When you think of a trip to England, the first few things that come to mind are tea, the pub culture of the country, the Big Ben and Madame Tussauds, and maybe Fish & Chips. But if you want to take the road less travelled, if you want a quieter vacation that is away from the city, one that offers you a doorway to the past, then look no further than the castles of Northern England.
The northern region of England has some of the most majestic castles in the country. Even the ones that are currently uninhabited or have turned into ruins are iconic structures that must be explored. These give you a glimpse of medieval England, its architecture and culture that has persisted through centuries. Taking a tour of these castles is the best way to steep yourself in the history of a country that was once a great empire.
Let us quickly take you through the most majestic castles of North England that should be on your list of places to visit when in the UK:
11.Tynemouth Priory and Castle
Alnwick Castle in the north of England is the most iconic castle in the region. It was first constructed after the Norman Conquest, and today is the second largest occupied castle in the country. The Duke of Northumberland calls the Alnwick Castle home. Even if you have not travelled to the Northern parts of England, chances are you have seen this castle. The Alnwick Castle has appeared in movies, the most popular being the Harry Potter series. Remember Potter’s first lesson of Quidditch? It was shot outside the Alnwick Castle!
Visiting the Alnwick Castle is not only about seeing and admiring the architecture of the place, but also appreciating the fine art and the vintage furniture that adorns its rooms. When at the castle, also make sure you spend some time at the Alnwick Garden and its expanse of green gorgeousness.
A castle atop a plateau overlooking a sea, Bamburgh Castle in northern England leaves visitors captivated each time. The castle’s main chambers were constructed during medieval days, which should tell you plenty about the history this castle has seen and now holds as a memory. For instance, according to historical accounts, the Bamburgh Castle was the first castle in England to come under siege because of gunpowder weaponry.
Apart from being placed so scenically, which is definitely the main reason why visitors make it a point to visit this castle, Bamburgh castle is also artfully decorated. There are thousands of artworks, ceramics, and armours on display. Also be prepared to hear several stories about the Castle with some even featuring dragons and dungeons!
Once upon time, the Dustanburgh Castle was one of the most imposing and majestic castles of England. It was built in 1313, and many believe that Lancaster’s Earl Thomas constructed this grand fort to send a message across to his rival, King Edward, the Second. Like the Bamburgh Castle, Dustanburgh Castle also suffered during the War of the Roses.
Today the Dustanburgh Castle stands as a ruin, though a stunning one, since it is situated along the coastline of Northumberland. For an even more spectacular view, make sure you climb up the tower at the castle. Walking around the Dustanburgh Castle is also a tranquil experience and might conjure up in your mind scenes from Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
In the county of Durham, you will find the Barnard Castle. This castle built in as early as the 12th century, is named after its creator, Baron Barnard de Balliol. The Barnard Castle was sold in the 17th century, after which it was neglected, subsequently, turning into a ruin. Nonetheless, the exotic location of the castle is what makes it a must visit when travelling in northern England.
Barnard Castle’s gardens and the River Tees that it is located along, make the fortress a delightful destination for explorers. After the tour of the castle, you might also want to walk down to the market town nearby for an experience of a different kind.
Built sometime around the 12th century, Brancepeth Castle is one of the most ancient castles in northern England. The palace is situated four miles from Durham County. Brancepeth Castle was built to be a military fortress. Today, the castle finds itself on the Heritage at Risk list, a register of all the heritage buildings, from castles and places of worship to gardens and parks which have been evaluated to be in need for conservation and maintenance.
You can book a tour of the Brancepeth Castle, which will mainly include visiting its medieval rooms and the office chambers. This tour is usually an hour long.
Durham Castle has been occupied since the 11th century. Today, the castle serves as home for students studying at the University College. The area in and around Durham Castle has been acknowledged as a World Heritage Site. Opposite the Castle, you have the Durham Cathedral which is open to visitors and offers free entry. The Durham Castle also featured in the first Harry Potter movie.
Provided that there are no private events planned, the Durham Castle is open for tour. If you want to know about the castle’s rich history and legacy, then a guided tour is the best way to see it. There are many activities that are arranged here for families. You will have to book in advance to be a part of them.
A castle built with wood originally, the Hylton Castle today is one of the most beautiful stone fortresses in England. It was built by the Hilton family following the Norman Conquest, and therefore is named after them. In the west façade of the castle, you will find some devices that have been maintained since the castle was first built. This means, these articles are more than five hundred years old. To a history buff, that is enough reason to pack their bags and head to the castle!
The lush green plot surrounding the fortress is called the Hylton Dene. Tourists love spending time here too where they get to relax after a tiring touristy day. The St. Catherine’s Chapel near the castle is another spot you must visit.
The leaning tower of Edlingham Castle makes it one of the best three castles of Northumberland. This castle is situated on a hill overlooking the River Coquet. It sits like a crown on the hill, making it a scenic site that tourists love clicking pictures at. The Edlingham Castle was one of the many fortresses built to protect Alnwick from the Scots. The castle is maintained by the English Heritage.
When visiting the Edlingham Castle, it is suggested that you wear waterproof shoes. After the tour, you can also visit the church of St. John the Baptist, an 11th century church with a rare tunnel vault and circular columns.
Travelling 20 minutes from the Edlingham Castle, you come across another one of the best three castles in Northumberland, that is, the Warkworth Castle. This castle is considered one of the firmest in the North of England. It is believed to have been constructed in the 12th century by a Scottish prince, Prince Henry. The castle is today maintained by the English Heritage.
If you want to click the most perfect picture of the Warkworth Castle, try to take it from the River Coquet. The castle’s Lion Tower, which was built in the 15th century, and the remains of the Carrickfergus Tower and the Little Stair Tower, are major spots that should not be missed when touring this castle.
A Grade I listed building, the Aydon Castle or Aydon Manor, makes for a perfect picnic spot with friends and family, especially because of its walled orchard. The fireplaces within the fortified manor are unmissable. Some of these fire nooks date back to the 13th century. The secluded area where the Aydon Castle is located adds further to its charm. A mile from the Aydon Castle, you can also visit the remains of Onnum Fort on foot.
Do you want to see a castle on a rocky headland? We are assuming you are screaming out, “yes right now!” The Tynemouth Castle oversees a pier called the Tynemouth Pier. The castle is built around a monastery that is believed to have existed in its place. The fourteenth century gateway and the curtain wall constructed in 1296 are the two attractions that keep people coming to this castle again and again for a tour.
Bursting with stories, the Prudhoe Castle must make it to the list of the most famous castles in North England. Situated in Castle View, Prudhoe Castle is a cherished monument in Northumberland. The tower walls that surround the Georgian manor must not be overlooked when strolling around the castle.
Things to do at the Prudhoe Castle include fun activities with family like picnics at the designated spot, shopping for English Heritage mementos, and indulging in some light snacks or a steaming cup of coffee.
The Muncaster Castle sits nestled within one of the most idyllic sceneries of Northern England. The Castle is inhabited by the Penningtons. The Pennington family has called this castle home since the 13th century. It is believed that this castle stands on Roman remnants. There are a lot of fascinating stories around the castle, some true and some fictitious, yet all very intriguing.
The Muncaster Castle is often known as a house of history. Apart from that, visitors flock to this castle because of its view of the Ravenglass estuary. A tour of the castle will give you glimpses of how England must have been during the medieval times. Believe it or not, the castle organises ghost huntings twice a year. If you plan in advance, then you could be a part of this unusual adventure activity.
Northern England, with its many castles, makes for a popular tourist destination. But the region is not limited to that. This part of England is also known for its shopping, nightlife, football culture, and gently sloping green fields that soothe your senses. If you are having trouble planning your trip to North England, let the team of experts at Thomas Cook India help you out. Visit our website and take the first step to a perfect holiday!