Top 7 Most Mysterious and Atmospheric Castles in Britain

Mysterious castles of England capture the imagination of travellers from all over the world. They offer firsthand experience of winding corridors, underground tunnels, flowering gardens and luxurious decorations of the royal quarters. The UK castlesare stunning. Let us take you on a tour of the most spectacular ones.

Leeds Castle — Home of English Queens

Leeds Castle was a royal palace from the 12th century until the Tudors ended their ownership. It was also home to seven Queens at different times. Eleanor of Castile, wife of Edward I Longshanks, became the first owner of the castle. Their relationship is believed to be the greatest love of the Middle Ages. The couple remained faithful to each other and were married for 36 years, until her death. Edward I remembered his beloved by holding annual memorial services in the Westminster Abbey.

Today, Leeds Castle is one of the world’s most visited historic buildings, with its period rooms, atmospheric hotel rooms, and picturesque gardens. One of the most beautiful rooms is the yellow drawing room, which was used by Lady Baillie, the last owner, as a Luncheon Room. The walls are covered with yellow silk and above the fireplace hangs a painting by the Italian artist Giovanni Tiepolo.

Arundel — Most Haunted Castle in Britain

Arundel was erected in 1067 by Earl Roger de Montgomery. The legend says that his ghost still wanders nearby, watching over his architectural masterpiece. Another ghost is the Blue Man. Some visitors to the Castle claim to have seen him in the library sliding from shelf to shelf in search of the right book.

The Royal Garden with rare plants, fancy fountains and pavilions is the pride of Arundel Castle. It features in the films The Madness of King George, Young Victoria, The Prince and the Pauper.

Arundel Castle is home to an impressive art collection. It includes paintings by the Dutch painter Antonis Van Dyck, works by the outstanding portraitist Thomas Gainsborough, antique furniture, sculptures, and tapestries. You can also stroll through the mysterious halls and admire an exhibition of the personal belongings of Queen Mary Stuart of Scotland and the bed on which Queen Victoria, her guest, slept.

Tintagel Castle — Home of King Arthur

Tintagel Castle is steeped in mystery. It is believed to be the birthplace of King Arthur, one of the main characters in the British epic. Legends have it that he was the illegitimate son of Uther Pendragon, the ruler of Great Britain. The young man grew up away from the royal court but manifested his noble origin by pulling a magic sword, Excalibur, out of the stone. After becoming a ruler, Arthur defended Britain from the Saxons and gathered the brave Knights of the Round Table at his court in Camelot.

Every year, thousands of travellers come to the ruins of Tintagel Castle to enjoy its magical atmosphere, breathe in the sea air, and admire the seagulls circling by the towering cliffs. Here you can watch the sunset and sunrise, and there is a hotel nearby with the symbolic name of Camelot. At low tide, you can walk down to the beach and climb up the low cliffs to Merlin’s Cave.

Dover Castle — England’s Stronghold

Dover Castle played a key role in the defence of Great Britain. It resisted a French siege in 1216 and Napoleon’s troops in the 1800s. During the Second World War, it helped evacuate and rescue people from the enemy encirclement of Dunkirk.

You can climb the spiral staircase to the roof of the castle, from where you can enjoy a magnificent view of the white cliffs, the choppy sea and the green hills of Dover. Or you can walk down into the secret underground tunnels winding through the thickness of the cliffs. During the Cold War, there was a shelter for the regional Government that could survive even a nuclear explosion.

You can also discover the fire-control post with a working model of an anti-aircraft gun.

Hever Castle — Anne Boleyn’s Childhood Home

The castle’s spacious halls house memorabilia, antiques, tapestries and one of the finest collections of Tudor portraits. The long gallery walls are decorated with paintings depicting the timeline of the Wars of the Roses, one of the most famous civil wars in Medieval Europe.

Hever Castle’s history spans over 600 years. At the beginning of the 15th century, it became the property of the Boleyn family. Anne Boleyn grew up there. She was the diplomat’s daughter and did not want to be a favourite of King Henry VIII, so she bravely said, «Marry me if you love me». To win Anne’s approval, the ruler had to turn against the Pope himself, who disapproved of their marriage. The King hoped the girl would bear him an heir but she didn’t. Henry VIII decided to banish Anne with no damage to his standing and sentenced her to death for treason. The Queen’s ghost is said to still haunt the castle.

Alnwick Castle — Mysterious Hogwarts from Harry Potter

This medieval castleis near the border with Scotland, so it bore the full brunt of the battles between the English and the Scots. In times of peace, Alnwick was reconstructed and from 1309, it became one of the seats of Count Henry de Percy’s family.

England’s mediaeval castles have a unique charm that attracts filmmakers. For instance, they shot so many scenes for Harry Potter in Alnwick that it could easily be called Hogwarts. In the courtyard, Ron and Harry drove the flying car into the Whomping Willow, while through the Lion’s Arch, Harry, Ron and Hermione walked towards Hagrid’s hut and the Forbidden Forest.

Here you can fly on a broom and practise Quidditch, or you can search for the dragon that keeps the villagers in fear. Castles in England can also be dangerous; for example, there is the Duchess of Northumberland’s Poison Garden near Alnwick. The plants in the Garden are so poisonous that you will need a guide to get inside.

Kenilworth Castle — Secret Garden and Love Story

Kenilworth was built in the 1120s by Geoffrey de Clinton, treasurer of King Henry I. Between 1210 and 1215, King John fortified the castle turning it into an impregnable fortress surrounded by a deep moat.

The Secret Garden is one of the most beautiful spots in Kenilworth as it symbolises the unrequited love of Robert Dudley, the first Earl of Leicester, for Elizabeth I. Carved arbours, a marble fountain, lush flower beds, fruit trees couldn’t melt the heart of the maiden Queen, as she was «married to England» and desired no other union.

In the Middle Ages, jousting tournaments were held on the grounds of Kenilworth. These days there are costume shows with spear fights, archery, jesters and falconry. You can participate as a spectator or take on the role of a brave knight, hunter, or peasant.

FAQs about UK Castles

How many Castles are there in England?

There are about 1,500 castles, so it would take you a few years to tour them all.

In which Castles in the United Kingdom can I stay overnight?

Would you like to live in a castle like a true king or queen? There are a few options:

  • Peckforton Castle, Cheshire;
  • Lisheen Castle, County Tipperary;
  • Rosslyn Castle, Midlothian;
  • Hever Castle, Kent;
  • Augill Castle, Yorkshire.

Which English Castles are haunted?

If you are a fan of mysticism, visit Chillingham Castle. Three ghosts have been seen there: a boy once walled up inside, an executioner called Sage the Torturer, and Lady Mary Berkeley. According to the legend, Mary’s husband cheated on her with her sister. Now, whenever the unfaithful man enters the castle, the ghost of the betrayed woman rises from the walls of the Grey Room and roams the castle.

The Tower of London is another haunted castle. The ghosts of the beheaded Anne Boleyn and Countess Margaret Salisbury were seen there, accompanied by a retinue of restless souls.