Whether you’re looking for towers, turrets and four-poster beds or ancient fortifications displaying scars of battles past, Britain is home to some of the most unique castle hotels in the world. We round up the 12 finest castles where you can wake up in your very own fairytale.
Set in 500 acres of rolling parkland in the heart of the Garden of England and recorded in the Domesday Book as the Saxon “Manor of Esledes”, Leeds Castle (image above) has a host of unique overnighting opportunities. With historic guardsman and gatekeeper self-catering cottages to rent within the estate, family friendly glamping pavilion tents and B&B rooms in the 16th century Maiden’s Tower, this palatial pile in Kent offers the most variety of any battlement stay in the country. Guests receive entry to the grounds, castle and restaurants during the day and can explore the grounds in the evening once the castle gates have been closed to day visitors. Set young imaginations alight and camp as medieval knights would have done before battle in one of the eight colourfully striped glamping tents in the castle’s vineyard. The luxury pavilion tents fortunately are adorned with a four-poster bed, cosy wood burning stove, crisp cotton bedding and snug furry throws. For larger groups, the 16th century Maiden’s Tower offers five gorgeous period bedrooms with breath-taking views, en-suite bathrooms and home comforts. Bookings for the Maiden’s Tower can only be taken up to 4 weeks in advance.
*Leeds Castle Autumn image credit Sarah Medway
A vision of towers and turrets, this 17-bedroom luxurious castle hotel is tucked away on the breath-taking Ayrshire coast with views across to Ailsa Craig and Arran. Set in 36 acres of gardens and woodland, Glenapp exudes baronial splendour with looks lifted straight from a fairytale book. Depending on which lavish room you plump for, there are grand canopied beds and four-poster beds with panoramic sea views or fresh-air-gulping views of Glenapp’s wooded glens and the immaculate gardens. Take to the croquet lawn in balmy weather or shoot pheasant or partridge on the estate in season. The local Galloway Forest Park is one of only four ‘dark sky parks’ in Europe, where a lack of light pollution means visitors can enjoy spectacular stargazing.
Scotland’s 15th century Ackergill Tower is set in 3,000 windswept acres and offers spellbinding views across the dunes and sands of Sinclair Bay. Its 17 rooms were previously only available for exclusive hire and the preserve of royals and celebrities, but the castle is now open to hotel guests. Tower suites are soaked in over 600 years of history, while the sensitively restored Stables Cottage and Keeper’s Cottage are ideal for families. Amid the estate’s rolling forest, Ackergill Tower’s private treehouse suite is a favourite for romantics. Built in a 150-year old sycamore tree, it is the largest treehouse in Europe and features a circular bath and sumptuous 7ft round bed with views out across the forest. Spot dolphins and seals in the bay, take to the beach with a plush picnic and enjoy the captivating coastal walks on the doorstep. A real Highland gem; guests are even played the bagpipes every morning to raise them from their slumber.
Built on 5,000 acres of land purchased in 1890 by newsagent WH Smith, this refined neo-Elizabethan five-star country pile overlooks the wooded glades and moorland of Dartmoor and is heaving with preserved period features, sweeping staircases, mullion windows, oak paneling, beamed walls, tapestries, cosy nooks, hefty wooden doors and stone archways. The double-height minstrel gallery and sumptuous sitting room will send weekend getaway lovers weak at the knees, while the 60 recently refurbished bedrooms exude elegance and luxury and the hotel runs on well-mixed principals of taste, elegance and authenticity.
Bedrooms and suites are located in the main house and the mews and 22 three-storey self-catering country lodges, hewn from local granite, are dotted around the estate. Country pursuits are something of a Bovey calling card with activities including falconry, clay pigeon shooting, fly-fishing, deer park tours and archery available on site. Bovey’s 18-hole championship golf course is another big pull. Initially set up as a southern rival to Gleneagles, when Great Western Railway owned the property, the course offers more dramatic views and vistas of Dartmoor. For those wishing to unwind, the Elan Spa offers a dreamy place to chill. As you may expect, afternoon teas are stupendous and when evening comes Bovey’s three AA rosette Great Western is one of the finest establishments in which to sample Devon’s larder – the menu often features local game shot on the moors to lamb and aged Exmoor beef.
Built in 1509 and once owned by King Henry VIII, Thornbury Castle has a history that’s almost palpable as you walk its centuries-old halls. In 1535, Henry VIII honeymooned here for 10 nights with his new bride Anne Boleyn and “The Duke’s Bedchamber” where the King and Queen spent their honeymoon nights, is still available as a guest bedchamber to this day. The 27 bedchambers are fabulously atmospheric, regal and traditional. Most with coronet or four-poster beds, and feature bathrooms. Tudor tapestries and ornate carved ceilings add to the ambience, with all bedchambers incorporating high-end facilities and fittings.
Visit website: thornburycastle.co.uk Book room: click here
This captivating peach-hued fortification on the banks of the Tamar River, 20-minutes from Plymouth, is now an award-winning, family-run B&B and wedding venue. Ensconced in a 2,000-acre estate with 55 acres of wild woodland gardens, a magnificent lime avenue and even a Victorian bathing hut, the five-star castle B&B offers eight double bedrooms and one four-poster suite. Guests can trace the castle’s fascinating history and visit a previous owner’s purpose-built mausoleum.
Cocooned in verdant countryside, Kent’s Hever Castle was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and later home to another of Henry VIII’s wives, Anne of Cleves. Originally built in 1270, Hever was restored to lavish effect by America’s then wealthiest man, William Waldorf Astor, and today it features award-winning gardens and England’s best collection of Tudor paintings after the National Portrait Gallery.
Guests can opt to overnight at the five-star B&B, located in the Astor Wing and the Anne Boleyn Wing, or book the historic four-bedroom Medley Court, which dates back to 1903 and is located within the Astor Wing. Enjoy four-poster beds, roll top baths, and views across the double-moated castle’s estate. Guests get to explore the grounds – including the ancient yew maze, immaculate croquet lawn and fragrant rose garden – out of hours and breakfast is enjoyed overlooking the orchard. Jousting tournaments and archery displays bring more entertainment in summer.
Take a regal visit to God’s Own Country and the 200-acre Swinton Estate where the ivy-clad turret and stout walls of Swinton Park stand amid the verdant dales and rolling parkland. Offering an intimate, stately home experience, there’s a real warmth to this 32-bedroom castle hotel. The ancestral seat of the Earl of Swinton, its rooms are furnished with antiques and family portraits. For an authentic fairytale stay, book the signature turret suite, which occupies three floors of the thick-set granite turret and features a lounge, bedroom and top-floor bathroom with mesmerizing views.
Travel back in time to the best-preserved medieval keep in Scotland. Located 15 miles from Edinburgh, Borthwick overlooks the brooding and beautiful Midlothian countryside with the River Gore winding just below its ramparts. The eight-foot thick medieval walls once housed Mary Queen of Scots after the death of her husband. She climbed out of the window dressed as a boy to make her escape but today guests come from far and wide to stay in the authentic bed chambers of this atmospheric medieval fort. While Oliver Cromwell may have unleashed a cannon, which tore into the fortification’s east wall in 1650 (scars of which are still visible to this day), the castle’s 10 bed chambers remain unscathed and the dark woods, vaulted ceilings, exposed hearth, hand-carved detailing, sumptuous drapes, fabrics and linens only add to the castle’s authentic character. Luxury touches, including capacious rain showers and free-standing baths, ensure guests also enjoy a lavish stay, of course. The striking Earl of Bothwell suite is one of the most unique rooms, with a gargantuan four poster bed ornately carved from solid oak, a replica of the bed King James VI, Mary’s son, slept in when he was crowned King of England. Borthwick is available for private hire only.
Visit website: borthwickcastle.com
Bath Lodge Castle
A small yet character-laden boutique B&B in a Grade II listed lodge complete with towers, battlements, towers and portcullis. Originally one of six gate lodges built for the Farleigh Hungerford estate, Bath Lodge has 11 rooms, some boasting bathrooms in turrets. Room décor ranges from contemporary to four-poster and are a little overly ornate but the location, six miles from Bath’s sights and Roman baths, makes it a great pit stop.
Amberley Castle is recorded in the Domesday Book and dates back 900 years so it’s little surprise coats of armour, flagstone floors, ancient archways, beamed ceilings and oak panelled rooms all sit within its 60-foot high walls. One of the few castles in Britain with a working portcullis, which is lowered every night, Amberley retains its regal and imposing air. Rooms are a mix of contemporary and more traditional and the gardens are a wonderful adventure of crumbling medieval walls, swinging chairs, lovers’ seats and rose-covered arches.
Boringdon Hall Hotel
The ancient thickset granite walls of this splendid manor house date back to the 16th century but today the luxurious castle hotel offers one of the best spas in the South West alongside beautifully appointed rooms. Charles I is believed to have stayed at the manor in 1642 while Sir Francis Drake and Sir Walter Raleigh may also have visited for a banquet, and while these illustrious guests may be long gone, the stone archways, flagstone floors, period details, oak paneled rooms and ornate open fireplaces remain. Boringdon Derived from the Saxon “burth-y-don”, meaning “enchanted place on the hill”, Boringdon Hall sits on a steep hill a stone’s throw from Plymouth and a gentle hack to Dartmoor. Most of the forty rooms are located in the stables and barns and have a contemporary, clean-cut feel – if you want more period character, opt for one of the four-poster bedrooms.
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