England is well-known for its rich royal history, forts, palaces and castles. Its capital city, London, is no different. While this densely packed city has only a few castles and palaces, numerous others lie close by, making it a perfect location for a historical day trip or weekend away. London is extremely well connected to the rest of the UK, with Scotland’s capital being reachable by train in just over four hours.
There are numerous London castles and palaces and others nearby that offer a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. These castles make for a perfect day trip to somewhere new, with your hotel in London just a short train ride away. They also serve as an ideal weekend away location in the south of England to extend your stay further. Here are 20 palaces and castles in London and nearby.
- London Castles And Palaces
- Palaces And Castles in London
- Best Palaces And Castles Near London
- Palaces And Castles For A Weekend Away From London
London Castles And Palaces
Palaces And Castles in London
1- Tower of London
No trip to London would be complete without taking in the most famous sights, one of which is the Tower of London.
The Tower of London is a famous attraction that is one of England’s most visited Historic Royal Palaces.
During its time, it has served as a palace, prison and now museum.
The Tower houses the Crown Jewels and has housed valuables from the Royal family since 1100. The Crown Jewels have however only been housed there since 1649.
For more than 600 years, the Tower was also home to the Royal Menagerie.
Inside the menagerie, animals such as elephants, leopards and even a tame Bengal tiger named Harry roamed freely.
The Tower of London is at London EC3N 4AB.
2- Buckingham Palace
In England, the most famous Palace is Buckingham Palace, which serves as one of the Queen’s royal residences.
Contrary to popular belief, the palace was not originally built for the Royal family but was for John Sheffield, the first Duke of Buckingham, in 1703.
Buckingham gave his name to the palace.
The palace’s history is rich and at times turbulent, however, it has stood proud in London for centuries and even survived World War II.
This London palace was bombed nine times during the blitz, while the King and his family remained inside.
King George VI said that he and his children would not flee in any circumstances despite city-wide evacuations.
Buckingham Palace is at London SW1A 1AA.
3- Hampton Court Palace
Cardinal Wolsey built Hampton Court Palace in the early 16th-century.
Following its completion, Henry VIII made the palace his home and resided with all six of his wives.
The palace is famed not only for its beauty, historical significance, and architecture but also for its gardens.
The Maze and the Great Vine have both been used to host internationally important events over the decades.
Queen Victoria threw open the palace doors to the public for the first time in 1838, opening up the palace’s art collection and its stories of ghosts to the people of England and beyond.
Hampton Court Palace is at East Molesey, Surrey, KT8 9AU.
4- Severndroog Castle
Severndroog Castle is a Gothic masterpiece of architecture.
Lady James built the castle in 1784 as a memorial to her departed husband.
The castle served as a museum to house mementos from his career in the East India Company.
The castle has been used for numerous purposes throughout its history, including a surveying location for mapping England and a base for the Royal Engineers to survey London.
One of its most important roles was during World War II, where the castle served as an observation tower active for 24 hours a day to assist with air-raid defences.
Severndroog Castle is at Castle Wood, Shooters Hill, London, SE18 3RT.
5- Tonbridge Castle
Tonbridge Castle began life as a simple Motte and Bailey castle in 1066, following the Battle of Hastings. However, the original castle burnt down in 1088.
Following several changes of hands and several wars, the castle was built to its current specification in 1259.
Richard de Clare began the work and had his portrait carved into stone placed inside the castle.
Over the centuries, further fortifications, such as a longer bridge and a gatehouse, were added to the castle.
At one point, the castle and its gatehouse fell into disrepair.
But thanks to extensive work from the 1980s to the early 2000s, the castle has been restored to its former glory.
Tonbridge Castle is at Castle St, Tonbridge, TN9 1BG.
6- Hever Castle
The beautiful, incredibly detailed and decorated Hever Castle is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the unlucky second wife of Henry VIII, who was beheaded for treason.
The castle has been around since the 13th century, with the oldest standing part of the castle being the Medieval Council Chamber.
Further additions to the castle were done during the 15th and 16th centuries by the Boleyn family.
Parts of the castle that are visitable today are still reminiscent of its Tudor history, however many elements inside are the initiative of William Waldorf Astor, a wealthy American.
Astor purchased the castle in the early 20th century, intending to restore it.
Fortunately, the castle was accurately restored by utilising appropriate Tudor and Elizabethan materials, tools and talented craftspeople.
Hever Castle is at Hever, Edenbridge, Kent, TN8 7NG.
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7- Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is the longest-occupied palace in Europe and has served as a residence for the Royal Family since King Henry I sat on the throne.
Presently, Queen Elizabeth II uses the castle as a private home, especially on weekends and it also serves as the location where many of her formal duties are undertaken.
Windsor Castle has also given its name to the Royal family, whose surname was changed to Windsor in 1917.
Like many royal palaces in England, Windsor played an important role during World War II, where it was used as an air-raid shelter.
Windsor Castle is at Windsor, SL4 1NJ.
8- Blenheim Palace
The history of Blenheim Palace spans more than 300 years and was named after the Battle of Blenheim, which happened in 1704.
The palace was also the famous birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
It was designed in an unusual and short-lived form of architecture, known as English Baroque.
Blenheim has served consecutively as a home, mausoleum and national monument.
The rooms inside the palace are laid out as they would have been when it was used as a home.
Each room is filled with art and historical items, so join a tour where an expert history guide will help you understand the stories behind the artefacts.
Blenheim Palace is at Woodstock, OX20 1PP.
9- Betchworth Castle
Betchworth Castle is an overgrown and ruined medieval castle.
Built by Robert Fitz Gilbert in the 11th century, the castle was continually added to until the 1700s.
Following its conversion to a stone castle in 1379, it was reinforced in 1448 and turned into a fortified house for the Sheriff of Kent.
The castle was left for ruin in the 1830s and partially demolished.
Local legend tells of a ghostly black dog who prowls around the ruins of the castle at night.
The castle is also purportedly haunted by a Lord who chased an escaping convict before killing him with his sword.
It later transpired that the convict had escaped and the man he had killed was his son.
The ghostly figure of the Lord has been seen wandering mournfully around the ruins.
Betchworth Castle is at Brockham, Betchworth, RH4 1NZ.
10- Hertford Castle
Hertford Castle served as a royal palace for more than 300 years and was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I.
A castle has stood in the location of Hertford Castle since the Battle of Hastings in 1066, however many significant changes occurred to both the castle’s construction and the surrounding area in the years that followed.
The main palace was demolished in 1608, leaving behind only the gatehouse which was gifted to the Earl of Salisbury in 1627, whose family still own it today.
Hertford Castle is at The Castle, Hertford, SG14 1HR.
11- Leeds Castle
Leeds Castle began its history as a Norman stronghold during the 11th and 12th centuries.
Few architectural features have survived since it was first constructed, however, a two-light window in the banqueting hall and the cellar below the Heraldry room remain.
The castle served as a residency for six Queens during medieval England, all of whom made architectural changes.
The most famous era is the castle’s time as a Tudor palace during the 16th century, where it served as a stronghold for King Henry VIII.
Leeds Castle is at Broomfield, Maidstone, ME17 1PL.
12- Ightham Mote
Ightham Mote is a spectacular moated manor house that has its owners to thank for its 700-year-old survival.
It is unknown who built the original building, however, the first owners were Sir Thomas Cawne’s family, who lived there more than 700 years ago.
The longest-serving owners were the Selby family, who lived in the home between the 16th and 19th centuries.
It was turned into a haven for artists and writers, including Henry James and Ellen Terry.
Today, the National Trust owns and maintains the house, which is open to the public.
Ightham Mote is at Mote Rd, Ivy Hatch, Sevenoaks, TN15 0NT.
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Palaces And Castles For A Weekend Away From London
13- Arundel Castle
Like many castles in England, Arundel began its history in 1067 as a Norman keep.
Despite being built centuries ago, the original keep, medieval gatehouse and the barbican have survived.
Much of the main building was completely rebuilt during the late 1800s, resulting in an incredible contrast between the original Norman features and the Gothic ones.
The result was one of the most architecturally pleasing works to come out of Victorian England.
Inside the castle are an incredible collection of artworks from Van Dyck and Gainsborough and numerous artefacts from the castle’s history.
Head to the well-maintained grounds to take in the beautifully kept gardens and catch a glimpse of medieval knights at one of the castle’s historical events.
Arundel Castle is at Arundel, BN18 9AB.
14- Bramber Castle
Bramber Castle rests on a natural knoll above the river Adur.
William de Braose founded the castle as a defensive centre and it stayed within the ownership of the de Braose family until 1450.
Sadly, a major subsidence of the land the castle was built on led to the ruin of the castle in the 16th century.
It has been in ruins ever since and the only remaining part of the castle is a wall that stands 14m (46ft) high.
Bramble Castle is at Castle Lane, Bramber, BN44 3WE.
15- Scotney Castle
Scotney Castle is a 14th-century moated castle nestled within a woodland.
The first records of the castle were in 1137 but most of its significant history happened during the years following 1778 when the Hussey family resided within its walls.
The Hussey Family have allowed a window into the past through their family tradition of keeping scrapbooks, examples of which are available digitally throughout the castle.
One of the most important finds from the history of the castle was hidden in a black metal trunk at the back of the attic.
When the National Trust took over the castle, volunteers discovered a treasure trove of artefacts from World War I.
Brigadier-General Arthur Hussey of the Royal Artillery, Fifth Division, filled the chest with personal items from the war, including his war diaries.
These items are currently on display.
Scotney Castle is at Lamberhurst, Tunbridge Wells, TN3 8JN.
16- Herstmonceux Castle
Herstmonceux Castle is a significant architectural icon of the English landscape.
The castle is among the oldest brick buildings of significance dating from the 15th century that is still standing in England.
The bricks for the castle come from local clay.
The castle is moated and sits within 300 acres (121 ha) of perfectly manicured gardens and beautiful woodland.
Within the castle’s grounds are the remains of the Royal Greenwich Observatory, which was relocated to Cambridge in 1988. However, some of the telescopes remain in the original observatory.
Today the castle serves as an event location and a university study centre in partnership with the Canadian University Study Abroad Program, where many summer schools are run.
Herstmonceux Castle is at Hailsham, BN27 1RN.
17- Warwick Castle
William the Conqueror built Warwick Castle in 1068 on the River Avon.
He originally made the castle from wood before being rebuilt from stone in the 12th century.
The castle’s facade was fortified during the 100 years war, which created an incredible and lasting example of 14th-century military architecture.
The castle was converted into a house in 1604 and remained in the ownership of the Grenville family until 1978.
During its time as a castle and fortress, Warwick was at the forefront of many gruesome battles.
Dotted along the battlements are a series of murder holes, the apt name given to the gaps in battlements where boiling tar was poured out to kill invaders below.
Warwick Castle is at Warwick, CV34 4QU.
18- Castle Ashby
Henry Compton, 1st Baron Compton, began building Castle Ashby in 1574, with his son William continuing works following his father’s death.
Like many castles built at the time, this one has a floor plan representing the letter ‘E’ to celebrate Queen Elizabeth I ascending to the throne.
Today the castle serves as a family home for the Earl of Compton, however the grounds to the castle are open to the public.
Head to the Italian Gardens & Orangery for a little Mediterranean heat before exploring the Secret Gardens.
Castle Ashby is at Northampton NN7 1LQ, United Kingdom.
19- Knepp Castle
William de Braose built Knepp Castle during the 12th century, but the castle was later rebuilt in stone on the orders of King John in 1214.
The castle sadly had an extremely short history, as King John ordered it to be destroyed entirely after losing control of London in a war against the barons of England.
The king stripped everything of value from the castle before it was abandoned.
Over the following centuries, the castle continued to crumble until the majority was destroyed and forgotten by the 1720s.
Today the castle sits within wildland, which is the first large-scale rewinding project in England.
The ruins can be visited when exploring the landscape and its wildlife park.
Knepp Castle is at Castle Ln, Horsham, RH13 8LQ.
20- Pevensey Castle
Pevensey Castle is another of England’s ruined castles well worth a visit when exploring from London.
The castle’s life began in the 4th century as a Roman Saxon Shore fort.
Despite its early history, two-thirds of the walls of the original structure still stand today.
The castle was rebuilt in its current style during the 1000s.
Famously, William the Conqueror’s army landed at Pevensey Castle in 1066, during the Battle of Hastings.
Despite the castle being a ruin today, there are lots of things to see and explore.
The landscape around the castle is filled with nature and beauty, and the castle and visitor centre features Pevensey’s story from its 4th-century beginnings through to World War II.
Pevensey Castle is at Castle Road, Westham, Pevensey, BN24 5LE.
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