, private viewings, and more, while you marvel at the sheer size and splendor of it all.

#4 Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Scotland’s famous Edinburgh Castle is one of the most visited sights in the country, and it’s easily their most iconic landmark.

Once inside, you can walk the Royal Mile until you reach the front gate and then walk through to explore the expertly preserved interior of the castle.

Edinburg Castle’s most popular attraction is a toss-up between the Scottish Crown Jewels and Stone of Destiny or hearing the one o’clock gunfire.

Situated on a high peak at the top of Edinburg, the views are equally as impressive, and there’s so much history and wonder to see that you can easily spend the whole day exploring.

#5 Lancaster Castle

Lancaster Castle

Those who enjoy their castles with a bit of dark history will want to check out Lancaster Castle.

Built over 1,000 years ago, the castle is known for being an infamous place of punishment, trials, and executions, as well as being home to many prisoners who were incarcerated there over the previous centuries.

Today, a visit to Lancaster Castle lets you explore its rich and fascinating history, and it’s classed as a Grade 1 Listed Building with English Heritage.

Situated on a beautiful hilltop, it’s positioned over three Roman forts that were built underneath it, and it’s one of the most prolific archeological monuments of the UK.

#6 Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is not only one of the best castles in the UK, but it’s also the home of a very famous wizard.

Diehard fans will instantly recognize the castle as the setting of Harry Potter, and if you’re a fan of the series, you’ll enjoy taking part in activities like broomstick training and dragon questions

For everyone else, there’s still lots of fun to be had at Alnwick Castle, including fine dining and an outdoor cinema.

The castle dates back to the Norman era and was built in the 11th century, and it’s still inhabited today by the Percy Family, who let the public enjoy its grounds as well.

#7 Lindisfarne Castle

Lindisfarne Castle

Holy Island is the home of Lindisfarne Castle and you can access the island through a causeway when the tide is low enough.

When you arrive, you’ll see one of the UK’s most stunning 16th-century castles and although it doesn’t look as it did when it was built, there’s no denying its amazing history.

Lindisfarne Castle was one of the most important defensive castles ever built, situated between England and Scotland.

What makes it even cooler is that it’s considered one of the key points in the start of the Viking Age as it was invaded many centuries ago.

Those with a love for all things Viking will certainly want to check this one out.

#8 Castle Ward

Castle Ward

If your idea of castle-hopping is to see some of the most famous castles that ever graced our screens, Castle Ward is where you want to be.

Most people will instantly recognize the 18th century National Trust property as Winterfell, from Game of Thrones, as it served as the place where the young Starks grew up.

The Ward Family purchased the castle that bears their name in 1570 and it was originally owned by the Earls of Kildare.

With a whopping 850 acres of size and some of the toughest walls any castle has seen, there’s a whole lot here to discover beyond its TV appearance.

#9 Dunluce Castle

 Dunluce Castle

Northern Ireland is home to Dunluce Castle, the ruined medieval fortress that ranks as one of the UK’s best places to see.

To get to the castle, you’ll need to cross a bridge, which feels pretty cool in itself, and once inside you can learn about its rich history.

The Dunluce Castle once served as an Irish fort and everyone from Vikings to Christians made use of it over the years, and it had many other purposes since it was first built in the 13th century.

The steep drops on either side made it difficult to penetrate and although in ruins, you get a good idea of the excitement that went on inside.

#10 Bamburgh Castle

Bamburgh Castle

The grounds of Bamburgh Castle and its remains are one of the most fascinating archaeological sites in the world, and a visit here will show you just how important it is in history. 

Today, it’s owned by the Armstrong family who has kept it in great condition and opened it to the public to view each day.

On-site, you’ll also find a museum that has all kinds of discoveries, including the Bamburgh Beast and a unique welded sword.

Spend some time exploring the nine acres that surround this castle on the northeast coast of England and you’ll learn a lot about Anglo-Saxon history and the UK.

#11 Tintagel Castle

Tintagel Castle

Heritage-listed Tintagel Castle has long been a source of inspiration for everyone from artists to writers, and with a history that dates back to King Arthur, it’s no wonder why.

The setting alone is something to be admired, and you can head to Cornwell’s north coast to see it, but be prepared to put in the work as the craggy rocks and cliffs that surround it make it a challenge to get to.

Tintagel Castle is a medieval fort from the High Middle Ages and one of the UK’s most historical sights, originally being built in the 13th century by the first Earl of Cornwall.

The archeological wonder is partly in ruins today, but that makes it even more exciting for visitors to explore.

#12 Middleham Castle

 Middleham Castle

If you prefer your castles in ruins, you’ll want to go admire Middleham Castle, found in Yorkshire Dales.

This castle’s claim to fame is being the childhood stomping ground of Richard III, and it’s chock full of history and curiosity.

The castle is now without a roof but it was built so solid that the rest of it still stands, including the remains of the large oven and a horse mill found on the grounds.

You can spend the day there checking it the wondrous remains and wondering what life might have been like for the little King.

#13 Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle

A castle just isn’t a castle without an impressive moat, and one of the coolest in the UK is Beaumaris.

Located on Angelsey, the beautiful castle is encased by a moat and is set against the seaside, so it has plenty of water surrounding it which further adds to its beauty and historical charm.

The castle was originally built by Edward I but as he ran out of money, the walls were never completed and don’t stand at full height.

That doesn’t affect the symmetrical look of the castle though, and if we were rating on beauty alone, Beaumaris would still be one of the finest.

Related Questions

The UK’s castles are plentiful are beautiful, but they mark just one area of interest for tourists traveling to the country.

If you’re planning a trip across the pond and want to make sure you tick off all the best places, read on for some FAQs about how to find them.

Can You See Inside Buckingham Palace?

Buckingham Palace is not open to the public, except during summer when they open the State Apartments for viewing, which includes the Queen’s artwork and gardens.

The most popular sight at the Palace is the Changing of the Guard from outside, which happens at 11.30 am every morning in summer, and every second morning in winter.

What is So Special About Big Ben?

The large Big Ben tower clock is one of London’s most iconic sights, due to the large size of the hour bell and its strict accuracy, and is located in the London borough of Westminster.

The name ‘Big Ben’ refers to the 15.1-ton bell itself, although people commonly refer to the entire clock this way, and it’s on most tourists’ lists for sights they want to see when they come to the UK.

What is the Most Visited Paid Attraction in the UK?

A 2019 report showed that The Tower of London was the most visited paid attraction in the UK, seeing a little over 2.98 million visitors that year.

Followed closely behind was Kew Botanical Gardens which had 2.3 million visitors for the year of 2019.