- 01st March 2015
Visit the Best of British Castles
Visiting a castle is a must-do on any trip to the UK. Britain has no shortage of castles — there are thousands of castles spread throughout the country. Of course, there are plenty of ruins: ruins have their own, abandoned, ivy-covered charm, and but you’ll want to see a castle you can walk into, with intact bedrooms, kitchens and royal furniture. You may even want to stay the night in a castle.
Of course, if you are very enthusiastic, you could try ‘castle-bagging’: castle-bagging is the latest craze to have swept the highlands! Said to be inspired by trend of hikers attempt to climb every mountain over 3,000 feet in Scotland, the family-friendly castle-bagging pursuit is becoming ever more popular. This new trend sees avid castle-goers travel around as many as possible in a set time period, in an attempt to ‘bag’ the most castles.
Aberdeen is a particular hotspot, where there are more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK. There are over 300 in and around Aberdeenshire, many less than 60 minutes’ drive from the centre of Aberdeen. So if you fly to Aberdeen, you may not have time to visit them all. Naturally, if you are flying to Bristol, or flying to Newcastle or even flying to East Midlands airport, there are plenty to choose from as well, so we’ve picked out some favourites for you to visit!
Dunnottar is an impregnable Castle that holds many rich secrets of Scotland’s colourful past. This ruined fortress is located in a truly stunning setting on a dramatic and evocative cliff top. Wander around the extensive buildings – from the keep through the barracks, lodgings, stables and storehouses to the less-ruinous chapel and drawing room – Dunnottar Castle has enjoyed a rich and turbulent history. Visited throughout the years by Mary Queen of Scots, the Marquis of Montrose, the future King Charles II and William Wallace, the maintained castle now invites – slightly less famous – visitors 365 days a year!
See the impressive defensive structure that famously staved off Cromwell’s army for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels from destruction. Or learn about the darker chapter in the castle’s history ‘Whig’s Vault’ and the gruesome story of the imprisonment of a group of Covenanters in 1685, a group who stood against the Scottish Presbyterian Church and refused to accept the King as head of the church.
Visit dunnottarcastle.co.uk for more information
Purchased by Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert in 1848, Balmoral Castle has remained the Scottish home of the Royal Family ever since…but happily, you can still visit too!
The A listed building is a fine example of Scots Baronial architecture and offers access to the formal and vegetable gardens, the wildlife, Balmoral and audio visual exhibitions and the largest room in the castle, the Ballroom for guests to enjoy. Kick back after you’ve explored in the onsite coffee shop and take home a memento from the gift shop.
Visit www.balmoralcastle.com for more information
Completed in 1626, this outstanding example of a 17th century castle stands almost as it did in the 17th century. The pink, fairytale-like castle is home to a fine collection of family portraits and original plaster ceilings to admire as well as some beautiful original furniture including the Craigievar table. An iconic tower house, it is one of the best preserved in Scotland.
Occupied for 350 years by the Forbes family it came complete with the vast majority of its contents when it was presented to the National Trust for Scotland, all of which have been lovingly collected and cared for by the family throughout their long history there.
Visit www.nts.org.uk/Property/Craigievar-Castle/ for more information
Farleigh Hungerford Castle – Bath
Constructed between 1377 and 1383 by Sir Thomas Hungerford and occupied by generations of the infamous family for 300 years after, Farleigh Hungerford Castle has a fascinating history. When Sir Thomas built the castle on his manor, he did so without the required permission of King Richard II and so had to procure a royal pardon in 1383, this turbulent beginning was reminiscent of the rest of the family’s time there. Guided tours at the castle guide you through their history and that of the now ruined castle.
Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/farleigh-hungerford-castle/ for more information
Tutbury Castle – East Midlands
Tutbury castle in Burton-upon-Trent is a medieval wonder. Although largely ruined, it still retains many charming original features and is well worth a visit if you’re in the area. The castle served as prison to Mary Queen of Scots for 18 years from February 1569 and is said to house her ghost – guests have even claimed to see her roaming the halls.
Visit www.tutburycastle.com for more information
Castle Keep – Newcastle
The Castle, Newcastle is a medieval fortification based right in the city of Newcastle upon Tyne, built on the site of the fortress which gave the City of Newcastle its name. The site was used for defensive purposes from Roman times.
One of the finest surviving examples of Norman architecture, Newcastle’s Castle Keep was built by Henry II in 1168-1178. Complete with early motte and bailey castle, the area is a fascinating site which gives a fantastic insight into Newcastle’s turbulent history. The most prominent remaining structures on the site are the Castle Keep, the castle’s main fortified stone tower, and the Black Gate, its fortified gatehouse.
Visit newcastlecastle.co.uk/ for more information