The Five Greatest British Castles every History Lover has to Visit

4 August 2021

It’s no secret that the British Isles are home to some amazing castles.

But while its fortresses are no doubt stunning in their own right, what makes a lot of them so memorable is the stories they have to tell.

With that in mind, this itinerary will take you to England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland in search of amazing castles with equally amazing histories.

These great strongholds will reveal much about Britain’s bloody past and the struggles it had to endure before it became the United Kingdom.

Want to find out more? Then visiting these fantastic fortresses should definitely be on your bucket list!

The Tower of London

Located in the centre of the capital, the Tower of London has always been a place that instills awe.

Nowadays, it’s a tourist hotspot for people looking to get a look at the crown jewels or the resident ravens that are kept here.

But this fortress has earned its fame for much more than just that.

This place was built almost a thousand years ago by William the Conqueror after his bloodthirsty invasion of England.

Its intention? To be a mighty stronghold unlike any seen before in the country, striking fear into his new subjects.

Over the centuries, it became mightier still as kings like Henry III and Edward I expanded its walls and defences.

The Tower was so secure that royals would even hide their possessions within to keep them safe. In fact, it’s still kept safe today.

As you explore this staggering castle, look out for the Beefeaters patrolling around, the regal guardsmen who once served as bodyguards to famous monarchs.

Kings and princes have been murdered here, and famous figures like Anne Boleyn and Guy Fawkes have been locked up within its prison.

This place has an astonishing past, and we couldn’t possibly do it justice in this itinerary alone.

Be sure to discover its bloody history for yourself!

Harlech Castle

In beautiful Wales, sat high upon the clifftops within view of the stunning mountains of Snowdonia is where you’ll find Harlech Castle.

It's not only one of the most scenic in all of Wales, but it has one of the most captivating pasts of any castle in the UK.

Built by Edward I in the 13th-century, Harlech Castle (much like all of the other castles he built here) was intended to be a bastion of English rule that could intimidate.

If need be, the castle would have stood against the Welsh people.

Over the years, it was continuously captured and recaptured, even held by legendary figures like Owain Glyndŵr and Henry V.

Yet Harlech Castle’s greatest claim to fame is that it inspired the famous song Men of Harlech, a legendary anthem that is known across the world.

The actual men of Harlech were most likely the Lancastrian forces who held the castle against Yorkists during the War of the Roses.

If you want to get the most out of your visit to heart-wrenching Harlech Castle, be sure you have this song playing in your head while you explore!

Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle is the oldest castle on this list and definitely one of the best castles in England.

It’s a truly stunning fortress with tall, pale walls that overlook quiet woodlands and the tranquil River Avon.

But there’s much more to Warwick Castle than just the lovely views: this place has seen more than its fair share of history.

It wasn’t until William the Conqueror built a wooden fort here shortly after the Battle of Hastings that things really started to become interesting.

The castle was put to the test many times in the centuries that followed, such as during the bloody Civil War where Royalist forces tried and failed to take it from Parliamentarians.

As you explore the grounds, look out for amazing replicas of the siege weapons that would have been used to bring down the castle walls.

Trust us when we say this place is bursting at the seams with captivating stories, and the best way to learn about it all is by being there.

Carrickfergus Castle

On the coast of Northern Ireland near the beautiful capital city of Belfast, Carrickfergus Castle sits on the edge of the vast Belfast Lough.

Built by Normans in the 12th-century, it remained a place to station troops from then until 1928 - over 750 years!

This castle is a testament to the bloody past of Ireland, having faced constant battle throughout its long life.

The first known siege happened in the 13th-century when King John of England took and held it for over a century.

His reign here ended, however, when it was besieged by the brother of Robert the Bruce and surrendered to the Scots after its garrison ran out of supplies (and had resorted to eating leather!).

During the 16th-century, the castle had a role in the Nine Years war, and in the 17th-century, it was held by Jacobites during the Williamite War in Ireland.

Later still, Carrickfergus Castle was used as a prison during the Napoleonic Wars, a bomb shelter during World War Two, and also played a small part in the American War of Independence.

It's safe to say that it's stood through plenty of wars.

Walking in the shadow of its mighty square tower, you'll appreciate how well preserved and intact it remains today.

Stirling Castle

Last but certainly not least is Stirling Castle in Scotland’s central belt. Built atop a tall hill that surrounds the city, impressive views and an even more impressive history go along with it.

Built during the 12th-century, this castle was tested in battle many times in its years.

It was at one point considered to be the key to controlling Scotland, and is situated at a point between the highlands and the lowlands.

Speaking of that war, this castle is within view of some of the most famous battlefields in Scotland.

From here, you can see where the Battle of Stirling Bridge was fought, William Wallace’s greatest triumph.

It was also the site of the Battle of Bannockburn, a victory that paved the way to Robert the Bruce who became the first king of Scotland.

In fact, Stirling Castle was such a thorn in Edward I’s side that he used the largest trebuchet ever constructed, Warwolf, to bring down its walls - after he had already captured it!

So much of Scotland’s extraordinary history has been shaped by Stirling Castle, perhaps more than any other castle in the country.

It’s a great place in every sense of the word, and we know you’ll feel that greatness radiating from its old stone walls.

Captivating historical adventures

The UK has so many fantastic castles, but the ones we’ve gone to in this itinerary are really special.

Not only are they magnificently well-preserved and staggering to look at it, but there are also heightened by the stories that have unfolded within them.

So, if you can only visit a few of the countless castles that the British Isles have to offer, be sure you’ve got some of these on your list!