For many people, when they think of England, the images that immediately spring to mind are of medieval castles, imposing fortresses and lavish, royal palaces. Certainly, it is true that castles and palaces have played a huge role in the country's rich history, housing some of the world's most famous monarchs and protecting the country from a variety of invasions from abroad and from the Scots north of the border.
While major tourist attractions like Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London each attract millions of visitors annually, the country houses many more significant historic buildings besides, which remain in excellent condition considering their storied past. This article examines five castles and palaces in England you simply need to visit.
Windsor Castle - Windsor, West Berkshire
The largest inhabited castle in the world, Windsor Castle was built during the 11th century by William the Conqueror and has been used by some of England's best-known monarchs, including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. Throughout history, it has also served as a prison, with its most notable prisoner being Charles I during the English Civil War. The castle continues to be used by Elizabeth II as a royal palace and weekend home and is one of the most popular English tourist destinations, attracting close to one million visitors each year.
Hampton Court Palace - Greater London
One of only two surviving palaces to have been owned by King Henry VIII, Hampton Court Palace has a history dating back to 1514 and was utilised by the British Royal Family throughout the Tudor and Stuart periods. Although it has not housed a monarch since the reign of George II, the palace is one of the most historically significant palaces in England and a popular tourist destination. Aside from the palace itself, attractions for visitors include Hampton Court Maze, which dates back to the 17th century, as well as one of England's oldest tennis courts. It's location in Greater London makes it easy to access for those visiting the capital.
Alnwick Castle - Alnwick, Northumberland
With a history dating back to the 11th century, Alnwick Castle was originally constructed to protect England against invasions from the Scots. Today, the stunning castle houses the Duke of Northumberland and is the second biggest inhabited castle in the country, behind Windsor Castle. It has gained extra fame in recent times, due to its use for exterior and interior shots of the fictional 'Hogwarts' in the Harry Potter film series. Over the years, the television series 'Blackadder' and the movies 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' and 'Becket' have also filmed scenes at the castle.
Arundel Castle - Arundel, West Sussex
Opened by Roger de Montgomery on Christmas Day in 1067, Arundel Castle has belonged to the Duke of Norfolk and his family for over four-hundred years. The castle sustained considerable damage during the English Civil War, but was later restored during the 1700s and 1800s. Historic events to take place at the castle include the wedding of Henry IV and Mary de Bohun in 1380, as well as a visit from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1846. It has appeared in the TV series 'Doctor Who' and the film 'The Young Victoria'. A regular train operates from Brighton station, making it an easy journey for those staying in hotels in Brighton and Hove.
Dover Castle - Dover, Kent
Built during the reign of Henry II in the 12th century, Dover Castle is known as the 'Key to England' due to its historic importance as a defence against invasions from the continent. It is the largest castle in England and remained in use for centuries. Its secret tunnels, which originally served as an underground barracks, were utilised during World War 2, first as an air-raid shelter and later as a hospital for wounded soldiers. Today, the castle houses the Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment Museum and is visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year. Dover Castle is a short train journey from London and is easily accessible from most parts of Kent.