Across Great Britain lie fascinating nuggets bequeathed by history in the form of castles. We offer you a glimpse of eight historic edifices that reveal a world of romance and opulence, courtly intrigue and ambition.
Eilean Donan Castle, Scottish Highlands
The charmingly named castle that means ‘island of Donan’ (named after the 6th century Irish saint called Bishop Donan) seems straight out of a beautiful painting — situated on a rocky island at a point where three great sea lochs meet. Visitors see the history exhibition before the main castle opens up. Those unable to walk up the tough flight of steps can take a virtual tour of the castle in the coffee shop.
Windsor Castle, Berkshire
With its majestic turrets and towers soaring into the sky, the world’s largest inhabited castle goes back to the 11th century. One of the main residences of the British monarch, Windsor presents a pretty picture as it overlooks the Thames river. Besides the change of guard, visit Queen Mary’s Doll House made in the early 1920s that is a four-storey Palladian mansion created by artists, the state apartments and St George’s Hall that is used for state banquets. Don’t miss the sculpture garden at Windsor Great Park and St George’s chapel.
Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh
From the time it springs into view, this castle, perched on the Castle Rock, spells grandeur. Walk in through the 450-year-old Portcullis Gate and get a splendid overview of its history through nine illustrated panels. Take a look at the upper floor of the gate named after the 9th Earl of Argyll and then move towards the summit of the Castle Rock. Besides the birth chamber of King James VI, the weapons and armour, you must also see Mon’s Meg, the celebrated siege gun that rained heavy gun stones on the enemy. It was also fired in honour of the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots.
Warwick Castle, Warwickshire
An important landmark in Stratford-on-Avon, any admirer of Shakespeare would like to visit this beautifully preserved, medieval fortress. Belonging to the Earl of Warwick, visitors can recapture his lavish lifestyle especially in the beautiful 17th century Great Hall and the State Rooms, besides his private residences. Don’t forget to climb to the towers for some breathtaking views.
Leeds Castle, Kent
Set in over 500 acres of beautiful parkland, this once Norman stronghold and palace of Henry VIII, looks straight out of picture postcard. Besides admiring the amazing collection of art, porcelain and furniture, go round the gardens and grounds that include a popular maze. There’s also a falconry display, ride on Elsie – the Castle Land Train – and Black Swan Ferry Boat for that adrenaline rush.
Dover Castle, Kent
A 2,000-year-old slice of history awaits you at this castle, also known as the ‘key to England’ because of its defensive location. Experience a world of romance, courtly intrigues and ambition in this palace that rose to prominence during the reign of King Henry II. Get some pictures clicked with youngsters in costumes who recreate the life in medieval times. A walk into underground Secret Wartime Tunnels is an experience not to be missed.
Skipton Castle, North Yorkshire
This majestic stone castle has witnessed many wars including a three-year siege during the Civil War (1642-1651). Don’t forget to pick up a tour sheet that explains interesting details with the help of drawings and descriptions. Besides visiting the six drum towers, go down into the dungeons and up to the Watch Tower for an unforgettable experience.
Canterbury Castle, Kent
Walk through history and time when William the Conqueror after overcoming the Saxons at the Battle of Hastings, established three powerful castles at Canterbury, Dover and Rochester. This solid stone structure was completed around 1120, but little remains in the interior, though the foundations of inner chambers can be seen. One tower stair still rises to the full height of the castle, allowing excellent views of areas far and wide.