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

Blaise Castle

Fans of the famous novelist Jane Austen may recognise Blaise Castle from its mention in her novel Northanger Abbey, published posthumously in 1817. Rather than being an original medieval fortification, Blaise Castle is a Gothic Revivalist folly built in 1766. The Scot architect Robert Mylne created it for the sugar merchant/Slave Trade investor Thomas Farr, a resident at the nearby Blaise Castle House. Restored in 1957, it is now a Grade II* listed building.

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.

Carisbrooke Castle

Today a popular attraction on the Isle of Wight managed by English Heritage, Carisbrooke Castle has had many lives over its 1,000 year history. The earliest evidence is that of a Saxon fortress against Viking raids, then a Norman castle, an Elizabethan artillery fortress, a king’s prison during the Civil War and also a royal summer residence in the early 20th century. Since 1944 the hall range, originally renovated for Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice, has housed the Isle of Wight Museum.

Clun Castle

On a natural rocky hill in a loop of the Clun River is the strategically located Clun Castle. Built soon after the Norman Conquest, it remained steadfast until the 14th century despite numerous attacks from the Welsh. In the 14th century it became a hunting lodge and soon thereafter fell into disrepair. By the 16th century Clun Castle was in ruins, and the events of the English Civil War did not help its prospects either. Renovations at the end of the 19th century saved what remained, and ensured the ruins stand today.

Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle lies in the scenic village of Corfe. It’s 1000 years of turbulent history has seen kings, murders, and the English Civil War pass by. Now a site encompassing striking ruins and breath-taking views, the castle began as a Saxon stronghold before succumbing to the Norman invasion. It has since been a royal palace and family home. There is plenty to explore here including fallen stone walls, secret areas and the gruesome ‘murder holes’. Perfect for kids, families, and enthusiasts alike.

Dover Castle

Dover Castle, the ‘gateway to the realm’, is one of Britain’s best-surviving Norman castles. Excavations suggest the site was in 800 BC an Iron Age hillfort. A Roman lighthouse was converted into a bell tower. Over the last 1,000 years it has been a royal palace, a Napoleonic fortress, a military base for ‘Operation Dynamo’ during the Battle of Dunkirk and a Cold War communications office. Walk the battlements to enjoy views over the White Cliffs, get lost in secret underground wartime passages and imagine life as the king from the palace in the Great Tower.

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.

Goodrich Castle

One of England’s best preserved medieval castles, Goodrich overlooks the River Wye. The stone castle we see today was preceded by an earth and timber structure built for Godric of Mappestone shortly after the Norman Conquest of 1066. Expansion followed in the 12th century, when the castle played a role in English clashes with the Welsh. During the English Civil War, the castle shifted ownership between the parliamentarians and royalists. By the 18th century it was attracting tourists as a picturesque ruin.

Hampton Court Castle

Not to be confused with Hampton Court Palace in southwest London, Hampton Court Castle today survives in largely 19th century form. The country house was first built in the 15th century for Sir Rowland Lenthall. After being purchased by John Arkwright in the early 19th century, it was remodelled in the 1830s and 1840s. The house boasts an impressive set of gardens, which include a maze, Dutch garden, kitchen garden, and a secret tunnel. The house is privately owned although open to visitors.

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.

Nunney Castle

The impressive moated Nunney Castle was built sometime around 1370 CE. Located in the historic town of Frome, the defences were built by a knight from the area called Sir John de la Mare. Now a ruin, the castle’s structural layout consisted of a tower with a conical-roofed turret at each of its four corners. There would also have been a courtyard originally. Nunney Castle was modernised in the 16th century but suffered significant damage during the English civil war. Remarkably, much of the main structure still survives.

Osborne House