One of the most important truths in photography is that for a great image you have to have a vision and inspiration. Finding something that will excite you and make you want to pick up your camera is crucial. Medieval castles offer many possibilities, with their often crumbling exteriors, dramatic locations and architectural details. The United Kingdom has no shortage of photogenic castles, which look particularly atmospheric in the golden hours of the evening and during cloudy, rainy days. Most of these can easily be accessed, making them a good place of practice for beginners, whilst also drawing professionals towards them time and time again.
Come and explore our choices for the best British castles no photographer should miss, and maybe one of your pictures can win History Hit’s Historical Photographer of the Year Award.
Bamburgh Castle is an imposing fortification overlooking the Northumberland coast, that once served as the seat for the Kings of Northumbria. Restored to its former glory in the 19th century, today Bamburgh provides a glimpse into the area’s thousands of years of fascinating history.
The location of the castle allows photographers to take some truly dramatic shots. The waves of the sea coupled with the castle on top of the hill gives the site an almost ‘Lord of the Rings’ or ‘Game of Thrones’ feeling. It is a great idea to play around with your camera’s shutter speed to get the silky water effect – just don’t forget your tripod!
Caerlaverock Castle is an impressive medieval fortress in Scotland, which stands out for its unique triangular design and picturesque location, ensuring it ranks among the country’s most remarkable castles. The imposing moat, once a fearsome deterrent to attackers and important strategic tool against their enemies, is now a highlight for visitors and a stunning site all year round – reflecting the glistening sunlight in summer or laced with ice and snow during the winter months.
If you have a drone, then Caerlaverock Castle is definitely a medieval site you should capture. The aerial shots will bring out the best elements of the fortification, giving you magnificent images. But even if you are just with your normal camera you can take some amazing and unique shots.
Construction of Camber Castle began in 1539, a year after France and Spain had signed a treaty of alliance. One of Henry VIII’s Device Forts, Camber Castle was built to defend the country against any subsequent invasions from the south, and was designed to house a heavy artillery force.
These days the fortification lays in ruins, providing some interesting possibilities to explore the crumbling walls of this once formidable structure. A wide-angle lens would probably be the best choice for this site, though don’t be discouraged if you don’t have one.
Constructed under the orders of King Edward I and built between 1283 and 1289, Conwy Castle was one of an ‘iron ring’ of strongholds commissioned to establish the king’s dominance over Wales. It was overseen by master mason James of St. George, and once complete was a striking display of royal power.
The fortification dominates the Conwy skyline, offering photographers multiple interesting angles to capture it. You can find some of the best views walking across Benarth Road, with the local fishing boats offering some extra flair to your castle photos.
The first castle at Dunluce was built in the 13th century by Richard de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster. However, the ruins left today are from the 16th and 17th centuries, when Dunluce became the seat of Clan McDonnell, who overthrew their rivals, the McQuillans, who were Lords of Route.
The Northern Irish ruins are truly a site to be behold. It’s particularly lovely in the late afternoon / evening when the golden rays of the setting sun are illuminating the castle. This will help your photos to be rich in colour, whilst not creating harsh shadows on the structure.
Kenilworth Castle was first constructed by King Henry I’s treasurer, Geoffrey de Clinton, who built the vast Norman keep in the 1120s – this can still be seen there today. It was under Elizabeth I that Kenilworth Castle truly had its heyday. It was owned by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester from 1563 onwards. Dudley, who is largely supposed to have been the queen’s one true love, made extensive changes to the castle to make it worthy of Elizabeth and her entourage, doing everything from refitting and remodelling to adding new buildings – all on a lavish scale.
The ruins offer many different possibilities for unique shots. You can focus your attention towards the Elizabethan garden or instead capture every detail of the former castle’s interiors. Drone photography also offers many possibilities which should be taken advantage of.
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. It is one of the most dramatic and complete medieval castles in the country, and has been inhabited continuously since the Middle Ages.
Its sheer size will give a photographer lots to play around with. It is definitely worth capturing the grandiosity of the castle’s interiors, not only the exteriors. During busy tourist seasons you may want to try setting your shutter speed low to get some great movement effects of the passing crowds.
Arundel Castle is the historic home of the Dukes of Norfolk, having been occupied by their line for over 850 years. Amongst the dynasties to have inhabited Arundel Castle, the highly influential Howard family are most notable, and still occupy the eminent site today. With aspects dating from the medieval and early modern periods, Arundel Castle is the perfect visit for anyone looking to immerse themselves in Britain’s fascinating past.
The architecture of this noble home is exquisite, and perfect for some glamorous photos of aristocratic wealth and power. The yearly Tulip festival in April is a perfect opportunity to capture the castle gardens at their very best. One of the best spots is near the water features, with Arundel Cathedral in the background.
Hever Castle in Kent is a picturesque Tudor mansion famous for being the family home of Anne Boleyn, the ill-fated second wife of Henry VIII. Hever Castle was built in the 13th century as a country house belonging to James Fiennes, 1st Baron Say and Sele. It was later converted into a castle, with the walls, towers, moat and Great Hall constructed in the 13th and 14th centuries. In 1462, it came into the possession of the Boleyn family, who transformed it into a stunning Tudor residence, and in 1505, when Thomas Boleyn inherited Hever, he further added to its splendour.
For photographers, the old cottages next to the castle will offer some truly fun angles. Try to capture some of the castle details – sometimes just a window, with some leafy greenery growing next to it can make a jaw-dropping image.
Located in Cornwall, St Michaels Mount has historically been the Cornish counterpart of Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. The site may have been the home of a monastery already since the 8th century, though the earliest clear evidence comes from the 11th century when Edward the Confessor gifted it to the Benedictine order of Mont Saint-Michel. The tidal island is also home of a beautiful castle which dates back to the 12th century.
Similarly to Bamburgh Castle, St Michael’s Mount offers a photographer the possibility to play with the water and the reflections that are created on it. The early morning hours may be the best time to capture its beauty, with mist rising from the surrounding sea, while the rising sun bathes the island with some truly stunning light.