The UK–home to some of the most historical sites in the world, gorgeous landscapes and magnificent castles. Yes, castles. You know, where kings and queens live the good life? Well, you don’t have to be king to travel like one. We’re taking a look inside some of the coolest castles across the UK! It seems there are hundreds, but we picked just a few.
Balfour Castle (Shapinsay, Orkney, UK)
Located off the northern coast of Scotland, Balfour Castle is a site to be seen! Known as the world’s northern most castle, this castle offers a truly kingly experience. Once a safe haven for Viking ships, Shapinsay is now a small island home to about 300 people—needless to say, privacy is no issue here. So how did this tiny island become host to one of the most magnificent castles in Europe? Let’s find out!
David Balfour, the 4th Laird of Balfour, and David Bryce, a distinguished Scottish architect, worked together to create this Scottish beauty. To sustain living, they also created a two-acre garden to provide produce and a sunken garden to enjoy. Alas, Balfour Castle was created. So you’ve made it here and, after thoroughly exploring the beauty of the castle, you’ve decided to venture out. What to do?
Balfour is a “sporting estate,” so grab your binoculars for some intense bird watching! If that’s not your thing, no worries. The island offers shooting, fishing and seal watching as well as walking among the 1,000-acre estate and woodlands. This castle isn’t short on luxury and certainly offers stunning views while you’re enjoying the outdoors!
Swinton Park (Ripon, North Yorkshire, UK)
Ahh, England! Home to the most famous castle in the world, Buckingham Palace. It’s hard to top this famous castle, but Swinton Park offers something that the palace simply cannot: you can stay there.
Swinton Park has a complex history dating back to the late 1600s when the first house on the estate was built by Sir Abstrupus Danby. Over the years, successors added stables, lakes, gardens, parks and more wings. At one point, Swinton Park was even a museum. All of this makes the castle an exciting place to be.
Rooms are luxurious, views are incredible and relaxation is inevitable. With over 200 acres of park surrounding the castle, one can only imagine the beauty to be seen. No guards in funny hats here! Only exceptional food and anything you desire to do. Fishing? Check. Golf? Check. Riding, shooting, spa day, sipping tea in the garden? Check!
Swinton Park really does enable living like a king if not solely for the fact that it’s a gorgeous castle in the English countryside. A must do in the UK.
Ashford Castle (Cong, Mayo, Ireland)
Scotland and Ireland seem to the first countries to come to mind when thinking of castles, so it’s no surprise this Irish castle made our list. Founded in the early 1200s, Ashford Castle was once owned by the Guinness family (yes, that Guinness) and accommodated a large portion of The Quiet Man’s actors and crew. It has also undergone quite a few changes over the years. Extensions were added, the Guinness family increased the lot to 26,000 acres and thousands of trees were planted around the castle.
Ashford Castle’s beautiful landscape offers serenity for those traveling for peace and quiet, while nearly everything else is meant to inspire activity. Hunting is popular among every castle listed, but Ashford offers so much more. Any outdoor lover would appreciate all the options: kayaking, cycling, zip lining, horseback riding…the list goes on!
All in all, castles are a luxurious alternative to a standard hotel and offer a glimpse back in time. Most have hundreds of things to do on premise and each castle gives its residents stunning views all around. Up to travel like a king? Check out a castle!