The United Kingdom is known for quite a lot of things. We all know and love the UK for the Royal Family, fish and chips, a dry sense of humor and of course Harry Potter.
But I would argue there is something else just as important great British castles. From the estates owned by lords and dukes to the crumbling remnants of the halls of the Highland clans, there is no shortage of castles scattered throughout the UK especially in England and Scotland.
With so many options to choose from, it can be difficult to decide which castles are worth visiting and which can be skipped. To give you a hand, here are five castles worth visiting in the UK.
Buckingham Palace in London is probably the most well known royal residence in England. However, Windsor Castle in Berkshire actually has more history. The original castle was built in the 11th century after William the Conqueror invaded, and it has been used as a royal residence since Henry I, making it the oldest royal residence still in use in Europe.
Many people say Windsor is Queen Elizabeth II's favorite home she's often there on the weekends. What's cool, though, is that parts of the castle are almost always open to the public (like the State Apartments and St. George's Chapel), unlike at Buckingham Palace.
You can find Alnwick Castle in the English county of Northumberland, just on the border with Scotland. Alnwick, too, was constructed following the Norman conquest of Britain, and it's the second-largest inhabited castle in England after Windsor. Today, it's the seat of the Duke of Northumberland.
The sprawling castle has been used in many films, the most famous of which was probably Harry Potter. The interior of the castle served as the interior of Hogwarts in the first two movies.
If you have an interest in Scottish history, then Stirling Castle is a must-visit. The castle has a long history in Scotland, having seen several Scottish Kings and Queens crowned there, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542. The castle suffered many sieges throughout history, including a few during the Wars of Scottish Independence.
Today, the castle is managed by Historic Scotland and efforts have been made to restore the interior of the castle to its original state. I enjoyed visiting Stirling Castle far more than Edinburgh Castle for this reason.
This castle in the Scottish Highlands is often said to be one of the most-photographed castles in the UK. This is because the castle sits on a small tidal island where three lakes meet Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh giving it an incredibly picturesque backdrop.
The original castle was almost completely destroyed in the Jacobite rising of 1715, but was rebuilt and restored following World War I. It was opened to the public in the 1950s, and today is popular both with tourists and film/TV crews.
Ten years ago, Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England, probably would not have made this list. Not for lack of size or beautiful architecture, but because ten years ago the sprawling home of the Earl of Carnarvon was falling apart and in dire need of repairs. But then PBS began filming its wildly successful Downton Abbey series at the castle. And the rest, really, is history.
Highclere Castle is currently only open for public tours in the summer months, and they are often booked up to a year in advance by devoted Downton Abbey fans. The funds raised by these visits, though, have allowed the castle to be repaired and restored, and will likely continue for years after the TV series ends.
Are there any other castles in the UK that you love and would recommend visiting?
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Graduate student by day and avid traveler and blogger by night (and on weekends and during holidays), Amanda is just a small-town Ohio girl trying to balance a "normal" life with a desire to discover the world beyond her Midwest bubble. Amanda's adventurous nature and inability to say "no" have led her to some pretty amazing adventures all around the world. But she has no desire to stop exploring anytime soon. Read Amanda's blog, A Dangerous Business, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Google Plus.
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