England’s castles have always fascinated travelers worldwide with their ability to keep enemies out and ensure the safety and comfort of those inside. Castles emerged in Britain during the 11th century with the Norman Conquest and remained prominent until the 18th century. However, the later castles were primarily built for display rather than defense. England’s home to hundreds of castles, each in different stages of restoration or decay. Popular tourist destinations have emerged, allowing visitors to experience the reality of life in a castle beyond the enchanting tales of towers, turrets, and hidden treasures.
1. Corfe Castle
The ruins of Corfe Castle are resting on a hill near a charming village of the same name in the southern county of Dorset. The castle, constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries, featured a towering limestone keep that reached a height of 20 meters (70 feet), serving as a formidable deterrent to potential assailants. During the English Civil War, Lady Bankes defended the castle for three years. Lady Bankes unleashed a torrent of hot coals from her personal chambers, striking the Parliamentary soldiers during the final attack. The captors of Corfe Castle dismantled the inner keep, like many other fortified castles in England‘s, to prevent its use by Royalist forces. You can still see arrow slits and murder holes in the castle ruins today.
2. Alnwick Castle
Alnwick, the seat of the Duke of Northumberland, is the second largest inhabited castle in England, following Windsor Castle, which was the Queen’s preferred weekend residence. The Percy family has called Alnwick Castle their home for the past 700 years since it was built in the 11th century. The public has access to the castle for seven months of the year, while the current Duke and Duchess reside in a separate section. Many renovations and refurbishments have occurred at Alnwick Castle over the past seven centuries. One of England’s finest collections of paintings, including works by Titian, Reynolds, and Gainsborough, decorates the castle’s rooms, providing a rich backdrop. Several films have featured the castle’s exterior, which also served as the exterior shots for the Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter movies.
3. Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle is a magnificent English castle with impressive size, grandeur, and well-preserved condition. It is surrounded by a wide moat, adding charm and allure. The castle in Kent, situated in the southeast corner of England’s, was built during the reign of Henry I. It has been a royal residence for over 900 years. The castle earned the nickname “The Ladies Castle” because six queens called Leeds home. A woman also owned the castle privately. Lady Baillie, Olive Wilson Filmer, inherited the estate in the early 1900s and established the foundation running the castle as a tourist destination since she died in 1974.
The vast 500-acre estate offers many attractions that cannot all be experienced in a single visit, from its lavish palace to its lush grounds. Punting on the water is a favorite activity in the castle’s moat, a lake fed by the River Len. The castle grounds have an intricate yew maze and a turf maze for young children.
4. Arundel Castle
Arundel Castle, located in West Sussex in the south of England, serves as the seat of the Duke of Norfolk. Arundel Castle stands out as one of the most impressive castles in England, with its meticulously maintained interior showcasing a remarkable collection of rare paintings, tapestries, and furnishings. The motte, an earthwork mound, elevates the castle 30 meters (100 feet) above the former moat.
The Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors have called Arundel Castle their residence for over 850 years. The structure faced near destruction during the English Civil War of the 17th century. Over the centuries, it underwent numerous renovations. In the 19th century, the 15th Duke of Norfolk successfully completed a lengthy restoration project. The public can now explore the estate’s 14th-century chapel, beautiful gardens, and numerous stunning rooms in the castle.
5. Warwick Castle
William the Conqueror constructed Warwick Castle in 1068, strategically positioned on a bend of the River Avon. The castle has undergone structural changes with the addition of towers and redesigned residential buildings since its construction in the 11th century. They rebuilt it in stone in the 12th century, transforming it from its original wooden structure. In the Hundred Years War, they strengthened the facade facing the town, creating one of the most well-known examples of military architecture from the 14th century. It was a stronghold until the early 17th century, but Sir Fulke Greville later transformed it into a country house. The Greville family owned it until 1978 when a leisure company purchased it.