For students, history buffs, tourists, or even locals who want to connect with their heritage and history, visiting castles can be the closest thing to experiencing life in the Middle Ages. The United Kingdom has its share of historic castles thanks to its rich Royal tradition, so it’s no surprise that the UK would have some of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring castles in Europe.

With over 4,000 castles dotted around the lands from England’s green hills, to sleepy market towns in Wales, and even in Scotland’s enchanted woods and lands, finding a castle to visit is an easy undertaking. Each castle has a rich and unique history that rivals the next. Some people may have difficulty choosing the best ones to visit. In this list, we’ll take a look at some of the most unique castles in the UK to find the picks for your next vacation.

14 Most Unique Castles In The UK That You Need To Visit

More than a thousand years of history have seeped into the mortar and stone of the castles in the UK. From massive winding towers to mottes and drawbridges, each castle boasts unique stories and culture for anyone who visits. Whether you’re here to learn about history and architecture, or you just want to immerse yourself in the past, here are 14 of the most interesting castles in the UK.

1. Windsor Castle, England

Windsor Castle
“Windsor Castle”, by Diliff, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Starting off the list is one of the most famous castles in the UK – Windsor Castle. This castle is considered the oldest, largest, and longest-occupied in the UK and Europe. It has housed the British royal family and is a favourite for royal weddings. The last marriage happened in 2018 with Prince Harry’s marriage to Meghan Markle. The massive red-and-gold castle features a Victorian and Gregorian-style facade filled with royal apartments.

The royal family has done its best to maintain the classic architecture, but some modern elements have been added to the design. The combined architecture turns it into a mixture of tradition and modernity, reflecting the royal family’s core values. The Chapel and the Long Walk, a path that leads to the palace, are two crowd favourites that are best appreciated in person. The entire estate around Windsor Castle is also a sight to behold as the castle sits on thirteen acres of land. Gardens surrounding the palace are also great spots for photos.

2. Cardiff Castle, Wales

Cardiff Castle
“Cardiff Castle”, by The wub, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Never judge a castle by its battlements, or at least by its walls. That’s something we learned after taking a look at Cardiff Castle in Wales. Situated in the middle of the city and located at the centre of Bute Park, Cardiff Castle looks like a fortress from the outside. Don’t let the tall walls and battlements fool you. Inside, the castle opens up to a massive central yard with the main keep situated atop a mound at the centre. The palace has been transformed into a palace worthy of a royal ball, with lavish stained-glass windows, marble and wood carvings, and murals. The Library, the Arab room, and the Victorian-style architecture are the main attractions of this castle.

3. Warwick Castle, England

Warwick Castle
“Warwick Castle”, by DeFacto, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

If you’re looking for a unique and immersive experience, you’ll want to read more about Warwick Castle. The original structure was first laid in 1068 by William the Conqueror himself. The castle has since endured an attack in 1264, a siege in 1642, and a fire in 1871. It remains one of the best-preserved medieval castles in the UK. Now, it serves as the home of the Earl of Warwick. The lavish castle contains the 17th Century Great Hall and State Rooms, which attract the most visitors.

Touring the castle brings you to manicured gardens, vaults, and private residences. The vaults hold treasures and prized possessions that have been passed down for generations. The main tower also gives you a 360-degree view of Warwickshire. The castle also offers lodging for those who want to stay the night. You have the option to rent medieval-style tents or suites in the castle. Other attractions include exploring the ‘Horrible Histories’ maze, a Knight school for teens and children, and a trip to the Princess Tower.

4. Caernarfon Castle, Wales

Caernarfon Castle
“Caernarfon Castle”, by AJ Marshall, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Considered by some as the most architecturally impressive castle in Wales, Caernarfon Castle once served as an intimidating fortress. Its walls are believed to have been based on the walls of Constantinople. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the fortress stands as a stark reminder of King Edward I’s conquest of Wales in the twelfth century. Its hexagonal towers rise above the banks of the River Seiont as a symbol of English dominance.

The massive structure gives an intimidating presence that produces a juxtaposition with the peaceful river and community that surrounds it. Tours offered take visitors on a journey around battlements and outposts paired with an in-depth history of the fortress’s origins.

5. Tower of London, England

Tower of London
“Tower of London”, by Bob Collowân, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Despite its name, the Tower of London is actually considered a castle. It is believed to be the most secure and best-defended castle in the UK considering that it was chosen to house the royal Crown Jewels. If you’re a fan of the Royal Family or if you want to get a glimpse of the historic jewels that have been passed down through generations, The Tower of London is worth a visit. One thing to consider is that the Tower of London is one of the most famous tourist spots, so you may encounter a long line or might not get to stay as long as you would prefer.

6. Alnwick Castle, England

Alnwick Castle
“Alnwick Castle”, by Phil Thomas, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Alnwick Castle dates all the way back to the Norman era. Though some of its towers and walls have eroded, most of the main halls and keeps are still intact and attract thousands of visitors annually. The castle offers outdoor activities such as jousting, medieval fine dining, and outdoor cinema screenings.

Harry Potter fans may also recognize Alnwick Castle as one of the filming locations for young witches and wizards. Potterheads will be glad to learn that the castle also offers broomstick fly training and dragon quests. Alnwick Castle serves as a great destination for small and young families looking for a weekend trip.

7. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle
“Edinburgh Castle”, by Domob, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Situated on a massive rock and dominating the Edinburgh skyline, this famous castle in the heart of Scotland is considered by many as the most famous and most impressive in the country. Those setting their sights on the castle for the first time report an overwhelming feeling of grandeur and say they feel an authoritativeness emanating from the structure.

The Edinburgh Castle was once a military outpost that provided security to the city of Edinburgh, allowing it to grow and become the country’s capital. Visiting the castle requires a hike up the Royal Mile, but upon reaching the main keep, you’ll find the climb to be well worth it. Some worthy attractions include the Stone of Destiny, the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Military Museum, and the Royal Residences. Guided tours are offered, but if you want to explore the castle by yourself, you may opt to get an audio companion that takes you through the castle’s history as you explore it.

8. Tintagel Castle, England

Tintagel Castle
“Tintagel Castle”, by Andrew Hackney, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Legends surround Tintagel Castle as it’s believed to be the birthplace of King Arthur. One of the oldest castles in England, the castle has long been associated with myths and legends. It would appear that myths and legends also built the castle as its location and construction appear to serve very little military value. The castle is split in two as one part is built on the mainland with a footbridge connecting it to an extension. The rocky cliffs where the castle is situated are itself a reason to visit. If you’re mystified by the legends of King Arthur, you should consider a visit to Tintagel Castle. The famous King Arthur statue and the Merlin Cave are some of the attractions on the castle tour.

9. Castle Ward, Northern Ireland

Castle Ward
“Castle Ward”, by Irishdeltaforce, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Castle Ward is a simpler and more modern castle in the Irish countryside. It’s a relatively smaller castle compared to some of the castles on this list, and the castle doesn’t exactly have ‘architectural wonder’ written on its walls. Yet, the eighteenth-century palace is open for visitors and offers tours of its libraries, gardens, and halls. You may also get a light lunch or a quick snack in their tea room.

Castle Ward doesn’t have a lot of remarkable features, but one thing does make it stand out; it was one of the filming locations for the world-renowned TV series, Game of Thrones. That’s right, Castle Ward once served as the home of the Starks, Winterfell.

10. Dunnottar Castle, Scotland

Dunnottar Castle
“Dunnottar Castle”, by Eduardo Unda, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you were to be a supervillain, Dunnottar Castle would be one heck of a choice for your evil lair. The ruins of an old fortress perched atop a cliff that appears to be being swallowed into the sea, nothing captures the drama better. Even the walk up to the castle is a feat by itself. Dunnottar Castle had undergone restoration, saving it from being lost to time, but the restorations could only do so much. The castle remains a ruin, but it still stands as an impressive structure. The ruins are hauntingly attractive, suiting its location. If you want to add an extra layer of drama, you can visit the castle in the rain.

11. Beaumaris Castle, Wales

Beaumaris Castle
“Beaumaris Castle”, by Mike Peel, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Edward I built this castle as a symbol of strong military power. The concentric design not only makes it unique, it also adds to the defensiveness. Beaumaris Castle is also called one of the most perfect castles because of its symmetrical walls. Its construction was unfortunately never completed after the king’s money ran out, hence, the walls never reached their planned height. Regardless, the castle is still a sight to behold, standing above a town against the backdrop of the sea. And as if it couldn’t get any prettier, it’s even got a traditional castle moat!

12. Dunluce Castle, Northern Ireland

Dunluce Castle
“Dunluce Castle”, by Iainirwin1, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

If you plan on touring the Northern Irish coast, visiting Dunluce Castle would be a great place for a quick stop. Sitting on a cliffside, the striking ruins of this seemingly haunted palace reverberate through anyone visiting. Though it has withstood many sieges and battles, the stories that get people interested in visiting are the myths and legends of ghosts, banshees, and other spirits lingering around and even making themselves known to visitors. One legend tells of one part of the castle getting swallowed up by the sea one stormy evening.

13. Conwy Castle, Wales

Conwy Castle
“Conwy Castle”, by ArchHist, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Another castle coming from King Edward I’s time, this massive imposing structure rises above a river, looming over ships and boats passing by. The castle’s imposing towers command authority and power to anyone who feats their eyes. The fortifications are a marvellous example of medieval architecture and fortification technology. Visitors are allowed to walk the walls, battlements, and towers, but the interior and the great hall as well as the kitchens and private chambers are kept off-limits. The massive towers that are grouped together provide an unhindered view of the river and the mountains surrounding the city.

14. Dunrobin Castle, Scotland

Dunrobin Castle
“Dunrobin Castle”, by Paul Wordingham, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’re looking for a castle that looks like it’s been plucked out of a Disney princess movie, Dunrobin Castle should be your next destination. Dating back to the 1300s, this castle’s appearance is more akin to a chateau than a military outpost. Though it has been around for hundreds of years, the cylindrical towers paired with the white facade make the palace appear more modern. The castle has been home to many dukes over the years and is still in use today. Though guests aren’t allowed to stay the night, they are allowed to take tours of the interior chambers and the gardens. The castle also sports a falconry and a tea room that serves snacks and lunches.

Final Thoughts

It’s undeniable that the UK has some of the most interesting and spectacular castles anywhere in the world. With over 4,000 castles and over a thousand years of history, visitors and tourists will have trouble finding castles that spark more interest. These castles not only give you an insight into the past, they also serve as a window into humanity. The history and culture that are ingrained into these castles are also a reflection of the people who once inhabited them. If you are vacationing in the UK or if you’re a Brit looking for an exciting trip during the weekend, be sure to consider visiting one of these majestic castles.

Featured Image: “Dunrobin Castle”, by Paul Wordingham, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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