Top 10 Castles in the North East and Yorkshire

In this post we're exploring 10 of the best castles located in the North East of England and Yorkshire, with castles including Bamburgh, Alnwick and More!

1. Bamburgh Castle

Set 150 feet above the incredible beach, Bamburgh Castle is a well-recognised beacon on the North East’s stunning coastline. Originally a Celtic fort, it was destroyed by the Vikings in 993AD and was then rebuilt as a castle by the Normans years later. It is open to the public to explore the incredible grounds, Archaeology Museum, Armstrong and Aviation Museum, Victorian stables and the staterooms within. There are a range of different events and activities at the castle throughout the year including an open-air cinema, firewalking, re-enactments, Pilates classes and Christmas markets. The castle is deep rooted in North East history and well worth a visit with all of the family including dogs, who are welcome inside the castle grounds. Bamburgh’s beautiful scenery has famously provided the backdrop to several Hollywood movies and has been home to the set of films such as Transformers: The Last Knight, The BFG, Macbeth, Robin Hood and most recently, Indiana Jones. The castle is open daily from 10am to 5pm and is part of the Historic Houses membership programme.

2. Alnwick Castle

The famous Alnwick Castle dates back to the Norman times when it was first purchased by the Percy family who converted it into a fortress with towers, curtain walls and a gatehouse. Since then, the incredible castle has served as a military outpost, teaching college, a refuge for evacuees, a Hollywood film set and a family home. Many of you may recognise the stunning backdrop from the Harry Potter films that were filmed here throughout the years. The castle has over 950 years of history to learn about and by taking a guided tour, you can explore the state rooms, courtyards, gun terraces and museums before trying your hand at archery with a bow and arrow. Alnwick Castle has a wide variety of events to explore all year round from medieval music festivals, birds of prey displays, Luna Cinema experiences, outdoor theatre performances and even broomstick training! The castle is part of the Historic Houses membership programme and is open to the public daily. However, please visit the website to discover more about opening times as this varies depending upon the season.

3. Durham Castle

Part of Durham’s World Heritage Site, Durham Castle was constructed six years after the Normans conquered England, under the orders of William the Conqueror. Since then, the castle has been continuously occupied and is now partially home to students of the prestigious University of Durham. The castle stands high on a hill above the River Wear opposite the grand Durham Cathedral. Inside, you can explore the excellent architecture and history that lies within the old hall, chapel and intricate staircases. Taking the trip up to the castle tower, you can look out onto the magnificent city below. The castle is open to the public, but only through guided tours that must be prebooked in advance from the castle website.

4. Raby Castle

Built in the 14th century by the Nevill family, Raby Castle has a rich local history waiting to be explored. The castle was originally built as a fortress and was surrounded by a moat with access via a drawbridge. It is a stunning piece of architecture with large towers and curtain walls that rests in the centre of 200 acres of parkland. The parkland is full of wildlife, with ponds, gardens and wild red and fallow deer. There is fun for all the family at Raby Castle, with the beautiful Walled Gardens, Woodland Adventure Playground, bike hire and Stables Tearoom. Inside the castle, there is an array of family portraits from the 18th and 19th century including famous paintings such as ‘The Circumcision of Christ’ and ‘The Adoration of the Magi’ by Luca Giodano. You can continue to explore the grand entrance hall, drawing room, library, blue bedroom, dining room and gothic chapel, all of which are exceptionally restored to their original beauty. Down in the kitchen, you can find out more about how meals were prepared on roaring open fires with Victorian cooking utensils on display. Dogs are welcome within the gardens and parkland of the castle, but they must be kept on a lead to protect the herds of deer. Raby Castle is part of the Historic Houses programme and open to visitors. Please visit the website for opening times as this changes depending upon the season.

5. Richmond Castle

Located in the beautiful market town of Richmond, Richmond Castle sits 100 feet above the River Swale. It was built in the 11th Century as a military stronghold after the Norman conquest of 1066.  It is one of the oldest Norman fortresses in Britain and is said to be the resting place of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The castle offers breath-taking views of the Yorkshire Dales and is an extremely popular tourist attraction. Visitors can enjoy learning more about Richmond’s history by exploring the ruins of the great hall, towers, chapel, chambers, barracks and cell block and keep. Outside the castle walls, is the Cockpit which was used for cockfighting in the 18th century. Today, you can visit the Cockpit gardens which is home to a vast variety of flowers, plants and trees. Richmond Castle is open to visitors 7 days a week from 10:00 – 17:00 and is part of the English Heritage group.

6. Warkworth Castle

The foundation of Warkworth appears to remain a mystery to many historians as there is still question over how the land was used and when the castle was actually built. Theories suggest it was perhaps built after the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066, but other historians suggest that it may have been a residence owned by Anglo-Saxon Earls of Northumbria beforehand. What is clear, is that it was the residence of the powerful Percy family from the 14th to 17th century. The Percy family were considered Northern royalty as wealthy landowners of Warkworth and nearby Alnwick. The enchanting castle ruins stand proudly upon a hill on the banks of the River Coquet and provide outstanding views of the surrounding area. The Great Tower is the only part of the castle still intact so it is worth exploring in great detail in order to appreciate its beauty. Within the grounds of the castle, visitors can explore the floors and rooms of the cross shaped keep or seek out the Percy family lion badge carved throughout the castle. Accessible only by boat, the Hermitage is the remains of a chapel that is carved directly out of the cliff rock. Visitors can walk from the castle for half a mile and then take a boat trip along the River Coquet. Warkworth Castle is open to the public 7 days a week from 10am-4pm. The Hermitage is only open on Mondays and Sundays.

7. Auckland Castle

Auckland Castle is located in County Durham which is known as Land of the Prince Bishops. Prince Bishops were extremely powerful as they were specially ordered to defend the monarchy and placed strategically near the English-Scottish border. Auckland Castle became home to many of these men over 900 years ago. The castle was slowly transformed by the wealthy Prince Bishops into a high-status palace, hosting lavish medieval banquets and entertaining royalty. In 1790, the castle was transformed again by Bishop Barrington to include Gothic style state rooms and a magnificent throne room. The castle underwent major conservation works in 2019 to restore the beautiful architecture inside and is now back open to the public Thursday-Sunday from 10am-4pm. Visitors can enjoy stepping back in time by walking in the shoes of the wealthy bishops that inhabited this stunning castle and explore the Bishop Trevor Gallery that is full of extraordinary pieces of fine art.

8. Tynemouth Priory and Castle

Located on the headland of the North Shields coast, Tynemouth Priory and Castle stand proudly, overlooking the North Sea. The stunning views are reason enough to visit this incredible site at any time of year. However, the ruins are also embedded with history to explore and celebrate North East history. The buildings have been important within many eras of history including the rule of the Anglo-Saxons and Romans, but have also played a vital part in defending the Northern coast for many centuries from war with Scotland and potential attacks. In 1296, permission was granted for the castle and monastery to be surrounded by high walls made of stone and towers to defend the priory. It then became one of the largest fortified areas in England. The castle and priory have been through many alterations since then through the Tudor reign of Henry VIII, Napoleonic Wars and Victorian period. Much still remains of these historic buildings to explore. Visitors can stroll through the graveyard of the priory, explore the old gatehouse, see the restored gun battery built during the Napoleonic Wars or simply observe the magnificent views of the North East coast. The Castle and Priory are open to visitors Monday to Friday from 10am- 5pm and are part of the English Heritage group.

9. Dunstanburgh Castle

An ideal location for a family day out, the ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle sit on a remote headland above the Northumberland coastline. The magnificent castle was built in the 14th century by Earl Thomas of Lancaster who was the wealthiest nobleman in England at the time. He built the castle at a time when his relations with the King were very poor and he was beginning to rebel. The Earl was later executed for his rebellion and the castle was passed toe John of Gaunt who used it as a stronghold during the War of the Roses. After this, the castle fell into disrepair and was later sold into private ownership where it became more ruinous. The ruins then became a scene of inspiration for various artists and poets. The castle continued to change hands into the 19th and 20th centuries and during World War Two, the castle was a potential site for German invasion. Today, visitors can explore the magnificent original twin-towered gatehouse, the well-preserved curtain walls and the incredibly stunning views of the North East whilst taking a walk along the coastline to the castle. Dunstanburgh Castle is open to the public Monday-Friday from 10am-5pm and is part of the English Heritage group.

10. Barnard Castle

Built in 12th and early 13th centuries to control a river crossing between the Bishop of Durham’s territory and the Honour of Richmond, Barnard Castle is located high above the River Tees on the outskirts of the market town. Barnard Castle gets its name from its 12th century founder, Bernard de Balliol. The castle changed hands many times, but remained an important symbol of the power of the North. It faced many sieges from Scotland and northern rebels before being sold and dismantled in 1630 by Sir Henry Vane. The castle was also of particular interest to King Richard III who carried out repairs and modifications to the castle during his lordship. Visitors are told to look out for Richard’s boar emblem that is carved above a window in the great chamber that overlooks the river. Despite now being ruinous, lots of the original castle remains to explore including the Mortham Tower, the Balliol keep and the original castle walls. Visitors will enjoy the sensory garden, filled with scented plants and flowers and the stunning views of the Tees Gorge below the outstanding castle. Barnard Castle is open to the public Monday to Friday 10am-5pm and is part of the English Heritage group.

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