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15 Castles in London or Nearby

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For centuries various royal families have resided in London, building castles throughout this capital city.

Here is your list of London castles and castles nearby that you can visit! All can be visited as a day trip.

And check out our list of London's Royal Palaces, to learn about Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Palace, and other royal palaces.


Tower of London

A fortress, a palace, a prison, a royal mint, and a zoo, the Tower of London has served many roles in its nearly 1,000 years of history.

First built by William the Conquerer in 1071, the Tower of London has guarded the river entrance to the city for centuries.

Used as a royal palace until around the 16th century, the Tower also held prisoners, such as Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, Sir Thomas More, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Frances Drake, and later, during World War I, numerous prisoners of war.

Today it is most famous as the home to the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom as well as the iconic Yeomen of the Guard, or Beefeaters, who work and live within the Tower complex.

Yes. Read our post on discounted tickets and planning tips for the Tower of London.


Windsor Castle

The world’s oldest continually inhabited castle, Windsor Castle is the home where Queen Elizabeth II, as with Queen Victoria, spent many of her holidays and weekends.

Originally built in the 11th century, today the Castle complex is vast, holding parklands, the original Norman keep, as well as lodgings.

It also has the 15th century St. George’s Chapel, the burial place of King Henry VIII, King Charles I, King George VI, and his wife Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.

In 2018, Prince Harry was married to Meghan Markle in St. George's, and in 2022, Queen Elizabeth II was laid to rest in the chapel.

Windsor is used just as often as Buckingham Palace for state banquets and official entertainments and it is widely known that this was Queen Elizabeth II’s preferred home.

Read our post on how to get discounted tickets to Windsor Castle.


Dover Castle

Described as the "Key to England," Dover Castle has stood on the edge of the English Channel for well over 900 years.

Its' strength and location atop the famous White Cliffs, made it one of the most important - and largest - castles in the country.

Later, during the Second World War, Dover Castle would play a crucial role in the Evacuation of Dunkirk.

Website: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/dover-castle/


Highclere Castle 

This is not just another beautiful castle…it’s the Downton Abbey castle! 

Given its starring role in this incredibly successful TV series, Highclere is a very popular attraction.

Written records about the estate date back to the late 8th century and the sumptuous castle was built in 1679.

Highclere Castle

During World War I, Highclere Castle was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. Throughout World War II, Highclere was home to children evacuated from London.

Since the 17th century, Highclere has been the country home for the Earls of Carnarvon.

Website: https://www.highclerecastle.co.uk/


Leeds Castle

This is an interesting one...

A castle has stood on this site since 857 and it was used as a home for Catherine of Aragon, King Henry VIII's first wife, in the 16th century.

Photo by Diliff

However, it was largely overhauled by an American heiress in the 1920's giving a strange disconnect between the original stone walls and the treasures that lie inside.

Don't be fooled by this castle's name. It's actually located in Kent!

Website: https://leeds-castle.com/visit/


Hever Castle

Hever Castle is beautiful in its' own right, originally dating from the 13th century and with stunning gardens, a moat, and grounds created in more recent times.

Photo by Steve Slater

However, what draws most people to visit Hever is that this was the seat of the powerful Boleyn family.

In particular, it was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn herself, Henry VIII's second wife - and was the site of more than one meeting between the two.

In a somewhat morbid twist, Henry gave the castle of his beheaded wife to his fourth wife Anne of Cleves!

Website: https://www.hevercastle.co.uk/


Warwick Castle

A medieval castle originally dating from the 11th century, Warwick boasts stunning medieval stonework with occasionally bizarrely modern interiors.

Photo by Peter K Burian

Today it is run by the Merlin Group (who also run Madame Tussauds) and is marketed as an authentic castle experience for visitors.

This means it can occasionally be a little cheesy but it's definitely worth a visit, particularly as it is home to one of the world's largest working trebuchets!

Website: https://www.warwick-castle.com/


Bodiam Castle

There's not much left of this castle to explore. Nevertheless, what is left makes it one of the most beautiful castles in England!

Photo by Mydogategodshat

Bodiam is completely moated, set within beautiful waters.

Built in the 14th century, the castle fell out of use after the English Civil War. Today, it is a stunning ruin, ready to explore.

Website: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/sussex/bodiam-castle


Deal Castle

Deal Castle was built under the orders of Henry VIII to protect the southern English coast.

It's the best example of a Tudor artillery castle in the country.

Photo by Lieven Smits

Storerooms, tunnels, and the surrounding grounds are all ready to be explored.

Website: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/deal-castle/


Arundel Castle

In 1067, the first Earl of Arundel (Roger de Montgomery) began work on the castle on lands granted to him by William the Conqueror. 

For the last 850 years, it has been the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors.

The oldest part of the castle is the motte and keep, a circular fortress atop a 100-foot-high man-made mound.

Arundel castle

The Castle sustained heavy damage during the English Civil Wars. Much of it was rebuilt in the 1800s but in a gothic style. 

The contrast between the original medieval structures and the neo-gothic buildings is an interesting one.

Website: https://www.arundelcastle.org/


Broughton Castle

The core of Broughton Castle was built in 1306 by Sir John de Broughton (hence the name!) 

That’s the only part of the name that is accurate, as the castle is really a medieval fortified manor house. Regardless, it is a very impressive manor house.

Broughton Castle

It is surrounded by a six-foot-deep moat that encircles an area of approximately three acres. 

The grounds are quite scenic and the castle’s Great Hall has a splendid display of arms and armour from the English Civil War.

Website: https://www.broughtoncastle.com/


The following are not fully intact castles but are beautiful ruins instead.

As such, these locations may not be open 7 days a week or all year round so make sure to check the websites before you visit.


Rochester Castle

A powerful fortress until the 16th century, Rochester Castle's impressive keep has withstood sieges and civil wars and still stands proudly today.

Photo by Clem Rutter

Website: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/rochester-castle/


Hadleigh Castle

Not much is left of this once important economic and defensive stronghold.

Built in the 13th century, parts of the stonework were sold off when the castle ceased usage in the 16th century.

Picture by Chris Beach

Today these charming ruins are free to explore.

Website: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/hadleigh-castle/


Pevensey Castle

With Roman foundations dating back to the 3rd century, Pevensey Castle has mysterious origins and was left abandoned by the 16th century.

Photo by Lieven Smits

Just like Dover Castle above, Pevensey played a role in the Second World War by housing a garrison of soldiers from the UK, the US, and Canada.

Website: https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/pevensey-castle/


Hastings Castle

Britain's first Norman castle was built shortly after William the Conqueror's famous victory at the nearby Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Photo by Hans Splinter

Part of the castle has been lost to the sea over time but the grounds and chapel remain still stand to explore.

London Walking Tours

LONDON PALACES

Chances are that if you are interested in castles you might feel the same about palaces.

While castles were built mostly for defense and palaces were intended to show off wealth, both types of structures have enormous appeal to tourists and locals, due to their magnificence.

Here are just a few of the best palaces to visit in London.


Buckingham Palace

One of the top attractions in London, this palace has been the primary residence of the monarchs since 1837.

Buckingham Palace is where the Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place.

Buckingham Palace

This enormous palace is spectacular and if it isn't on your list of places to visit in London, you might want to consider it.


Kensington Palace

Built in the 17th century at the request of King William III and Queen Mary II, Kensington Palace looks today much like it did centuries ago, with upgrades of course!

It is the official London residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales, and the two young princes and princess.

Princess Diana lived in here and it was here, at the golden gates of the palace, that thousands of tributes and flowers were laid after her death in 1997.

Kensington Palace is open to the public all year round and a popular attraction at the palace is the King's and Queen's State Apartments as well as the Orangery and various exhibits.


St. James’s Palace

Built in the 1530s by Henry VIII, St. James Palace was, for centuries, the primary home to the monarchy. 

St. James's Palace

This tradition ended when Queen Victoria and King Albert decided to live at Buckingham Palace instead in 1837. 

Today St. James houses the Court of King Charles III as well as the household offices of various members of the royal family.


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About The Author

Margaret

An American simply by accident of birth, Margaret moved to London over 16 years ago and hasn’t looked back since! With a keen interest in History – and a BA degree to match – Margaret prides herself on her knowledge of the amazing city she calls home and she's been guiding here now for nearly a decade. Social history is her real expertise, with sound understanding of the day-to-day lives of Londoners over the past centuries.
Updated: January 23rd, 2023
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