25 Best Medieval Castles In England

medieval castles in England

England is packed with castles and these are some of the best medieval castles in England you can visit.

I use the phrase ‘medieval castles’ as there are a lot of castles in England that came later than the medieval times, but I have always found the medieval castles more interesting as they have a lot more legendary tales surrounding them.

If you’re wondering how many medieval castles in England there are, it’s roughly 1100. So I narrowed it down to these 25 for some of the best medieval castles to see.

To make this article more interesting than just naming castles and a brief history of them I have added a few short legends surrounding some of them, which I hope you will enjoy.

Quick fact: The word ‘castle’ is a French word and the first castles in England were in the 11th century built by Normans who were invited by Edward The Confessor to England, and later by more Normans after they invaded in 1066. The French had been building castles at least 2 centuries before the English and some of the best medieval castles in England were started by them.


Open the table of contents if you want to jump to a specific castle you had in mind:

Many of these castles are maintained by English Heritage and the National Trust in the UK whereas others are privately owned.

Important: Check the castle’s website before visiting to check opening times as they can change by season or other events. I’ve added links to the official websites for the castles under each of their sections. All the castles are open to the public for visiting.

Tip: If you’re an overseas visitor to England you can get an English Heritage Pass (get one with that link) that gives you free entry to over 100 historical attractions in England, including some of the castles in England listed here. It’s great value for money.

There’s a map of the medieval castles in England at the end of the article to help plan a visit easier.


Dover Castle

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I have to include Dover Castle first on this list because it was the first out of all the medieval castles in England that I visited. I went there when I was 12 years old on a school trip and was beyond impressed (what young boy wouldn’t be impressed with a massive medieval castle).

History

Dover Castle has been called ‘The Key to England’ due to its location at a strategic position in the English Channel and has been around since the 11th century. It’s one of the largest castles in England.

During WWII the underground tunnels were used as air-raid shelters with an astonishing 3 miles of network.

Castle legend: With such a long history there are many reports of ghostly sightings and strange occurrences at Dover Castle. In the aforementioned tunnels, there have been a few experiences, with a notable one of a stretcher rushing down a corridor violently by itself as if by a strong ghostly force. It’s one of the most haunted castles in England.

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Hill Rd, Dover

You can do an epic day trip tour to Dover Castle from London, Leeds Castle (see further down the post) and the very historic Canterbury Cathedral.

Personally, if I were you and had the time I would rent a car in London and drive to Dover Castle and Leeds Castle. I would only do the tour if you want everything to be arranged for you. 

Of course, if you are already in Dover it doesn’t matter just go on in! You can also book tickets for Dover castle in advance. Always better to be on the safe side.

Dover Castle really is one of the best castles in southeast England that you can visit.

Windsor Castle

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History

Who hasn’t heard of Windsor Castle? Shame on you if you haven’t (kidding) as it’s one of the most famous of the medieval castles in the UK.

I’ll be totally honest and say that I haven’t been there myself (the shame) but have read up on it a lot in the past as I’m a castle buff. I feel like I’ve been there!

Windsor Castle dates back to the 11th century and is one of many castles in England founded by William The Conquerer. According to Windsor Castle, it is the ‘oldest and largest occupied castle in the world.’ Impressive.

It’s also the home of the Queen of England. As well as the inspiring outside of Windsor Castle, on the inside, you can see stately rooms and treasures.

Visitor Information

Address: Windsor SL4 1NJ

This is one of the easiest medieval castles near London to visit.

Get a Windsor Castle ticket in advance to avoid the line.

Another good option if you want to have a great day out seeing multiple historic attractions is to do a day tour that includes Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford.

Tower of London

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The Tower of London is famous and for good reasons. Situated in the heart of London it’s easy to get to as well. Just like Dover Castle I visited the Tower of London on a school trip, this time when I was 14. It was epic.

History

Technically it’s not a castle in terminology as nowadays it’s a palace but its history goes back a thousand years to the time of William the Conqueror, who built the castle, and into the heart of medieval England.

As far as castles in England go this is a must-visit when in London. It’s also handily nearby Tower Bridge so you can see that after, although the bridge is not from medieval times it’s still a historic icon of London.

Castle legend: With so many famous people being killed in the Tower of London it has a lot of ghost stories. Sir Walter Raleigh, who was imprisoned for 13 years at the Tower of London has been seen as a ghost as well as so many others.

Visitor Information

Address: London EC3N 4AB

The Tower of London is your first choice for a medieval castle in London.

I highly recommend booking a skip the line ticket in advance for the Tower of London as it’s a very popular tourist attraction in London and can get very busy.

Bamburgh Castle

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Bamburgh Castle is in Northumberland and annoyingly for me, it’s one of the medieval castles in England I have not visited yet but seriously want to.

History

Initially, the area was a simple fort during the end of the Roman occupation of Britain but, again, William The Conqueror built a castle on the site after the Norman Conquest of Britain.

The location is out of this world and from what I have read up on it the castle has a lot to see inside as well. 

Visitor Information

Address: Bamburgh, NE69 7DF

You can visit the other castles in Northumberland when there such as Alnwick Castle, Warkworth Castle, and Lindisfarne (see further down the article for those castles).


Warkworth Castle

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History

It dates back to the 12th century and even though a lot is in ruins there are still some intact parts such as the main building and some of the towers.

Warkworth Castle is in quite a ruined state of affairs but that adds to its charm, I guess. The location is great being by the River Coquet and near the sea.

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Terrace, Warkworth, Morpeth NE65 0UJ

A must visit out of the medieval castles in England.

Lindisfarne Castle

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How epic can a castle location get than where Lindisfarne Castle is? 

One of the most scenic spots for a castle on a small island, called Holy Island, that is accessible from the mainland at low tide, much like St Michael’s Mount (see further down the post).

History

It’s just slightly going out of the medieval period having been built in the 16th century, but it’s close enough, and such a cool castle to add to the list here.

Interesting fact: This is the place where the Vikings’ invaded Britain for the first time.

There was initially a priory on the island but due to the strategic location, the area was transformed into a castle.

Visitor Information

Address: Holy Island, Berwick-upon-Tweed TD15 2SH

This is another castle in Northumberland so you can combine it with Bamburgh Castle.

Warwick Castle

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Warwick Castle is one of the best castles in England and it has so much to offer other than just visiting the castle itself.

History

On top of all that you have an excellent example of a medieval castle that was, yet again, built by William The Conqueror in 1068. It’s packed with history and played a vital role in the Wars of the Roses.

It has the largest bird of prey show in the UK called the Falconer’s Quest. What more could you want from a medieval day out?

Visitor Information

Address: Warwick, CV34 4QU

You can even book a room at Warwick Castle and stay in an old tower for the night, or stay in large comfortable tents in the Knights Village. 

Rochester Castle

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Rochester Castle was another one I visited when younger.

History

The castle dates back to the 12th century and is known for the siege by King John in 1215 when he attacked rebel barons inside. They held out against him for 2 months but eventually lost.

There is a medieval movie called Ironclad that shows some of the battles at Rochester Castle but take the historical accuracy of it with a pinch of salt.

Castle legend: With such a bloody history there is definitely some ghostly stories to come out of the castle. The most known is that of Lady Blanche de Warren who in 1264 was killed when shot with an arrow to the chest by her fiance by accident. Her ghost is said to wander around the castle with the arrow still in her!

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Hill, Rochester ME1 1SW

Tip: Be sure to take a look at the nearby medieval Rochester Cathedral.

Also if you go to Essex at any point then check out Hedingham Castle which is one of the best-preserved Norman keeps in England and was built around the same time as Rochester Castle.


Alnwick Castle

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Hogwarts anyone? Alnwick Castle played the part of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the first two Harry Potter films and is one of England’s most historic castles.

History

The castle was first started in the late 11th century and featured heavily in the Wars of the Roses.

Out of the medieval castles in England, this is a must-see if you’re in the north of England along with Bamburgh Castle.

Visitor Information

Address: Alnwick NE66 1NQ

You can do a Viking Coast and Alnwick Castle Day Tour from Edinburgh that also includes the aforementioned Holy Island (Lindisfarne Castle).

Leeds Castle

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Leeds Castle is located in Kent and was not far from where I studied at Canterbury Art College for a while in the early 90s’. So I did manage with friends to drive up there and see the castle from the outside but didn’t make it inside.

History

It’s in an epic setting having been built on an island in a lake. Perfect natural defences. Lord Conway called it ‘the loveliest castle in the world‘.

Although the initial castle had been around since the early 12th century a lot of what you see today is a modern reconstruction from the 19th century.

Castle legend: The legend of the ‘Black Dog of Leeds’ is the most well-known story here. A ghostly black retriever dog has allegedly been seen numerous times and if chased will run into the castle walls and vanish.

Visitor Information

Address: Broomfield, Maidstone ME17 1PL

Leeds Castle can be combined with Dover Castle for a great day trip from London. Another option is to stay a night at the castle itself such as booking a room in the Maidens Tower or go glamping like a knight.


Arundel Castle

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History

Located in West Sussex and originally built in 1067 the castle you see today is in a restored form and is beautiful, as far as castles in England go, as it was remodelled in the Victorian era to a gothic design. 

If you didn’t know, gothic architecture started in medieval times.

William the Conqueror graced Arundel Castle on a Roger de Montgomery (lucky him) to rule the Arundel earldom from 1067.

Visitor Information

Address:  Arundel BN18 9AB

St Michael’s Mount

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I had been wanting to visit St Michael’s Mount since a child and finally got around to it in 2019. My dad’s side of the family is from the Isles of Scilly (which has its own share of good castles, albeit on the smaller side) and I had been passing St Michael’s Mount all my life when taking the train from London down to visit family and saw the castle perched on the island. 

History

St Michael’s Mount has been around in one way or another for a thousand years and has been everything from a monastic hideaway to a castle for defence. 

The history inside is very interesting and the views are spectacular and part of the fun is getting there as it’s only accessible on foot by a causeway at low tide or by small boat from the mainland at high tide.

It could be described as the Cornwall castle in the sea and is definitely one of the best medieval castles in England to visit.

There is also a St Michael’s Mount in France called Mont Saint-Michel which has historical connections with the Cornwall one, so don’t confuse the two. 

Visitor Information

Address: On a tiny island you have to swim to… just kidding! Marazion, TR17 0HS


Conisbrough Castle

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History

This 11th-century medieval castle is in South Yorkshire and has the beautiful Yorkshire countryside nearby which is also great for wandering around.

Conisbrough Castle was built for William de Warenne by William The Conqueror (yes there he is again) and had survived centuries of war only to slowly fall into ruin.

The inspiration for one of Sir Walter Scott’s most famous novels, Ivanhoe, was from this castle. That says it all.

Castle legend: It’s said that the ghost of a grey monk wanders the walls of the castle and the ghost of a white lady has been seen at the top of the keep.

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Hill, Conisbrough, Doncaster DN12 3BU

Framlingham Castle

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History

Framlingham Castle is located in Suffolk and dates back to the 12th century and yet again in the Norman style of building. Many powerful families have occupied this castle, especially the Tudors.

The high walls and towers plus the countryside area make it a near-perfect old medieval castle.

Visitor Information 

Address: Church St, Framlingham, Woodbridge IP13 9BP

Check out the historic Church of St Michael nearby as well.

Bodiam Castle

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History

Bodiam Castle looks epic and it is. It’s slightly younger than many of these medieval castles in England mentioned here having being built in the late 14th century by a knight who served under Edward III, and it’s definitely medieval.

It has a huge moat around it with the only entrance being a narrow wooden footbridge. The castle towers are spectacular in style as you can see in the picture.

It was primarily built to defend England against the French in the Hundred Years’ War.

Visitor Information

Address: Bodiam, Robertsbridge TN32 5UA

Lancaster Castle

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Lancaster Castle has a lot of history behind it and is perfectly situated on a hill overlooking the city of Lancaster.

History

It dates back to the 11-12th centuries and has seen a lot of action being so close to the Scottish border. In the 14th century, the Scots invaded England twice and damaged the castle in the process.

Castle legend: Lancaster was known as “the hanging town” due to the roughly 200 people hung there, so there can certainly be some “spooky” feelings when visiting. There have been stories of ghostly children running about the castle. And the Barrister’s library has been the scene of mysterious crying, amongst other ghostly stories.

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Grove, Lancaster LA1 1YJ

Kenilworth Castle

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History

And another one of the medieval castles in England from the time of the Norman Conquest.

Kenilworth Castle is in ruins today (in fact it’s the largest ruins of a castle in the UK) but when it was built in the 12th century it was an important fortress and holds the title of having gone through the longest medieval siege in English history.

It’s been expanded on over the centuries and has had important historical events happen there such as when the Earl of Leicester unsuccessfully proposed to Elizabeth I.

The castle has also creepily been named the second most haunted castle in England. In case you’re curious the most haunted is Bolsover Castle, but as that is not a medieval castle it did not make this list.

Castle legend: An old antique rocking cot that rocks by itself. The mysterious smell of pipe tobacco out of nowhere. A ghostly girl shows herself at the gatehouse asking for her father.

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Green, Kenilworth CV8 1NG

Tip: Kenilworth Castle and Warwick Castle are close to each other so plan both together in the same day.

Carlisle Castle

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Not the prettiest castle to look at, in fact, it’s been described as the ‘ugly castle’ by some, but it’s packed full of history and due to its strategic location at the border between England and Scotland it has seen many battles.

History

Carlisle Castle dates to the 12th century when a stone castle was built to secure England’s north against attack by the Scots. Over several hundred years the castle changed hands between the two sides many times.

Castle legend: When doing building work in the 19th century the skeletal remains of a Scottish woman were found between 2 walls, bricked up alive and left to starve to death. Her spirit is said to have been released that day when she was she was discovered and her ghostly figure now roams the castle.

Out of all the medieval castles in England Carlisle Castle is one of the scariest looking.

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Way, Carlisle CA3 8UR

Tip: It’s not that far from Hadrian’s Wall so you can go and check some of that out as well.

Chillingham Castle

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History

Built-in the 13th century, Chillingham Castle has been called the most haunted castle in Britain. It’s seen its fair share of battles and sieges and has had many kings and queens visiting over the centuries.

It’s located in Northumberland so is nearby some of the other great medieval castles in England mentioned here.

Castle legend: As bearing the claim of the most haunted castle in England there are plenty of ghostly tales. The most famous one is of the “White Pantry Ghost” who has been said to be seen asking for water in the pantry.

Be sure to check out the ‘Torture Chamber’ when there as well!

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Chillingham, Alnwick, Northumberland

It’s not far from Alnwick Castle.

Corfe Castle

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Ok, this one might seem a little ‘out of place’ as there are so many castles in England to visit and I’ve never seen Corfe Castle mentioned in any of the ‘best medieval castles in England‘, but that’s a shame as it’s an impressive place.

I have childhood memories (yet again) of visiting there and wanted to include it for nostalgia sake, as well as the fact it is a very good example of a medieval castle to visit anyway.

History

Corfe Castle was built in the 11th century for William The Conquerer after the Norman Conquest. It’s in a ruined state of affairs these days but, like others before, it just adds to the medieval charm.

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Tip: Also check out the nearby Lulworth Castle while there.

Visitor Information

Address: The Square, Corfe Castle, Dorset, BH20 5EZ

It’s located in Dorset so if you’re heading down to Cornwall to see some castles and other historical stuff there you can stop and see it on your way.

Bigger tip: If you love things historic, which I’m guessing you do since you’re reading about castles, then you can take an old steam train from Swanage that stops at the railway stop near Corfe Castle. What better way to reach there.

Raby Castle

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History

Raby Castle is located in County Durham and was built in the 14th century, although there have been additions to the castle since then.

Many nobles have lived there or visited over the years and it has a lot of history to it that you can explore.

It’s an impressive castle in its own right but the location is also worth it for the 200 acres of deer park.

Visitor Information

Address:  Staindrop, Darlington DL2 3AH

Durham Castle

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Durham Castle and its surrounding area (except Durham Cathedral) are a University College these days but the castle has a lot of tales to tell as it’s one of the oldest castles in England.

History

It was built in 1072 and became University College in 1837 and had a hell of a lot of things happen between those times, especially two English Civil Wars and the Reformation.

Visitor Information

Address: Durham DH1 3RW

It has an imposing presence over the picturesque town of Durham and is not to far from Northumberland where some of the other great medieval castles in England can be found, so you can see them all if you have the time.

Herstmonceux Castle

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History

Herstmonceux Castle is in East Sussex and dates to the 15th century (1441 to be exact) and is quite unique in the fact that for a medieval castle in England it is built with bricks which was a new thing back in that time.

It was obviously built well as it’s still standing and indeed it’s one of the oldest brick buildings in England. However the interior of the castle was demolished because of a wife’s ill advice to do so, but thankfully it was restored to its former glory in the 20th century.

So basically you will see an original castle on the outside and reconstruction on the inside.

Visitor Information

Address: Hailsham BN27 1RN

Carisbrooke Castle

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History

It was initially a fort for around 500 years until the 12th-14th centuries when it was improved with stone works and towers to make it into a castle.

King Charles I was infamously imprisoned here before he was sentenced to death.

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Hill, Newport PO30 1XY,

Carisbrooke Castle is on the Isle of Wight so a little trickier to get to.

You can get a ticket in advance for Carisbrook Castle here.

Tintagel Castle

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Tintagel Castle is somewhat in a ruined state of affairs and certainly doesn’t match up to the grandeur of the other medieval castles in England mentioned here, but it’s included for two reasons.

History

Firstly it’s the castle in Arthurian legend. Secondly for the location on a cliff in Cornwall.

Let’s start with the first point. Anything that’s related to legend is good, and especially something like an Arthurian legend with King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.

The area where the castle is located has been used for fortification since the late Roman period and would have been around during the timeline for King Arthur’s legends, although the ruins of the current castle are from the 13th century.

Geoffrey of Monmouth writing in his mythological accounts during the 12th century described the legend of King Arthur being associated with Tintagel.

These days, as stated before, the castle is in a ruined state but definitely worth your time to visit to get that medieval mythological feel.

Visitor Information

Address: Castle Rd, Tintagel PL34 0HE

If anything, go for the epic cliff location of the castle (being the second point mentioned before).


Map of the medieval castles in England:


Medieval Castles In England

Castles were a big part of life in medieval England and if you want to explore more about that time period, or just love old buildings with history, then these medieval castles in England are perfect to explore.

Of course in a country with so many castles there are a lot more castles in England to see than what I’ve mentioned here, and some very good ones, but this is an overview if you’re looking to see just a few, or even just one, to give you an idea of what to expect.

One final fact: The oldest castle in England is Berkhamsted Castle which dates back to 1067.

For more reading on castles in Britain take look at my post on the 30 best castles in Scotland to visit.


The books I mention below can be purchased on Amazon and are affiliate links which means I get a small commission if you purchase through the link at no extra cost to you. Thanks.

For a great book on the history of castles in Britain take a look at this book from one of my favourite historians, Marc Morris: Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain.

Another book I’ve researched that is good if you have an interest in English castles or castles in general is: English Castles: England’s most dramatic castles and strongholds

As there have been plenty of castle legends mentioned here you may also be interested in the book Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland.

Although I have not been able to find it anywhere to stream or buy, there might be occasional re-runs on the Discovery Channel of a series called Secrets of Great British Castles where Marc Morris explains some of the best medieval castles in England and the UK as a whole. You may be able to find it streaming on YouTube.

Also, Dan Snow’s Battle Castles is a great show to watch about castles.

Enjoy whatever medieval castles in England you visit!


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