We have hundreds of magnificent castles and palaces in the UK – each with its own unique history and stories that can stretch back thousands of years. For a summer holiday or day trip filled with history, mystery, love, and war, here are our top picks from across the country.
Arundel Castle, West Sussex
Overlooking the river Arun and the Sussex countryside, Arundel Castle has nearly 1000 years of history. Filled with collections of artwork, personal possessions, tapestries, and antiques, this is a place where you can experience snapshots into a very dangerous time for English politics – where successive Dukes of Norfolk throughout the 16th century paid for their alleged crimes with their lives.
Outdoors, the imposing Gothic-style castle is surrounded by beautiful and tranquil gardens to stroll around and relax in while you absorb the colours and fragrances of the flower borders. Arundel castle regularly hosts special events as well, including jousting and medieval festivals, so make sure you check out what’s going on when you’re planning your visit.
Buckingham Palace, London
The iconic neoclassical architecture of Buckingham Palace is recognised across the globe. While it remains a working royal residence and has been the official residence of UK royalty since 1837, members of the public can take guided tours around the State Rooms. These opulent rooms are home to many treasured artworks and pieces from The Royal Collection that are a sight to behold.
This summer, Buckingham Palace is also hosting a special coronation exhibition where King Charles III and Queen Camilla’s outfits from the coronation ceremony will be on display. We advise you to book well in advance of your visit as these guided tours tend to sell out.
Penrhyn Castle, Gwynedd, North Wales
From besieged fortresses to extravagant displays of wealth, Wales is home to 427 castles –more castles per square mile than any other European country. For our list, we’ve chosen to add Penrhyn Castle, just outside of Bangor.
When you approach Penrhyn Castle, the first thing you’ll see are the huge, dramatic turrets – but don’t be fooled, this castle is much newer than it may first appear. Built during the first half of the 19th Century, Penrhyn was intended as an impressive family home for the Pennant family. As you walk around the castle, you’ll be able to see extraordinary interiors and a fascinating collection of antiques while you learn about how the Pennant family garnered their wealth through exploitation. When you’ve finished soaking up the history of Penrhyn, the seaside town of Llandudno is just a 30-minute drive away, so you can grab a bite to eat and enjoy a stroll along the beach.
Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
Over the 1400 years of Bamburgh Castle’s history, it has played many roles. A Royal capital for the kings of Northumbria, a stronghold for royalty throughout the War of the Roses, a free school for underprivileged children, and finally, a beloved family home.
As you might expect from the colourful history, Bamburgh is home to a varied collection of artefacts and antiques that have been passed down through generations. There are also frequent events to muddy your boots while you’re there, including Viking re-enactments and adventure activities for all ages. Bamburgh Castle is right on the coastline, so make sure you’ve got one of our clear umbrellas with you just in case you need to take in the sights whilst protecting yourself from any unexpected showers!
Hillsborough Castle, County Down
Strictly speaking, Hillsborough Castle isn’t actually a castle. This 18th-century stately home is known as such because of the successful Hill family who once lived on the site when it was a fort. What makes Hillsborough a particularly interesting place to visit is its long-established links with Northern Irish politics.
Hillsborough has been the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland since the 1970s and has recently undergone a huge transformation. The State Rooms are now open for guided tours where you can learn more about the castle’s history and the famous politicians and royals who have walked through the halls.
Edinburgh Castle, East Scotland
Once a military fortress, Edinburgh Castle also spent time serving as a prison and a royal residence before becoming the popular attraction it is today. The walls are full of stories and artefacts from the centuries of royals who lived and died there. You may have seen at the coronation of King Charles III an object called the Stone of Destiny – which is usually on display at Edinburgh Castle. Its origins are a mystery to this day, but over time it has become a sacred way of initiating new monarchs.
The castle is also in the heart of Edinburgh city, so there are plenty of other attractions, shops, restaurants, and cafes to check out nearby.
Whether you want to see the grand architecture or walk in the footsteps of some of the UK’s most notable figures, the many castles and palaces in the UK are well worth a visit. As always, if you’d rather be cautious than take your chances with the British weather, don’t forget to pack one of our umbrellas to prepare for your day trip.