Castles exist all across the world, from the hilltop fortresses of Japan to the Roman and Byzantine ruins that are still dotted across the Mediterranean – but no country’s castles have captured the popular imagination like those of the UK. The first castles in England were built around the time of the Norman invasion, and hundreds can still be visited. So next time you’re planning a trip with Alamo car hire, avoid being among the millions who jostle for entry to the Tower of London – steer yourself towards one of these crenellated masterpieces.
Drumlanrig Castle, Dumfries and Galloway
More a palace than a true castle, this Renaissance masterpiece has been the home of the Dukes of Buccleuch for three centuries. Drumlanrig Castle is perfect for sightseers who want to enjoy a picturesque drive with a great photo opportunity at the end of it, and if you fancy stretching your legs, then the castle tour is also fascinating. See where the Duke’s original Da Vinci hung before it was stolen in 2003, head into the Galloway Hills to explore the many bike trails, or simply sit and take in the view.
Portchester Castle, Hampshire
Portchester offers two castles for the price of one – the medieval castle was built around an abandoned Roman fort, which remains one of the best-preserved Roman fortifications in northern Europe. Over the years it’s played host to kings and queens, seen the launch of several wars and even been occupied by the French. Today Portchester is maintained by English Heritage, who have transformed the castle with the help of an audio tour that leads you round its walls. You can even have a picnic on the central lawns, surrounded by 1,700 years of history! A trip to Portchester Castle is the perfect way to break up your seaside holiday or trip to the New Forest.
Corfe Castle, Dorset
It’s a fair old while since we’ve used castles for their intended purpose – hiding in while an army sits outside – but Corfe Castle saw action more recently than most. Sold off by Elizabeth I, it passed to a family who supported the ill-fated Charles I during the English Civil War; the castle was twice besieged by Roundheads, falling and eventually being partly destroyed on the orders of Parliament. Today the ruins are an incredible playground for all ages – see if you can spot a murder hole or arrow slit – and they regularly attract Civil War re-enactors. In the valley below lies the village of Corfe (partly built with the stones of the castle itself), a beautiful place to stop for tea and scones once you’ve finished pretending you’re a Cavalier.
Caernarfon Castle, Gwynedd
The only truly ‘A-list’ castle in this blog, Caernarfon Castle was introduced to the world in 1969 when millions watched Prince Charles officially become the Prince of Wales beneath its walls. The castle, intended to recall the mighty walls of Constantinople, was built not long after Edward I conquered Wales – it looks every bit as huge and intimidating today as it must have done then! Modern visitors will find soldiers in thankfully short supply, although the castle does contain a museum dedicated to the oldest Welsh regiment as well as various displays and exhibitions covering the whole of Caernarfon’s long life.
Whether you’re planning a city break, a seaside holiday or a trip to the mountains, two things are certain. One is that there’s no easier way to travel than with Alamo, with dozens of pick-up and drop-off locations all over the country. The other is that there’ll be a castle nearby – there always is. So on your next trip, make the most of our island’s incredible heritage and get exploring (but watch out for ghosts…).