Discover the Finest Castles in South East England

Updated On: June 18, 2023

Castles in South England

What are the must-visit castles in South East England? In a country full of royal buildings like England, it is no surprise that every region has its own list of the best monuments worth visiting! Today we look closely at England’s southern historical wonders—its magnificent castles!

Many castles in South East England were built during the time of William the Conqueror, the Duke of Normandy. The primary purpose behind these castles was to protect the country against the French invader.

Be that as it may, many centuries later, after the wars and battles, the castles in South East England are still standing and attracting thousands of tourists eager to explore them! With that in mind, the southeast of England has a plethora of castles waiting to be explored!

From the well-known extravagant ones like the late Queen’s favourite residence and the location of the popular TV series Downtown Abbey to the haunted and interesting ones, the castles in South East England cater to all tastes!

In this article, we are taking you on a journey to explore South East England’s most beautiful historic castles.

Windsor Castle (Berkshire)

Castles in South East England
Windsor Castle in the summer

Starting with the most majestic one, Windsor Castle is an area of five hectares beaming with a thousand years of history! The late Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite residence, located on the Thames’ banks, was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. It’s worth mentioning that the castle was home to generations of British royalty other than the late Queen Elizabeth II.

Windsor Castle is the oldest royal residence and the longest-lived-in castle in the world. At Windsor Castle, you will discover St George’s Chapel, a magnificent Gothic building where several British monarchs were buried, and the State Apartments.

All of the buildings are richly decorated, with works by Rubens, Rembrandt, Canaletto, and Gainsborough. The Drawings Gallery or Queen’s Gallery is also popular with art lovers for its exhibitions. Another must-see attraction at the castle is Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, arguably the most well-known dolls’ house in the world. Windsor Castle is one of the most charming castles in the southeast of England!

Leeds Castle (Kent)

Castles in South East England
The majestic Leeds castle situated in the Kent region of South East England

Leeds Castle is a moated castle that got its name from its neighbouring village of Leeds. Sitting six km from Kent, the castle has been around for over 1000 years. With such a long history, the castle has been the backdrop of many battles and other key events!

One of the intriguing facts about Leeds Castle is that women shaped its rich history; it has been the residence of six different queens from medieval times and other high-profile female figures!

In 1626, the castle was bought by the socialite Olive Wilson Filmer; she was some kind of a female Gatsby. Olive, or Lady Baillie, renovated the castle, turning it into a gathering hub for elite individuals from politics and cinema.

The castle’s interiors present a blend of medieval, Renaissance, and modern influences bearing witness to the history of each of its owners. With its 200 hectares of beautiful wooded parks and formal gardens, Leeds Castle has been voted the most beautiful castle in the world several times, and rightfully so!

Arundel Castle (West Sussex)

Castles in South East England
Arundel Castle, West Sussex.

When you think of a castle, you instantly think of something with fairy-tale vibes; that’s what you will exactly find at Arundel Castle! Built by the Earl of Arundel in 1067, Arundel Castle has served as the home of the Duke of Norfolk and his family for a long time.

Among the top must-dos at Arundel Castle is going to the top of its watchtower to enjoy the breathtaking view of the River Arun, among other locations.

Inside the castle, you will see the fine work of Gainsborough, Van Dyck, and many others. We recommend visiting the castle in the spring; that’s when you will truly enjoy its refreshing gardens.

Broughton Castle (Oxfordshire)

You probably wonder why this castle looks so familiar. Well, that’s because the honey-coloured Broughton Castle has been featured in Shakespeare in Love. The castle made of Hornton stone was built in 1306 and is owned by the Fiennes family, who turned it into a Tudor house in the 16th century. The Fiennes—the family of Joseph and Ralph Fiennes—open the castle to the public from spring to autumn.

The castle carries about 700 years of history within its walls, which you can have a glimpse of through the decorations, portraits, and artworks inside. Also, make sure to check the gardens while visiting; they are enchanting!

Bodiam Castle (East Sussex)

Castles in South East England
Bodiam Castle in South East England

Bodiam is what you may call the ideal UK medieval castle; that’s why its photos are in all brochures and postcards! The eye-catching castle has been the subject of argument between historians for a long time; some historians consider it a palace, while others argue that it is a fortress.

Regardless of the argument, the grand building is an absolute masterpiece that deserves a visit! One thing that makes visiting Bodiam Castle so special is the actors in costumes who you will find scattered around it. You can chat with them, find out how life was in the past inside the castle’s walls, and take unforgettable photos with them!

Highclere Castle (Hampshire)

Castles in South East England
Highclere Castle. Jacobethan-style country house, seat of the Earl of Carnarvon

First, let’s get things straight, this is the castle where the Downton Abbey series was filmed, do you need another reason to visit?!

Boasting a mixture of Big Ben and the British Parliament in one building, Highclere Castle, or as many people know it, Downton Abbey, was designed by the great Sir Charles Barry, the mind behind the Houses of Parliament.

A fun fact about the beloved neo-Jacobean residence that caught the eyes of many from the popular TV series is that it was transformed into a hospital during the First World War—just like in the series! How crazy is that!

The castle has around 300 rooms and, of course, Howard Carter’s Egyptian expeditions, located in the basement! You can’t look into the best castles in South East England without passing by the beautiful Highclere Castle. It is a must-visit!

Carisbrooke Castle (Isle of Wight)

Carisbrooke Castle is a structural work of art nestling on a steep hill on the Isle of Wight. The castle has defended the Isle of Wight for a thousand years. Throughout history, it has also been a king’s prison and a summer residence for royalty.

Inside the castle, you will find a museum that houses more than 35,000 pieces related to the history of the Isle of Wight. There’s also a lovely chapel inside that’s worth visiting. But that’s nothing compared to what the castle offers outdoors, where you will find a reproduction of Princess Beatrice’s Edwardian garden.

Herstmonceux Castle (East Sussex)

Castles in South East England
Brick Herstmonceux castle in England East Sussex

Whether listing the top castles in South East England or the whole realm, we must stop at the beautiful Herstmonceux Castle. This castle is one of the earliest brick castles in the country!

The Herstmonceux Castle houses over 300 acres of superb parks, woodlands, and Elizabethan gardens around. In these gardens, you will find sundials and peacocks, among many other wonders.

The best time to visit Herstmonceux Castle is in spring, when you can enjoy its gardens and woodlands, and in summer, when you can catch the medieval festival.

Hever Castle (Kent)

Castles in South East England
Hever Castle in South East England

Everything about Queen Anne Boleyn has always been fascinating: her rise to fame and social status, her marriage to the King, and most importantly, her death! But have you ever wondered where this Queen spent her childhood? Well, it turns out it was at the charming castle of Hever.

Built in the 13th century, Hever Castle is one of the few remaining monuments from the reign of Henry VIII. Inside, you will discover fabulous tapestries, antiques, and a significant collection of Tudor paintings.

Once you finish your tour inside, take a refreshing walk in the Hever Gardens, which cover 14 hectares. The gardens are divided into different categories: the Italian garden, the Rose Garden, and the mazes.

Dover Castle (Kent)

Castles in South East England
View of Dover castle in summer, England

Close to continental Europe, Dover Castle, aka the “Key to England,” has been a primary defending fortress of the country for centuries. The establishment of the castle began under the Saxons; then, it was remodelled by William the Conqueror in 1066. Finally, its present building was erected during the reign of Henry II.

Inside the castle, you will see a piece from each era, like the Roman lighthouse, the Fire Command Post from World War I, the secret tunnels from World War II, and the medieval court from the time of Henry II.

The castles above are only a few of the many spectacular castles in South East England. Whether you decide to visit famous ones like Windsor Castle or less-known ones like Carisbrooke Castle, visiting any of these castles would be such a memorable experience that would take you to a different time in history. If you’re looking for something different and spookier, check out these haunted castles in Scotland!

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