Five country castles
Whether you want to see Walter Raleigh's family artefacts or a wild boar at feeding time, we pick the most fascinating country castles in the UK.
- North Yorkshire
- 25% off entry with National Art Pass
Deceptively located in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, Bolton was built by Sir Richard le Scrope at the end of the 14th century and is one of the UK’s best-preserved medieval castles. About one third of the rooms are fully intact, showing what life would have been like for the different members of the castle community – from the archers, cooks and monks to Lord and Lady Scrope and Mary, Queen of Scots who stayed there for six months. Visitors can watch daily displays of falconry and archery, as well as the wild boar feeding. Two walled gardens in front of the castle have been laid out along medieval lines, and there's a maze and a vineyard with beautiful views over Wensleydale.
- Highlands and Islands
- 25% off entry with National Art Pass
Sitting on a rocky outcrop, this Hebridean stronghold has been the home of the Clan MacLeod for nearly eight centuries. The massive exterior of the fortress combines six separate buildings of different dates, which were given unified appearance in the mid 19th century by a ‘romantic restoration’. The art collection includes works by Ramsay, Raeburn and Zoffany, while family treasures are also on display. The most famous is the Fairy Flag, a sacred banner that supposedly gave the MacLeod clan the power to defeat enemies when unfurled in battle. Another of the castle's greatest possessions is the medieval Dunvegan Cup, gifted by the O'Neils of Ulster as a token of thanks to one of the clan's most celebrated chiefs, Sir Rory Mor. Mor had supported the O'Neils against the marauding forces of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1596. Visitors can also enjoy a stroll around the 18th-century landscaped gardens, or pick up a MacLeod Single Malt Scotch whisky at the souvenir shop.
- Free entry with National Art Pass
Built by Henry VIII between 1540 and 1545 to defend Britain from France and Spain, Pendennis Castle is one of England's finest coastal fortresses. Expanded with enlarged ramparts under Elizabeth I, it was a key Royalist stronghold during the Civil War and continued to be used an active military outpost in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, it features a recreated Tudor gun room and a guardhouse restored to its First World War appearance. The castle is also home to a collection of cartoons by George Butterworth, a Second World War satirist whose work lampooned Hitler and Mussolini. The castle tearoom, set inside the Royal Artillery Barracks, offers traditional Cornish pasties as well as other locally sourced produce.
This dramatic neo-Norman fantasy castle was built for the wealthy Pennant family in the 19th century and includes original Victorian kitchens, exotic walled gardens and a model railway. Home to one of the finest art collections in Wales, paintings by Rembrandt and Canaletto feature, as does a superb collection of 19th- and 20th-century dolls, a one-tonne slate bed made for Queen Victoria and handmade William Morris wallpapers. Particularly adventurous visitors can make use of the outdoor gym.
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