Castle chronicles: What are the best castles in and near London?

Did you know that treasures from centuries past are practically in London’s modern skyline? Castles, the stuff of legends and fairy tales, grace the landscape both within and near this iconic city. 

Whether you’re a history buff, a lover of all things medieval, or simply seeking a dose of grandeur, join us as we unveil the splendour of London’s castles. We’ll whisk you away to the ages of yore with this look at the best castles in and near London. 

Tower of London

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Location: St Katharine’s & Wapping, London EC3N 4AB, United Kingdom

Imagine walking in the footsteps of kings, queens, and notorious historical figures like Anne Boleyn and Sir Walter Raleigh. The Tower dates back to the Norman Conquest in 1066 and has witnessed myriad historical events, making it a treasure trove of stories.

If bling is your thing, then the Tower’s got you covered. It houses the Crown Jewels, including the Imperial State Crown and the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Trust me, you’ll be left awestruck by the sheer sparkle and opulence on display.

Windsor Castle

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Location: Windsor, Berkshire SL4 1NJ, United Kingdom

Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. Yes, you heard that right! Queen Elizabeth II herself spent many weekends here and the King does the same, making it a living, breathing royal residence.

Once inside, you see the St. George’s Chapel, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tied the knot. The chapel also serves as the final resting place for many monarchs, adding an air of reverence to your visit.

If you’ve missed the pomp and pageantry at Buckingham Palace, fear not. Windsor’s Changing of the Guard ceremony is equally impressive but with a more intimate vibe. 

Hampton Court Palace

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Location: East Molesey, Surrey KT8 9AU, United Kingdom

Hampton Court is synonymous with Tudor history, and that alone should pique your interest. It was once a favourite haunt of King Henry VIII, and you can practically hear the echoes of his boisterous banquets and marital dramas as you wander through its halls.

The gardens here are more than just a pretty backdrop. They’re a work of art. The Great Fountain Garden, the Privy Garden, and the world-famous Maze are just a few of the green delights waiting to be explored.

Hever Castle

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Location: Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7NG, United Kingdom

Hever Castle was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII and the woman who changed the course of English history. You can practically feel her presence as you explore the castle.

Hever Castle is surrounded by 125 acres of glorious gardens, including a stunning Italian Garden, a picturesque lake, and a charming rose garden. It’s a horticultural paradise that’s perfect for a leisurely stroll.

You can even get lost (literally) in the Yew Maze, a green labyrinth that’s great fun for both kids and adults. It’s a unique feature that adds a playful touch to the castle’s historic atmosphere.

Leeds Castle

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Location: Maidstone, Kent ME17 1PL, United Kingdom

Leeds Castle has a history that dates back almost 900 years, and it’s worn many hats over the centuries – from a Norman stronghold to a royal palace. It even played host to Henry VIII and his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, on their honeymoon. Talk about regal romance!

Here, you’ll be enchanted by the castle’s 500 acres of pristine gardens and parkland. The Lady Baillie Garden, with its vibrant blooms, and the Culpeper Garden, brimming with fragrant herbs, are just a taste of the horticultural wonders that await.

Plus, Leeds Castle boasts not one, but two mazes! The famous Leeds Castle Maze and the underground Grotto Maze are guaranteed to provide hours of family fun. Can you find your way out without getting delightfully lost?

Arundel Castle

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Location: Arundel, West Sussex BN18 9AB, United Kingdom

Arundel Castle boasts an illustrious history that spans over 1,000 years! It’s been home to the Dukes of Norfolk for generations and is still their ancestral seat today. That’s a millennium of captivating tales and noble drama tucked within its walls.

The castle itself is a stunning example of Gothic and Norman architecture. From the imposing Keep to the elegant Collector Earl’s Garden, every corner is a testament to the craftsmanship of yesteryears.

And if you’re an art-lover, Arundel Castle has you covered. It houses an impressive collection of fine art, including works by Van Dyck, Gainsborough, and Canaletto. The opulent rooms are like a living museum.

Warwick Castle

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Location: Warwick, Warwickshire CV34 4QU, United Kingdom

Unlike some castles that merely offer a glimpse of history, Warwick Castle goes the extra mile to immerse visitors in the past. Costumed guides, historical reenactments, and interactive exhibitions bring history to life.

The castle’s grounds are a delight to explore. From the Peacock Garden, where you can admire these regal birds, to the serene Rose Garden, Warwick Castle’s gardens offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Dover Castle

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Location: Dover, Kent CT16 1HU, United Kingdom

Dover Castle isn’t perched on the cliffs of Dover for nothing. Its strategic position overlooking the English Channel has made it a vital defensive stronghold for centuries. 

This castle is no architectural slouch. It boasts a stunning mix of medieval, Roman, and Napoleonic-era architecture. Keep your camera ready because every corner is Instagram-worthy.

Beneath the castle lies an underground labyrinth of wartime tunnels that played a pivotal role during World War II. They’re like a hidden city frozen in time, complete with a hospital, a dormitory, and even a chapel.

Bodiam Castle

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Location: Robertsbridge, East Sussex TN32 5UA, United Kingdom

Bodiam Castle boasts a jaw-dropping moat. Yes, a moat! It’s the kind that fairy tales are made of – complete with reflective waters that create a stunning mirror image of the castle. This moat served as a defensive mechanism in the castle’s heyday.

Now, let’s talk about those iconic battlements. Bodiam’s crenellated walls are a sight to behold, with their perfectly spaced notches giving the castle an air of grandeur and strength. These battlements once hosted archers and guards, ready to defend the castle from any threats.

Rochester Castle

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Location: Rochester, Kent ME1 1SW, United Kingdom

Rochester Castle has an impressive resume dating back to the 12th century. It played a pivotal role in defending England during turbulent times, particularly during the reign of King John. 

In fact, it was here that one of the most famous siege events in English history unfolded – the Battle of Rochester Bridge.

Unlike some castles that are merely remnants of their former glory, Rochester stands proudly intact. Once you climb to the top, you’ll be rewarded with views of the charming city of Rochester and the River Medway – a sight that’ll have you reaching for your camera in no time.

Hedingham Castle

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Location: Castle Hedingham, Essex CO9 3DJ, United Kingdom

Hedingham Castle boasts a lineage that dates back nearly 900 years, and it’s been in the same family, the de Veres, for over 500 of those. Hedingham Castle’s keep is also a marvel to behold, and it’s one of the best-preserved examples of its kind in England. 

But that’s not all. What sets Hedingham Castle apart is its events calendar. From medieval reenactments and jousting tournaments to outdoor theatre productions and concerts, there’s always something exciting happening within these ancient walls. 

Pevensey Castle

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Location: Pevensey, East Sussex BN24 5LE, United Kingdom

Pevensey Castle’s story goes back a long way. It was originally built by the Romans, the same folks who brought us togas and aqueducts. 

They knew a thing or two about fortifications, and this castle was their military masterpiece. Later, it was repurposed by the Normans, and it’s been a symbol of strength and resilience ever since. 

Pevensey Castle also has its fair share of famous historical visitors. One of the most notable was William the Conqueror himself. Yes, the guy who changed the course of English history by winning the Battle of Hastings. 

Berkeley Castle

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Location: Berkeley, Gloucestershire GL13 9BQ, United Kingdom

Built in the 12th century, Berkeley Castle has witnessed countless tales of knights, kings, and noble feasts. But what sets it apart is its stunning curtain wall – the mighty stone fortress that encircles the inner keep. 

This wall is as formidable as it is impressive, and it’s one of the best-preserved examples of its kind in England. 

But the cherry on top? Framlingham itself is a charming market town with winding streets and cosy pubs. After exploring the castle, you can wander through the town, grab a bite to eat, and soak up the local atmosphere.

Carisbrooke Castle

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Location: Newport, Isle of Wight PO30 1XY, United Kingdom

The castle was once a Saxon fortress and evolved into a formidable medieval stronghold. But what sets it apart is its association with one of England’s most famous kings, Charles I. 

During the English Civil War, Charles I was imprisoned here, and you can even see the room where he tried to escape through a window, which is still there today. 

Now, let’s discuss what makes Carisbrooke Castle truly special – its well. it’s a whopping 49 metres or 161 feet deep! Back in the day, it was the lifeblood of the castle, providing water during times of siege. What’s fascinating is that it’s still operational today!

Rochester Castle

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Location: Rochester, Kent ME1 1SW, United Kingdom

Rochester Castle played a pivotal role in the First Barons’ War, which saw King John going head-to-head with a bunch of rebellious barons. The siege of Rochester Castle in 1215 is the stuff of legends. 

Picture this: King John’s army against a determined garrison holed up in the keep. It was a battle of wits and determination, and the castle held its ground for seven long weeks before finally surrendering. 

Walmer Castle

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Location: Deal, Kent CT14 7LJ, United Kingdom

Walmer Castle is not your typical castle. It’s more like a castle with a dash of maritime flair. You see, it was originally built during the reign of Henry VIII as a coastal artillery fortress to defend against those pesky French invaders.

But here’s what makes Walmer Castle truly unique – its connection to the legendary Duke of Wellington, the hero of the Battle of Waterloo. In the early 19th century, the castle was gifted to the Duke, and he transformed it into his personal residence. 

You can step into his shoes as you explore the Wellington Room, filled with his personal mementoes and artefacts.

Cooling Castle

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Location: Rochester, Kent ME3 8DT, United Kingdom

Cooling Castle is a moated manor house, and it’s got that fairy tale quality that makes you want to break out into song with woodland creatures as backup dancers.

But there’s the hidden secret, and it’s not behind a castle wall – it’s inside. Cooling Castle houses a delightful restaurant named “The Barn Restaurant”. 

This charming eatery serves up a delectable selection of dishes, ranging from hearty classics to contemporary cuisine. Whether you’re craving a traditional Sunday roast or a gourmet burger, you’ll find something to tantalise your taste buds. 

Sissinghurst Castle

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Location: Biddenden Road, Cranbrook, Kent TN17 2AB, United Kingdom

Sissinghurst Castle is more like a romantic manor house surrounded by stunning gardens that could make even the most hardened hearts swoon. It’s got that “Downton Abbey meets Secret Garden” kind of vibe, and it’s utterly captivating.

It’s historically steeped in literary charm, actually. It was the home of Vita Sackville-West, a prolific writer and garden designer, and her husband Harold Nicolson. 

Vita was a bit of a trailblazer in her time, known for her unconventional and passionate love affairs, including one with Virginia Woolf. 

Scotney Castle

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Location: Lamberhurst, Kent TN3 8JN, United Kingdom

Scotney Castle offers a garden that’s something out of a fairy tale. It’s a whimsical wonderland with meandering paths, blooms, and hidden nooks that beg exploration. Whether you’re a green-thumbed enthusiast or just looking for a serene spot to relax, this garden is for you.

Now, here’s the surprise – Scotney Castle doesn’t have a restaurant on-site. But don’t worry, it has something even better! There’s a charming little tea room in the old servant’s quarters, aptly named “The Old Castle Tea Room”.

Here, you can indulge in a delightful array of cakes, sandwiches, and, of course, traditional cream teas. 

Eltham Palace

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Location: Court Yard, Eltham, London SE9 5QE, United Kingdom

The interiors of Eltham Palace are a jaw-dropping blend of Art Deco opulence and medieval charm. Picture taking a stroll through the stunning gardens designed by the famous landscape architect, Stephen Courtauld. 

But here’s the curve ball: Eltham Palace was once home to a rather unusual resident, a pet lemur named Mah-Jongg. The Courtauld family had a penchant for exotic pets, and Mah-Jongg was their star attraction. 

He even had his own private quarters within the palace, complete with heated floors and access to the gardens. Talk about a pampered pet!

Fulham Palace

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Location: Bishop’s Ave, Fulham, London SW6 6EA, United Kingdom

Fulham Palace was once the summer residence of the Bishops of London, a place where they could escape the bustling city and soak in the serene beauty of the Thames-side gardens. 

This palace boasts 13 acres of lush greenery, complete with a charming walled garden, an orchard, and even a medieval moat. It’s a horticultural paradise that invites you to stroll, relax, and revel in the beauty of nature.

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