In Britain, we really do love castles. Full of history and drama, every castle has a few good stories to tell. To celebrate these magnificent structures, we’ve rounded up five of our favourite castles from Britain and beyond.
1. Warwick Castle, Warwickshire
This medieval castle, situated in the town of Warwick, was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068. It was refortified during the Hundred Years War, and in 2014 it celebrated its 1100th birthday.
The castle has been a popular tourist site since the end of the 17th century. It, boasts a collection of armoury on display that is second only to that of the Tower of London.
‘These walls have seen something of the splendour of every generation of our [English] story’
– Arthur Mee
2. Scaliger Castle, Sirmione, Lake Garda
This 13th century castle, also known as Rocca Scaligera, is a rare example of a medieval ‘port fortification’. Unlike most castles, it was not occupied by the nobility, but was instead used as protection against threats, both from enemy nations and locals.
The picturesque castle is completely surrounded by water and can only be entered by two drawbridges.
‘Gazing at the Lydian laughter of the Garda Lake below
Sweet Catallus’s all-but-island, olive-silvery Sirmio!
– Alfred Tennyson
3. Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Edinburgh Castle sits atop Castle Rock, towering over Edinburgh city. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since the Iron Age (2nd Century AD). There has been a royal castle on the rock since the reign of David I in the 12th Century. As one of Scotland’s prized strongholds, the castle has been involved in many historical conflicts – including the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th Century and the Jacobite Rising in 1745.
Castle Rock is actually the plug of an extinct volcano, estimated to have risen about 350 million years ago.
‘The Castle of Edinburgh …this gigantic rock lifts itself above all that surrounds it, and breaks upon the sky with the same commanding blackness of mingled crags, cliffs, buttresses and battlements’
– JG Lockhart
4. Trakai Island Castle, Lithuania
This castle was built on the largest of three islands in the Lake Galvė. Construction began in the 14th century but the castle suffered major devastation during an attack by the Teutonic Knights in 1377. It was finally completed in the 15th century.
The striking castle is made out of red bricks characteristic of brick gothic architecture. However, due to the multiple phases of construction, the castle also possesses some Romanesque features, making it look much like a real-life fairytale castle.
‘Old castle! Long centuries echoed your name!
Great men rose to glory with you!
You saw the Great Vytautas’ power and fame,
His regiments on a review.’
5. Sleeping Beauty’s Castle, Disneyland Paris
Although it isn’t the oldest on our list, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is also a very popular tourist attraction. Each Disneyland around the world features one of these recognisable landmarks. The castle in Paris was completed in 1992, inspired by various castles and other structures from across Europe, including the Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany and the Mont Saint-Michel monastery in Normandy, as well as the castle from the Disney film of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, of course.
The castle is also home to a dragon – 27 metres long from head to tail. In the park you can walk through the dimly lit cavern where the dragon sleeps. You can even hear the dragon puff smoke and growl occasionally.
‘Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.’
– Walt Disney
Photos by Flickr users Char, Loren Javier, Marco Lazzaroni, Ronnie Macdonald.