There’s something very romantic about English castles. The manicured gardens and lakes, and even the incredible stories of people who lived there, create a fairy tale-like allure. So much so that any visit to the United Kingdom is incomplete without visiting an English castle. Here are some of the best ones to visit on your English sojourn.
Dominating the city skyline, Edinburgh Castle (see picture above) is a most-visited landmark in the Scottish capital. With 26 sieges in its 1,100-year-old history, the castle is acknowledged to be the most besieged places in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world. Queue up to see all of Edinburgh from a spectacular height and then visit the various castle attractions such as the Crown Square, Royal Palace, David’s Tower, Half Moon Battery and St Margaret’s Chapel. Make your way to the One O’Clock Gun that is fired at 1 PM every day (except Sundays and national holidays) before leaving the castle.
Tower of London
Two words: Koh-i-Noor Diamond. Now that we have your attention and know what you’ll be looking forward to the most while visiting the Tower of London, let us also tell you that controlling this castle has been central to the story of Great Britain. Line up for a free walking tour with the Beefeaters who also guard the tower, and don’t leave without seeing the ravens inside; legend has it that if they ever leave, the kingdom will fall!
You might bump into the Queen at Windsor Castle, if you’re lucky, as she takes up residence here for a month around Easter and is often here on weekends. Windsor Castle is the largest occupied castle in the world, and there’s much more to see when Her Majesty isn’t home. Also visit St George’s Chapel, which falls within the castle compound – a royal crypt, it owes its allegiance to the monarch and has no bishop or archbishop.
Attached to 500 acres of parkland, and sitting on two islands in the middle of the river Len in Kent, Leeds Castle is rightly called the prettiest English castle. A former Norman stronghold, the place today has a golf course, falconry displays, pretty black swans, a maze made of 2,400 yew trees and an underworld grotto.
You might find that Alnwick Castle looks familiar. After all, it’s featured in the first two Harry Potter films and was the fictional Brancaster Castle in Downtown Abbey’s Christmas special. It’s a busy castle as fans of these series descend upon the 11th century structure in the Northumberland region. It is also one of the few castles that is inhabited and where the current duke and duchess reside.
Throughout history, Dover Castle has been known as the key to England because of its strategic location just off the English Channel. The castle’s Great Tower is a wonderfully restored building that gives us a sense of the scale of and goings-on of daily life of a bygone era. Also explore the network of 19th century tunnels that exist below the castle; during World War II, it served as a naval base from where the massive Dunkirk evacuation was planned. See actual footage of the evacuation there before Christopher Nolan’s fitting tribute to the event hits big screens later this year.
It’s setting atop a volcanic crag gives Scotland’s Stirling Castle bragging rights and a view to die for. As you puff your way to the top, look for the statue of Robert the Bruce and learn all about the battle of Bannockburn. Just below is the Stirling bridge, where the Scots won a decisive battle against the English under the leadership of William Wallace (immortalised by Mel Gibson in Braveheart). The castle is also the place where James the Sixth, the first king to rule over Scotland and England at the same time, grew up.
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