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Upton Castle, Pembrokeshire
Photograph: Airbnb

20 amazing UK castles you can actually stay in

Sleep like royalty in the UK at these turreted hotels and holiday rentals. Well, castles, to be exact...

Written by
Kate Lloyd
,
Ellie Walker-Arnott
&
Grace Allen
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Who wouldn’t want to spend a night in a castle? Okay, that might seem somewhat insensitive to the many who withered away in dungeons over the centuries. We’re obviously not talking about that. These nights are the other end of the scale, opulent nights of wonder in legitimate fairytale locations. Even the most cynical of readers can find joy in a night in a castle.

The United Kingdom remains the castle capital of the world, in history and culture, if not in terms of sheer numbers. What’s more, these gorgeous old mansions can offer visitors a chance to escape the bleeping stresses of modern life, providing respite from a world of notifications and commitments. Staying in a castle is all about comfort, both the physical and emotional variants.

Fancy feeling like a king or queen for the weekend? You deserve it, so book yourself a night (or a life) in one of the many UK castles that you can stay at.

RECOMMENDED: The best weekend breaks from London

Peckforton Castle, Cheshire

This vast, grand castle is a popular celebrity wedding venue. Unsurprisingly, it’s extremely luxe and has a spa. Grade I-listed and built in 1876 by a lord, it’s two miles from the ruins of the Medieval Beeston Castle, where legend has it that Richard II hid his treasure. Plus, Cheshire Ice Cream farm is nearby, which serves up probably the creamiest iced goods you’ll ever eat. (A consolation prize for any guests whose treasure hunts are unfruitful.) 

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Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire

Want a taste of sixteenth-century life? Head to Thornbury Castle on the edge of the Cotswolds. It’s not only a high-end hotel, it was once owned by Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn (who was his new bride at the time). The hotel offers workshops in archery and the basics of falconry. There’s croquet on the lawn, a vineyard and a spa. And once you've escaped the castle’s vast grounds, you can explore the petite villages of the Cotswolds or head to Bristol for its art and nightlife scenes. 

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Lisheen Castle, County Tipperary

This eighteenth-century building has a chaotic history. Once a three-storey Irish Palladian country house, it was burned down by the IRA in 1921 during the Irish War of Independence. Eighty years later it was restored to its former glory. It now sleeps 14 and has a dining room, library and reception rooms for you to lounge around luxuriously in.

Rosslyn has mega-thick walls and a dungeon and is surrounded by ancient woodland and the ruins of an even older fortification. Inside, you’ll find an open fire and grand panelled rooms. You’ll feel like you’ve fallen through time, despite being just a few miles outside modern-day Edinburgh.

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Langley Castle, Northumberland

History buffs, this one’s for you. Head on a trip to Langley Castle in South Tyne and you’ll be able to go on a tour of this fourteenth-century fortified building every day. The post-breakfast wanders will take you around the castle, battlements, chapel and garderobes (medieval toilets). You can get the authentic experience by staying in one of the stone-walled rooms or you can wake up looking out over the castle from a modern extension next door. They offer a foodie mini-break, where you’ll get a prosecco and charcuterie sharing platter on arrival, plus Hadrian’s Wall is just up the road, ready to be explored. 

Blencowe Hall, Cumbria

Blencowe Hall is so old that one of its walls has crumbled with age. It’s been turned into a dramatic modern feature though, the ancient ruins framing a modern glass building within. Grade I-listed, the building’s surrounded by greenery – which you’ll probably get a dramatic view of from your bedroom window. There’s a spa, a billiards table and you’re right next to the Lake District, so you can spend your days sailing on Ullswater and going clay pigeon shooting.

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Hever Castle, Kent

Anne Boleyn’s family moved to Hever Castle in c.1504, and this is where she spent her childhood. In 1522, and after falling in love with Henry Percy, she was banished to Hever once more. It’s also where she’s said to have received letters from Henry VIII, before she later married him. Whether or not you have a thing for the Tudors, it’s impossible not to be impressed by this beautiful castle, which has superb gardens, a 38 acre lake and golf course.

Barns Tower, Peebles

Cosy and with all the modern luxuries, this Medieval mini castle is a mere 45 minutes from Edinburgh, in the pretty royal burgh of Peebles. The interior is warm and welcoming, with an open fireplace, top floor bedroom and two further beds. Considering its age and steep steps, this is another castle better suited to couples or families with older children. 

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Augill Castle, Yorkshire

Expect to find turrets, secret doorways and gothic windows in this northern castle. It’s the perfect place to pretend to be Jon Snow for the night. Built in 1841 by a Victorian gentleman, it has 15 acres of grounds. Walkers will like the fact it sits on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and is just an hour away from the Lake District. The grandest rooms have four-poster beds, roll-top baths and fireplaces. You can stay in just one of the rooms or rent out the whole castle for you and up to 29 friends. 

Once a Norman fortress, Taunton’s The Castle Hotel is a wisteria-lover’s heaven. The twelfth-century, Grade I-listed building is decked out in the stuff. The hotel’s home to two acclaimed restaurants – fine-dining joint Castle Bow and the more low-key eclectic venue Brazz. The hotel holds champagne dinners and garden parties throughout the year, and has the Cotswolds on its doorstep. It’s ideal for anyone who wants to feel a little bit Kate Middleton. 

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Built in 1502, Kingswear Castle’s tower stands at the water’s edge, with spectacular views of the rocky coast, the water and Dartmouth itself. The castle’s ground floor was restored to look as it did originally, and guests are allowed to raise and lower the flag from the roof. Sleeping four people, Kingswear Castle costs from £636 for four nights.

Situated right on the coast in tiny Welsh town Manorbier, this castle is perfect for anyone who wants to escape the city and explore the great outdoors. Not only are there excellent surf and rock climbing opportunities nearby, the National Trust Coastal Path runs right past, leading visitors past rugged cliffs and estuaries. You’ll find a local pub in Manorbier and the Victorian fishing village Tenby is 10 minutes drive up the road. Expect a very fresh fish supper. 

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Kilmartin Castle, Argyll and Bute

As cosy as a castle can really be, this romantic Scottish retreat comfortably hosts up to six guests. Built in 1550, it has only had four owners over the years, and now lucky travellers can utilise it as a fairytale home from home. With a wood burner, thoughtfully chosen vintage furnishings and stacks of books, this castle is the ideal bolthole for anyone seeking a breather from city life. 

Amberley Castle, Sussex

West Sussex’s Amberley Castle was built as a manor house in the 12th century before being fortified in 1377. Enclosed by a dramatic 60ft wall, Amberley Castle is flanked by a twin-tower gatehouse and a garderode tower. It is a truly beautiful place to stay, with rooms that tastefully merge period features with modern luxuries. The restaurant has a reputation as one of the best in Sussex. 

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Bickleigh Castle, Devon

Sleeping 16 + guests, Bickleigh Castle occupies a seriously scenic spot in Devon. It overlooks the river that, supposedly, inspired Simon and Garfunkel’s 1969 classic ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’, and includes a 6th century Saxon chapel, a mottle and bailey, an enclosed courtyard and formal Hall. Unsurprisingly, it is a popular wedding venue. 

Lumley Castle, County Durham

Converted from a manor house into a castle in 1389, Lumley Castle has accommodated a great many guests over the years, including Durham University students when it functioned as a hall of residence in the 19th century. Rumour has it the castle is one of the most haunted places in County Durham, but that hasn’t affected its popularity as a luxury hotel. Look out for special events, including Elizabethan banquets and Murder Mysteries – and choose from 73 atmospheric bedrooms.

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Helen’s Tower, County Down

While Helen’s Tower might not be a whole castle, it’s so famous it has its own Wikipedia page. Built in 1861 by architect William Burn, it was commissioned by Lord Dufferin of Clandeboye as a tribute to his mother. The highlight of the building is an octagonal room engraved with poems that the likes of Alfred Tennyson and George Browning wrote about the building. 

Dunskey Estate, Dumfries and Galloway

Sleeping 35 people, Dunskey Estate is surely the quintessential fairytale castle. Situated in the heart of Portpatrick, Scotland, this Edwardian castle is surrounded by 200 acres of glen walks, with forests, two lochs, three beaches, walled and woodland gardens, a maze – even waterfalls. Ever wanted to have the run of an entire castle? With 18 bedrooms and 16.5 bathrooms, Dunskey is pretty capacious. In case you wondered, a catering team is available on request. Staying in? There’s a vast library crammed with classic books and a billiards room. Heading out? There’s a golf course two minutes away, as well as a harbour where fishing expeditions are organised. 

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