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The Best Castles in England

Warwick Castle. Photo by recursion_see_recursion (Flickr)Wandering around an English castle is one of the must-do things when holidaying at home. There are castles taking in all the biggest events of English history, castles with re-enactments of their battles and sieges, and castles that have been part of film sets or used for weddings. Not sure where to look? Have a read of our Battlefields page for inspiration, or see our list of five of the best English castles here:

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

This has pretty much everything you want in an English castle. It's full of history – built by William the Conqueror in 1098, besieged by the Royalists in the English Civil War, used to hold prisoners taken by the Parliamentarians, visited by Queen Victoria and listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. You can wander around the 60 acre gardens and see the peacocks, or check out the ramparts, dungeons, towers and interiors including the private chapel and the fourteenth century Grand Hall.

Castle camping: Twitey's Tipis and Campsite at Warwick is a family-friendly countryside site with non-electric tent pitches as well as locally made tipis sleeping up to four or six. Riverside Caravan Park at nearby Stratford-upon-Avon is less than seven miles from the castle and has camping snugs and caravans for hire. Both parks are dog-friendly.

Corfe Castle, Dorset

Corfe was also built by William the Conqueror, and was one of the earliest English castles to be built using stone instead of timber. It was partially demolished by Parliament after the Civil War, but was still the National Trust's tenth most visited historic house in 2006 and had over 190,000 visitors in 2010. The castle has 'murder holes', arrow loops, a replica medieval siege engine, costumes to try on and guided tours, while the village of Corfe Castle itself is also well worth a look.

Castle camping: There are plenty of camping options near Corfe Castle – have a look at Longthorns Farm, where you can stay in a traditional shepherd's hut with double bed, wood burner and outdoor fire pit.

Hever Castle, Kent

A double-moated castle with the oldest parts dating back to 1270. Hever was the childhood home of Henry VIII's future wife Anne Boleyn and was later owned by his fourth wife Anne of Cleves. Tudor times are well represented at the castle, with Tudor portraits and furniture, prayer books signed by Anne Boleyn, and costumed figures of Henry VIII and his six wives in the Long Gallery. You can also go back a couple of centuries to the thirteenth century gatehouse, with its collections of historic swords, armour and instruments of execution, torture and discipline.

Castle camping: There's plenty of choice for campsites and holiday parks in Kent Neals Place Farm in Canterbury is a working farm among the apple orchards and has electric and non-electric pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes. Or there's Little Satmar Holiday Park at Folkestone, a David Bellamy Conservation Award Gold winner and also with electric and non-electric grass pitches. 

Arundel Castle, West Sussex

Founded in 1067, damaged in the Civil War, restored in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and used as a set for Windsor Castle in Doctor Who and The Madness of King George. There's loads to see at this castle – indoors you can take a look at the paintings, furniture, tapestries, stained glass, china, clocks, sculpture, carving, heraldry and armour, while outdoors there are 40 acres of grounds and gardens, a fourteenth century chapel, and castle keep and gatehouse. There's a wide enough range of events throughout the season to keep everyone happy, like open air Shakespeare, classic car rally, medieval tournaments and pirate days.

Castle camping: The Barn Caravan Park, a peaceful park at Lancing is open all year round, welcomes student groups and is a short drive from Brighton. At Chichester, the family site Chichester Lakeside Holiday Park has ten fishing lakes, kids' clubs, heated pool and nature trails. Both parks have pitches for tents, tourers and motorhomes.

Bamburgh Castle. Photo by David-White (Flickr)

Bamburgh Castle, Northumbria

One of the biggest inhabited castles in England, called 'the finest castle anywhere in this country' by Time Out, and the Royal Seat of the Kings of Northumbria. There are 14 public areas to explore, with over 2000 artefacts including arms and armour, porcelain, furniture and artwork. Or you could watch the archaeological excavations, go along to the open air theatre and concert nights, wander around the Victorian scullery or get married in the King's Hall.

Castle camping: Riverside Country Park on the banks of Wooler Water has family camping pods, an indoor pool and Jacuzzi and a lounge bar and restaurant with free wifi Or pitch up at the small and friendly Border Forest Caravan Park on a hardstanding pitch with optional electric; like Riverside, it's open all year round.