Iconic and intriguing castles to visit in Northern England

England’s medieval castles were cleverly designed with strength and power in mind. Usually built on high ground or surrounded by water, they served to protect against siege. Some of England’s castles were also a portrayal of their owner’s wealth and status.

There are many beautiful castles in Northern England. In this article, we’ve featured five castles that would be interesting to see if you’re touring this region, including Alnwick, Barnard and Bamburgh Castle.

Alnwick Castle: 24 min drive from our Beadnell Bay Campsite

Alnwick

Currently home to the Duke of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle is one of Britain’s most iconic castles.

Originally built following the Norman Conquest, Alnwick Castle was sold to Henry de Percy in 1309. Over the last 1000 years, Alnwick Castle has been transformed from a modest motte and bailey castle to the magnificent stately home it is today.

The castle is now the second largest inhabited castle in England, the first being Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth’s weekend home. Alnwick Castle has been featured in several movies, including Harry Potter, Robin Hood Prince of Thieves and Elizabeth.

Why is it worth a visit?

There are many fine examples of art and antique furniture to see at Alnwick Castle, including work by Canaletto and Van Dyck in The State Rooms. The world’s only surviving pair of Cucci cabinets are also on display at the castle. These are from the Palace of Versailles and they were originally created for Louis XIV.

In addition, Harry Potter fans will enjoy seeing some familiar locations from the films – in particular the spot where Harry Potter had his first Quidditch lesson.

Barnard Castle: 9 min drive from our Barnard Castle Campsite

Barnard

Built in the 12th Century, Barnard Castle was named after its founder, Bernard de Balliol, who was an Anglo-Picard baron. During the Wars of the Roses in the 15th century, the castle was taken over by Richard III and was used as one of his preferred residences.

In the 17th century, the crown sold Barnard Castle and another property, Raby Castle, to Sir Henry Vane. He decided to reside at Raby Castle and eventually, Barnard Castle was abandoned.

Why is it worth a visit?

Set in an elevated position above the River Tees in Teesdale, Barnard Castle is a fine example of a medieval ruin. There are spectacular views to be enjoyed over the Tees Gorge and a beautiful sensory garden to explore.

Visitors can also look out for Richard III’s boar emblem, which is visible above one of the windows. The interesting market town of Barnard Castle is close by and also worth a visit.

Bamburgh Castle: 23 min drive from our Dunstan Hill Campsite

Bamburgh

Situated on a rocky plateau 150 feet above the sea, Bamburgh Castle is a stunning sight on the Northumberland coastline, with grounds that span nine acres.

There have been inhabitants at the site since ancient times, with archaeological evidence of settlers living there as early as 10,000 BC. The main parts of the castle were built during medieval times; the gatehouse and keep were constructed during the 12th century.

Its strategic positioning as an English outpost led to the castle coming under the odd raid from Scotland. It was actually the first English castle to be defeated by gunpowder artillery during the Wars of the Roses, when it came under siege in 1464.

The castle’s medieval kitchen was badly damaged during this time but two hundred years later, when it was owned by Lord Crewe, it was restored and used as a school room. The castle eventually came into the possession of the First Lord Armstrong and is still owned by the Armstrong family today.

Why is it worth a visit?

Bamburgh Castle is another iconic castle in this region, not least because of its location in an area of outstanding beauty. Inside this inhabited castle, there are 14 rooms to explore with more than 3000 artefacts on display, including fine art, furniture, porcelain and armour.

There are a number of myths and legends associated with Bamburgh Castle that include dragons and ghosts! The castle is also believed to be the setting of “Joyous Garde”, Sir Lancelot’s fictitious castle.

Dunstanburgh Castle: 4 min drive from our Dunstan Hill Campsite

Dunstanburgh

Dunstanburgh Castle is also situated along the Northumberland coastline, its ruins framing the landscape where it stands proudly on a remote ridge. 

It was once one of the grandest fortresses in the North England region, having been built in 1313 by Earl Thomas of Lancaster. There is a theory that it was built to such a grand scale to mark his opposition against King Edward II; the pair had a hostile relationship.

The castle passed to John of Gaunt upon the death of Lancaster. He fortified the castle by turning the gatehouse into a keep. Dunstanburgh Castle suffered damage during the Wars of the Roses and over time it deteriorated further, but its striking ruins can still be explored today.

Why is it worth a visit?

Visitors can take a scenic walk along beautiful coastline to reach Dunstanburgh Castle, taking in the magnificent views along the way. Once at the site of the ruins, the remains of the impressive twin-towered keep is a must-see.

Muncaster Castle: 5 min drive from our Ravenglass Campsite

Muncaster

Muncaster Castle, set in the idyllic surroundings of the Western Lake District, is home to the Pennington Family whose ancestors have lived there since 1208.

Originally built in the 13th century, the castle is believed to stand on top of Roman remains. The castle was extended in the 14th century with a pele tower. The greater part of the castle’s build was down to the first Baron Muncaster, who was responsible for a number of renovations both inside and out.

In 1885, the fourth Lord Muncaster commissioned Anthony Salvin who was well known for his passion in military architecture, to carry out further work.

Why is it worth a visit?

Muncaster Castle is magnificent historic house, with breathtaking views over the Ravenglass estuary. There are many things to see and do at Muncaster Castle, including exploring the castle’s public rooms and seeing some of the original medieval features.

If you enjoy a spot of ghost hunting, you may be interested to know that Muncaster Castle is one of Britain’s most haunted castles! Visitors can take part in a scientific ghost vigil, these are held once or twice per year and you can learn more about the castle’s spooky residents, accompanied by paranormal specialists. Contact Muncaster Castle directly for details of when their haunting experiences are available!

If you’re planning to see the sights of Northern England, the region’s castles are well worth a visit and many are within easy reach of our Club Sites.