I use the word ‘castle’ sensu strictu—not fortifications (e.g. Henry VIII), not eighteenth- and nineteenth-century pretenders (e.g. Castle Howard), and certainly not fantasies such as Ludwig II’s Neuschwanstein. Real castles: homes to the King’s representatives, or those of a powerful noble.

This concentrates on castles in Great Britain, largely because I lived there for sixteen years and had the most opportunities for visits. (Many of the ‘best’ castles are there, too!)

Castles I have been to


Caernarfon, Conwy, Beaumaris, Dolbadarn (Welsh), in the north; Cardiff, Caerphilly, Pembroke, Carew and Chepstow in the south; with White Castle, Tretower and Raglan in the middle.


Only a few; many of the best castles are difficult of access without a car. Edinburgh and Craigmillar (much more interesting than its famous cousin across town); Linlithgow Palace.


In the East, Castle Acre, Castle Rising, Framlingham, Orford, Colchester and Hedingham. In the West, only Berkeley and Goodrich. Midlands: Warwick and Kenilworth. In the Southwest (fortunately, due to a visiting parent, we were chauffeured), Berry Pomeroy, Launceston and Restormel. In the Southeast, only Dover (but what a castle!). On the south coast, Portchester. And in the London area, Windsor and of course The Tower.

The continent

Hardly any; but they include the much-rebuilt Gravensteen (Ghent, Belgium), Festung Hohensalzburg (Salzburg, Austria), and the not-really-a-castle-anymore Prague Castle (Czech Republic).


If you are fanatical enough about castles to plan a vacation around them (that’s how we selected our three trips to Wales), here are a few suggestions for particular regions rich in good castles.

  1. North Wales
    The late-13th century castles of Edward I are probably the greatest concentration of superb castles anywhere: Caernarfon, Beaumaris, Conwy; Harlech is more difficult to get to (we didn’t make it there from Caernarfon). The smaller Welsh castles are also worthwhile (Dolbadarn is reachable by bus from Caernarfon, and is in a stunning location).
  2. Central Wales
    The ‘Three Castles’ of White Castle, Grossmont and Skenfrith; and of course the magnificent, French-inspired Raglan. We stayed in the very pretty town of Abergavenny, and caught the Post Office van back from our visit to White Castle (got there by taxi!).
  3. South Wales
    Pembroke in the far southwest, Manorbier on the way there (one of the relatively few UK castles in private hands); Chepstow and Cardiff. (The last not for the castle itself, but for the 19th century fantastical Burgess recreation which gives an eyewateringly accurate effect of how medieval great halls, palaces and churches looked. I wish that just one cathedral had the nerve to repaint its interior and exterior the colourful way. The recent changes at Dover Castle are a major step forward.)
  4. East Anglia
    Castle Rising, Castle Acre, Hedingham, Framlingham and Orford are all reachable from Cambridge by train/bus (for the privately-owned Hedingham, we had to say ‘please’ as it is not a regular stop).
  5. Southwest England
    Home to several important shell keeps, this region has a major disadvantage of having its castles spread far and wide, which pretty much requires the use of an automobile. Totnes, Okehampton, Launceston and Restormel are all very fine shell keeps; Berry Pomeroy is a nice visit but is really a later fortified mansion house. Several ‘castles’ are actually renaissance (or later) forts, not castles: Dartmouth, Pendennis and St Mawes, etc.
  6. Southeast England
    Dover. Superb.


Many castles in England are under the supervision of English Heritage ( You can order their publications on-line, although there is a hefty charge for mailing overseas:

Similarly, in Wales Cadw (sort of a ‘Welsh Heritage’) supervises many fabulous castles, including those of Edward I in the north ( They publish an excellent series of guidebooks; one used to be able to buy en mass from a printed catalog, but that appears to no longer be an option.

In Scotland, Historic Scotland ( makes guidebooks available at individual sites as well as through the mail (, but with a substantial shipping fee.


Here are a few recommended books to examine.


For some galleries of pictures, please use the sub-menu at the top of the page. Please note that these pages are comparatively large and may take a while to load if you have a slow connection. There are many castle pictures easily available on the web, so I have generally avoided including photos of the more famous ones.