Castles have always been and still remain one of the most popular tourist attractions all around the world. Something about these structures has captured people’s imaginations for centuries and turned them into powerful symbols of strength, power, and nobility.
When it comes to England, there is no shortage of castles to explore. The rich and eventful English history and heritage can almost be seen brought back to life through these iconic and stunning buildings.
We take a closer look at 25 of the most famous castles in England, each with its own unique history and charm. So if you’re thinking of visiting this beautiful country anytime soon, or you are a native who wants to know more about the rich heritage of your own country, be sure to squeeze some or all of the following castles into your itinerary!
1. Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle is one of the most famous castles in England, located in the town of Warwick, in the county of Warwickshire. The castle was built in 1068 by William the Conqueror. It was initially a wooden motte and bailey castle. In 1119, Henry I had the castle rebuilt in stone, and since then, the castle has been owned by some of the most famous families in England, including the Nevilles, the Beauchamps, and the Greys.
During the English Civil War, the castle was seized by Parliamentarian troops. In 1649, it was dismantled by the order of Parliament. However, in 1650, the establishment was bought by Sir Fulke Greville, who rebuilt it as a country house. Today, Warwick Castle is one of England’s most popular tourist attractions, with more than one million people visiting it yearly.
2. Bodiam Castle
Located in the county of East Sussex, Bodiam Castle was built in the 14th century. This beloved English castle has a moat, towers, and battlements and is surrounded by a large park. Bodiam Castle was originally built as a defensive fortification against French invaders, but it was later used as a residence for the wealthy family who owned it. The castle fell into disrepair after the family lost their fortune but was successfully restored in the 20th century and is now open to the public. Visitors to Bodiam Castle can explore the castle grounds, visit the museum, and take part in educational programs.
3. Kenilworth Castle
Kenilworth Castle is a famous castle in England built in the 12th century. The castle has been home to many notable people, including King John, who signed the Magna Carta, and Queen Elizabeth I, who was held captive there for some time.
In its early years, the castle was an important stronghold for the English crown. Today, it is a famous historical destination, and its grounds are home to diverse events, including a medieval jousting tournament. Visitors can explore the castle’s many rooms and turrets and learn about its fascinating history.
4. Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle is one of the most famously grandiose castles in England. The castle is located in Leeds, Kent, surrounded by a picturesque moat. The castle has a rich history and was once home to the famed King Henry VIII and his six wives. Today, the castle welcomes the public, and visitors can explore the grounds, corridors, and chambers of this incredible fortress.
In addition to its fascinating history, Leeds Castle is also known for its beautiful gardens. The castle grounds are home to several flower beds, topiary trees, and stone sculptures. Visitors can also enjoy picnicking on the grassy lawns or boat-riding around the moat. Whether you’re interested in English history or simply looking for a beautiful place to spend a day, Leeds Castle is sure to exceed your expectations.
5. Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle is a medieval castle located in the village of Bamburgh, Northumberland, England. The castle has been the House of Percy’s seat since the 11th century and has been home to the Duke of Northumberland since 1377. Built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the North Sea, Bamburgh Castle has been described as “one of the great fortresses of northern England”.
The castle was first constructed in the 11th century by Saxon lord Ida of Bernicia and was later enlarged by William II of England and Henry II of England. In 1464, during the ‘Wars of the Roses’, the castle was captured by Lancastrian forces but was retaken by the Yorkists two years later.
After falling into ruin during the 16th century, Bamburgh Castle was extensively restored by architect Anthony Salvin between 1859 and 1894. Today, it is owned by Henry Percy, 9th Duke of Northumberland, and is open to the public.
6. Lancaster Castle
Lancaster Castle is a priceless gem in the English heritage. Located in the city of Lancaster, in the northwest of the country, Lancaster Castle is an 11th-century chateau built by William the Conqueror and has since been used as a royal palace, a prison, and a court.
Today, it is open to the public as a tourist attraction. The castle is built from sandstone, featuring a large keep, extensive defensive walls, and a moat. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens and has views over the River Lune. Visitors can explore the castle grounds, admire the architecture, and learn about its fascinating history.
7. Rochester Castle
Rochester Castle is a castle located in Rochester, Kent, England. The castle has been owned by a number of different families over the centuries and has been used as a fortress, prison, and royal palace. It underwent a significant renovation in the 19th century and now welcomes the public as a tourist attraction. Rochester Castle is one of the most famous castles in England and is definitely worth a visit if you are ever in the area.
8. Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne Castle, a famous 16th-century castle, is located on Lindisfarne island off the coast of Northumberland in England. Henry VIII built the castle as a fortification to defend England against the Scottish invasion. Lindisfarne is one of the most famous castles in England and is one of the best-preserved examples of Tudor architecture. Since its establishment, the castle has been used as a fortress, a private residence, and a vacation home for the royal family. Today, Lindisfarne Castle is open to the public and is an English tourist destination popular worldwide.
9. Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle is one of the most famous castles in England. It is located in the county of Hampshire, about 60 miles from London. The castle has been home to the Earls of Carnarvon for over 400 years. It is also known as the setting for the popular TV series Downton Abbey.
Highclere Castle is a beautiful example of classic English architecture and is luckily open to the public for tours and events. It features a grand staircase, elaborately decorated ceilings, and numerous priceless works of art. The castle grounds are also worth exploring, with their sprawling gardens and lush forestry. Visitors can easily spend a whole day immersed in the history and beauty of Highclere Castle, and it would be well-spent.
10. Windsor Castle
Famous for its imposing towers and grandeur, Windsor Castle is one of England’s most popular tourist attractions. Located just outside of London, the castle has been a royal residence for centuries and was also the last home of Queen Elizabeth II.
Visitors can explore the castle’s many staterooms, museums, and gardens and even catch a glimpse of the famous changing of the guard. With so much to see and do, it’s no wonder that Windsor Castle is one of England’s most popular tourist destinations.
11. Tower of London
Famous for its rich history, the Tower of London has served as a royal palace, a prison, and even a place of execution over the centuries. Built by William the Conqueror in 1078, the Tower has been expanded and renovated numerous times, making it one of the most well-known castles in England.
Today, the Tower is home to the Crown Jewels and houses both the Yeomen Warders (also known as Beefeaters) and ravens. Visitors can explore the many different layers of the castle, learning about its fascinating history along the way. Whether you’re interested in royalty or architecture, the Tower of London is the ideal stop.
12. Warkworth Castle
Nestled in the scenic hills of Northumberland, Warkworth Castle has been a fixture of English history for over 900 years. Built by the powerful Neville family in the 12th century, the castle served as a key stronghold during the turbulent ‘Wars of the Roses’.
Today, Warkworth Castle is one of England’s most popular tourist attractions, drawing visitors from every corner of the world. The castle’s massive keep towers over the surrounding countryside, providing breathtaking views of the River Coquet and beyond. Inside, visitors can explore the ancient rooms and corridors, getting a glimpse of medieval life. With its rich history and beautiful setting, Warkworth Castle is a must-see for any architecture enthusiast or English history buff.
13. Dover Castle
Dover Castle is one of the most famous 11th-century castles in England’s history and has been an important stronghold for centuries. Situated on the white cliffs of Dover, it commands a magnificent view of the coastline and the English Channel beyond.
The castle is vast, with numerous towers and walls to explore. Its maze of secret passages and tunnels is particularly fascinating, and there are even some ghost stories associated with the castle!
Today, Dover Castle is a popular tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. Whether you’re interested in its history or simply want to enjoy its breathtaking setting, it’s worth visiting and admiring.
14. Cowdray Castle
Cowdray Castle is among the most famous 11th-century castles built by William the Conqueror in England, and rightfully so. It is located in the town of Cowdray, in the county of Hampshire. It was later owned by the de Vere family, who rebuilt it in the 14th century. The castle was used as King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I’s royal residence. It was destroyed by fire in 1606 but rebuilt in the 19th century. Today, the castle is a popular English tourist attraction that awes every visitor.
15. Tattershall Castle
Famous for its grandeur and splendour, Tattershall Castle is one of England’s most popular tourist attractions. Built in the 12th century, the Tattershall Castle served as a royal residence for many years before being converted into a country house.
Today, the castle is open to the public and offers a range of facilities, including a café, shop, and visitors’ centre. Visitors can also explore the grounds, which include a lake, gardens, and an adventure playground. With its rich history and beautiful setting, Tattershall Castle is a must-visit for anyone interested in castles or English heritage.
16. Totnes and Berry Pomeroy Castle
Totnes and Berry Pomeroy Castles are two of the most iconic and famous castles in England, and it is easy to see why.
Totnes is a Norman castle built in 1068. It was the first castle to be built in England and played a vital role in the Norman Conquest. The castle is located in Devon and is open to the public today.
Berry Pomeroy Castle is a Tudor castle built in 1496. The castle was the home of the Pomeroy family and was one of England’s most important castles during the Tudor period. The castle has been described as “the finest example of a late medieval castle in England.” Both castles are well worth a visit, especially if you are an English history buff.
17. Framlingham Castle
Famous castles in England are not hard to come by. In fact, some of the most popular tourist destinations in the country are castles. One such castle is Framlingham Castle, located in the town of Framlingham in Suffolk.
The captivating castle was built in the 12th century and has been used as a fortress, a prison, and a royal residence. Today, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Suffolk. Framlingham Castle is surrounded by a moat and has a large courtyard. It also has several towers and an impressive gatehouse.
18. St Michael’s Mount
Perched atop a towering volcanic plug, St Michael’s Mount is one of the most iconic castles in England. The first castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1066, and it has been home to a long line of nobles and royalty over the centuries.
Today, the castle welcomes its visitors, and they can explore the atmospheric rooms and grounds. The mount is also home to a fiercely protected colony of seals, which can often be seen basking on the rocks below the castle walls. With its breathtaking views and rich history, St Michael’s Mount is an unforgettable experience for any traveller.
19. Arundel Castle
Arundel Castle is a famous castle located in the county town of Arundel, West Sussex, in England. The castle has been home to the Earls of Arundel since it was built in 1067. The castle sits on a motte and bailey, surrounded by a moat. The keep is the tallest structure in the castle, where the Earl and his family live. The keep has walls up to 20 feet thick in places and four floors. There are also several towers, including the Barbican Tower, which was built in 1380.
The castle also has a chapel, which was founded by Henry VIII in 1540. The castle grounds include a deer park, gardens, and a golf course. Visitors can take tours of the castle or stay overnight in one of the guest rooms and live the royal experience.
20. Highcliffe Castle
Highcliffe Castle is one of the most famous and dazzling castles in England. It is located in the county of Hampshire, on the south coast of England. The Duke of Normandy, William II, built the castle in the early 12th century. It was designed to protect the coast from invasion.
The castle has a complex history and has been owned by many different families over the centuries. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction that attracts tourists from all over the globe. Visitors can explore the castle grounds, which include a medieval chapel, and enjoy stunning views of the English Channel.
21. Alnwick Castle
Alnwick Castle is situated in the town of Alnwick, Northumberland, in England. The castle is the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, built following the Norman Conquest and rebuilt and improved several times since. Its grounds include an inner court, an outer courtyard, gardens, a park, and a small village.
Alnwick Castle is one of the largest inhabited castles in the whole of England and has been used for years as a filming location for several famous films and TV shows such as Harry Potter, Downton Abbey, and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. It is open to the public and offers many tours, events, and activities throughout the year. If you’re ever in Northumberland, be sure to check it out!
22. Durham Castle
Durham Castle is a fine Norman castle in the city of Durham, England, which has been largely occupied since 1072. The castle stands atop a strategic hill above the River Wear and Durham Cathedral, also known as the ‘Castle Church.’ It is one of the most famous castle attractions in England and is a World Heritage Site.
The castle was initially built to defend against Scottish invaders, but it has also been used as a royal residence, a prison, and an armoury. Today, Durham Castle is open to the public and houses the University of Durham’s World Heritage Centre.
23. Carisbrooke Castle
Carisbrooke Castle is located in the village of Carisbrooke on the Isle of Wight. The castle, like many English castles, was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, but it has been owned by a number of different families over the centuries.
Currently, Carisbrooke Castle is owned by English Heritage and is open to the public. Carisbrooke Castle is best known for its connection to Charles I, who was imprisoned there during the English Civil War. The castle also has a substantial collection of portraits and is home to several events throughout the year.
24. Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle is a large 14th-century fortress located in Northumberland, England. The castle was built during the reign of King Edward III, and it served as a royal residence and hunting lodge. Today, Dunstanburgh Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region.
The castle, offering stunning views of the coastline, is situated on a rocky promontory overlooking the North Sea. Visitors can explore the castle’s grounds, including its massive twin-towered gatehouse, square keep, and defensive walls. The castle also features a museum with exhibitions on its history and archaeology.
25. Ludlow Castle
Ludlow Castle is a famous castle in England. It is located in the county of Shropshire, on the River Teme. Norman lord Roger de Lacy built the castle in the late 11th century.
Ludlow Castle played an important role in the history of England. It was the scene of several significant events, including the trial of Thomas More and the death of King Edward IV.
Today, Ludlow Castle is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can explore the castle’s many rooms and gardens and learn about its fascinating history.
Castles are a vital pillar of the English heritage. They are scattered all around the country, so visiting them can be a great way to learn about English history while experiencing the breathtaking views all around this gorgeous country.
Will you go the extra mile and pay all 25 castles a visit, or will you take it one stunningly towering castle at a time?