Best Castles in the United Kingdom

Having looked at hundreds of Medieval Castles in England, Scotland and Wales we believe these could be the best Castles worth visiting in the whole of the United Kingdom. If you disagree, we would love to hear from you, let us know if there are any castles that you think should be on the list!

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Portchester Castle

Standing within an old Roman fort and located in the town of Porchester, Hampshire, The monarchy took control of this baronial castle in the mid-12th century. King John frequently used it as his hunting lodge. In 1216, the French sieged and captured Portchester Castle but later returned it to the English.

Early Medieval Castles Portchester Castle England

The monarchy lost control of Porchester Castle in the early 17th century. It was later converted into a prison by the Thistlethwaite family, successors to the person who bought Porchester from Charles I. Currently, the castle is open to visitors who wish to witness its centuries-old interior.

Caernarfon Castle

Built-in the late 13th century by King Edward of England, Caernarfon Castle in Wales was the most expensive castle of its time.  A great chunk of the nation’s yearly earnings was spent constructing Caernarfon. The castle was erected around the same time as Edward’s other expensive pet projects, Harlech and Conway.

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The king made sure that Caernarfon reflected his reputation – a great ruler with vast wealth and a refined taste. The castle’s impressive and daunting structure successfully kept rebels and lurking enemies at bay.

A large drawbridge at the King’s Gate, portcullises, arrow loops, spy and murder holes where scalding water and other deadly substances can be poured onto intruders were among the castle’s deadly defenses.

Caenarfon Castle in Wales

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is one of the largest and most ancient UK castles. Having withstood the test of time for almost a millennium, the castle encompasses several homes along with a palace and a church and is tagged as the royal family’s largest weekend residence.

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Windsor Castle is also a popular venue for honoring the Knights of the Garter, an order that traces its roots back to the Medieval era. The Prince of Wales is a default member of the Knights of the Garter and he is joined by 24 other knights.

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Every year, the castle receives a million visitors. Many American presidents and diplomats have visited Windsor to pay their respects to the Queen.

Stirling Castle

Scotland is best represented by Stirling Castle – a monumental edifice specially constructed in honor of William Wallace, the Scottish national hero who led a troop of Scots against the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in the late 13th century.

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Wallace’s bravery continues to inspire generations of Scots and the castle serves as a memento of their victory at Stirling. This UK castle has a history of bloodshed that spanned eight centuries. Though tainted by grisly murders and violent wars.

Legendary Scottish Knight William Wallace

William Wallace was a Scottish knight, born in 1270 and died in 1305.

A scientist named John Damian attempted to fly from the castle to France by constructing a makeshift plane made from wooden strips, feathers, and glue. He managed to fly as far as the nearest stone wall but no farther than that.

Stirling Castle in Scotland

Stirling Castle in Scotland – a monumental edifice specially constructed in honor of William Wallace

Leeds Castle

Just as old as its fellow UK Castle, Windsor, Leeds is a good 30 miles from the English capital. Famous for being the residence of Henry VIII, the castle was once owned by families who also had huge real estate properties in the state of Virginia in the United States.

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Leeds Castle continues to have deep ties with American companies to this day. Another American bought the castle in the early 1900s and it was later refurbished to attract more visitors.

Portrait of King Henry VIII

Often called one of the world’s most beautiful castles, Henry VIII had the castle built on a lake sandwiched by two islands, dedicating its construction to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Hampton Court

Situated along the River Thames, Hampton Court is a UK castle well-known for its 1000 rooms and beheadings. Henry the VIII was the castle’s most celebrated resident. Of his six wives, two lost their heads, teenager Katherine Howard and Anne Boleyn. Both women were accused of adultery and treason.

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The gallery where Katherine Howard was decapitated became known as the Haunted Gallery.

In stark contrast to its grotesque history, however, Hampton Court’s 60-acre grounds are a sight to behold with blooms and greeneries as well as a breathtaking view of England’s longest river.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh, Scotland is not just one of the most visited European cities but it is also the site of the famous Edinburgh Castle. Like many UK castles, Edinburgh’s history was colored by political controversies, bloodshed, and sieges. The castle currently protects the 500-year-old Scottish crown jewels composed of a scepter, a sword, and a crown.

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Known as the clock keeper, Edinburgh fires a gun each day at 1 p.m to remind sailors and locals of the time and has done so for the past 150 years.

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The castle’s dungeons, where thousands used to be imprisoned, are another source of attraction. Curators recreated the scenes of the past by adding wax models.

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle, on one hand, showcases a beautiful interior and is usually the setting for most Medieval throwback festivities such as jousts, morality plays, and the like.

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Tower of London

The Tower of London is an imposing structure that has stood for more than a thousand years.  Much like Edinburgh Castle, it protects and safeguards the English crown jewels at present. The castle used to be a famous executioner’s den and torture chamber. Three queens, including Henry the VIII’s second wife, was beheaded here.

Tower London England Castles in England

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Famous UK Castles Summary

Windsor, Edinburgh, Leeds, and Caernarfon are all famous UK castles that have survived the ages as living legacies of a bygone era.  Windsor Castle, home to Britain’s monarchs, is regarded as one of England’s most popular castles with Hampton Court and Leeds not too far behind in reputation.

Edinburgh’s fame is augmented by the presence of the crown jewels and, together with Stirling Castle, has a place in the famous list in Scotland and in all of the UK.

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Castles in England not only exemplify great architecture and impressive engineering. They have also contributed to British culture, encouraging today’s generation to explore the past and learn from it.

Not all castles in England are fortunate enough to survive this era and those that have remained will always remind us of how much has changed over the centuries.