The United Kingdom is pretty well-known for it's abundance of castles, palaces and stately homes, so it's no surprise they're one of the top tourist hotspots. Although, it can get a bit overwhelming choosing which spots to visit - hence why we've come up with this handd guide to the best castles and famous palaces in the UK.
And on that note, lets get stuck in.
Now, we had to start with a good’un. Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world – let that sink in for a minute. Head to the castle for a jaunt and you just might find yourself rubbing shoulders with the Royal Family themself. Check out the State Apartments (choose from the Ceremonial and Historic rooms), wander round the historic site and have a nosey at Queen Mary's Dolls' House (young'uns will absolutely love this bit). This is definitely one of the most iconic castles in the UK - you simply can't swing by London without visiting Windsor. Get your Windsor Castle tickets here!
This one is really something out of a movie – a castle that not only looks out onto the North Sea but also sees the rolling hills of the Northumberland countryside. Whether you decide to enter this castle or not, you’ll be blessed with some seriously epic views from the outside alone. And if you’re in the market for a beach day out, make note – it’s one hell of a spot for it.
Now this is a castle that packs a punch. This is definitely the best castle to visit in the UK with kids – there's more activities than you can throw a jousting stick at. From trying out Archery to exploring the Horrible Histories Maze, your young’uns will just love it here. And for you quote-on-quote ‘adults’, there are plenty of other sights to see too – watch The Falconer’s Quest (the UK’s largest bird of prey show), explore the castle and stop by for some afternoon tea.
Set in the heart of Edinburgh, this castle is absolutely steeped in rich history. For centuries this castle has stood tall, protecting Scotland from a handful of sins and now you can spend the day exploring the wonderful sight. We’re not exaggerating either, you could definitely spend an entire day here – there are cafes to stop by for lunch and listen out for the one o’clock gun (which goes off every day except for Sundays).
Another iconic Northumberland castle, Alnwick is a massive castle tucked into a quaint village – and it just happens to be the second largest inhabited castle in the UK. The castle has a rich history, serving as a military outpost, refuge for evacuees and a film set – now that’s quite the résumé. Did the talk of film sets pique your interest? Well, you Downton Abbey lovers will be pleased to know that Alnwick Castle appeared in the famous series, along with the likes of Transformers: The Last Knight and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Though the name is misleading, the Tower of London is most definitely a castle – and one that’s plonked right in central London too. Oh, and we can’t forget to mention that it’s probably the best protected castle in the country (if not the world) too, and that’s probably because the Crown Jewels are stashed inside. Don’t worry though, these wonderful jewels are on offer for visitors to view.
You can also experience some of the history that happened here first-hand with the Gunpowder Plot Immersive located just next door!
This lonely-looking castle is a thing of real beauty and the views from the castle grounds aren’t too bad either – look out over Llyn Padarn and soak in the Welsh countryside. Oh, and you’ll probably be chuffed to find out that this one has free entrance too.
This one is definitely one of the most famous castles in England and we’re not surprised. I mean, look at it. If you were to ask a little kid to draw a castle, they’d end up drawing Bodiam Castle – it's a classic. You’d probably never guess it from the pristine exterior but much of the interior has fallen into ruin, so visitors are invited to explore the castle’s battlements, towers and grand courtyards instead.
Channel your inner Monarch at this stunning castle – it's sat on a hilltop overlooking the River Coquet, so it’s pretty darn cool. Explore the power of Northumberland's Dukes, and with loads of rooms on show, you’ll have plenty of time to nosey around. Oh, and you can’t miss out the new sculptures that were installed this year, paying homage to those who lived in and around the castle in the 15th century.
Warkworth Castle is part of English Heritage, you can save 15% on an annual English Heritage membership to enjoy unlimited access to hundreds of historic places!
Acting as the Scottish home to the Royal Family since it was purchased for Queen Victoria from Prince Albert waaaay back in 1852, Balmoral is kind of iconic. If you’re planning on visiting the best castles in the UK, this one should definitely be on your hit list – though it’s only open consistently from April 1st – July 31st.
This fortress-style palace really * makes * Caernarfon. Recognised as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages, Caernarfon Castle is based on the banks of the River Seiont and is grouped with Edward I’s other castles (Conwy, Beaumaris and Harlech) as a World Heritage Site. This is definitely one of the best castles in the UK - and our top choice for castles in wales.
As Northern Ireland's only Royal residence, Hillsborough Castle is home to a stunning 100-acres of gardens. The site was developed in the mid-eighteenth century and has been quite the sight to see ever since - make sure to visit during spring and summer to see over half a million bulbs in bloom.
Ahh, this one is a real beauty. There’s just something about the sparkly blue sea next to the stunning cliffs of Cornwall – and this castle is no exception. Venture out onto the suspended bridge and find yourself exploring the ruins in Tintagel Castle. Oh, and we can’t forget about meeting Gallos, the huuuuge bronze sculpture of an ancient king – we reckon it looks like something out of Harry Potter.
This is another amazing English Heritage property so make sure you get your English Heritage membership so you can get unlimted access to all of the incredible English Heritage castles.
Head out to the stunning Island of Anglesey and prepare to see some beautiful sights. One of our favourites has to be Beaumaris Castle. On a clear day, you’ll see the tops of the North Welsh mountains, the Menai Strait and landscapes of amazing rolling hills – and of course, plenty sheep scattered about.
This is probably the best palace in the UK to pretend like you're a Royal for the day - saunter around the King's Gallery, act as if The Jewel Room belongs to you and have a picnic on the beautiful gardens. Oh, and sometimes there's special events on to keep you even busier. Time travel through fashion at the Crown to Couture display, from King Charles II to Lady Gaga, they've got it all - on display until 29th October 2023.
Now, this one is properly picturesque. Based on the cliffs near the village of Bushmills, this historic masterpiece has evidence of settlement from the first millennium - although the castle ruins you'll see today are mainly from the 16th and 17th century. Dunluce Castle was once inhabited by the feuding McQuillan and MacDonnel clans - and all of this is on-site for public viewing.
Another cliffside beauty, Dunnottar Castle is found on a rocky outcrop along the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail. This is one of the best castles in the UK if you're in search of somewhere that looks straight out of a fantasay movie - it looks soooo Game of Thrones. Though this spot is spectacular, it's best enjoyed during the summer months (and gets an amazing sunset).
Fondly known as the home of Henry VIII (and all six of his wives at one point in time), Hampton Court Palace is absolutely packed full of historic gems for a fun day out. From experiencing Henry VIII's kitchens - which used to produce a whopping 800 meals a day (he really was a hungry King) - to exploring the Hampton Court Palace Maze, there's a whole day of fun at this famous palace.
Are you a fan of all things historical? We've got you - at Days Out you can book tickets for a whole range of historical attractions in the UK. Find them all here:
At Days Out, you can book the UK’s best attractions (y’know the proper FOMO inducing ones?) -- we know where’s perfect for you. Find your next adventure.