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Best Castles in the UK

Thursday 24 August 2023

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For many of us, living in a castle has always been a fairy-tale dream. With so many films and books being set in gorgeous castles with stunning grounds, it’s easy to see how castles have become romanticised! Centuries ago, Britain’s leaders and gentry actually lived this dream, living in the largest and most beautiful castles in the land. Few castles are still homes today, with most being converted into visitor attractions and historical sites. This gives us the opportunity to step back in time and experience what life was like hundreds of years ago.

From medieval forts to fairy-tale chateaus, these are CrossCountry’s picks for the best castles in the UK.

Windsor Castle

 It’s amazing to think that Windsor Castle, founded in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, is still lived in today. The oldest, and largest, occupied castle in the world is the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who still spends her off-duty weekends on the grounds. It is undoubtedly one of the best castles near London, and in the whole of the UK.

Being able to walk in the footsteps of the current monarchy is enough to get most people visiting, but that isn’t the only attraction. The historic state apartments, priceless treasures, and St. George’s Chapel – where most royal weddings take place – make for a great day out.

How to get to Windsor Castle by train:

Windsor & Eton Central station is a couple of minutes’ walk away from Windsor Castle, which you can reach from London stations as well as from Reading station.

Warwick Castle

While some castles are perfect for taking a step back in history, others are just a great family day out. Warwick Castle is the latter, with a knight school, Horrible Histories maze, birds of prey display, and castle dungeon for the kids to explore.

But it’s not all fun and games. The grounds themselves are stunning, with gardens, towers, and historic rooms that give you a sense of the castle’s grandiose history. If you want to make a weekend of it, be our guest; glamping tents, lodges, and suites are all available to make you feel like kings and queens of the castle.

How to get to Warwick Castle by train:

The castle is just a 15-minute walk from Warwick train station. If you’re travelling from Leamington Spa train station, you can hop on a 20-minute train or 30-minute bus.

Edinburgh Castle

Sitting proudly at the centre of Scotland’s capital is Edinburgh Castle, a world-famous fortress with a complex history. While Castle Rock – the volcanic formation on which it stands – has been occupied since at least the Iron Age, the castle itself was only inhabited by royals between the 12th and 17th centuries. Yet it still dominates Edinburgh’s skyline as the city’s most iconic landmark, making it a stunning castle to see both up close and from afar.

Inside you’ll find the Scottish Crown Jewels, the mysterious Stone of Destiny, and the National War Museum of Scotland. If you time your visit right, you might even hear the sound of the famous One o’Clock Gun.

How to get to Edinburgh Castle by train:

Edinburgh Castle is located just a 12-minute walk from Edinburgh Waverley station.

 

Cardiff Castle

In the heart of the Cardiff (or Caerdydd as its known in Welsh!) sits Cardiff Castle, one of the country’s most famous heritage attractions with an extraordinary long history. It’s thought that the first fort was built by the Romans around 50 AD. Since then, it’s been occupied by dynasties such as the Normans and Victorians, even playing a vital role in the Second World War.

The grounds reflect this centuries-long history, with lavish Victorian apartments, the iconic Norman keep, and wartime shelters all housed within the Roman walls.

How to get to Cardiff Castle by train:

Cardiff Castle is just a 10-minute walk from Cardiff Central station.

 

Alnwick Castle

There’s a reason why Alnwick Castle is dubbed the Windsor of the North: it’s the second-largest inhabited castle in the UK and has a history that spans over 700 years. The castle itself was home to the Duke of Northumberland’s family for most of that time, but it also has a special place in the lives of TV and film fans across the globe.

While its inhabitants – the Percys – have certainly never partaken in a game of quidditch, Harry Potter and friends did while filming several movies here. Other films and shows have been shot here, too, including Downton Abbey, so it is possibly one of the most famous castles in the UK.

How to get to Alnwick Castle by train:

Getting to Alnwick by train is easy – the castle is just a 12-minute walk from Alnwick train station, or a 30-minute bus from Alnmouth train station if you’re travelling with CrossCountry.

Dunrobin Castle

If you’re searching for your fairy-tale dream, look no further than Dunrobin Castle. Scotland’s most northerly great house looks like it’s been picked straight out of a Disney film, with French chateâu-inspired pointy spires and long, looming windows; if you’re looking for the most beautiful castles in the UK, look no further.

It was built over 700 years ago, but you’ll be more inspired by the dramatic architecture than the history. The castle is surrounded by a lusciously green garden and overlooks the Moray Firth. Head down to the beach on a good day and you might even spot a dolphin or two – it doesn’t get more magical than that!

How to get to Dunrobin Castle by train:

Located at the very top of Scotland, visiting Dunrobin Castle requires some travel planning. From Aberdeen station, onward journeys to Inverness and Dunrobin Castle station bring you to the castle.

Tintagel Castle

Most castles owe themselves to medieval history, but Tintagel has a much more legendary story. It’s said to be the birthplace of King Arthur, and historians believe that was the main reason behind its construction. Set along Cornwall’s north coast, the dramatic castle is split between the mainland and an island, with a bridge connecting the two.

The steps are steep and the drops sheer, so it’s a challenging site to visit. But when you do, you’ll be enamoured with Tintagel, and appreciate why this romantic setting on the Cornish coastline has inspired so many legends.

How to get to Tintagel Castle by train:

From Bodmin Parkway station, you can reach Tintagel by taking the 11 bus followed by the 95 bus.

If you’re planning to visit some of the best castles in the UK, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or the CrossCountry app. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

Written by Julia

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