The Best Castles of Britain
Windsor Castle, located in Windsor in the English county of Berkshire, at about 20 miles west of London, is 900 years old, dating back to the time of William the Conqueror, and its ground area stretches on 45,000 square metres (480,000 sq ft), making it the largest inhabited castle in the world.
The Castle’s grounds include several homes, a large church and the royal palace; it is the weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II and the place where one of the monarchy’s oldest traditions, dating from the Middle Age period, the Knights of the Garter, the knighthood consisting of the monarch, the Prince of Wales and 24 knights, continues to be honored at Windsor Castle. The castle is visited every year by over one million people, including the Queen’s famous guests and celebrities.
Edinburgh Castle is a castle fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock, being located at about 400 miles north of London and being one of the most visited locations in Europe.
Edinburgh Castle withstood numerous sieges, invasions, power struggles, murder and imprisonment, and today is the home of the Scottish crown jewels, including the 500-year-old crown, sword and scepter were used at the coronations of the kings and queens of Scotland. For 150 years, every day, at 1 p.m. a loud gun would fire, signaling the correct time to sailors at sea and to the locals so basically the Castle was the keeper of the clock. Visitors are today allowed to see the dungeons used to incarcerate thousands of prisoners over the years and displays of wax models are positioned throughout the dungeon.
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the London Borough of Richmond, located at about 11.7 miles (18.8 km) south west of Charing Cross and upstream of Central London on the River Thames; originally being built in the 1500’s for Cardinal Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII. The palace is surrounded by 60 acres filled with gardens, spectacular views of the River Thames and a famous maze that has confused visitors for over 300 years. Henry the VIII enlarged the palace and today it has 1,000 rooms, some of them being occupied in the past by the six wives of this famous king. There is a story associated with the 15-year-old Katherine Howard, the fifth wife of Henry the VIII, who, accused of adultery, was imprisoned but later escaped; eventually she was caught and tried for treason, not before being dragged through a gallery that’s now called the Haunted Gallery.
Stirling Castle, located in Stirling, at about 450 miles from London, is one of the largest and most important castles in Europe and a well-known symbol of Scotland. The castle sits atop Castle Hill, a volcanic crag which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation and is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs; outside the walls of Stirling stands a monument to Scotland’s great national hero, William Wallace, who led a small army against the English king, Edward I, at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, and during the reign of King James IV in Scotland, scientist John Damian announced he would fly from Stirling Castle to France but instead he dropped down like a stone, along with its wings made of strips of wood, chicken feathers and glue.
St. Michael’s Mount is a tidal island located 366 m (400 yd) off the Mount’s Bay coast of Cornwall, United Kingdom, and roughly 600 miles south of London, being connected to the mainland and the town of Marazion by a man-made causeway of granite setts, passable between mid-tide and low water. Since the 5th century, this rocky island has been visited by travelers from all around the world, and it is said that in this place the archangel Michael appeared to a group of people over the mount. Every year, believers make the pilgrimage to the mount and to the Benedictine monastery, built on top of the hill in the 12th century, by walking up the ancient Pilgrims’ Steps.
Leeds Castle dates back to 1119, being a located 4 miles (6.5 km) southeast of Maidstone, Kent, England, and 30 miles from central London and home of Henry the VIII; the castle stands on the site where a manor house once stood in the 9th century. The grounds of the castle lie to the east of the village of Leeds, Kent and throughout its history, two American families who owned the castle also owned large tracts of land in Culpepper and Fairfax; in 1926, Lady Olive Baillie set about refurbishing the castle and installing all the necessary items, so the castle’s connection to the United States continues. Lady Baillie left the castle to the Leeds Castle Foundation and was opened to the public in 1976. What you may find interesting at this castle is the maze which was constructed in 1988, using 2,400 yew trees; the technique of solving a maze by keeping one hand on a wall while walking through as a wall follower often fails because not all ‘walls’ are connected.
Caernarfon Castle was constructed at Caernarfon in Gwynedd, north-west Wales and at two hundred and fifty miles from London, by King Edward I of England, following his conquest of the area in 1283. Edward I took the title of Prince of Wales from the Welsh and since that time, the eldest son of the King or Queen of England has been known as the Prince of Wales. Caernarfon Castle is part of the World Heritage Site ‘Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd’ and built on the site of an ancient Roman fort.
Tintagel Castle is a castle currently in ruins found on Tintagel Island, located near the village of Tintagel in Cornwall, in the northwest corner of England, being best known for King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. Tintagel Castle was built 800 years ago by the Earl of Cornwall, brother of the King of England, who asked for the castle’s design to resemble the court where it’s believed that King Arthur had reigned and that is Camelot. The site was perhaps originally a Roman settlement and the “island” is in fact a peninsula eroded by the sea for hundreds of years; today this popular tourist site is run by English Heritage and during the summer, hundreds of enthusiasts come to relive the days of King Arthur and his knights.
Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress, also known as the Tower of London, receives its name after the White Tower, built by William the Conqueror in 1078; it is located within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by the open space known as Tower Hill, with the Traitor’s Gate or the entrance from the River Thames, known for being the last stop for those who were on their way to their execution. The building was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England and housed the royal family and the crown jewels, which have been on public display for 350 years. The Tower of London has a dark past, involving the executions of three queens of England, but also murder, so, the Beefeaters or the Yeoman Warders, who run the tower, are also there to tell these interesting stories to the Tower’s visitors.
Warwick Castle is a medieval castle in Warwick, the county town of Warwickshire, England, located at less than 100 miles from London and on a bend on the River Avon. Generations of Earls of Warwick had resided in the castle until 25 years ago, being originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068 within or adjacent to the Anglo-Saxon burh of Warwick, converted into a country house by Sir Fulke Greville in the early 17th century, being used before as a fortification and owned by the Greville family from 1759 until 1978, who became earls of Warwick. Six hundred years ago, the Earl of Warwick was Europe’s most famous jousting champion and today, every year, thousands of people arrive at Warwick Castle to watch re-enacted jousting competitions.11