Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Fortifications, Castles & Palaces in England

England is home to some of the world’s most well known and impressive castles and palaces. Many of these have their own rich histories and have been the site of important events including battles, coronations and royal weddings. A number have also played significant roles in the nation’s history and culture. From the early medieval era and for centuries since, these iconic landmarks on the English landscape have served as fortifications, residences as well as centres of power and influence. Many castles and palaces, whether ruined or intact, are open to the public and provide an opportunity for visitors to explore grand halls, intricate architecture, and expansive grounds. Whether you are a history buff, interested in medieval architecture, or just looking for a different experience; whether you are looking for a day out or a castle-inspired tour of England, a visit to one of  the many castles is sure to be a memorable one.

Norman Castles in the Irish & British Isles

Almost anyone with even a passing interest in the Middle Ages will have heard about the Normans, the people who built the first stone castles in Britain. But who were these Normans and why did they build these structures? How did Norman castles get built across England, Wales, and Ireland? And what makes these Norman fortifications different from other medieval castles?

Fortifications, Castles & Palaces in England

Buckingham Palace

When Victoria ascended the throne in 1837 she became the first monarch to use Buckingham Palace as her primary residence. Originally built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703, it was King George IV who had the townhouse converted into a palace in the early 19th century. Today the palace is not only the official residence of the British monarch, it is also used for royal ceremonies and investitures as well as national and state occasions. Parts of the palace are open to the public at certain times of the year.

Eltham Palace

Located in southeast London, Eltham Palace started life as a medieval palace given to King Edward II in 1305; it remained in royal hands until the 16th century. The palace’s Great Hall was built in the 1470s, under the ownership of King Edward IV, although by the early modern period the building was in a dilapidated state. In the 1930s, Stephen Courtauld obtained the property and incorporated the Great Hall into a new mansion that reflected the art deco style popular at the time. Eltham Palace has London’s oldest working bridge.

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle is widely known having featured in the period drama, Downton Abbey. The Castle was the ancestral home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon – it was the 5th Earl who funded Howard Carter’s excavation of Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. A few artefacts are now on display for visitors in the ‘Antiquities Room’, along with a near perfect replica of the mummy and sarcophagus of the boy king.

Palace of Westminster

The seat of Britain’s government, the Palace of Westminster, or the Houses of Parliament, has medieval beginnings; originating as an 11th century royal palace. Housing parliament since the 13th century, much of the building was destroyed by fire in 1834. Architects Charles Barry and Augustus Pugin designed a Neo-Gothic replacement, which took forty years to construct. The building’s Elizabeth Tower houses Big Ben, the world-famous bell. A listed UNESCO World Heritage Site, visits are by guided tour.

Tower of London

London’s castle has been a fortress, a royal palace and a prison. Located on the southeast corner of the historic city, the Tower of London’s has its origins in the 11th century. Shortly after the Norman conquest of England the new Norman elite established their control with new stone castles. The White Tower became the most visual symbol of Norman control over the English, and is said to be the most complete 11th century palace in Europe. With the Tudors it ceased to be a royal residence, and was used as a prison.