The best castle hotels in England, including private access and free tours

These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest guidance before travelling. Our writer visited these hotels prior to the pandemic.

To stay in a castle is to wake up in one of England’s fascinating feats of history. Battlements, suits of armour, moated forts, heavy drapes, four-poster beds, charming follies and banquets are the stuff of medieval dreams, and where these features have been present, they have been well maintained. You’ll often find that castle breaks in England come with extra touches like free admission to exhibitions and museum tours, or private, out-of-hours access to the grounds. Furthermore, many of the following places come with mod cons, fancy restaurants, modern annexes and even smart spas. Here’s our pick of the best castle hotels in England, in locations including Yorkshire, Northumberland, Cornwall, Kent, Devon, Cheshire and Warwick and near London.

Bovey Castle

Moretonhampstead, Dartmoor, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

Bovey Castle’s dramatic location overlooking lushly wooded hills on the western side of Dartmoor National Park is superb. On the doorstep lies miles of wilderness, heather-covered moorland roamed by wild horses and villages lost in time. The baronial granite country house, built in 1906, has retained all the gorgeous period features including huge stone fireplaces, sweeping mahogany staircases and mullion windows. Despite its smart décor, it’s the least precious luxury hotel imaginable: muddy dogs, children and walkers are all welcome. The silver-service Great Western restaurant is dazzlingly glamorous – think glittery flock wallpaper, chandeliers and swirly carpets.


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£
165

per night

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Hever Castle

Edenbridge, Kent, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

The double-moated Hever Castle, set within 125 acres of grounds in Kent’s High Weald, dates back to the 13th century. Best known as Anne Boleyn’s childhood home, the castle’s rooms contain priceless furniture, tapestries, antiques; one of the country’s best Tudor painting collections, and two prayer books inscribed and signed by Anne Boleyn. The b&b rooms are found in the Astor Wing and Anne Boleyn Wing, part of a ‘Tudor Village’ built in 1903 – each wing boasts its own dining area, fire-warmed sitting room and intimate seating areas. Entrance to the attractions of Hever Castle and its gardens are included in the room rate.


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£
180

per night

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Leeds Castle

Maidstone, Kent, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

Leeds Castle luxuriates amidst 500 acres of glorious Kent parkland and gardens, including a lake, meandering river and Japanese garden. Dating back some 900 years, the castle oozes history, romance and intrigue. In addition to self-catered cottages and medieval glamping tents, there’s a handful of elegant b&b rooms in the 1930s Stable Courtyard and 16th-century Maiden’s Tower. Breakfast and dinner are served in the 17th-century oak-beamed and timber-framed Castle View Restaurant which, as the name suggests, overlooks the castle. Guests can also explore the exhibition centres, the falconry centre, Go Ape Tree-top adventure course, and adventure playgrounds.


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£
120

per night

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Amberley Castle

Amberley, West Sussex, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

Once a real-life castle with a staggering history dating back to the 12th century, today Amberley is part of the Relais & Chateaux group and offers fine dining and corridors stuffed with museum-worthy artefacts. The current building dates in part back to 1103 and passed through the hands of several ostentatious bishops then kings and queens. Henry VIII visited in 1526 (seeking divorce advice), Charles II in 1660 and Elizabeth II as a princess. A hotel since 1989, it still features an imposing portcullis entrance, a suit of armour on the landing and pikes on the walls. The ruins of a great hall, ravaged in the Civil War, stand in the romantic 12-acre grounds.


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£
170

per night

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Augill Castle

Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

This ridiculously fun property – built in neo-Gothic style as a country retreat for a Victorian solicitor – has all the castle essentials: towers, turrets, battlements, leaded windows and unexpected staircases. Owners Simon and Wendy Bennett took a leap of faith in 1997 when they wanted a change from running a Mayfair restaurant, and found the castle empty. Rooms, all on a grand scale, are furnished in shabby country house style with rugs on wooden floors, acres of billowing curtains, bold wallpapers and a mix of antiques and well-loved pieces with a splash of modern. It may not be suited to the shy and retiring, but it’s spot on for families, and anyone who likes adventures.


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£
185

per night

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Lumley Castle

Durham, County Durham, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

Well, if you have a 14th-century castle, you might as well go the whole medieval hog. It’s rich, warm and dark: heraldic-patterned wall-coverings, flag-stone floors, lavish drapes, staff in medieval costume, and lots of red velvet. Inevitably, the castle rooms have the most atmosphere with thumping great walls, deep-set windows and are awash with swags and pelmets; the most expensive offer bathrooms behind secret doors and heavily draped four-poster beds. Staff are irrepressibly jolly and can organise fishing on the nearby River Wear, arrange reduced rates at the neighbouring golf course and provide secure bicycle storage. The hotel has a full programme of events.


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£
71

per night

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Langley Castle

Northumberland, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

The 14th-century castle plays the medieval card with exposed stone walls, wood panelling, wrought-iron candelabras, suits of armour plus gilt-framed portraits and assorted heraldry. There’s an impressive staircase, a drawing room knee-deep in sofas, a traditional, beamed dining room, and acres of red-and-gold drapes. Guests can embark on historical tours of the castle, including battlements the and roof-top chapel, plus walking trails in the grounds. The most expensive rooms are in the castle and go the full medieval hog with four-poster beds, heraldic-patterned carpets, lavish swags and window seats in thick stone walls. Food is taken seriously here.


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£
133

per night

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Peckforton Castle

Tarporley, Cheshire, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

One of the most characterful castles to stay in England. Built in the mid-19th century, it’s a Victorian take on a medieval castle, complete with sandstone battlements, arrow slits and stone spiral staircases. The furnishings are largely in keeping: there are old French tapestries on the bare stone walls, suits of armour dotted around, and heavy red curtains adorned with the Peckforton crest. There’s a small spa with three treatment rooms, a sauna, Caribbean experience shower and two courtyard whirlpool tubs. Most of the facilities, though, are outside, with the activities on offer ranging from archery and abseiling (down the castle walls) to laser clay shooting and Land Rover off-roading.


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£
145

per night

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Warwick Castle

Warwick, Warwickshire, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

This is much more than a hotel – it’s an experience. With just two rooms to choose from, guests are offered the chance to see behind the scenes at one of Britain’s most famous castles after the gates have closed and visitors have gone home. While it does miss an evening restaurant, you do get your very own battlements. Dating back to the 14th century, the castle has been periodically neglected and restored throughout the years, meaning that the architecture and design carries quirks from across about 600 years of English history. The State Rooms have a distinctly royal theme – including the bed that Queen Anne allegedly died in.


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£
139

per night

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Cave Castle Hotel & Country Club

South Cave, Yorkshire, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

Expect generous portions of old-world character at this turreted country hotel, as well as an excellent range of leisure facilities. A major selling point is the hotel’s smart health club with an indoor pool, hot tub, steam room and sauna which is complimentary for guests. There’s also a spa with two treatment rooms, and a hair and beauty salon. Fine buildings of various incarnations have stood here for centuries – it’s claimed that George Washington’s great-grandfather once lived on the site – but the current construction is late Victorian. The “castle” forms only part of the hotel, with two newer, adjoining wings offering a less baronial experience. The large, landscaped grounds are a plus.


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£
72

per night

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Rowton Castle

Shrewsbury, Shropshire, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

Occupying a countryside location 15 minutes’ drive from the historical town of Shrewsbury, this is a place full of charm and elegance. It’s bursting with character and sophistication, and styled with traditional décor, including wood-panelled walls, sumptuous armchairs, large artworks and quirky murals. The hotel has been refurbished and reinvented primarily as an Exclusively Yours wedding castle, although you can indeed stay here simply for a private country escape. The food is fabulous, from the appetisers on the garden terrace, to the seasonal menu in the Cedar Restaurant. There’s also a sumptuous lounge, and a Georgian dining room (10 people max) for private dining.


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Star Castle Hotel

Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

This striking star-shaped fortress, set within its original garrison walls amid four acres of subtropical gardens, mixes centuries-old character with contemporary charm. Built in the 16th century, the castle was originally the first point of defense for approaching armies looking to invade the island. It was converted into a hotel in 1933, and the Francis family took over in 2003, transforming it into a charming family-friendly retreat. Interiors have a fresh contemporary vibe, with Robert Francis’s wife, Teresa, primarily responsible for the styling. Highlights include magnificent views from the turrets and ramparts, locally produced wines, and lobster and crab caught daily by the owner.


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£
171

per night

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Contributions by Suzie Bennett, Gabriella Le Breton, Suzanne King, Natalie Millar-Partridge, Caroline Mills, Helen Pickles, Sandra Shields, Penny Walker & Debbie Ward