Bloody Banquets, Ghosts, and Other Secrets of Great Britain's Most Famous Castles
From the Tower of London to Edinburgh Castle, here are Great Britain's most famous castles and the stories behind them.
Windsor Castle takes the title of the largest occupied castle in the world. As the official residence of the Queen, it boasts over 1,000 rooms, 300 fireplaces, 300,000 books, and 450 clocks. The castle was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror, and has been a royal residence since the time of Henry I. In 1992, the castle was ravaged by a serious fire which destroyed nearly 100 rooms.
England's largest castle, Dover Castle, is located in Kent. The castle is home to a complex five-level underground network of tunnels which dates back to the Napoleonic Wars. During the Cold War, the same tunnels were used as an air raid shelter.
TOWER OF LONDON
Since its founding, the Tower of London has served many purposes: It's been a palace, prison, a garrison, the home of the Royal Mint, an armory, a treasury, and even a zoo. As a zoo, it had polar bears, zebras, tigers, owls, and elephants. At one point, the Tower shockingly allowed the zoo's visitors to offer a cat or dog to feed the lions as an entrance fee.
The medieval Warwick Castle is part of a series of buildings by William the Conqueror. It was completed in 1068 and was the family seat of the Earls of Warwick, as well as the members of the Beaumont, Beauchamp, Neville, Plantagenet, Dudley, and Greville families. The last Earl of Warwick to own the castle dabbled in acting, as such he was dubbed The Duke of Hollywood in Los Angeles.
Located in northwest Wales, the Caernarfon Castle is a medieval fortress dating back to Roman time. It's estimated that the castle started construction from 1284 to 1330, and cost £20,000-£25,000 to build which was a staggering sum considering it was more than the Treasury's annual income from tax at that time. The castle was used for the investiture of the Prince of Wales in 1911, and again for Prince Charles in 1969.
Through Stirling Castle, you can explore the world of Scotland’s Renaissance kings and queens. The castle is often considered one of the most impressive man-made creations in the world as it's built atop Castle Hill, a volcanic crag. Stirling's infamous ghosts have become a popular draw: The green lady who is thought to be Mary, the Queen of Scots' servant and a lady in pink often said to be Mary herself.
This Norman Irish castle is considered the best preserved medieval structure in Northern Ireland. Carrickfergus was built by Anglo-Norman knight John de Courcy in 1177 as his headquarters. After he was ousted, the castle went to English control and was used as a fortress, prison, armory, and a garrison.
Scotland's Edinburgh Castle is one of the U.K.'s most popular tourist sites. It houses the Scottish crown jewels, and tells the story of the Tudor and Stuart dynasties. The site of the historic fortress has been occupied since the Bronze Age, but the current buildings date back from the 12th century. In 1440, the 'Black Dinner' took place at the castle—a banquet that served as inspiration for the Game of Thrones' Red Wedding.
Unlike other Welsh castles, Cardiff Castle was initially more of a fortress than a garrison. The castle's history goes back to Roman times while the keep dates back to Norman times. Cardiff Castle served as an air raid shelter during the Second World War with a capacity of almost 2,000.
All that remains of York Castle, also referred to as Clifford's Tower, is the keep. The castle's dark history begins in the Middle Ages: It's been the site of a massacre, religious uprising, and many other deaths.
Dubbed the loveliest castle in the world, Leeds Castle owes its title to its picturesque surroundings and the flora and fauna that comes with it. Today, the castle is home to "beautiful parkland and formal gardens, daily activities, free flying falconry displays, spectacular events, special tours, and year round attractions."
The Lancaster Castle has a long history of crime and punishment. The Pendle Witch trials took place at the medieval castle where eight women and two men were convicted for practicing sorcery. The castle's dungeons and asylums' display of medieval methods of torture are worth a trip. Up until 2011, the Lancaster Castle was used as a prison.
The occupied Arundel Castle is the home of the Fitzalan-Howards, Dukes of Norfolk and Earls of Arundel. The castle was built by William the Conqueror's supporter Roger de Montgomery, and is home to the artifacts and artworks that have been accumulated since. In 1846, special furniture was made for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert after the two paid a visit to the castle.