Castles in the UK
A history of internal conflict and external threats has endowed this small island with myriad castles and fortifications, ranging from the miniscule Martello Towers on the south coast to the grandeur and majesty of Leeds Castle in Kent. Hastings Castle in Sussex dates back to the Norman invasion of 1066, and lies only a short distance from the site of the famous battle of Hastings, and Battle Abbey at Battle. Dating back to Roman times, the Tower of London is inextricably linked to the history of the UK, with many pivotal historical figures having lost their heads at the behest of monarchs and the hands of the executioner. For royal history the regal residences of Windsor Castle in Berkshire and Balmoral Castle in Scotland will prove irresistible.
Thankfully UK castles are now something we can visit in safety as tourist attractions, with the welcoming smiles of attendants to greet us rather than a shower of arrows.
Windsor Castle is the world's largest inhabited and working castle, a favoured residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who comes here to relax and greet visiting foreign dignitaries. The Castle's medieval style design, with its forbidding walls, towers and turrets, dominate the Windsor skyline, making it easy to find for the hordes of tourists who flock here every year to see one of the United Kingdom's top attractions.
Tower of London
The Tower of London, along with Tower Bridge, stands at the gateway to London on the banks of the River Thames and guarding the City of London. Steeped in history, and now home to Queen’s Crown Jewels, it is no wonder the Tower of London is one of most visited UK and London attractions.
Often central to British history as a place of trial and execution – most notably that of Ann Boleyn, wife of King Henry VIII – the Tower of London is now chiefly a tourist attraction, housing the Crown Jewels and an impressive collection of armour, all amid a patchwork of architecture chronicling the history of the Tower of London as a defensive castle, fort and prison.
The Tower of London is also home to Yeoman Guard, better known around the world as Beefeaters, who guard the Tower of London and act as tour guides.
Built in 1119, Leeds Castle has survived the English Civil War, bore witness to much of the private life of Henry VIII, and has even, in 1999, hosted a concert by Elton John. Today Leeds Castle is perhaps the best example of a medieval castle in the UK, and includes such diverse attractions as an aviary, a duckery, and an antique dog-collar museum. It also plays host to all sorts of events, from hot-air balloon races to open-air music concerts. All this makes Leeds Castle a key UK attraction for British and foreign tourists alike.
Sitting atop volcanic rock some 260 feet above the city, Edinburgh Castle proudly stands its ground as Scotland’s most iconic UK attraction. Edinburgh Castle has always been at the centre of Edinburgh life and visitors here can sample a rich tradition and history spanning almost three millennia. As well as providing an iconic backdrop to events such as New Year celebrations, the Edinburgh Fringe theatre festival and Edinburgh Comedy Festival, the castle also plays host to concerts and the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Whether you were a soldier returning from the embattled beaches of Dunkirk or an illegal immigrant sucking in your last breath in a box of tomatoes, the White Cliffs of Dover have for centuries symbolised sanctuary for those coming to the shores of the UK. But while Dame Vera Lynn sang of bluebirds over these massive chalk edifices it is in fact Dover Castle that stands tallest and proudest atop the cliffs, and as a great UK attraction really should be the first stop for many coming to the UK via this historical port before heading to the Home Office building in Croydon seeking 'asylum'.
At the heart of the mountainous Welsh region of Snowdonia, Caernarfon Castle stands brooding guard over the port on the banks of the River Seiont. Caernarfon Castle is traditionally the seat of the Prince of Wales – the heir to the British throne – and it is this, together with its oddly fantastical construction that makes it such a popular UK and Welsh attraction.
Set in 40 acres of glorious English countryside and rising majestically above the quaint English town beneath, the fairytale castle at Arundel has evolved from its humble origins as a motte and bailey (mound of earth and a trench) castle built just after the Battle of Hastings in 1068
After the original construction commissioned by Roger de Montgomery, Earl of Arundel, a shell keep was added to the top of the motte in about 1140, and curtain walls, a chapel and a garden, possibly England’s first Royal garden in England, were added by King Henry II. At only an hour from the capital by train, Arundel Castle is one of the most accessible and unique UK attractions.