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11 Best Castles to Visit in the UK

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Conwy Castle in Wales

Conwy Castle, Wales

Home to over 4,000 castles in stunning landscapes and with captivating stories, you can enjoy the long list of extraordinary experiences when exploring the 11 best castles to visit in the United Kingdom during your trip, each offering a unique take on a storybook.

Breathtaking settings in countryside havens or structures standing proudly in towns and villages, castles in Scotland, Wales, England, and the Republic of Ireland will captivate you with their dramatic images and preserved charms.

The United Kingdom brings history to life in a tangible way with sheer grandeur and spectacular architecture. The handful of eclectic and exciting castles reflects the diversity of the past across the region.

Overview

  1. 1. Edinburgh Castle • Scotland
  2. 2. Windsor Castle • England
  3. 3. Penrhyn Castle • Wales
  4. 4. Donegal Castle • Northern Ireland
  5. 5. Conwy Castle • Wales
  6. 6. Warwick Castle • England
  7. 7. Stirling Castle • Scotland
  8. 8. Alnwick Castle • England
  9. 9. Caernarfon Castle • Wales
  10. 10. Belfast Castle • Northern Ireland
  11. 11. Dunrobin Castle • Scotland
  12. Explore the Best Castles to Visit in the UK

1. Edinburgh Castle • Scotland

Fountain with Edinburgh Castle in the background, Scotland

Scotland

Located in the center of the city, Edinburgh Castle can be found at the end of the Royal Mile, proudly set on Castle Rock and a popular tourist attraction. This major must-see has been the home to kings and criminals alike, and tales of heroes, pirates, and royalty are told in fascinating fashion as you walk around the castle grounds.

Climb castle hill to feel like you are walking in the footsteps of greatness and stop just before the entrance to catch the spectacular views over the city and its surroundings. Explore St. Margaret’s Chapel, the Great Hall, and the One O’Clock Gun to step back in time as you uncover a reenactment at the Half Moon Battery.

Learn more: Scotland Tours & VacationsScotland Travel Guide

2. Windsor Castle • England

 Windsor Castle gardens in England

England

Windsor Castle is the world’s oldest occupied castle and is said to be the largest too. The beautiful residence has been home to over 30 monarchs and remains the royal family’s private residence.

Treasures and artworks fill the halls, with rich red and gold decor setting the scene throughout, and pantomime pictures and a moat room exemplifying the discoveries that unfold in the castle.

The Gothically-designed St. George’s Chapel is set within the grounds. Along with its magnificent stone ceiling, it holds the tombs of King Henry VIII and monuments created to remember past royalty.

Learn more: England Tours & VacationsEngland Travel Guide 

3. Penrhyn Castle • Wales

Penrhyn Castle entrance in Wales

Wales

Noted as one of the most popular castles to visit in Wales, Penrhyn is located in the city of Bangor. This famous estate opens its doors and gardens to guests looking to explore Victorian kitchens, the railway museum, the ground floor of the castle, or to simply marvel at its remarkable architecture.

Discover the history of sugar and slate empires and admire the impressive art collection in the hallways. Penrhyn has the added draw of giving you the chance to venture off the grounds and onto the nature trails. Bog gardens, a formal walled garden, and a cafe bring you further delights and sweet memories.

4. Donegal Castle • Northern Ireland

Donegal Castle in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

Wooden roofs, stone interiors with ornate features, and remnants of a rich Gaelic past make Donegal Castle a joy to visit. Restored in the late 20th century to the historical treasure it is today, guided tours take you through beautifully restored rooms, simplistic in outline, but detailed in decor.

Unearth your ancestry and learn about the history of Donegal through storytelling panels that leave you fascinated and inspired. This medieval estate invites guests of all ages to explore its secrets and navigate its uneven spiral staircase, designed that way to confuse enemies. The castle is perched above the north Atlantic ocean.

5. Conwy Castle • Wales

Conwy Castle in Wales

Conwy Castle, Wales

The well-preserved Conway Castle stands tall above the town of Conway, with the Snowdonia mountains in the background.

You can walk around its basement after following the renovated spiral staircase to marvel at how well the castle demonstrates the country’s medieval royal apartments. Listed as a World Heritage Site, you can step inside the passages used by castle staff or take it slow and steady up the winding staircase to experience the king’s Great Chamber.

Admire the peaceful and quaint stained glass windows in the haunting chapel.

6. Warwick Castle • England

Warwick Castle, England

England

For those looking to experience more than a step back in time, Warwick Castle offers day visits and evening stays, with a variety of activities, including a bird show called the Falconer’s Quest. The castle boasts over 1,000 years of mystery and magic for all to enjoy.

Originally built from a fort made of wood by William the Conqueror, the Motte-and-Bailey structure was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century and lies along a bend in the River Aron. Its strategic location enabled the castle to defend itself in times of battle. Brave its dungeon and venture into a place filled with dark secrets as you journey through centuries of history.

Learn more: England Tours & VacationsEngland Travel Guide 

7. Stirling Castle • Scotland

Stirling Castle entrance in Scotland

Scotland

Grand celebrations took place at Stirling Castle, a venue where Stewart kings and queens lived lavishly, letting their grand life spill into the castle rooms and stunning grounds. Enjoy a day in the past and spend time walking through the vaults, great kitchen, and great halls.

Discover the tapestry room and its beautifully woven tales and end your visit to the former home of Mary Queen of Scots with time in the gardens. Performers in costumes often pass through the grounds, taking you to another era as you enjoy the view on Castle Hill of three steep cliffs.

Learn more: Scotland Tours & VacationsScotland Travel Guide

8. Alnwick Castle • England

Alnwick Castle in England

England

Alnwick Castle is a destination of grandeur and glamour. Located in Northumberland, England, the castle has featured in many movies, including Harry Potter, and television series Downton Abbey. The grounds boast room after room of historical glory.

Dating back to the Norman era, Alnwick is the second-largest inhabited castle in the United Kingdom and has served as a teaching college and military post. The walls of the fortress add to the medieval charm of the castle, which has kept inhabitants safe for centuries. Its upkeep has remained vital over the years, ensuring this magnificent home can be shared with visitors.

Learn more: England Tours & VacationsEngland Travel Guide

9. Caernarfon Castle • Wales

 Caernarfon Castle entrance in Wales

Wales

Strategically located on the southern end of the Menai Strait, Caernarfon Castle is set on the water’s edge, with access to the lush and vibrant lands of nearby Anglesey.

First a Roman fort and then a Motte-and-Bailey, King Edward I created a site where English influence mixed with previously rich Welsh tradition. The castle’s defenses comprised its walls and those of the town.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Caernarfon is one of the best-preserved castles in Europe, with towers and walls that stand strong against the boundaries of modern life. Small boats float gently on the outskirts, adding to the serene ambiance.

10. Belfast Castle • Northern Ireland

Belfast Castle in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland

Belfast Castle is an important feature of the city’s history and after the original structure burned to the ground, the current castle was rebuilt and completed in 1870.

A popular wedding venue and a wonderful option for afternoon tea, it sees visitors from all over the world who come to admire beautiful finishes, such as the oak fireplace in the Shaftsbury Room or the Victorian-style cellar.

Take a walk through the Cat Garden to take advantage of the good fortune promised to all who visit. You can find images of the famous feline in various forms, from topiaries to mosaics.

11. Dunrobin Castle • Scotland

 Dunrobin Castle in Scotland

Scotland

Take a drive one hour north of Inverness and discover the breathtaking scenery that makes up the east Scottish Highlands and the home of Dunrobin Castle.

Formerly a keep that stood empty for over two centuries, the solid walls were eventually joined by a staircase and house, and became home to many an earl and duke. Conical spires rise into the Scottish sky above the French Chateau-style residence, with its grandeur rooms draped in tapestries and filled with furniture from a time gone by.

Take a walk to the bottom of the garden, enjoy the gentle sound of water, and glance up at the white-washed magnificence.

Learn more: Scotland Tours & VacationsScotland Travel Guide

Explore the Best Castles to Visit in the UK

View of Edinburgh Castle from Castle Hill in Scotland

Scotland

Royal residences have awed and inspired visitors for years and the United Kingdom certainly has its fair share of exquisite and unique castles for visitors to explore.

Some display amazing gardens, others have decor that transports you back in time, but all are set in breathtaking locations.

You can find the information you need to help envision the right castle visits for you with our UK Tours & Vacations.

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