There’s a host of top English Civil War Sites and Battlefields to visit and among the very best are Bishop’s Waltham Palace, Ashby Castle and Restormel Castle . Other popular sites tend to include Helmsley Castle, Banqueting House and Windsor Castle.
We’ve put together an experts guide to battle sites of the English Civil War, with our top ten places to visit as well as a full list of English Civil War Sites and Battlefields, which shouldn’t be ignored if you have the time.
What are the best English Civil War Sites and Battlefields?
One of the most important English Civil War sites, Banqueting House in Whitehall is famous as the site of the execution of King Charles I. On 30 January 1649, many spectators gathered to watch the beheading on the balcony of Banqueting House. A service is held at the Banqueting House every year in January to commemorate this event and visitors can still see the scaffold stage on which the monarch died.
From 1654 until 1658, the Palace of Whitehall was the home of the revolutionary and statesman, Oliver Cromwell. After the restoration of King Charles II to the throne in 1660, the Palace once again became the royal residence and Banqueting House once again was used for its original purpose.
Visitors can tour Banqueting House and discover its history. An entry ticket includes an audio guide, available in a variety of languages.
Originally built in the 11th Century, Arundel Castle is the historic home of the Dukes of Norfolk. Besieged twice during the English Civil War – first by the Royalists who successfully captured the site and then by the Parliamentarians – it is one of many interesting English Civil War battlefields.
Today, Arundel Castle sits amongst 40 acres of eye-catching grounds and gardens and is home to an impressive array of priceless artwork, furniture, sculptures and tapestries. The displays on site include possessions of Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as collections from the Duke of Norfolk.
Ashby Castle was a Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War which was largely destroyed. The pretty ruins make it one of the most picturesque English Civil War sites.
During the war, the castle had served as a Royalist base, but in 1646 it was taken by the Parliamentarians and subsequently fell into disuse. Ashby Castle would later inspire Sir Walter Scott, who set certain jousting scenes from his nineteenth century novel Ivanhoe at the site. isitors to Ashby Castle can immerse themselves in the site’s history, from enjoying entertaining audio tours and exploring its sunken gardens to embarking on tours of its underground passageways.
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. In 1642, Warwick Castle also played its part in the English Civil War, withstanding a Royalist siege.
The seat of the Earls of Warwick until 1978, Warwick Castle then opened to the public and today offers a range of things to see and do. Visitors can tour the site and its grounds, learning about its history and enjoying its architecture.
The ruins of the medieval Bishop’s Waltham Palace can be seen in Hampshire. It was destroyed during the English Civil War. Today, the ground floor of Bishop’s Waltham Palace is the location of the Bishop’s Waltham Town Museum and the site is under the remit of English Heritage.
One of the English Civil War battlefields in Scotland, Broxmouth Park is the site of the 1650 Battle of Dunbar, where Oliver Cromwell led his troops to victory over a Scottish Royalist army.
After the execution of Charles I in 1649, Scotland declared loyalty to his son, Charles II. The English dispatched an army to Scotland and, after weeks of manoeuvring and futile negotiations, the two sides met at Dunbar. Although initially in the stronger position, the Scottish redeployed their forces allowing Cromwell to take advantage of the tactical situation and engineer a Parliamentarian victory. It was claimed that as many as 3,000 Scots lost their lives, and many more died later as prisoners during forced marches and imprisonment.
Helmsley Castle was a 12th century castle in York and the site of a dramatic siege during the English Civil War. In fact, Helmsley managed to endure a massive attack by the Parliamentarians during the war. The Royalists held Helmsley for a staggering three months, and the castle only fell when their food and supplies ran dry.
Following the Parliamentarian occupation of Helmsley Castle, its new owner, Sir Thomas Fairfax, chose to give it to his daughter and thus the site was spared destruction. The only parts of the castle which were removed were its defensive structures.
Today, the remains of Helmsley rise out of Yorkshire’s dramatic landscape, seemingly on a wave of ditches and banks, which would have served to increase its defensive capabilities. There are several Civil War displays, looking at the castle’s military history and featuring an original cannonball.
Corfe Castle is the stunning ruin of a castle which has been everything from a royal residence to a military stronghold and even a prison. The demise of the castle and the cause of its current ruined state came with the English Civil War. Having survived one siege in 1643, it would fall to another only three years later, then being demolished by the Parliamentarians. Today, Corfe Castle is open to the public under the remit of the National Trust.
Restormel Castle was a stone castle defended by a moat and located on a large mound overlooking Cornwall. In 1644, Restormel found a short reprieve from dereliction as a stronghold in the English Civil War. At this time, it was captured by the Royalist, Sir Richard Grenville. Today, Restormel Castle is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and is managed by English Heritage.
Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world. 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. Notably, in the 1170s, Henry II (the first Plantagenet) rebuilt most of the castle in stone instead of wood, including the round tower and the upper ward, where most monarchs have had their private apartments since the 14th century.
In the mid-fourteenth century, Edward III, who had recently founded the Order of the Garter, built St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle for the use of the knights of this Order. A further addition, St George’s Chapel, was started by Edward IV, but was not finished until the time of Henry VIII. It is here that the ten British monarchs lie buried.
During the English Civil War, Windsor Castle served as a prison and it was to St George’s Chapel that the body of Charles I was brought for burial after his execution. Charles II and George IV (formerly the Prince Regent) made further contributions to the architecture of Windsor Castle in the 1650s and 1820s respectively.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert loved Windsor castle, and Prince Albert died there of typhoid in 1861. Queen Victoria built a mausoleum in the grounds of the castle, Frogmore, where Albert and later Victoria herself were buried.
In the Second World War, Windsor Castle became home to our present Queen, Elizabeth II, and her family, George VI, the (future) Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. It remains a favourite home of Queen Elizabeth, and she spends most of her weekends there. There was a huge fire at the castle in November 1992 which took 15 hours and one and half a million gallons of water to extinguish. It began in the Private Chapel and soon spread to affect approximately one fifth of the area of the castle. It took five years to restore the Castle, and it was finished by the end of 1997.
There are numerous exhibitions and tours at Windsor Castle. In fact, a typical visit can take up to three hours. This site features as one of our Top Ten UK Tourist Attractions.