Castles were often central in fairytale stories and permeate the dreams of every little girl and boy. However, unlike many of our fairytale heroes, the fairytale castles are not altogether make believe. In the United Kingdom, visitors can feel like a prince or princess when they step into some of the most whimsical castles. Those looking to explore some of the United Kingdom's most beautiful and historical castles should be sure to make time for these six.
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Belfast Castle truly looks as though it has leap off the pages of a storybook. If visitors look hard enough, they can imagine Rapunzel's hair draping down from one of its towers. As castles go, the Belfast Castle is one of the newest ones in the United Kingdom, built only in the 1860s. It sits on the spot of two previous castles that burnt down, but the current stone structure is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The original castle was built by the Normans, but the current castle was built by the third Marquis of Donegall between 1862 and 1870. As it was built so late, it managed to dodge the age of swords and chivalry in the United Kingdom, but kept the age alive through its architecture. Today, visitors can tour the castle and overlook Belfast from Cave Hill, on which the castle was built.
If Edinburgh was home to a super villain, they would live in Edinburgh Castle. Perched atop an extinct volcano and built into 700 million-year-old volcanic rock, Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline of the city. Since being built in the 12th century and the seat of the Scottish throne, it has been the target of sieges by Edward I, Robert the Bruce and Oliver Cromwell, but it has outlasted them all.
Visitors to Edinburgh can tour the castle and get panoramic views of the idyllic Scottish landscape. However, they should be sure not to miss a visit to see the Scottish crown jewels, the 16th-century great hall, the massive Mons Meg siege weapon and the 881-year old St Margret's Chapel, the oldest building in Scotland, all found around the grounds. Even those easily bored by history cannot help but marvel at the sheer magnificence of this brilliant UK castle.
After being built by William the Conqueror in 1068, Warwick Castle has come a long way from the original wooden motte-and-bailey fort. The castle was rebuilt in stone in 1260 and has expanded dramatically over the centuries into the many grand stone structures that visitors can glimpse today. Although the castle was briefly captured by Simon de Montfort during the Second Barons' War, it remained virtually impenetrable during other sieges in the Hundred Years' War and English Civil War. Today, it remains one of the most recognizable examples of 12th century architecture in the United Kingdom.
Warwick Castle is one of England's most popular tourist attractions. where visitors can walk the grounds and tour the castle. Matching the castle, the surrounding town is filled with old architecture and old world charm that will leave visitors feeling as if they stepped back in time.
Conwy Castle was built from 1283 to 1289 by King Edward I during his second campaign into north Wales. This castle and its defenses cost more than all of Edward's five other castles built in Wales combined, costing an estimated $206 million dollars in modern money. However, it was money well spent as it survived sieges led as a last ditch effort by the last native Prince of Wales, although the town and castle nearly starved to death.
Conwy Castle is considered one of the most iconic castles in the United Kingdom due to its unique architecture, which resembling the classic castles from the storybooks. It also sits as one of the best preserved castles in Wales. The interior of the castle is near barren, but as visitors walk through its halls they can imagine the splendor that once was. Outside the walls, visitors can walk through Conwy, a quaint Welsh town, and enjoy the nearby seaside, as well as visit the Plas Mawr, an Elizabethan wonder featuring a series of medieval artworks.
Windsor Castle in the English county of Berkshire was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror--designed to protect Norman interests outside of London. It started as a motte-and-bailey structure but was slowly fortified into the stone structure it is today. Being so close to London, Windsor Castle has seen its share of history, but it's heavily protected due to its royal relations. Since the time of Henry I, Windsor Castle has been used as a royal residence. With 1,000 rooms, it is also currently the world's largest occupied castle.
While visitors are not permitted in some parts of the castle, visitors can tour the grounds on foot or in a horse drawn carriage and are permitted into the beautiful state apartments and the St George Chapel, which houses the tombs of Henry VIII and Charles I.
Leeds Castle is perhaps the most defendable castles in the United Kingdom. When it was built in 1119, it was spread across two islands in the middle of a serene lake in Kent, to be a Norman stronghold. In 1278, it became a royal palace under King Edward I who improved upon the original structure by adding a barbican, drawbridge and portcullis. The castle was further improved by King Henry VIII in 1512 to house his first wife, Catherine of Aragon and his daughter Mary, although they did not spend much time there.
Visitors can enjoy this castle in the middle of the lake and take tours of its halls that have maintained their medieval trappings. Outside the castle, visitors can stroll through the gardens, enjoy falconry displays or paddle around the lake to see the castle at all angles. The grounds are also a frequent venue for outdoor concerts.