Entangled in bloodthirsty battles, princes, princesses, ghosts, and magic, the castles that can be found all over Europe seem to each have their own barely-believable fairy tales. If you’re planning a trip to the UK and want to see some of these enchanting buildings for yourself, I’ve compiled a list of seven Gothic Castles in the UK that tick all the boxes for fantasy, history, and beauty. But you don’t have to stop with the UK, there are loads of castles to explore all over Europe!
Fairytale vibes are all over Europe. With destinations like Italy, Switzerland, France and Germany (just to name a few) there seems to be a storybook village, sleepy valley, fairytale castle or palace at just about every turn. There are so many that you could never explore all the magical destinations in one lifetime. Take the iconic Swiss castles for example, there at least fifteen of them that will leave you feeling like royalty from another century.
It’s mindful to set your sights on one destination at a time. And the UK is a fantastic place to start.
Gothic Castles in the UK Straight Out of Fairytales
Balmoral, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Where better place to start this list than at an actual royal residence? Balmoral has been part of the British Royal Family since the estate was purchased in 1852, by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. Although the building is technically an example of Scottish baronial architecture, its majestic turrets, and narrow windows are a stylish interpretation of the medieval castles and châteaux that can be found around Europe.
Balmoral is a private residence and not part of The Crown Estate, meaning that access to the public is limited. The ballroom is the only viewable room in the castle, so if you want to feel like royalty for a day, you will have to wander the grounds and gardens or rent one of the holiday cottages instead. With its residents of royalty, Balmoral is one of the most well-known Gothic Castles in the UK.
Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland
The next castle on our list is Glamis Castle, which has its own links to royalty and almost 1000 years of history. With its turrets and castellated walls, Glamis Castle is built in a similar style to Balmoral, although in a striking shade of russet.
Despite being a private residence, visitors can enjoy a guided tour of the castle – just look out for the spirit of Lady Janet Douglas, which is said to haunt the chapel.
Margam Castle, Port Talbot, Wales
Margam Castle is a stunning example of the Gothic Revival “mock” castles that appeared all over the UK during the Victorian era. These extravagant country homes were built to emulate the splendor of a castle without the requirement of any fortification, making them much more beautiful than many of their medieval counterparts. Margam is no exception to this rule.
The staircase, in particular, looks like it was taken straight out of the pages of a fairy-tale, although it’s commonly believed that its treads are haunted by one of the former gamekeepers of the estates.
Wray Castle, Cumbria, England
Wray Castle looks exactly as you’d expect a castle to look — almost as if it’s materialized straight out of an illustration. From a distance, its fortress-like walls seem like an authentic medieval castle and it’s not until you get closer that you realize the Wray Castle is simply another splendid country house.
Daily tours are available of its dazzlingly neo-gothic architecture, although the interior design is appropriately pared-back compared to some of the other castles on this list. Once you’ve looked inside, it’s well worth taking a trip onto the nearby Lake Windermere, the largest in England.
Arundel Castle, West Sussex, England
Set in the picturesque village of Arundel, this castle is visibly made up of two parts; the ancient Norman gatehouse and keep at the top of the hill, and the main building, which was built during the Gothic Revival period.
As one of the longest-inhabited country houses in the country, Arundel Castle is immaculately maintained. It’s easy to wander through its hallways and chambers, gazing upon its rich tapestries and paintings while imagining you are the lady of the manor.
Leeds Castle, Kent, England
Rather confusingly, Leeds Castle is nowhere near the city of Leeds, but in the so-called “garden of England”, Kent. As long as you end up in the right county, plan a visit to “the loveliest castle in the world”, which is positioned on two small islands in the middle of the River Len.
In addition to the picturesque moat, the grounds feature a spooky underground grotto and a maze that could house white rabbits, mad hatters and Cheshire cats galore. If you don’t fancy getting lost on foot, the castle grounds also offer Segway tours!
Durham Castle, Durham, England
For anyone that was disappointed about not receiving their Hogwarts acceptance letter, Durham Castle is your second chance. The stunning cloisters, arched windows, and incredible vaulted halls were used as a filming location for the school, bringing an authentic sense of magic and mystery to the set.
Even if you’re not a Harry Potter fan, Durham Castle (and the nearby Durham Cathedral) offers an unparalleled example of Gothic architecture in the UK. A guided tour of the buildings is highly recommended, although plan your trip carefully – the grounds are often swarming with real-life students that, rather enviably, enjoy the castle as part of the University of Durham.’
Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham, England
Strawberry Hill House is an excellent reminder that ‘Gothic’ does not necessarily mean ‘gloomy’. The elaborate towers and battlements are painted perfectly white on the outside, with bright, inviting colors adorning the interior.
In fact, the popularity of Strawberry Hill House is considered key for reviving the Gothic style throughout the 18th and 19th Centuries. Its vaulted ceilings, arched windows, and ornate detailing are directly inspired by original gothic architecture around Europe and the building is an absolute must-see.
These beautiful Gothic Castles in the UK are giving us all the fairytale feels! Don’t mind us, we’re going to go grab our tiaras and head over the pond. Have you visited any of these?