Here in the UK we are lucky to have some of the most dramatic and evocative castles anywhere in the world. From the Cornish coast to the Scottish Highlands, we’ve selected some of the best British castles to visit if you’re looking for stunning scenery and amazing views; perfect for a UK weekend break!
Situated on the wild Northumbria coast, overlooking Bamburgh beach, the Farne Islands and the North Sea, the seat of the Armstrong family provides some of the best views in the North East. To the north you can see Holy Island and Lindisfarne (of which more later) and to the south you may be able to spot Dunstanburgh Castle; a dramatic ruin above Embleton Bay.
Bamburgh was used as a backdrop for the 2015 film version of Macbeth starring Michael Fassbender.
Sir William Cavendish built Bolsover Castle as a place for pleasure and elegant living rather than for any military purpose but its position overlooking the Vale of Scarsdale gives wonderful views. The large windows of the terrace range and long gallery provide stunning panoramas of the Derbyshire countryside. Look closely and you may be able to spot Sutton Scarsdale Hall and Hardwick Hall.
Sir William spent a whopping £15,000 on banquets and entertainment for King Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria during their visit in 1634.
Dover Castle is known as “The Key to England” and it’s easy to see why as the castle sits atop the dramatic (and world-famous) white cliffs. Built by William the Conqueror and extended by Henry II, Dover is one of the most complete castles in the UK and a major tourist attraction. Climb the battlements for extensive views across the English Channel, if it’s a clear day you may even see the French coast.
During the Cold War, the network of tunnels underneath the castle were to be used as a top secret government bunker in the event of a nuclear attack.
Built high on a cliff above the River Nidd, Knaresborough offers fantastic views of the river valley, the famous viaduct and the town itself. The castle is largely ruined but the remains of the massive East Gate gives you an idea of its past size and power. Climb up to the King’s Tower where Edward II and King John may have stayed or head down to the dungeon and search for medieval graffiti!
There is a secret tunnel or “sally port” leading to a hidden exit underneath the castle wall
Journey across the causeway to Holy Island and the village of Lindisfarne for some of the most spectacular views and wild scenery in northern England. It’s a long walk from the village to the castle but you’ll be rewarded with incredible sea views. Unfortunately the castle itself is closed for restoration until 2018 but you can still visit Lindisfarne Priory and the lantern chapel for great views of the North Sea and the Farne Islands. You may even spot some seals basking on the sand banks!
Holy Island is cut off by the tide for several hours each day, check tide times carefully before you visit!
Located on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the imposing castle of Middleham dates back to the 12th century. Climb to the top of the tower via a spiral stairway for some amazing views of the Yorkshire countryside including the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Middleham was once the home of the Duke of Gloucester, later King Richard III
7. Old Sarum
Rising up above Salisbury Plain, the former Iron Age settlement of Old Sarum is also home to the ruins of a Norman castle, cathedral and town. The enormous earthworks give views across the rolling Wiltshire countryside featuring fields and woods and you may be able to see Salisbury cathedral in the distance.
In 1003, Old Sarum was sacked and burned by the brilliantly named Danish king, Sweyn Forkbeard!
Make the steep climb up to Scarborough castle for incredible views of the North Sea and the town. Situated on a headland between the two bays of Scarborough, this is the best place to see both North Bay and South Bay at the same time. The extensive grassland around the castle is the perfect spot for a picnic while enjoying the stunning sea views.
Edward II made his best friend Piers Gaveston governor of the castle but it was besieged by rebellious Barons, and Piers was captured and executed.
Offering spectacular views of the city as well as the dramatic Fife countryside beyond the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh is one of the UK’s most famous castles and a major tourist attraction. From the battlements high atop Castlehill you can see Edinburgh’s historic old town, the Georgian new town, Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill. Further afield you may be able to spot the famous Forth Rail Bridge, Bass Rock and the port of Leith.
The Duke of Albany was imprisoned in Edinburgh Castle for plotting against his brother, King James III. He got his guards drunk, then escaped by lowering himself from a window on a rope!
Famous for its towering curtain walls and mighty towers, Caernarfon is one of the best examples of medieval military architecture anywhere in the world. Unusually among British castles, it is largely complete so you can climb the towers and walk the battlements for incredible views of the Menai Strait, the Isle of Anglesey and Snowdonia.
The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under “Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd”
Mystical Tintagel Castle sits on the wild Atlantic coast of north Cornwall near the village that shares its name. The castle itself is now a ruin but the views from Tintagel Island of the jagged, storm-wracked coastline are truly incredible. Off into the distance you may just spot Lundy Island in the Bristol Channel.
Tintagel has long been connected with the King Arthur myth, many think this is where he may have been born.
12. Eilean Donan
Situated on a small island amid lochs and mountains in the Highlands of Scotland, Eilean Donan is a true Scottish icon, and one of the most picturesque castles in the UK. Although the site was probably occupied as early as the 6th or 7th century, the castle that stands today is a modern reconstruction, built in the early 20th century. However, with views of Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh and the surrounding mountains, Eilean Donan provides some of the most stunning scenery from any UK castle.
You may recognised Eilean Donan as the Scottish headquarters of MI6 in James Bond film, The World Is Not Enough
Have you visited any of these castles? Maybe you can give us some other suggestions? Let us know in the comments section below….