Best Castles near London

Best castles near London-Warwick-Castle

Learn the fascinating history of England from the Norman conquest through the Tudor Dynasty and on into the modern history of WWI and WWII by visiting the country’s amazing and historic castles and fortifications. From the heart of London out into the stunning surrounding countryside, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of some of the most notable Royal and influential families of Britain the only questions is, where will you visit first?!

The best castles to visit in and near London

1. Tower of London

Castles near London-Tower-of-London

Founded by William the Conqueror and used as a fortress, Royal palace, Royal mint, Jewel House, and infamous prison and place of execution, the Tower of London contains 1,000 years of history within its ancient walls. The huge keep otherwise known a the Great Tower, or The White Tower (essentially what everyone refers to as ‘The Tower of London’, is where English history has played out with Anne Boleyn, the young princes, and Guy Fawkes just some of the 8,000 people who have been incarcerated here throughout history. Step inside for a guided tour by the Queen’s Yeomen Warders, the ceremonial guardians of the tower better known as the Beefeaters.

Where: Central London
When:
12th century
Style:
Gothic Revival
Open for visit:
Yes. Open Tuesday-Saturday 9am-5.30pm and Sunday-Monday 10am-5.30pm

2. Windsor Castle

Best castles near London-Windsor-Castle

One of the Royal Residences of the Queen, Windsor Castle is not only the largest occupied castle in the world but also the oldest. Boasting 900 years of history, it has been the home of 39 King’s and Queens of England including Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, and Queen Victoria who used Windsor as a full-time residence.

Where: Windsor, Berkshire
When: 11th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Usually open daily but closures can happen at short notice – Check the website to be sure.

3. Kew Palace

Famous Castles near London-Kew-Palace

Located in Kew Gardens on the banks of the River Thames, this small Royal Palace (the smallest of them all) was built in 1631 by a London silk merchant. The fashionable mansion only became a Royal palace later, used as a weekend retreat for several generations of the Georgian Royalty before becoming the Summer home of George III and Queen Charlotte. Inside you’ll find an exhibition dedicated to George III where you can learn about this famous King and his mental illness.

Where: Royal Botanic Gardens, Richmond, London
When: 17th century
Style:
Georgian
Open for visit:
Yes. Open 10.30am-5.30pm April-September

4. Lullingstone Castle

Castles near London-Lullingstone-Castle

One of England’s oldest family estates, home to members of the Hart Dyke family since the 15th century (that’s twenty generations), the history of Lullingstone Castle can be traced back to 1085, the time of the Domesday record. A fortified Manor House in Tudor times (visited by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn), Lullingstone was renamed as a castle in the 18th century. Today it’s not just the castle that draws in visitors but the World Garden located in the grounds which combines plant heritage with cutting-edge horticulture, all laid out in the shape of the world.

Where: Lullingstone, Dartford Kent
When: 15th century
Style:
Jacobean
Open for visit:
Yes. Open Friday-Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays 12 pm-5 pm April-October (excluding Good Friday).

5. Eynsford Castle

Best castles near London-Eynsford-Castle

This Medieval fortification is a rare example of an ‘enclosure castle’ from the early Norman period. An ‘enclosure castle’ is protected by a curtain wall rather than a keep or motte as with most other Norman castles. Today, parts of the impressive curtain wall still stand intact to their original 30 feet (9 metres) height and you can also see the remains of a spiral staircase and parts of a fireplace in the ruins of what were the inner buildings.

 Where: Eynsford, Kent
When: 11th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily 10 am-6 pm April-October and 10 am-4 pm November-March. Closed 25th December and 1st January.

6. Berkhamsted Castle

Famous Castles near London-Berkhamsted-Castle

This motte-and-bailey castle, one of the oldest in England, was built so as to control a vital route from London to the Midlands during the Norman conquest. It is the place where the Anglo-Saxons surrendered to William the Conqueror in 1066. As you walk around the exterior ruins of the castle today, consider that you’re walking in the footsteps of Thomas Becket, Edward the Black Prince, and Geoffrey Chaucer, this castle remaining in Royal hands through the Middle Ages.

Where: Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire
When: 11th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily 10 am-6 pm April-October and 10 am-4 pm November-March. Closed 25th December and 1st January.

7. Hadleigh Castle

Castles near London-Hadleigh-Castle

This now ruined fortification was built during the reign of Henry II and played an important economic and defensive role. Built by Hubert de Burgh in 1215, Hadleigh Castle later became a Royal Palace for Edward III who extensively refortified the castle during the Hundred Years War. Today only two drum towers and the barbican remain but the picturesque landscape with views overlooking the Thames Estuary still make this a striking place to visit.

Where: Hadleigh, Essex
When: 13th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Yes, open daylight hours.

8. Warwick Castle

Best castles near London-Warwick-Castle

William the Conqueror built Warwick Castle in 1068, replacing the original wooden motte and bailey fort that originally stood on the site. Located on the picturesque River Avon, the castle provides 1,000 years of history to uncover as you climb the ramparts and the towers before going below ground to the dungeons.

 Where: Warwick, Warwickshire
When:
12th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 10 am excluding 25th December

9. Dover Castle

Famous Castles near London-Dover-Castle

Described as ‘The Key To England’ due to its location, Dover Castle is the most iconic fortress in England. Explore the Medieval tunnels and admire the Medieval furnishings, learn about the Roman and Saxon history, visit the tower built by King Henry II and learn the importance of Dover Castle during WWI when it was a command post and in WWII when Operation Dynamo was masterminded in its secret underground tunnels to evacuate the soldiers from Dunkirk.

Where: Dover, Kent
When: 11th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily, 10 am-5 pm April-October, weekends only November-February, and Wednesday-Sunday 10 am-4 pm March

10. Arundel Castle

Castles near London-Arundel-Castle

Arundel Castle provided a 2 in 1 experience being both a restored Medieval castle and Gothic stately home. The castle retains many original features from 1067 when it was built including the Medieval gatehouse, Norman Keep, and Barbican. Sitting atop a hill it has magnificent views out across the South Downs and River Arun which you can enjoy along with interactive exhibits and costumed guides to help your trip back in time truly come alive.

Where: Arundel, Sussex
When: 11th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open Tuesday-Sunday April-November. Closed Mondays, excluding some bank holidays.

11. Bramber Castle

Best castles near London-Bramber-Castle

Only one wall of the 14-metre high tower survives of this Norman motte-and-bailey castle but the view from the top of the motte makes it well worth a visit as you look down upon the River Adur. Built to protect William I newly acquired territories soon after the Norman Conquest, Bramber Castle was the seat of the de Braose family until it was confiscated by King John, later becoming the seat of the Mowbray family before subsidence led to the castle being abandoned, it falling into ruin during the 16th century.

Where: Bramber, Steyning, West Sussex
When:
11th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Yes. Open dawn-dusk.

12. Bodiam Castle

Famous Castles near London-Bodiam-Castle

Built in 1385, this medieval moated castle is a sight to behold with its well-preserved exterior reflecting so beautifully in the water. Climb the battlements to soak up the surrounding views and learn the Saxon history of this castle which was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a knight of Edward III.

Where: Bodiam, Robertsbridge, East Sussex
When:
14th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Exterior Only. Open daily from 11 am excluding 25th and 26th December

13. Tonbridge Castle

Castles near London-Tonbridge-Castle

Go back in time 700 years with interactive displays and life-size figures helping to recreate the sights and sounds of Medieval castle life. Learn about the Kings, Archbishops, and tyrants who have shapes Tonbridge Castle’s past from 1066 onwards (when the castle was a simple fort) as you move from the gatehouse to the armoury and right up to the top of the tower to admire the view.

Where: Tonbridge, Kent
When:
13th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open Monday-Thursday and Saturday 9 am-5 pm, Friday 9 am-4.30 pm, and Sunday and Bank Holidays 10.30 am-4.30 pm

14. Hever Castle

Best castles near London-Hever-Castle-&-Gardens

Famous for being the seat of the Boleyn family between 1462 to 1539, this is the place where Anne Bolyn spent her childhood. Step back in time to explore 700 years of history that shaped England as you admire the architecture inside and out as well as the stunning gardens and lake. There’s plenty to keep the whole family happy with archery, shield painting, and jousting events too.

Where: Hever, Edenbridge, Kent
When:
13th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily April-October 10.30 am-4.30 pm and Wednesday-Sunday November-March 10.30 am-3 pm with extended opening hours during the Christmas season.

15. Leeds Castle

Famous Castles near London-Leeds-Castle

Built in stunning surroundings, on an island in a lake, this 900 year old castle was originally a Norman stronghold,  later becoming a Tudor palace used by King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon in the 16th century but the history doesn’t end there, after the Tudor dynasty Leeds Castle became first a Jacobean House and then a Georgian Mansion before being replaced by a new castle, the one we still see today. The castle is located in Kent close to the village of Leeds rather than the city of Leeds so be sure you’re planning a trip to the right area of England!

 Where: Maidstone, Kent
When:
12th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 10.30 am excluding 25th December

16. Rochester Castle

Admire one of the tallest and best preserved Norman Keeps in England at Rochester Castle in Kent (not to be confused with Rochester in Northumberland!). The castle, which was built in the 1080s for Henry I, sits on the sight of an old Roman Settlement on the banks of the river Medway and is an imposing sight visible for miles, a reminder to this day of medieval secular power.

Where: Rochester, Kent
When:
12th century
Style:
Norman
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 10 am May-September. Open weekends only October-April. Closed 24th -26th December and 1st January.

17. Upnor Castle

Best castles near London-Upnor-Castle

A rare example of an Elizabethan artillery fort, Upnor Castle was built on the banks of the River Medway on the orders of Queen Elizabeth I in 1559 to protect the warships at Chatham dockyards. Unfortunately, the fort didn’t live up to its expectations with the Dutch sailing past in 1667 either burning or capturing the anchored English fleet.

Where: Upper Upnor, Rochester, Kent
When: 16th century
Style:
Elizabethan
Open for visit:
Yes. Open 10 am-4 pm April-October

18. Highclere Castle

Famous Castles near London-Highclere-Castle

Made famous as the filming location of Downton Abbey, visit the 5,000-acre estate to learn about the real family, the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, who live at Highclere Castle as you go on a guided tour of their home that has a history dating as far back as 749. Downton fans can also choose to do a film set tours to see the staterooms shown in Downton Abbey (the below stairs scenes taking place not in the castle at all but at a TV studio!).

Where: Highclere, Newbury, Hampshire
When: 17th century
Style:
Jacobean
Open for visit:
Yes, selected dates only – See website for details.

19. Severndroog Castle

Castles near London-Severndroog-Castle

One of London’s loveliest hidden gems, this elegant and well preserved Georgian tower is located in a beautiful woodland making it a great escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. Built in 1784 as a memorial to the director of the East India Company Sir William James, it is located at one of the highest points in London ensuring panoramic views across the city and beyond from the viewing platform.

Where: Greenwich, London
When: 18th century
Style:
Georgian
Open for visit:
Yes. Open Sundays 10:30 am-4.30 pm April-October.

 

 

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