Variety is the spice of life so this blog is a contribution from guest blogger B.Eagle, history pro extraordinaire and a newbie to the blogging scene. Read on and enjoy his lowdown on some of the UK’s top castles.
From dominating the British skyline to housing some of the most famous historical figures, castles have been an integral part of Great British culture for the last thousand years. However, even after seeing many of the colossal fortresses for myself, there are those special few that have a left a strong impression of awe and majesty upon me. I want to take you through my five favourite Great British castles and share with you my fascination of these medieval marvels.
As one of Queen Elizabeth II’s official residences, it comes as no surprise that Windsor Castle is perhaps the most popular and well known castle on the entire planet. Sprawling staterooms and the magnificent cylindrical tower bring the castle to life, with the architecture alone being enough to leave visitors speechless. Nevertheless, the historical significance of the castle trumps the grand building itself. Wander down to St George’s Chapel to meet some of the most famous historical figures to inhabit the British Isles.
Explore each and every corner of the chapel and discover majestic monuments for royals old and new, from George VI to the towering Edward IV. Meander down the centre of this timeless building and beneath your feet lies the mightiest of all English monarchs, Henry VIII. The sheer wealth of history oozes out of every wall at Windsor, making it an unmissable stop for any history enthusiast or lover of all things Royal Family. I didn’t even get around to talking about a certain Royal Wedding that took place there last year!
Sprawling staterooms and the magnificent cylindrical tower bring the castle to life, with the architecture alone being enough to leave visitors speechless.
Whilst Windsor still boasts all the splendour of a royal castle, Kenilworth reveals the other, far more destructive fate of castles around Britain. Nestled within the Warwickshire countryside, the ruin of Kenilworth Castle is still as beautiful as some of the more structurally complete castles in the UK. A prime example of where medieval defences met Elizabethan style, Kenilworth Castle was a fashion statement devised to woo the virgin queen, Elizabeth I, with its stylish decoration.
Whilst the lavish interior is now little more than a distant memory, what remains of the exterior still features some of the most spectacular views I have seen. Witnessing the setting autumnal Sun strike the terracotta stonework of the castle’s outer walls was a real treat, turning the grounds into a photographer’s paradise. A must visit is the enchanting Elizabethan garden that has been painstakingly recreated to allow modern visitors to experience castle life that was once fit for a Queen.
Witnessing the setting autumnal Sun strike the terracotta stonework of the castle’s outer walls was a real treat, turning the grounds into a photographer’s paradise.
Kenilworth was not the only castle fit for a Queen. Hidden deep within the tranquility of the Cotswolds lies Sudeley Castle, once home to Henry VIII’s final (and perhaps luckiest!) wife, Queen Catherine Parr. Sudeley is a castle that was clearly built to take full advantage of the indulgent lifestyle led by nobles during the late medieval and Tudor periods. Whilst some parts of this grand castle are now in ruins, the majority is still used as living quarters to this day! The rooms open for exploration by the public allow visitors to explore how the residents of Sudeley have lived in the castle over the last five hundred years.
Concealed within the gardens is the castle’s own personal chapel which houses the final resting place of the aforementioned Queen Catherine. Sudeley allows you to lap up the castle’s intriguing story whilst also letting you enjoy the scenic views of the Cotswolds, meaning that history buffs and ramblers alike will not want to miss out on this sumptuous step back into the past.
Moving away from the quintessential English castles, the next fortress finding itself on this is Caernarfon Castle in North Wales. Being one of Edward I’s many strongholds built after his conquest of Wales, Caernarfon boasts medieval might and majesty, something of which even time itself has not been able to defeat. With the Eagle Tower of Caernarfon being the supposed birthplace of Edward I’s son, Edward II, the castle’s history and that of the position and title of the ‘Prince of Wales’ are intertwined, so much so that the ancient walls have become the location where this royal title is bestowed.
Whilst Edward I built the castle to maintain English dominance, Caernarfon in the present day provides would be invaders and visitors with a different challenge. Be prepared to encounter a labyrinth of corridors and unforgiving spiral staircases throughout as the subtleties of medieval defensive architecture reveal themselves. However, the perplexing and sometimes strenuous journey to the castle’s summit is well worth the climb as you are gifted with astounding views of North Wales, Snowdonia National Park and beyond.
Whilst Edward I built the castle to maintain English dominance, Caernarfon in the present day provides would be invaders and visitors with a different challenge.
The final castle on this list takes north and to the land of the Scots. Without doubt the most famous castle in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle stands upon an extinct volcano, living up to this location by having a fittingly volcanic past of its own. Throughout its long history, the castle has been besieged more than any other place in Great Britain yet still proudly stands tall above the sprawling city below. Unsurprisingly, it has also been home to a wealthy cast of characters, some of which have been known to cause their own eruptions on the Scottish landscape.
Scottish culture flows through the walls of Edinburgh Castle, making it an absolute must visit when you are in this grand old city
Perhaps the most notable royal resident in an exceedingly long line of them is Mary, Queen of Scots, cousin and eventual prisoner of Queen Elizabeth I. Edinburgh Castle is also home to some of the most precious Scottish artefacts, including the Stone of Scone (also known by the far cooler name of ‘The Stone of Destiny’!) which was used at the coronation of countless Scottish Kings… until it was stolen by the English of course!
There are a plethora of secrets to uncover at this age-old castle so be prepared to spend an entire day here as you immerse yourself in both the past and the present of this remarkable place. Scottish culture flows through the walls of Edinburgh Castle, making it an absolute must visit when you are in this grand old city and why it is one of my favourite castles.
More on Castles…
- The English Heritage challenge
- Blustery Beeston Castle – Cheshire Days Out
- Stokesay Castle – Our most Colourful Castle & Beyond
- Ashby De La Zouch Castle