The best castle hotels in the UK, from Tudor banquets to resident ghosts

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.

For those with a penchant for medieval history, hotels with heritage, and a taste for adventure, nothing quite beats the allure of a stay in a castle. And many of the best castles in the UK mix centuries-old architecture with the comforts of a smart hotel, dotted where possible with original features, furnishings and authentic events to really pad out the experience. You’ll also find that castle stays in the UK come with extra touches like free guided tours, or private, out-of-hours access to the grounds. Expect staggering medieval military architecture, bathrooms behind hidden walls, jousting tournaments, murder mystery parties, and the odd friendly ghost in our pick of the best UK castle holidays.

ENGLAND

Hever Castle

Edenbridge, Kent, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

It was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and later ended up in the hands of Anne of Cleves. Expect the executed queen’s prayer books, torture instruments and England’s best collection of Tudor paintings after the National Portrait Gallery. Rooms are all four-poster beds, rolltop baths, leaded windows and gold-threaded chaise longues. Guests get to explore the grounds – including the ancient yew maze, handsome croquet lawn and pungent rose garden – out of hours. Breakfast is taken overlooking the orchard. Jousting tournaments and archery displays spice things up in summer. Monthly ‘dine and stay events’ often feature a Tudor banquet.


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£
180

per night

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Lumley Castle

Durham, County Durham, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

A pugnacious medieval knight called Ralph Lumley built this commanding castle that bears over the River Wear. He was a bit of a troublemaker and executed for conspiring to overthrow King Henry IV. It isn’t a property that does things by halves, with its bombastic silk flower arrangements, heraldic wall coverings and staff scurrying about in medieval garb. Bedrooms boast heavily-draped four-poster beds and original features like swags and pelmets. Some have bathrooms behind hidden doors. The dining room is well pitched for romance: think soft candles, stone pillars and vaulted ceilings.


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£
71

per night

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Augill Castle

Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

It’s been referred to as “a triumph of vanity over common sense”. Augill Castle is also a rather histrionic testament to the power of sibling rivalry. John Bagot Pearson “a gentleman of leisure and considerable means” built it in 1841 to outdo his brother. And because he could. Expect frantically steep turrets, sweeping mahogany staircases and lattice windows as intricate as French lace. It may not be suited to the shy and retiring, but it’s spot on for families, and anyone who likes adventures. Food in the glittery, flock-wallpapered dining room wows: think estate venison and local seat trout.


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£
195

per night

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Warwick Castle

Warwick, Warwickshire, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

Medieval military architecture doesn’t get much better than this sandstone fortress held in a gentle nook of the River Avon. Setting off to bed up 55 spiral stairs is pretty special, especially when your room was once occupied by King Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses. Other treats include the remains of a Norman motte, 14th-century sandstone walls, a lot of English oak and historical graffiti on the walls. Rooms have four-poster beds draped with damask-look curtains and loos tucked into medieval garderobes. A stay includes breakfast in bed and an after-hours private tour with a member of the history team.


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£
139

per night

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Langley Castle

Northumberland, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

This is the real deal: a 14th-century castle – all battlements and seven-foot thick walls. It’s also one of the last remaining British castle hotels that still has its original fortifications. Expect exposed stone walls, wrought-iron candelabras, suits of armour plus gilt-framed portraits aplenty. The most expensive rooms (nine) 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, serving up the likes of halibut with autumn truffle, salted cod with iced raita.


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£
133

per night

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Amberley Castle

Amberley, West Sussex, England

8
Telegraph expert rating

It’s so old it was recorded in the Domesday Book. Amberley Castle is initially forbidding, with a rare working portcullis (lowered every night), within its 60-foot high walls. The 900-year-old castle began life as a manor house for the Bishop of Chichester and was fortified in 1377. Inside though, the style is comfortable and unassuming, albeit with suits of armour dotted about. Some rooms are traditional, with four posters; others more contemporary. Dinner is served in a domed room decorated with coats of arms and throne-like steel-studded chairs.


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£
170

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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Star Castle Hotel

Isles of Scilly, Cornwall, England

9
Telegraph expert rating

Elizabeth I built this star-shaped fortress in 1593 to defend the Isles of Scilly. It postures on a fortified hill, offering views of the sea from all spokes. Crooked, queer-shaped rooms have been crammed into all eight points of the star, which only adds to the fun when it comes to having an explore. Furnishings are no less quirky – an unwieldy caboodle of Persian rugs, flashy modern prints and Jacobean chairs. Bag a garden room with French windows that open directly onto the lawns. Eating here is also particularly atmospheric; the dining room was once the officer’s mess and guests can try wine from the owner’s local vineyard.


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£
171

per night

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SCOTLAND

Glenapp Castle

Ballantrae, Ayrshire, Scotland

8
Telegraph expert rating

A fine example of 19th-century Scottish Baronial grandeur, set in a forest of giant redwoods with views over the Irish Sea. Sandstone battlements viewed from the Azalea Pond and Italian Garden evoke a fairytale, and imposing public rooms with Austrian wood panelling, period furniture, log fires and objets d’art create a warm, modern Victorian ambiance. There’s an all-weather tennis court, a croquet lawn and shooting (pheasant and partridge are on the estate). Suites are palatial with curtained four-poster beds, fireplaces and flower arrangements worthy of Old Master paintings. Don’t miss the six-course dinners either.


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£
234

per night

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Dalhousie Castle Hotel

Bonnyrigg, Midlothian, Scotland

8
Telegraph expert rating

This is the real McCoy, Scotland’s oldest inhabited castle with a turbulent history dating from the 13th century. Musket shot is still embedded in the stone battlements, but the interiors have been transformed into a luxury hotel and spa with fine dining. Rooms have period furnishings, tartan tweed and Molton Brown toiletries. The Mary Queen of Scots suite has a massive four-poster bed fit for royalty. You’re in good company too: Edward I spent a night here before marching to Falkirk to defeat William Wallace. Dine by candlelight among suits of armour and battleaxes in the Dungeon restaurant.


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£
114

per night

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Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Fort William, Highlands, Scotland

9
Telegraph expert rating

Queen Victoria said she ‘never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot’ than Inverlochy Castle in 1873, and it remains as impressive as ever. Moving with the times means waterfall showers, Bang & Olufsen stereos and televisions, while the unashamedly country house style – all swags, gilt, silk and brocade, sparkling crystal, polished wood and an all-pervading sense of time suspended – remains. Lying at the foot of Ben Nevis, girdled by a ring of highland peaks, this is a place of quiet beauty, with no indication that the hustling, bustling tourist town of Fort William is only a mile or two up the road.


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£
375

per night

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WALES

Castell Deudraeth

Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales

8
Telegraph expert rating

A Liberal MP built this early Victorian castle (and one-time prep school) on a private peninsula on the Snowdonia coast. Gothic and Tudor styles collide: think slate floors, froufrou plasterwork and an ornate fireplace guarded by a fearsome stone knight. Pick your room wisely as there are some standout suites: Castell Ten, in particular, offers superb estuary views and sunsets while Castell Nine features a turreted bathroom. Enjoy lunch al fresco on the sun-kissed terrace of the Victorian walled garden; retire to the wood-panelled lounge after dinner for coffee by the roaring fire.


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£
119

per night

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Château Rhianfa

Anglesey, Wales

8
Telegraph expert rating

This fish-scale-turreted mansion was built for Lady Sarah Hay Williams as a dower gift from her husband John (the name means ‘ladies abode’). The design is based on five castles in the Loire Valley, a region the couple loved. There are 27 bedrooms, 16 of which are in the main house and 11 next door in The Lodge, plus three self-catering cottages. On-site facilities include a sauna, hot tub, tennis courts and gardens, and there are plenty of rooms to explore, including a music room, drawing room, cloisters and a wine bar. Views of the Snowdonian giants complete the picture.


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£
84

per night

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NORTHERN IRELAND

Ballygally Castle

Ballygally, Northern Ireland

7
Telegraph expert rating

An ancient castle with modern facilities, good food, friendly staff, open fires, sea views and a resident ghost. After James Shaw built the castle in 1625, he was so enraged when his wife Isabella gave birth to a girl rather than a son and heir that he locked her in this room to starve to death. Distraught, she flung herself from the window, and guests have reported seeing her ghost appear and disappear in their rooms, leaving a smell of musty vanilla. Aside from that, Ballygally Castle makes a cosy base for exploring the north coast, not to mention a number of Game of Thrones filming locations.


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£
144

per night

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Killeavy Castle Estate

Meigh, County Armagh, Northern Ireland

8
Telegraph expert rating

This 1836 listed castle, situated in a beautiful, mountainous, wooded region – known as “Bandit Country” during the Troubles and only now being discovered by tourists – has been transformed into one of the most stylish hotels in Northern Ireland. Guests will find fabulous food and a fine spa, and the property has picked up a number of national awards – including best romantic getaway, restaurant and head chef. The modern section has 37 standard rooms, eight deluxe and one suite, while the castle has four quirky Gothic-style bedrooms with four-poster beds. There’s also a three-bedroom self-catering gate lodge.


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£
160

per night

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