10 magnificent UK castles you can actually stay in for free.


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To stay in a castle is to travel through time – imagine wandering the same sweeping pastures and stone halls with regal tapestries as kings and queens did. From fairy tale castles in enchanted woodlands to towers atop hills, haunted castles and posh countryside dwellings, these 10 magnificent castles spanning Medieval times to the Victorian era are calling for a getaway.

1. Appleby Castle

By the banks of the River Eden in Cumbria, this 12th-century Medieval castle is one of the few Norman castles in the UK operating as a hotel. The impressive stone structure sits snug in Eden Valley, 15 miles from the Lake District and surrounded by 25 acres of forest. Inside is a great hall with antique furniture and paintings, 12 individually designed guestrooms with dark wood interiors and three self-contained cottages built in the mid 17th century. Also on the premises is an old tower where guests can climb to the roof for a 360-degree view of the valley.

2. Thornbury Castle

Built in the 1530s, this stone castle in Bristol complete with turrets and crenelations is a vision of grandeur. King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn stayed here on their honeymoon after more kings and queens have visited before the castle was abandoned for 200 years then restored in the 1850s. One of the few Tudor castles that’s also a luxury hotel, Thornbury was recently refurbished and will re-open in May. Outside, cedar and sequoia trees envelop the castle and suits of armour guard the halls. The rooms are utterly lavish with high coffered ceilings, gilded vanity sets and four poster beds with curtains. Afternoon tea in the gardens is also in order.


3. The Hunting Tower

This fully equipped holiday home inside a three-storey cylindrical tower is a place most families wouldn’t mind being banished to. Part of the Chatsworth Estate in Bakewell, the Hunting Tower was completed in the late 16th century for Bess of Hardwick and was used by ladies to watch over hunting dogs at work in the park. Today the vast swathes of parkland remain, while the tower’s interior has been transformed into a homely space with a sitting room, a kitchen with pastel pink and blue cabinets and bedrooms with white linens and teal bed posts.

4. Langley Castle Hotel

Nestled in 10 acres of quiet woodlands by the North Pennies, the mid-14th-century Langley Castle is amongst the few fortified castle hotels in the UK. Set to re-open in May, guests can look forward to cycling, golf and nature walks in the compounds and roaming the halls with Medieval armours, coat of arms and antique tapestries. The guestrooms, spread across the castle and the grounds, have four poster beds and garden views. The castle walls are seven feet thick, so this is a place to find peace and quiet.

5. Peckforton Castle

Set in a protected forest in Tarporley, in the Cheshire countryside, Peckforton Castle was built in the mid-19th-century. Amusingly, it’s a Victorian take on a Medieval Castle, down to the French tapestries on stone walls and stone spiral staircases. Guestrooms are characterised by dark wood furniture and rich colours such as deep purple and maroon with Teddy bears on the beds adding a personal touch. Near the castle is Sandstone Trail, a nature walk filled with varying landscapes and teeming with wildlife.

6. Lumley Castle Hotel

A sprawling 14th-century castle in Lumley Park just a 15-minute drive from Durham, this castle hotel has 73 rooms spread across the castle, stables and mews. The rooms are pretty with a touch of rustic – pink, red and purple carpets and curtains juxtaposed with exposed wood-beam ceilings. Larger rooms have four poster or canopied beds, and some include bathrooms behind secret doors. The castle itself sits atop a hill, its battlement towers looking impressively regal. Nearby is the Beamish Open Air Museum, which re-creates everyday life in the early 20th century.

7. Dalhousie Castle Hotel

Just a 20-minute drive from Edinburgh in the Scottish lowland, this vine-covered Medieval castle is immersed in green pastures and a fir tree forest. The ghost of Lady Catherine, who was caught with a stable hand and banished to the castle tower in 1695, supposedly haunts the grounds. Her presence makes wandering the grand ballrooms full of oil paintings and the library with leatherbound books, all the more exciting. The 32 rooms come in varying colour schemes from sunshine yellow to deep lavender. Be sure to dine at the Dungeon Restaurant and sign up for a falconry experience.

8. Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Built in 1863, Inverlochy Castle commands breath-taking views of Scotland’s Ben Nevis, its lakes, forests and highland peaks. During a trip in 1873, Queen Victoria wrote in her diary of Inverlochy: “I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot.” The hotel is set to open in late April, and when it does, guests can enjoy the private loch and take walks in the stunning countryside. The 18 individually designed guestrooms are spacious with pops of colour and patterned curtains framing big windows that look out into the forest.

9. Glenapp Castle

More of a sprawling country estate than a fortress, the 19th-century Glenapp Castle in Scotland impresses with its surrounding redwood forest, manicured lawns and view across the Irish Sea. The tranquil garden and Azalea pond belies the historical significance of Glenapp Castle – Winston Churchill discussed D-Day landings here in 1944. Cushy armchairs, Oriental rugs and large canopy beds fill the 17 guestrooms, while bigger suites come with fireplaces and elaborate floral arrangements. Activities include salmon and trout fishing, tennis and nature walks – raincoats and wellies are provided.

10. Ruthin Castle Hotel & Moat Spa

The vine-covered late 13th-century Medieval castle with its original moat still intact once belonged to Edward I, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I and cuts a moody image in the mist-filled woods of northern Wales. The 58 individually designed rooms range from kitsch and theatrical to snazzy and delightful – some are dimly lit with rows of bookshelves along the walls, others are bright and sunny with lime green pillows. Relax with a body scrub at the Moat Spa, use the steam room and sauna or engage in a game of giant chess on the lawns.

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