Looking for the best free castles to visit in England and the UK? You’re in the right place. Here are some of our favourites.
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Best Free Castles in the UK
There’s something about castles.
Maybe it’s the way their stone walls seem to reach toward the sky, or how they always seem to be built on high ground.
Maybe it’s the way they take you back in time, or maybe it’s just that they’re just so darn imposing – you can’t help but feel like you’re stepping into a different era when you’re inside one.
Whatever it is, there’s no denying that the UK is lucky enough to have a LOT of these incredible buildings, and they are all a big part of British history.
They may have been around for centuries, and many have been destroyed over time, but even wandering through castle ruins can make a fun day out- especially if it’s free!
Want to explore more? We strongly recommend joining these two incredible organisations when you’re touring the UK:
The Best Free castles in England
The history of England is chock full of incredible battles and the building of castles. Like the rest of the UK, they are everywhere.
What’s fascinating about them is how the architecture changes- and the direction of the defences, depending on the enemy. There are PLENTY of castles to enjoy on an England road trip, but here are some of the best free to visit ones.
Location: Alnwick NE66 1NQ
Alnwick Castle is one of the largest inhabited castles in England. Its construction was ordered by William II (Rufus), who was King of England from 1087-1100 and his descendants (the Percy’s) still live there today.
The castle has been the setting of many films, including Harry Potter and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Parking for people with limited mobility is available on Castle Square and in the main car park at The Alnwick Garden. The Castle has been open to the public since 1938 and is one of the most visited attractions in Northumberland. It is a Grade I listed building, as are its gardens, which are also open to visitors from March to October.
Location: Rivington, Bolton BL6 7SB
Liverpool Castle is a medieval fortification in the village of Rivington, Chorley, Lancashire, England. (NO- it’s not in Liverpool!)
The castle was founded by King John and was built to protect against Scottish raids from across the river Ribble. It was built sometime between 1207 and 1210 and was designed to be defended by only a small number of soldiers because it was also a royal residence for the king.
Rivington Reservoir Car Park is located just off Rivington Lane and provides access to a tree-lined avenue that will take you directly to the castle.
During its long history, the castle has undergone many changes, including being captured by the Scots in 1319 and retaken by the English army only six years later.
Liverpool Castle remained in use until 1536 when it was abandoned due to structural problems caused by flooding. It’s just ruins now, but it’s a lovely walk and a great place for legs (big & little) to stretch themselves.
Location: Market Pl, Castleton, Hope Valley S33 8WQ
The remains of Peveril Castle sit in an imposing location, overlooking the popular village of Castleton in the Peak District. It dates back to 1153 and was built by William Peveril, a Norman knight who fought under William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.
William received land from Henry II to build the fortress but was imprisoned at Nottingham Castle after joining a rebellion led by Thomas Becket.
The castle was besieged by King John in 1216 but managed to hold out until the king’s death, after which it was captured by his successor Henry III.
The site is free to enter and the visitor centre is located at the bottom of a hill, with ample parking spaces. There are also several cafes to enjoy if you wish.
Location: 35 Castle St, Eye IP23 7AW
Eye Castle is a medieval hilltop ruin, built by William Malet. The Castle site has recently been restored and revamped, opening new areas to explore and providing a viewing platform offering wonderful views of the church,
You can see for miles over the surrounding countryside. Parking is available near the cross street car park and there are also toilets close to this parking lot.
There are also remains of a medieval fishpond that can be seen, along with the original drawbridge.
The castle is a good place to visit if you want to learn more about the history of Eye and its surrounding area. There are also some great walks around the village, including a walk up the hill to see the town’s windmill.
Best free castle in Scotland
I defy you to enjoy a Scotland road trip without passing a castle. They are EVERYWHERE.
Indeed, some of the most scenic drives in Scotland include many of them on their itinerary. But here is one of the best free to visit castles in Scotland.
Location: Lochawe, Dalmally PA33 1AF
Kilchurn Castle is the oldest castle in Scotland. It was built in about 1450 and has been passed down through four generations of the Campbell family.
There’s a free parking area at the entrance to Loch Awe off A85, and there’s room for vans if you’re motorhoming in Scotland. It will take you less than 15 minutes to walk from the highway through the wooded area and over a small creek, up towards Kilchurn Castle.
During its long history, Kilchurn Castle has served various functions: first as an administrative centre for the Romans; then as a clan fortress during Scotland’s Wars of Independence (1250-1300); and later as a state prison in the 17th century.
Since the early 1900s, this magnificent castle has been open to the public and is now a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can step back in time and get a glimpse of what life was like for royalty during Scotland’s medieval period.
Best Free Castle in Wales
Wales also has plenty of incredible castles and historic buildings to enjoy. If you’re motorhoming in Wales, you can even stay in some of their car parks. But here is one of our favourite free to visit castles.
Location: Harlech Castle, Harlech LL46 2YH
Harlech Castle was built by English kings in the early 15th century, as a stronghold to control Wales. It is one of the most important castles in Wales and has been described as Britain’s finest example of medieval military architecture.
The castle is perched on a rocky outcrop, with dramatic views over Tremadog Bay. There’s ample parking nearby, although you do need to pay. You can walk from the car park to the castle itself, but if you want to see more of the grounds, there is a narrow-gauge railway that runs around them.
The views are spectacular and well worth taking some time out of your Wales road trip to explore this area.
Today, Harlech Castle is a tourist attraction and a popular filming location for movies and TV shows including A Knight’s Tale, Doctor Who, Merlin and Braveheart. There are guided tours through the castle, which is open to the public.
It is also possible to wander around the grounds at your leisure. There is a small museum inside the keep, which provides an insight into life at Harlech Castle during medieval times.
Best Free Castle in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has a lot of incredible history and places to visit. But if you’re looking for a free castle, head to the Grand Belfast hotel.
Location: 9-15 Bedford St, Belfast BT2 7FF
Belfast Castle stands proud on the grounds of Cave Hill Country Park, overlooking the city. It enjoys breathtaking views of Belfast and the surrounding countryside due to its elevated position.
In 1806, the castle was destroyed by fire. In the 19th century, it became part of a large estate that included a deer park and golf course.
During WWI wounded soldiers were brought to the castle to recover and it served as a base for the military during WWII, then later became a youth hostel.
During the 1970s it was abandoned but restored in 1980 to serve once again as an attraction with guided tours offered daily through summer months (April-October).
You can park your car at the Great Northern multi-storey car park to take advantage of a special rate. If you do, the hotel will validate your parking ticket for £10 per 24-hour. If you’re in a motorhome, you’ll need to find alternative parking as they can’t fit in the multi-storey.
We hope you found that list of the best free castles in England and the UK useful. Here are some more UK posts you might find helpful:
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