The Top 10 British Castles have Been Revealed and the Winner May Surprise You

Leeds Castle in Kent revealed as Britain’s most popular castle according to data from almost three million heritage travellers across the world.

The picturesque Leeds Castle in Kent has been revealed as Britain’s most popular castle with heritage tourists. The striking fortification, which was built by the Norman Lord Robert de Crevecoeur in 1119, came in ahead of both Windsor Castle and The Tower of London in the results released as part of our 2015-16 Global Heritage List, to be released later in the year.

While a number of Britain’s most famous castles featured prominently in the list, heritage travellers were also focused on less frequented fortifications, such as the part-Roman Portchester Castle in Hampshire and Anglesey’s Beaumaris Castle which crept in at number ten.

The 2015-16 Global Heritage List looked at data from almost three million heritage travellers who use Historvius to research and explore the world’s cultural sites.

Our top 10 list of the best British castles is below.

The Top 10 British Castles have Been Revealed and the Winner May Surprise You: Editor's Picks

Photo by dicktay2000 (cc)

1. Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle in Kent was a twelfth century stronghold which has since served as a royal palace, a prison and as a stately home. Leeds Castle passed through numerous royal hands over the coming centuries, hosting a myriad of important guests including Henry VIII, who also extensively renovated the castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Eventually falling into private ownership, Leeds Castle survived the English Civil War in the hands of parliamentarians and later acted as a prison for Dutch and French prisoners of war.

Photo by Historvius

2. The Tower of London

The Tower of London is a famous fortress and prison originally commissioned by the first Norman king, William the Conqueror in the 1070s. It was designed as a fortress-stronghold, a role that remained unchanged right up until the late 19th century. The Tower of London was also used as a residence for monarchs of England. The Tower had many famous prisoners within its walls - from the little known Ranulf Flambard, Bishop of Durham who managed to escape in 1101, to the most famous prisoners, such as Anne Boleyn, second wife of Henry VIII, who was executed within the walls in 1536, as Henry went off to woo his third wife, Jane Seymour.

Photo by aurélien (cc)

3. Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world and the official home of the Queen. Covering an area of approximately 13 acres, it contains a wide range of interesting features. These include the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s dolls house and the beautiful St George’s Chapel. It is also the burial place of ten monarchs, including Henry VIII and his beloved wife (the one who gave him a son), Jane Seymour. The building of Windsor Castle began in the 1070s at the behest of William the Conqueror, with the intent that it was to guard the western approach to London. Since that time, the structure of Windsor Castle has been embellished by many of the monarchs of England and the UK.

Photo by Historvius

4. Dover Castle

The medieval Dover Castle is one of Britain’s most significant fortresses and has a fascinating and diverse history. Perched high on the England’s coastal white cliffs overlooking the shortest crossing between the island and mainland Europe, Dover Castle has been seen as the first line of defence from invasion. In fact, even before the castle was erected, Dover’s cliffs were a popular site for building strongholds over the centuries with evidence dating back to the Iron Age.

Photo by scalespeeder (cc)

5. Portchester Castle

Portchester Castle has been a Roman fort, a Norman keep and even a wartime prison. Built during Roman times, probably in the third century AD, Portchester Castle is the country’s only example of a Roman fort whose walls still stand complete up to around six metres. Over the centuries, Portchester Castle has been renovated and rebuilt many times and its use has altered to suit the needs of its owners. In the eleventh century, parts of Portchester Castle were rebuilt into a Norman keep and in the fourteenth century Richard II transformed it into a palace.

Photo by Historvius

6. Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is an iconic royal palace, a medieval stronghold and a focal point for many of the most important events in Scotland’s history. It was the site of royal deaths such as that of King Alexander I in 1124 and William I in 1214, the subject of a tug of war between the English and the Scottish during the Wars of Scottish Independence and even the scene of an assassination. During the Wars of Scottish Independence, Stirling Castle was fought over by some of the most famous figures in Scottish and English history, including William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

Photo by Ryan Lea (cc)

7. Bodiam Castle

Perhaps one of England’s best known moated castles, Bodiam Castle was built in 1385. The castle suffered during the English Civil War and was restored before being bequeathed to the National Trust. It now ranks among the most beautiful castles in the world.

Photo by Peter Broster (cc)

8. Warwick Castle

Built by a king, the seat of a kingmaker and vital stronghold in the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War, Warwick Castle has played an important role in British history. Warwick Castle would undergo centuries of change, some due to altering styles, but others for military reasons or due to necessity such as after a fire in 1871. It was also at Warwick Castle that Edward IV was held prisoner in 1469 and it was later held by future King Richard III, the Duke of Gloucester in the 1480s. In 1642, Warwick Castle also played its part in the English Civil War, withstanding a Royalist siege.

Photo by donnamarijne (cc)

9. Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman-built fortification which was in continual use as a military stronghold for over 700 years. Today a number of exhibitions about the history of the castle and the local area are on show within the castle itself.

Photo by lyng883 (cc)

10. Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle was to be the largest of King Edward’s iron ring of castles intended to encircle Wales. Begun in 1295, this was the last of the king’s ring of castles which he commissioned so as to affirm his conquest of Wales. Designed to be the largest of this imposing circle, Beaumaris Castle was never completed.