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Castles In And Around London

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

For visitors to London who love all things royal, here is your list of London’s Royal Castles that you can visit!

If you want even more, check out our list of London's Royal Palaces.


What’s the Difference Between a Castle and a Palace?

This is a question we get asked a lot! A castle is a fortified building, or group of buildings, with strong walls built for defense and/or protection.

A palace is a (usually) luxurious building, designed purely to be the residence of a ruler, or other important person.

Think Buckinham Palace vs. the Tower of London.


London's Castles

Tower of London

A fortress, a palace, a prison, a royal mint, and a zoo, the Tower of London has served many roles in it’s 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 dicounted tickets and planning tips for the Tower of London.

NOTE: The Tower of London is one of the stops on our City of London and All in One Tours


Castles Near London

The following are castles that you can visit on a day trip from London.

There are many castle ruins situated within easy access to the city, but this list comprises castles that are still - in one form or another - in one piece.


Windsor Castle

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

Originally built in the 11th century, today the Castle complex is vast, holding park lands, the original Norman keep, as well as lodgings and the 15th century St. George’s Chapel (burial place of King Henry VIII, King Charles I and King George VI and his wife Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. This will also be where Queen Elizabeth II is laid to rest).

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 coast for well over 900 years.

Its' strength and location 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.


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.


Hever Castle

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

Photo by Steve Slater

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

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


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!


Bodiam Castle

There's not much left to explore with this castle but we have put it on the list as it is too beautiful not to!

Photo by Mydogategodshat

Bodiam is completely moated, set within beautiful waters.

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


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.


Castle Ruins Near London

The following are not complete 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

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.


Pevensey Castle

With Roman foundations dating back to the 3rd century, Pevensey Castle has a 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.


Hastings Castle

Britain's first Norman castle, 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 remains still stand to explore.

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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: September 15th, 2022
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