It must have been the same 1,000 years ago as it is today. Common people look up at the mighty towers and walls of castles and wonder what it must be like to live in such a monumental structure. Unlike medieval peasants, today, it actually is possible for everyday folk to spend a night (or 10) in a British castle.
Castles occupy a hugely important place in our collective imagination. From children role playing as knights and princesses to history-obsessed adults, it’s fair to say that within most people’s hearts, there is a soft spot devoted to the romantic image of castles. Staying in a castle is an unmissable opportunity to turn a romantic notion into an unforgettable experience. Even if your own interest in castles subsided as you grew older, chances are it is a passion that will be rekindled when face-to-face with the real thing.
The castles and manors on this list are rich in history. Each offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience a place and lifestyle unlike any other. Guests of all ages are sure to be enthralled by the experience in real life of something they have fantasized about time and again.
Perhaps more so than any other country, Wales is famous for its castles. Manorbier Castle (built in the 12th century) is a fine example of why. No mere Victorian folly, it is a genuine medieval castle. History aside, today the house can host 12 overnight guests, but there is room for many more visitors in the chapel and banquet hall should you wish to host a special gathering of some kind. With sea views, historic chambers, and elegantly refurbished rooms, guests are sure to fall in love with this millennium-old treasure.
Manorbier is just a few miles down the road from Tenby, a popular beach town famous for its surviving medieval city walls and lovely sand beaches. There is much to see in Manorbier, but don’t let the castle keep you from exploring the town.
This Scottish castle includes elements dating back to the 13th century. Like any castle, it has changed over the years, but the main structure is from the 16th century. Additions over the next couple of centuries and a major restoration and refurbishment in the 1980s have led to the grand structure seen today. The Craufurds of Craufurdland have run the place for 800 years and now welcome guests.
The accommodation includes six stately bedrooms, a pair of grand sitting rooms, dining areas, and a modern kitchen. Just 20 minutes from the city of Glasgow, the castle offers guests an excellent means to catch a meaningful glimpse of Scotland as it was while exploring the country as it exists today.
The history of Alton Castle dates back to the 1100s. The building standing today was built by Augustus Pugin, the architect responsible for designing the interiors of Westminster Palace. This Gothic Revival structure is not only a Grade II listed building. It is an embodiment of everything one imagines when they think of a castle. It has a gated approach, towers, a beautiful chapel, and more. The dormitory-style rooms can accommodate up to 24 guests.
Outside the castle grounds, guests enjoy close access to many nature trails in the picturesque Churnet Valley.
The interiors of Rower Fort in Devon are remarkable, the sort of thing only imaginable in Great Britain. Rustic wooden beams stick out of rough stone walls on one side of a room, entering a finely-papered wall with oriental alcoves on the other side. And that is just the room with the swimming pool! Scroll through the pictures and see all the amazing things the caretakers have done to make this historic building a truly unique occurrence. Built in the early 19th century in imitation of the Gothic style, this property transcends epochs and attempts at classification.
There’s more to do than just oggle architecture and relax in the rooftop hot tub, though. Rower Fort is on Devon’s Jurassic Coast, a World Heritage Site home to some of England’s most stunning geological features.
This two-bedroom castle apartment is an affordable way to experience something magical. A fold-out couch raises the maximum occupancy to six, a number comfortably fitted to the spacious living area. Located in Newry, Northern Ireland, this castle is notable for its beautiful grounds (open to all guests) and active estate.
Landscaped gardens and farmlands entice those staring out the windows to venture out into the Irish countryside. There are also beautiful views to be had of the Newry River as it lazily flows into the scenic Carlingford Bay. A fine destination for an unforgettable getaway.
Combining the grandeur of the Victorian aristocratic lifestyle with select modern comforts, Kinblethmont House in Arbroath, Scotland, offers visitors the unforgettable experience of a slice of royal life. From servants’ bells to grandiose sitting rooms, guests will be forgiven for thinking they have wandered onto the sets of Downton Abbey.
Whether you dine in the magnificent banquet hall or down below in the humble servants’ kitchen, your meals will be like none you’ve ever experienced. Plentiful bathrooms (modernized but only discreetly to maintain an air of antiquity) and one bed per room ensure that you won’t sacrifice comfort by stepping into the past.
Built for the pleasure of the Elizabethan aristocracy, this hunting tower overlooks the Derbyshire Dales, a quintessentially English landscape of gentle woods and rolling hills. The structure, completed just as Shakespeare was getting his start in the theater business, was never intended as a defensive fortification. It was, rather, a place for leisure and observation. It fills that purpose still today. Tastefully refurbished at the start of this century, it is ready to impart its glory and stature on to new guests — even those lacking a barony of their own.
Children and adults alike will marvel at the spiral staircases required to visit the upper rooms. It is equipped with stately rooms and a full kitchen, but you’d have to bring your own servants! Dogs are welcome to those willing to pay a fee of £35 (about $40).
The Anglo-Scottish border was an area of trade and tension for centuries. This 13th-century stone fortification is in the same broad category as Hadrian’s Wall; both are structures built to provide safety in a region threatened by border wars and raids. Located in Northumberland, the imposing stone structure was built as a fortified redoubt for the villagers of Whittingham Vale.
Today the building features modern furnishings integrated with timeless stone walls, wooden supports, and grated castle windows. It has all the comforts of contemporary living but retains the rough stone edges of the fortification it once was. There are three bedrooms (a master, a queen, and a room with two twins), a roomy kitchen, and a delightful medieval cellar fitted with a pool table. The structure sits in the middle of the village. Note that Alnwick Castle (or Hogwarts of Harry Potter fame) is just 8 miles away.
A beauty to behold, this Scottish castle also has the benefit of being about an hour away from both Glasgow and Edinburgh. The site began as an abbey in the 13th century and the current neo gothic mansion was built in Victorian times.
As the photos show, it is an elegant and tasteful expression of the Victorians’ fascination with their past. The rooms now open to guests are the building’s former Great Hall. One of the queen bedrooms is decorated in a delightful faux-medieval style while the other is more modern. There is a third room with two twins, a luxurious kitchen and dining room, and a rooftop with excellent views of the surrounding countryside.
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