In history

Wherever you are in the world, you’re never too far from news about British royalty. With one of the few remaining monarchies left in the world, it’s hardly surprising that we’re all so interested in the latest Royal birth, Royal wedding or Royal scandal. We also love a Royal home, whether that’s tours of Buckingham Palace in London or Windsor Castle – wherever you look in the UK, you’ll find evidence of Britain’s many castles, some in ruins or some perfectly preserved.

Here are five of the UK’s most interesting castles for you to add to your itineraries.

The Tower of London, London

Yes, it is technically a castle!
Before it was the home of enemies of the crown, the Tower of London was home to royalty! Over the years, many a royal has lived in the tower. Since it was first built by William the Conqueror, the Tower has never been besieged and has been a palace, a Royal Mint, a prison and even a zoo before the Tudors started using it for executions.

These days, there are over 23,500 jewels housed in the tower, it’s where you can go to view the Crown Jewels, which are estimated to exceed £20 billion! One of the most obvious things you will notice when visiting the Tower are the ravens, there are at least six ravens kept at the Tower at all times for superstitious reasons – it is said that if the ravens leave the tower that the monarchy will fall – it’s why each raven has been clipped so they can’t fly away and there is even a spare raven, to make sure that there is never less than six of them! Speaking of ravens, they aren’t the only animals that can be seen, apparently the ghost of a bear from the Tower’s days as a zoo can be seen and heard roaming the grounds. Other ghostly residents include Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard (Henry VIII’s fifth wife), Henry VI and of course, the princes that disappeared during their stay there.

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

Perhaps one of the most visited castles in the country, Warwick Castle is over 900 years old and has been a haven for tourists for decades. The castle was originally built in 1068 by William the Conqueror to defend the Midlands against rebellions and has a hugely varied history. It has been the home of the Earls of Warwick for centuries before being used by Parliamentarians during the English Civil War under Robert Greville, whose family then kept the castle until the 1970s when it was sold to Tussauds Group and made into the popular attraction that it is now.

Windsor Castle, Windsor

Just outside London, this is where you’ll often find the Queen when she isn’t at Buckingham Palace or Balmoral, it is said that it is her favourite London residence and you can tell if she is at home by looking at the flag pole above the Round Tower. King George III also loved this particular castle and was said to spend a lot of time there. He apparently liked to spend time with the people who worked on the surrounding countryside and checking that his tenants were ok.
It is the world’s oldest and largest inhabited castle and has been used by the royal family for around 950 years. William the Conqueror had this one built too, and it has become synonymous with Royal events and state occasions, being the site of several royal weddings. Ten former kings are also buried here, Charles I is a notable exception, as he was executed for treason and therefore wasn’t allowed a state funeral.

Highclere Castle, Hampshire

TV fans will recognise this as Downton Abbey – the castle was initially a medieval palace before being refurbished by Sir Charles Barry who also designed the Houses of Parliament. These days, the castle is home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, whose family has been in residence since the 1670s and one of the many tours include a unique display of Egyptian artefacts to celebrate the role of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon during the excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb. Aside from Downton Abbey,  Highclere Castle also featured in the film Eyes Wide Shut.

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

One of the city’s most iconic sites, Edinburgh Castle is a true window into Scotland’s history. From its vantage point on top of an inactive volcano, there are incredible views from pretty much every angle of the castle – it’s high position isn’t just handy for the views, it is also a good way to keep the inhabitants safe, which is just as well as it is the most besieged place in the British Isles! The castle was attacked 23 times throughout its history, the last time being in the 1700s during the Jacobite Rising.

Much like the Tower of London, Edinburgh Castle is the home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Sceptre and the Sword of State and were the only set of British regalia to survive Oliver Cromwell’s campaign against royal symbols. After Scotland and England united under one crown, they jewels were locked up and almost forgotten for nearly 100 years before being discovered again by Sir Walter Scott in the 1800s. They’ve been on display since then at the castle, the only exception being the second World War in case of Nazi invasion. Another similarity between here and the Tower of London is that it too once had animal residents, an elephant once lived there too!

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