British castles come in all shapes and sizes - all magnificent. Some look like grandiose houses, others like those of fairytales, ones we dreamed of living in as a fairy princess when we were kids. Some British castles remain the seat of families who have lived in them for generations, even from the times they were built, some have passed into private hands and others are looked after for the nation by the National Trust or English Heritage. If you're visiting the UK on vacation, a trip to at least one of the British castles on this list should be on your itinerary.
Rising majestically from its moat, Leeds Castle has stood for 900 years. It is considered one of the most beautiful British castles.
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Built in the 12th century by the Peverel family, Bolsover Castle is a Grade I listed building owned by English Heritage.
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Referred to in Shakespeare's Macbeth although built long after the eponymous villain's time, Cawdor belongs to the Campbells, one of the ancient clans of Scotland. It is known for its beautiful gardens.
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This architecture should be very familiar to you. Alnwick is used for many of the exterior shots in the Harry Potter movies.
The name means "fort on the slope" and before falling into ruin, Dunnottar played a big role in Scottish history, including being used as the place to hide the "Honours of Scotland" (the Scottish Crown Jewels) from Oliver Cromwell.
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Kent has a good share of British castles because the county lived for so long under threat of invasion from the French. Bodiam was built in 1385, during The Hundred Years War.
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Founded in 1067 by Roger de Montgomery, one of the knights of William the Conqueror, Arundel castle has been the seat of the Duke of Norfolk for more than 400 years.
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Stirling is one of the most important Scottish castles. A number of Kings and Queens of Scotland were crowned here (including Mary, Queen of Scots) and there have been at least eight sieges, including one instigated by Bonnie Prince Charlie.
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Orford is one of the few English castles that demonstrate the Byzantine style of architecture. The keep is well preserved and described as "remarkable" by historians.
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Most castles in Northern Ireland were built by English Lords who were gifted land by the British crown.
Like so many of the great Welsh castles, Conwy was built by English King Edward I during his conquest and repression of Wales. On making it a World Heritage Site, UNESCO declared Conwy to be one of "the finest examples of late 13th century and early 14th century military architecture in Europe."
On rugged cliffs above the sea, Tintagel is claimed to be the castle of King Arthur. Today the castle is in ruins.
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The hugely imposing Dover Castle is the first line of defense when coming from the continent and has stood above the post town since the 12th century.
Now among the most visited ruined British castles, a fortification has stood on this site since the 11th century.
Built in the 13th century, Gilbert de Clare designed Caerphilly Castle with very elaborate water defenses. It is the second largest castle in Britain, behind Windsor.
The mount is a tidal island and was once called Mont St. Michel. It was gifted to namesake Mont St. Michel in France by Edward the Confessor, remaining a monastery for many centuries, although passing out of French rule in 1424.
Although there are many British castles built as part of the nation's coastal defenses, only Bamburgh has such a stunning beachfront location.
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Beautiful Beaumaris is another of the castles built by King Edward I.
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Windsor is the Queen's home. Although much time is spent at Buckingham Palace, that is considered the royal office.
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Hever was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII.
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Look familiar? The castle in Northern Ireland is used in HBO's Game of Thrones. It stands near the shore of Lough Neagh, the largest lake in the British Isles.
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Standing on the River Avon, Warwick is stunning medieval architecture and one of the most visited English castles.
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I visited here on a weekend outing with my parents to watch a Civil War battle re-enactment. I got lost in the boxwood maze!
Via The entrance of Inveraray Castle
Inveraray has been the ancestral home of the Dukes of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell, in Western Scotland since the 17th century. It doubled as Duneagle Castle in Downton Abbey.
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Now in the administration of English Heritage, Pendennis is one of the "Device Forts" of King Henry VIII. It was built to guard the River Fal from potential French or Spanish invasion and sits opposite St. Mawes Castle on the other bank.
Castle Stalker is a four-storey keep enjoying a picturesque setting on a tidal inlet on Loch Laich, an inlet off Loch Linnhe. It's one of the best-preserved medieval tower-houses surviving in western Scotland
Cardiff Castle, dating back to the early days of the Normans, dominates the city center of the Welsh capital.
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Built in the 17th century, Belle Isle is nowadays a hotel and events venue but is mostly known for its award winning cookery school.
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Carlisle Castle is built on the site of a Roman fort, thought to be the western extremity of Hadrian's Wall. It was once a major stronghold, keeping control of the Scottish border.
Chepstow lies in the Welsh Marches - once a heavily fortified area along the border of England and Wales. Chepstow is the southernmost Marches castle and was constructed on the instruction of William the Conqueror.
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Without full records to establish its history it is undecided whether the castle was built by Prince Henry of Scotland or Henry II of England.
Via Castell Coch, Autumn III, Wales
One of the most romantic of all British castles. It is built in the Gothic Revival style and is the work of one of the great Victorian art-architects, William Burges. It is worth visiting just for the sumptuous interiors.
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Another of the Welsh castles built on the instruction of Edward I, Harlech is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It's notorious for being the last fortification to surrender to Oliver Cromwell's parliamentary army in the English Civil War.
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Once the stronghold of Welsh prince Llywelyn the Great, it stands in the gloriously scenic Llanberis Pass. It was seized by Edward I in 1284 and he used some of its materials to build his new castle at Caernarfon. Today it is a Grade I listed building.
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The ancestral seat of the Menzies Clan has hosted some illustrious visitors. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed over for two nights on the way to the Battle of Culloden and Duleep Singh, the last Maharajah of the Sikh Empire, lived here between 1855 and 1858, following his exile from the Punjab in 1854.
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Raglan Castle fell into disrepair after it had been "slighted" (put beyond military use) in the English Civil War and the owners (the Somerset family) declined to restore it.
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Another of the castles administered by English Heritage, Pickering was a traditional motte-and-bailey style castle built by the Normans.
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Sitting on a limestone ridge, Carreg Cennen Castle enjoys stunning views across the Brecon Beacons National Park.
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Here we see the hand of Edward I again. A wooden motte-and-bailey occupied the position on the River Seiont and on his instruction it was re-fortified in stone.
Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, built the first castle at Dunluce in the 13th century.
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Pronounced "beaver," the ancestral home of the Manners family, the Dukes of Rutland, has stunning views across the Vale of Belvoir.
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The former stronghold of Clan McKenzie and their allies Clan Macrae, the current building is the result of restorations after the original was destroyed in the Jacobite Rebellions. It stands on a small tidal island where three lochs meet, Loch Alsh, Loch Long and Loch Duich in the western Highlands of Scotland
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Blair dates from 1290 and has been the seat of the Dukes of Atholl for more than 700 years.
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The amazing graffiti was painted by four Brazilian artists. It was commissioned by the current Lord Glasgow (of the Boyle family who have owned the castle since the 12th century) to help protect the stonework, which needed replacing.
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Now just minor ruins, Dunseverick Castle is one of the most historic castles of Northern Ireland. It was said to have been visited by Saint Patrick and it stands at the end of one of the royal roads from Tara, the ancient home of the Kings of Ireland. The Giant's Causeway cliff path runs past the ruins.
Dunrobin is the family seat of the Dukes of Sutherland and like many Scottish castles has been occupied by them for centuries - since the late 12th/early 13th century. The original buildings are obscured by the later additions made in the 19th century.
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Another of the English castles that began as a wooden motte-and-bailey just after the Norman conquest of England, Rockingham has commanding views across the Welland Valley.
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Pronounced glarms, this is the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and Queen Elizabeth's (deceased) sister Margaret was born here. It has been the seat of the Earls of Strathmore, the Lyon family, since the 14th century.
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The building that stands today was built between 1811–70 in the Scottish baronial style by the 3rd Marquess of Donegall and is quite a distance from the original Norman castle, which burnt down in 1708.
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What you can see in the picture is practically all that remains of a castle that was the birthplace of Richard III and the site of the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots in 1587.
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And to end - one of the greatest Scottish castles. An enduring symbol of Scotland and the host of many significant national events.
British castles are indelibly linked with British history and visiting them is such a fascinating experience. I love visiting them. Have you been to any?
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