England is a land of castles. From large defensive fortresses to beautiful Tudor mansions, ancient ruins, and even castle hotels, there’s no shortage of interesting castles in England. I’ve visited many English castles over the years and will let you know about some of the best ones to visit below.
Many of the castles of England have been remarkably well preserved and are located within acres of beautiful land. Despite their ages, it’s still possible to visit many of these historic buildings and ruins, and visiting England’s castles makes for a great day out for the whole family. With over 4,000 castles in England, I’ve helped narrow down the top picks within this guide.
15 Best Castles in England
I’ve grown up visiting castles in England, from the medieval Colchester Castle in my hometown to the windswept ruins of Tintagel Castle in Cornwall, and the beautiful Bodiam and Lewes Castles in East Sussex, plus many more. One thing’s for sure, you don’t have to go far to find a fairytale fortress in England.
In my list of the 15 best castles in England, you’ll discover a wide range of historic sites up and down the country. As a lover of history, architecture, and folklore, visiting any of England’s many castles is still one of my favorite weekend activities and there are still plenty more for me to discover I’m sure.
1. Windsor Castle (Most Famous Castle in England Overall)
Windsor is one of the most famous castles in England and is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It’s been home to the English (and later British) Royal Family for nearly 1,000 years, and is now home to around 150 residents including King Charles III, and is often used for state functions.
Construction of the castle started in 1070 on the orders of William the Conqueror and took 16 years to complete. It’s set within 13 acres of land 23 miles west of London. Windsor Castle is open to the public and with over 1,000,000 annual visitors, it’s the most popular castle in England.
Getting to Windsor castle from London is easy with direct road and rail links (though there is no public car park so you’ll need to park in Windsor and walk 10 minutes to the castle). Trains depart London Waterloo hourly for Windsor and Eton Riverside from where it’s a 10-minute walk to the castle grounds. There are also many tours from London.
Windsor Castle Details and Information
Address: Windsor, SL4 1NJ
Phone: +44 (0)303 123 7334
Operating Hours: 10:00 am-16:15 pm, Mon-Sun
Entrance Fee: £26.50 for adults, £17.50 for young people (18-24), and £14.50 for children (5-17)
2. Leeds Castle (One of the Most Popular Castles in England)
First of all, the stunningly picturesque Leeds Castle is nowhere near the city of Leeds in Yorkshire and is in fact in Kent. It’s so named for a Saxon chief who chose the location of the castle on the River Len. That being said, Leeds Castle is one of the most famous castles in England to visit thanks to the many events and festivals it hosts throughout the year.
It’s also possible to stay at this 900-year-old castle in the period-style Maiden’s Tower or the 14th Century Battel Hall. The site is home to a series of museums, 500 acres of parkland including a moat, rivers, streams and a fun maze to get lost in. I’ve been to Leeds Castle many times and it’s up there as one of my favorites – there’s so much to do.
Leeds Castle is located a few miles from Maidstone in Kent and is easily reachable from the capital by train, bus, and a day trip. Trains depart London Victoria hourly for nearby Bearsted and take just over one hour. From Bearsted, you can jump on the shuttle bus or walk 2.5 miles to the castle.
Leeds Castle Details and Information
Address: Broomfield, Maidstone, Kent, ME17 1PL
Phone: +44 (0)1622 765400
Operating Hours: 10 am-3 pm, Mon-Sun
Entrance Fee: £32.00 for adults and £24.00 for children. Tickets are valid for a whole year.
3. Bodiam Castle (The most Beautiful Castle in England)
Bodiam Castle in East Sussex is one of the most beautiful castles in England and is one of my favorites. This 14th Century fortress is surrounded by a large moat and has a large keep (tower) with portcullis (strong heavy gating). The castle is set within acres of beautiful parkland, wetland, and forest.
Bodiam isn’t the easiest to reach by public transport, but if I can manage it, you can too. Given its rural location, this is definitely one of the best-hidden gems to explore and it doesn’t get as busy as some of the better-known castles. There’s also an excellent pub opposite which is perfect for lunch and a pint (the homemade steak burger is a winner).
There isn’t any public transport to Bodiam so hiring a car is the best option if you want to visit this gorgeous castle (and you really should). However, I’ve visited without a car and although the journey wasn’t direct, it was definitely worth the hassle. You’ll need to take a train to either Robertsbridge or Battle and take a taxi the remaining distance (Uber is recommended).
Bodiam Castle Details and Information
Address: Bodiam, Robertsbridge, East Sussex, TN32 5UA
Phone: +44 (0)1580 830196
Operating Hours: 10 am-4 pm, Mon-Sun
Entrance Fee: £11.00 for adults and £5.50 for children
4. Lewes Castle
Lewes Castle, also in East Sussex, is another of my favorites as the views across the picturesque town and Sussex countryside are phenomenal (and there’s a convenient nearby Brewery you can visit too). The Norman castle was built after the Battle of Hastings and also houses the Museum of Sussex Archaeology with exhibitions from prehistory to medieval Lewes and beyond.
The castle grounds are a great place for a picnic (there are plenty of grocery stores and supermarkets in the town to grab supplies from) with panoramic views over the South Downs, one of the best places to visit in England for hiking and nature. Lewes is one of England’s most picturesque towns and is well worth a visit.
Lewes is easily reachable from nearby Brighton and London by road and rail, and the train station is just a five-minute walk from the castle. It takes just one hour to reach Lewes from London Bridge station and just fifteen minutes from Brighton. Hiring a car is also a good option if you wish to spend some more time exploring the Downs.
Lewes Castle Details and Information
Address: 169 High Street, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1YE
Phone: +44 (0)1273 486290
Operating Hours: 10 am-4 pm, Mon-Sun
Entrance Fee: £10.00 for adults and £5.50 for children
5. Colchester Castle
I grew up in and around Colchester and have visited its historic Norman castle many times over the years. The castle is built on top of an ancient Roman temple (Colchester was the Roman capital of Britain, known as Camulodunum) and evidence of Colchester’s Roman past is visible in the dungeon/basement.
The castle as it stands today dates back to the 11th Century and has one of the best-preserved keeps (towers) in the whole of Europe. The castle is set within a large park overlooking nearby Highwoods Country Park and the rolling Essex countryside. Inside, is a large museum with many interactive displays, medieval clothes to try on, and much more.
Colchester is just one hour from London and 20 minutes from Ipswich by train. It’s a five-minute walk to the bottom of Castle Park from the main Colchester North Station. The Castle is located in the center of town just off the High Street and can also be reached by car via the A12.
Colchester Castle Details and Information
Address: High Street, Colchester, CO1 1TJ
Phone: +44 (0)1206 282393
Operating Hours: 10 am-5 pm, Mon-Sun
Entrance Fee: £11.95 for adults and £6.75 for children
6. Tintagel Castle
The atmospheric Tintagel Castle on the North Cornish coast is steeped in the myths and legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. This is one of my favorite spots as the castle overlooks a stunning stretch of coastline, and has a large footbridge high above the cliffs.
The castle dates back to the 13 Century but fell into a state of disrepair during the late Middle Ages. That does nothing to diminish the impressive site and Tintagel is one of the must-see castles in Cornwall for its magnificent location and fascinating history. The small village of Tintagel is also well worth a visit.
Hiring a car is the best way to visit Tintagel Castle and explore the north Cornish coast, though the 95 Bude to Newquay bus does stop at the village. You can reach Bude and Newquay by train from London with an expected journey time of around six hours.
Tintagel Castle Details and Information
Address: Castle Road, Tintagel, Cornwall, PL34 0HE
Phone: +44 (0)370 333 1181
Operating Hours: 10 am-4 pm, Mon-Sun
Entrance Fee: £16.30 for adults and £9.80 for children
7. St Michael’s Mount
St Michael’s Mount is one of the most impressive castles in England as it’s located on a tidal island that becomes completely cut off from the mainland at high tide. The island is home to a castle, a garden, a small harbor, and a beach; making it an excellent day out for the whole family with lots to see and do.
I’ve visited both St Michael’s Mount and its French counterpart in Normandy; Mont Saint-Michel. Although the English version is slightly smaller in size, it’s definitely the more impressive of the two, (I may be biased), thanks to its picturesque location within Mounts Bay.
The closest large town to St Michael’s Mount is Penzance, which is reachable by train from London Paddington with a journey time of around five hours. However, to get the best out of a trip to Cornwall, hiring a car is best so that you can easily explore both Tintagel Castle and St Michael’s Mount at your own pace.
St Michael’s Mount Details and Information
Address: Marazion, Cornwall, TR17 0HS
Operating Hours: 10 am-4 pm, Mon-Sun
Entrance Fee: £14.00 for adults and £7.00 for children. The village and harbor are free to visit.
8. Durham Castle
Durham Castle, in the north of England, is another castle with a long history dating back almost 1,000 years. Like Windsor Castle, it’s been continuously inhabited since the 11th Century, though now it’s home to students at Durham University rather than royalty.
The castle forms part of Durham’s UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the cathedral. The castle is open to the public for guided tours in the afternoons during term time and mornings and afternoons during the holidays. Durham is also a castle in England that offers accommodation as there’s a bed and breakfast on campus.
Durham is in the northeast of England 20 miles south of Newcastle upon Tyne. It has direct road and rail links to the rest of the UK, with direct trains from London King’s Cross taking just three hours. The castle is located in the city center and is easily walkable from the main train station.
Durham Castle Details and Information
9. Berkhamsted Castle (Oldest Castle in England)
Berkhamsted is the oldest castle in England that dates back to 1067 just after the Norman Conquest. Although all that remains are ruins, it’s still an impressive site and is worthy of a visit. It’s also free to enter and walk around the ruins, and it’s a great place for a picnic too.
Berkhamsted railway station is just a two-minute walk from the castle and trains from London Euston take just over 30 minutes; making it very easy to reach with public transport.
Berkhamsted Castle Details and Information
10. Dover Castle (Largest Castle in England)
Dover Castle is the largest castle in England and is one of the most impressive thanks to its fabulous location atop the White Cliffs of Dover. The Castle has been used as a backdrop for many film and television programs including the Crown, the Other Boleyn Girl, and Avengers: Age of Ultron.
The views across the English Chanel from Dover Castle are fantastic and on a good day, you can even see across to France. The Norman castle dates to 1066 and the time of William the Conqueror and has a fascinating history from medieval sieges to the D-Day Landings. This is definitely one of my favorite English castles and I always look forward to returning.
Getting to Dover is easy from London and the continent. There are daily ferries from Calais in France and the crossing takes around 90 minutes. Trains from London’s St Pancras take just over one hour to reach Dover. This is one of the best castles to visit in England by far.
Dover Castle Details and Information
11. Warwick Castle
Warwick Castle has a history dating back over 1,000 years and is a great family option with lots to see and do from sleepovers to an adventure playground, live shows, and over 200 different events every year. It’s also possible to book a stay at Warwick Castle at one of the lodges or glamping sites.
The large medieval castle is located in the center of Warwick in the Midlands and is easily reachable from the rest of the UK with trains from London Paddington taking around two and a half hours.
Warwick Castle Details and Information
12. Alnwick Castle
The Norman era Alnwick Castle was built after the Norman conquest of Britain and is the seat of the 12th Duke of Northumberland. If you recognize this impressive building it may be because it’s been used as a film location for blockbusters such as Harry Potter and the popular TV series Downton Abbey.
Be sure to check out the nearby Alnwick Garden, created by the Duchess of Northumberland, which features a secret “poison garden” with some of the most deadly plants known to man inside. This is somewhere that has been high on my list for a long time as a fan of so-called “dark tourism” and I hope to visit in 2023.
Alnwick is in the far northeast of England just north of Newcastle upon Tyne (so you can tie it in with a visit to nearby Durham Castle if you have time). Trains from London Victoria take around five hours.
Alnwick Castle Details and Information
13. Lindisfarne Castle
Lindisfarne (also known as Holy Island) is a small island in the northeast of England very close to the border with Scotland. It’s an immensely historic place as it was where the Vikings first landed in England in 793. It’s also home to a 16th Century castle that can be reached at low tide via a causeway.
The nearest town to the castle is Berwick-upon-Tweed which is just 60 miles south of Edinburgh. Trains from London Kings Cross take between four and five hours.
Lindisfarne is definitely one of the most beautiful castles in England and is one I hope to visit soon (along with nearby Alnwick).
Lindisfarne Castle Details and Information
14. Arundel Castle
The stunning Arundel Castle in West Sussex is one of the oldest in England dating to just after the Norman Conquest. The castle has been restored and remodeled since suffering damage during the English civil war, though thankfully, many of the original features still remain.
Arundel is one of the most beautiful castles in England and includes English and tropical gardens, activities such as archery, shops, cafe, and restaurants, making it a great day out.
The castle is a ten-minute walk from Arundel station with direct trains to and from London Bridge taking around 90 minutes.
Arundel Castle Details and Information
15. Thornbury Castle (Best Castle to Stay in England)
The beautiful Tudor Thornbury Castle near Bristol is another castle you can stay at in England offering gorgeous, period rooms complete with four poster beds. You’ll be sleeping in the same place that King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn slept so this really is a place fit for royalty.
The hotel has four onsite restaurants that serve everything from sumptuous breakfasts to Sunday lunches, evening meals, afternoon teas, and private dining experiences.
Thornbury Castle is a 30-minute drive from Bristol which lies 15 miles to the south. There are hourly trains from London to Bristol with a journey time of under two hours. Reserve your stay.
Thornbury Castle Details and Information
Best Castles Tours in England
Below is a selection of fantastic castle tours. I’ve taken more than a few castle tours myself as day trips from London and recommend my favorites including Leeds Castle, Dover Castle, and of course England’s top tourist attraction and residence of the King; Windsor Castle.
Durham Walking Tour
This two-hour walking tour is a great way to explore Durham and its ancient castle and cathedral. Your experienced guide will also fill you in on tales of crime and punishment through the ages giving a fascinating insight into the local history.
Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, and Greenwich Tour
This fantastic day trip from London takes in the majestic Leeds Castle and also includes a trip to Canterbury Cathedral, Dover (where you can see the castle there too), as well as Greenwich.
Windsor Castle Tour
This half-day trip from London to Windsor Castle includes hotel pick-up and entrance to Windsor Castle and Gardens. You’ll get to travel by luxury coach and the tour also includes a fascinating history of the castle and British monarchy.
White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury Day Trip
I took this Dover and Canterbury Day Trip a few years ago and it was a fantastic day out. Not only will you get to explore the beautiful city of Canterbury and its famous cathedral, but the tour also makes a stop at the stunning Dover Castle with incredible views of the White Cliffs.
Alnwick and Bamburgh Castle Tour from Edinburgh
This full-day tour from Edinburgh will have you visiting historic Alnwick Castle, which has been used as a backdrop for the Harry Potter movies. This experience also includes a stop at Bamburgh Castle so it’s an ideal option for history buffs like myself.
Castles in England: FAQs
Below are some frequently asked questions about the castles in England.
There are so many beautiful castles in England, but Bodiam, Leeds, and Lindisfarne are three of the most picturesque castles in England.
Berkhamsted is the oldest castle in England dating back almost 1,000 years to 1067 and the time of William the Conqueror.
There are over 4,000 castles across England, though not all of them are in a good state of repair.
Windsor Castle is the most popular castle in England with over one million visitors every year (including luminaries such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton).
You can sleep in some of the castles in England including Durham in Northumberland and Thornbury near Bristol.
Now you know about the best castles in England, which one would you like to visit first? From the stunning clifftop castles at Dover and Tintagel to the island castles of St Michael’s Mount and Lindisfarne, these historic buildings are just waiting to be explored.
Or how about your very own stay in the castle that’s seen residents from King Henry VIII to Laurance Olivier at Thornbury? England has such a rich history and discovering its many castles dating back over 1,000 years should be on everyone’s bucket list.