Britain is known and loved as the home of many ancient and awe-inspiring castles.
Witnessing everything from murder, witch trials, world wars, rebellions, tragedy, starvation and heartbreak, they’ve long inspired visitors from home and abroad who come to soak up the history and stories.
However, most visitors usually focus on the better known of the castles. Places like Windsor Castle, Edinburgh Castle and Caernarfon Castle often steal the limelight and leave those less-known gems forgotten.
But today we’d like to change that and tell you the stories of the most infamous castles in Britain. Enjoy.
1. Dover Castle, Kent
Those who find secret underground tunnels and warfare fascinating will love the three miles of secret wartime tunnels under Dover Castle. These tunnels used to shelter troops during the Napoleonic wars and were used as air-raid shelters during World War II.
One of the biggest castles in Britain, it was built back in 1066 by Willian the Conqueror who strengthened the existing defences with an earthwork and timber-stockaded castle. The site is also host to a Roman lighthouse (built in AD43) which is said to be one of the best-preserved in Europe.
Due to its strategic position overlooking the English Channel, it was besieged twice between 1216–17 as King Louis of France tried to invade. Since then it has hosted numerous royal visits, withstood further French invasions and played an important role during the World Wars.
It’s also home to several ghosts including the figure of a headless boy, a figure in blue in the mural gallery, a woman in a red dress crying and the lower half of a man walking through the doorway of the king’s bedchamber. Will you spot a ghost if you visit? Come along and find out!
2. Goodrich Castle, Herefordshire
If you’re a big fan of English history and would love to see more artefacts from the English Civil War in the 17th century, make sure you pay Goodrich Castle a visit.
According to Just Go Holidays it’s “...one of the finest and best preserved of all English medieval castles.”
Originally built back in the 11th century, it looks out over an ancient crossing point of the River Wye and was constructed to guard the Anglo-Welsh border.
Although it was a relatively peaceful place for centuries, it soon found itself at the centre of the Civil War when in 1646, it was under siege for two months. The resulting mortar fire destroyed much of the castle until the royalists finally surrendered.
Visit to breathe in history, see the murder holes built into the castle walls and gasp at the stained glass in the 13th-century chapel. You’ll also enjoy amazing views from the battlements and see real artefacts from the Civil War.Simply incredible!
3. Lancaster Castle, Lancashire
Lancaster Castle boasts over 1,000 years of dark history and has witnessed religious persecution, executions and the infamous trials of the ‘Lancashire Witches’. Many of the inmates who have been imprisoned at the castle over the centuries either met a nasty end by hanging or were transported to Australia for various crimes.
Also known as John O’ Gaunt’s Castle, the castle dates back to Roman times when it stood defending the city from ancient invading tribes. From these times, it’s been the centre of much of the history of the city and was even a working prison until right up to 2011.
Unsurprisingly given its dark past, it’s also home to numerous ghosts and other strange apparitions, including the ghosts of several children who are heard running through the castle.It’s perhaps most famous for the witch trials that took place here in 1612 with ten local women going to the gallows which has spawned many a film and book
4. Chillingham Castle, Northumberland
Chillingham Castle in Northumberland is said to be one of the most haunted historic castles in the UK, so if you like the paranormal you should certainly pay it a visit. Owned by a continuous bloodline since 1246, it’s been the scene of many battles as it was often besieged due to its strategic position overlooking Northumberland.
It also features the spine-chilling dungeons and torture chambers that are clearly marked with letters carved by prisoners from days gone by. Through the trap door in the floor you can also find the genuine bones of a small child.
That’s perhaps why there are so many ghosts that are said to haunt the castle. Book yourself onto a ghost tour and you could see the White Pantry Ghost, The Ghost in the Chamber, the Voices in the Chapel of two men talking and perhaps even the Ghosts in the Courtyard.
But don’t worry- they’re all said to be friendly ghosts….
5. Fyvie Castle, Aberdeenshire
The stunning 800-year-old Fyvie Castle is a magnificent fortress that standing grandly in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Rich in history, folklore and also home to several ghosts, it boasts an impressive collection of furniture, porcelains, tapestries and weapons.
However, as the Scottish National Trust say, “...Fyvie’s charms also spread into the otherworldly; for Fyvie is ‘blessed’ with two curses and a resident ghost.”
The most intriguing of these is the ‘Curse of the Weeping Stones’. This is said to have resulted in the death of every eldest son from the castle’s families. Is it true? Come along and find out.
The best known of the ghosts is that of Dame Lillias Drummond. Legend says that she starved to death in a lonely room in the castle and her ghost wonders heartbroken around the castle.
There’s also the ghost of Lady Meldrum who died in the 13th century. After her remains were moved from the castle grounds to a cemetery, her ghost started to appear…
6. Muncaster Castle, Cumbria
The prize for my idyllic setting must go to Munster Castle in Cumbria. Located in the picturesque Lake District, the castle dates back over 900 years and boasts tranquil historical gardens, cultivated lawns, woodlands and even play areas for the younger ones.
Visit this stunning castle to step back in time and visit the ancient Great Hall, the Guard Room, the fortified pele tower and the stunning staterooms.
It’s also home to lots of ghosts including a child and woman crying in the tapestry room, and the ghost of Mary Bragg- a girl killed in 1800 on the main road near the main gate. If you love naughty ghosts, you’ll love the legend of Tom Fool- the ghost who is said to play tricks on the staff and visitors. Will he strike you? Who knows?
Next time you plan a holiday in Britain, why not consider adding one of the historical beauties to your travel itinerary. That is, if you’re brave enough...
The Let's Go Out Team
Thank you to Chloe Walker for writing us such a great article
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