From Cornwall to Fife, the UK is dotted with castles and historic strongholds. But gone are the days of medieval sieges, Napoleonic assaults and brutal bombardments on British soil.
As such, the country’s surviving castles have had to find new uses. And some of the UK’s former fortresses have been converted into luxury hotels and Airbnbs.
Visitors to these so-called ‘castle hotels’ can expect be transported back to Britain’s Medieval and Early Modern periods – or a more luxurious recreation of them – as they patrol the battlements, dine in great halls and sleep in ornate fourposter beds.
Here are 10 of the most incredible castles available to rent or stay in across the UK.
Hever Castle dates back to the 13th century and is perhaps best known as having been the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s 2nd wife. Boleyn moved to Hever Castle in around 1504. The castle was also later owned by another Henry’s wives: Anne of Cleves, his 4th spouse. After the 16th century, the castle changed hands several times, with its upkeep gradually declining.
Hever Castle was eventually restored to its former glory. Today, Hever Castle is a tourist attraction offering tours, garden visits and museum exhibits. It’s also a hotel boasting, according to its website, “5 star gold luxury bedrooms in the Astor Wing and the Anne Boleyn Wing, both Edwardian Wings of the Castle built in Tudor style.”
2. Astley Castle, North Warwickshire, England
Built in the 16th century, North Warwickshire’s Astley Castle is a Grade II-listed moated fortress. It housed the powerful Astley family for many years, and later the Grey family. In recent years, it has been converted into a luxury residence.
The castle is now a curious mix of architectural styles, with historic stone features rubbing shoulders with modern materials. The site is now operated by the Landmark Trust, and the entire property is available to rent.
3. The Castle Hotel, Somerset, England
The Castle Hotel is a converted Norman stronghold near Taunton, Somerset. Parts of the structure date back to the 12th century, and in 1685 it hosted King Charles II’s illegitimate son, the Duke of Monmouth, before he failed attempt to steal the crown. After World War Two, the castle was purchased by the Chapman family. They arrived to find it in a terrible state of neglect and set about restoring the historic property.
Today, the Castle Hotel is a Grade II-listed structure with two fine dining restaurants, 44 uniquely designed bedrooms and easy access to the Cotswolds. It’s a luxurious holiday spot that caters to large parties, functions and even weddings.
4. Kingswear Castle, Devon, England
Towering on the edge of Dartmouth Harbour, Kingswear Castle is a 15th-century stronghold built to protect against French invasion. It saw action during the English Civil War but had ultimately declined from use by the 18th century. In 1855 the fort was lovingly restored.
Today, Kingswear Castle has been renovated to appear just as it did in its prime. Visitors, in parties of up to 4, can now rent the entire property, sleeping in the stone stronghold on the water’s edge. Guests even have the option to raise and lower the stronghold’s flag.
5. Lumley Castle, County Durham, England
Lumley Castle’s origins date back to the 14th century, when the soldier Sir Ralph Lumley converted his family’s County Durham manor house into a castle. In the 19th century, the building’s use shifted again: it fell into the hands of the University of Durham and was converted into halls of residence for Victorian students.
Lumley’s shifting purpose took another turn in the 1970s. Purchased by the company No Ordinary Hotels, the historic castle was renovated into luxury accommodation. Visitors can now stay in the 14th century stronghold, dine at the ‘Knights Restaurant’ and even participate in a ghostly ‘Escape Room’ experience there.
6. Clytha Castle, Monmouthshire, Wales
Clytha Castle was built in 1787 by William Jones as an ode to his tragically deceased wife. After her death, he moved from London to Wales and started work on the structure, which towers over the Monmouthshire countryside. The fine details of the castle’s design are believed to have been executed by John Nash, the famed architect behind King George IV’s Buckingham Palace renovations.
Though the castle fell into disrepair in the 1940s, it’s now been restored to its former glory thanks to the Landmark Trust. Visitors, in groups of up to 6, can rent the entire building these days, gaining access to both the castle and its grounds.
7. Mostyn Castle, Flintshire, Wales
Sometimes referred to as the ‘Downton Abbey of Wales’, Mostyn Castle as it appears today was built in the 1820s by the powerful Mostyn family. The castle grounds, on the sprawling Talacre Estate in North Wales, have been inhabited by the Mostyns since atleast the 15th century, though, and the castle was built around an existing Jacobean manor house. The Mostyns left the castle in 1920.
Today, Mostyn Castle, formerly known as Westbury Castle, can host up to 40 guests. The colossal structure boasts some 17 bedrooms spread across the castle’s many wings and towers. Visitors to the Grade II listed building will find octagonal turrets, stained glass windows, ornate fireplaces, historic suits of armour and a vast banquet hall.
8. Inveraray Castle, Argyll, Scotland
While there’s been a stronghold on the site of Inveraray Castle since the 15th century, the present structure dates back to 1780. It took more than 4 decades to complete and belongs to the longstanding Dukedom of Argyll. Nestled on the edge of Scotland’s Loch Fyne, Inveraray Castle is a mix of various architectural styles, from gothic to baroque.
Today, the castle is still the property of the Dukedom, though portions of the grounds have been converted into luxury properties by Torquhil, the 13th Duke of Argyll. Parties of up to 13 can visit and receive 5-star accommodation within the castle walls. They’ll gain access to 7 bedrooms, the castle’s armoury hall, its grand dining hall and the sprawling estate.
9. Château Rhianfa, Anglesey, Wales
It’s no coincidence that Rhianfa appears more like a fairytale French castle than a traditional Welsh stronghold. In 1849, Sir John Hay-Williams took his wife’s drawings of châteaus in France’s Loire Valley and built his partner a replica. The product is the ornate building that still stands today.
Today, the Grade II-listed structure is a wedding venue and luxury hotel, boasting some 27 beds. It overlooks Snowdonia and the Menai Strait and is kept in impeccable condition. Visitors have the option to dine at the Château Rhianfa’s award-winning restaurant, where they’ll be able to enjoy local Welsh dishes amongst the curiously French architecture.
10. Roch Castle Hotel, Pembrokeshire, Wales
Found in the Welsh country of Pembrokeshire, the stronghold of Roch Castle was built in around 1195 and is now a Grade I-listed monument. In the English Civil War, Roch Castle served as a royal stronghold, seeing action in 1644 when the castle was assaulted. The structure was extensively restored throughout the 20th century.
Today, visitors can be transported back to Medieval Britain and spend the night at Roch Castle. But its guests shouldn’t expect battles and bloodshed: the castle turned hotel has won various awards for its luxurious accommodation and dining experiences.