There are thousands of castles around the world, but for me, there really is something special about some of the castles near London. England’s glorious city London is well known for its rich history, for me, the thought of British castles instantly conjures up visions of knights of horses and fair maidens.
As we all know, castles and palaces are one of the best ways to recall history and there’s so much to explore in London when it’s about history, and there is no doubt the history associated with these castles in London is absolutely fascinating.
If you’re in London and looking to theme your visit then take a trip to some of the castles near London. The pretty old castles are full of history and magnificent construction. These castles have been used by royalty throughout the centuries, some even still today, and they are an excellent option for a day out in the summer.
10 Top Castles in and Around London
Castles in London
The Tower of London
The Tower of London is a 900-year-old castle and fortress in central London. It is located in the northern bank of the river Thames. It was made for royalty when he needed a safe place for living. As the castle built with the safety purpose, it is very defensive along with two defensive walls and also a moat. Visitors can literally feel that vibe here, throughout history, the tower has served many purposes. The castle was used as a residence for the Royals and was converted into prison later, famous prisoners have included Anne Boleyn, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Elizabeth I.
In the centre of the Tower of London is the famous White Tower which is the oldest part of the fortress. The Tower, or Bloody Tower as it is known, has been host to many famous executions and imprisonments over the centuries. If you’re curious to know more about the complexities of the European nation, this castle is an excellent site for you. This interesting, and sometimes gory, palace in London is a must-visit part of the London trip for everyone.
If you are limited on time in London, then ensure your book your tickets to the Tower of London in advance. The Tower can get extremely busy, especially during the summer months, by buying your tickets using the above link you will be able to skip the queue and save valuable time.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace is one of the Royal Palaces situated in the borough of Richmond upon Thames and was home to arguably one of the most famous royals – King Henry VIII. The building of the palace began in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Along with St James’s Palace, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by King Henry VIII.
Apart from the Palace itself and its gardens, other points of interest for visitors include the celebrated maze, the historic real tennis court, and the huge grapevine, the largest in the world as of 2005. The palace’s home park is the site of the annual Hampton Court Palace Festival and Hampton Court Palace Flower Show.
Undeniably one of the most popular tourist attractions in London, Buckingham Palace is of course home to the reigning Monarch of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II. The focus of national and royal celebrations as well as the backdrop to the regular Changing the Guard ceremony, situated in Westminster, Buckingham Palace is one of the most famous buildings in the world.
The Palace is only open to the public between July – October, during this time the public is invited to explore the 19 magnificent staterooms as well as walk through the palace gardens. These tickets do sell out quickly, therefore, advance booking is always advised. If you are not visiting London during these months you will still be able to admire the palace from the outside, as well as witness the daily changing of the guards.
Be sure, to take note of the flag position on top of the palace, if the flag is flying high, it means Queen Elizabeth VII could be watching you from one of the windows.
Castles Near London
If you’re looking for the most scenic castle to visit in London, Highclere Castle is the place for you. Around a hundred years ago, this castle served as the seat of the 5th earl of Carnarvon – George Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert. This castle made even more famous drama series ‘Downtown Abbey’, which was filmed there, is located just a few hours outside of London.
Do not miss the unique artworks, Egyptian jewellery, and learn how George Herbert came to discover the tomb while you visit this castle. Make sure to plan ahead for a visit because Highclere castle is only open at selected times.
Hever Castle, Kent
Hever castle is one of the most amazing castles in England. The castle is located in the village of Hever, Kent and it’s an hour drive from London. It is a double-moated castle, and it has three floors. All of them are mainly filled with antiques, books and more stuff which belongs to Anne Boleyn.
The property occupies 125 acres and there are a total of three mazes to get lost in. The first one is a water maze in which the idea is to get to the centre without getting wet, the second one is a tower maze which is similar to a children’s adventure playground, and the third one is a tower maze which had been planted in around 1904.
As if the building beauty is not enough, the castle also has one of the most beautiful gardens in England.
Windsor Castle, Windsor
If you’re a history lover and you’re in London, the first thing you need to do is visit this oldest and largest castle in the entire world.
Winsdor Castle has over 1000 years of royal history and is one of the residences of our current Royal Family. The Castle’s attractions include state apartments furnished with royal artworks, private apartments of George IV but one of the most famous attractions is the Queen Mary’s dolls’ house.
Windsor town is also worth to visit if you have extra time.
Dover Castle, Dover
Commanding the shortest sea crossing between England and the continent, Dover Castle has a quite long and eventful history. The iconic Dover castle is known as “The Key to England” because it was the commanding gateway to the English empire for more than nine centuries.
Located near the sea, this castle is just a few hours drives from London, the castle was built at the site of a lighthouse back in the 1180s when Henry II was ruling. Later on, Dover castle proved itself to be one of the most effective castles in protecting England from foreign enemies. Due to its epic construction and tunnels that were constructed in the Napoleonic era, it became a vital base during World War Two.
Leeds Castle, Kent
Leeds castle is known as the loveliest castle in the world and there are good reasons to explain the nickname. Much of the attraction of Leeds castle is its setting and grounds. There is a large aviary, falconry displays, a maze, vineyard, golf course and much more making it a perfect place for a picnic.
During the English Civil war, Leeds castle was used as a prison and arsenal and received many upgrades. The Leeds castle was also served as a formal royal residence, and now it is a country home. The rooms are amazingly furnished with antiques and treasures including a unique collection of antique dog collars.
Today, more than half a million people visit the castle of Leeds every year. It is recommended to book an advance excursion to Leeds Castle, this particular trip includes a private tour of Leeds Castle before it opens the public, a trip to the white cliffs of Dover on a coastal drive. As well Tthe chance to explore Canterbury and visit its cathedral and finally walk through Greenwich with a finish on a Thames River cruise. This is the perfect trip to book to tick off many top attractions in just one day.
Arundel Castle, Sussex
With more than 1000 years old history, the Arundel Castle is on the River Arun in West Sussex. The castle looks like a Gothic fairy tale, the castle was built on a human-made hill and is surrounded by a moat.
In the 19th century, the castle was converted to a country home, making it one of the first to have electricity, service lifts, as well as central heating.
While you visit the castle, make sure to discover the gardens, to enjoy the tranquillity of the Rose garden or the quirky design of the Stumpery.
Warwick Castle, Warwick
Built on the River Avon, the Warwick Castle offers some amazing sights. Reachable in only 90 minutes from London by train, Warwick castle is an epic combination of history and tactile entertainment.
The castle was turned into an imposing stone fortress in the 12th century. Its towers and ramparts teemed with famous prisoners until the castle was turned into a country home in the 17th century. Over its long history, it has been owned by 36 different individuals, plus four periods as Crown property under seven different monarchs. Warwick Castle is slick and entertaining. Today Warwick Castle is a theme park updated with medieval activities, like gory dungeons and sword fights so that you can learn about this exciting period in English history.
Planning train travel in the UK? Train travel in the UK can be expensive, but costs can be reduced by booking in advance. I always use the trainline.com for this as it allows you to search all train providers, not just one company.
Framlingham Castle, Suffolk
Framlingham Castle dates back to the 12th century on the top of a hill overlooking the town. The walls of the castles are still in good condition, although most buildings inside the castle are no longer standing. According to history, the castle was built by the Bigods, a powerful Norman family. Framlingham Castle played a crucial role during the Tudor period.
There is an exhibition that allows visitors to see the history of the castle. Besides the exhibition, do not miss the highlight of the castle – the wall walk. It looks a little intimidating, especially since the castle walls are so old, but you can be sure it is safe and not one to miss.
Spending some more time in Suffolk? Top things to do in Suffolk
Corfe Castle, Dorset
Located on the top of the hill, the Corfe castle is three hours’ drive from London. The castle was built using limestone during the 11th and 12th century and stands amazingly 20 meters tall. The name Corfe comes from an old English word meaning cutting or gap. During Medieval times, Corfe became a Royal castle, and King John kept his crown jewels there. During the English civil war, this castle was defended by Lady Bankes. The castle is not in a usable state now as the captors have damaged the interiors. You can still see the slits and arrow holes in the castles which were used for pouring boiling water on to anyone attacking the castle. Corfe Castle is managed by the National Trust today. The castle regularly hosts living history days in which guests can dress, eat and live as they would have done in Norman and Medieval times.
London has some of the best historical attractions in the world and visiting some of London’s castles is a must for London itinerary. Plan your visit soon and do not forget to add these royal castles and palaces to your list.