There are a great many castles in the British Isles. Records show that over 4,000 were built in England alone, and many others in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Northern Ireland. With so many still standing, as well as some beautifully restored to become popular tourist attractions, I can only show a few on this post. I have tried to represent all four countries of the UK, and to include those still accessible to visitors.
Situated on the coast, in one of the most the picturesque parts of north-east England, this was originally a Celtic fort, destroyed by the Vikings, in 993.
A bigger castle was built there by the Normans, after the 1066 invasion. It is one of my favourite English castles.
This castle in East Sussex was built in 1385, as a defence against possible French invasion. During the English Civil War, Lord Thanet owned the castle, and fought for the Royalist cause. After their defeat, he had to sell the castle to pay fines to Parliament. Since 1925, it has been owned and managed by The National Trust.
This castle dominates the Channel Port of Dover, in Kent, and is the largest castle ever built in England. Originally an ancient hill fort, it was developed by the Normans after 1066, and finished in 1088. But it was another 100 years before it looked like it does today, after further building ordered by Henry II. Then came the addition of a barracks during the Napoleonic wars, with further extensions down the face of the famous white cliffs. During WW2, it was used as an underground hospital, and as the military command base for that region.
This small castle is situated right on the beach, not far from Tenby, in south Wales. Originally built by the Normans in the 11th century, it was rarely involved in any fighting until the English Civil War, when it was captured by Parliament, in 1645. Unusually, it is now privately owned and run. It has been used in film and TV dramas, and is also a successful wedding venue.
If you book in advance, you can even stay there!
Originally built in 1093 on a site once used as a Roman fort, this magnificent castle dominates the town of Pembroke, overlooking the Pembroke River in Wales. Rebuilt in stone in 1193, it became the seat of power in Wales for the Norman English, and was used as a base against the warlike Welsh tribes who resisted them. During the English Civil War, it was besieged and captured by Oliver Cromwell, in 1648. It is now jointly managed by the former owners, the Phillips family, and the local Town Council.
Overlooking the River Medway in the Kent commuter town of Rochester, this castle boasts one of the best preserved Norman Keeps (main tower) in Europe. Dating from 1089, the huge Keep was added in 1127, when the castle was given over to The Archbishop of Canterbury. This castle saw a great deal of action in its time, from The Baron’s Wars of 1215, through to the English Civil War, in 1642. It then fell into disrepair, but later renovation saw it open as a tourist attraction managed by English Heritage, and it was used extensively as a location in the film ‘Ironclad’ (2011).
Rebuilt in stone during the 12th century, Warwick survives as an excellent example of a late Norman castle in central England. Protecting the bank of the River Avon, and the nearby town, this castle saw little warlike use until the English Civil War, when it was besieged by a Royalist Army. When their cannon failed to have any effect against the stout walls, they had no alternative but to leave the garrison unmolested, and withdraw. It is currently owned by an entertainment group, and has many special attractions throughout the year, including jousting.
Ideally situated on the shore of Belfast Lough in Northern Ireland, this Norman castle from 1167 protected the lake and the town. In its history, this important castle saw a lot of action. It was attacked by the English King John, in 1210, and also put under siege by the Scots, the French and the Irish. It is also famous as the site where the new Protestant King of Britain, William III of Holland set foot on Ireland, in 1690. This was the ‘King Billy’ still celebrated by Protestants in Northern Ireland to this day. It was later used as a garrison in both world wars.
Last but not least, the wonderful castle that crowns the capital of Scotland. The current castle dates from 1139, and was originally built during the reign of the Scottish king, David I. Later additions and renovations left us with the huge building we see today. It is built on top of a huge rocky outcrop, called Castle Rock. The castle has a long history of association with the British Armed forces, housing regimental museums, and holding the annual display known as The Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It is one of the most reconisable buildings in Britain.
Whatever part of Britain you visit, you will never be far from a castle worth seeing.