My husband and I love history and exploring old castles. Hailing from Edinburgh we have a wealth of history on our doorstep and would like to share with you the best castles we have visited in Northumberland and Scotland.
Set in amazing stately grounds, Alnwick castle ranks as one of the best castles in the UK and is arguably the most intriguing to visit in Northumberland. The foundations of the castle date back to 1096 and was built to protect English borders against the fierce tribes of the Scottish Highlands who were rebelling against the conquering Normans.
The vast grounds of Alnwick castle features gardens and two parks which are well worth exploring. You will need a full day to get round everything so we recommend taking a hamper and enjoying a picnic alongside the peaceful River Aln.
Not far from Alnwick, is Chillingham Castle – aptly named as you are sure to feel a ghostly chill up your spine. The reason for that is because the castle is the most haunted in Britain! The property was owned by the Grey family and later the Bennett family – many of whom were tortured and executed. The ghost of Lady Berkeley is said to wander the corridors whilst the most famous apparition is the Blue Boy whose cries of anguish can be heard coming from the Pink Room. If you like a good ghost story then Chillingham Castle is the place to go – and it makes it more interesting for the kids!
The imposing fortified walls of Warkworth Castle near Morpeth was owned by the powerful Percy dynasty and it was here where the plot to usurp King Henry IV was hatched. Visitors can still appreciate the phenomenal size of the fortress and the impeccable architecture of the 14th Century. Don`t miss the chilling dungeons where prisoners were held and tortured during the English Civil War.
Built atop an extinct volcano, Stirling castle in the quintessential image of a Gothic castle in the Scottish Highlands. Because of its imposing position, Stirling Castle was one of Scotland`s grandest and important strategic military sites and subsequently looks out over two battlefields that were significant in the shaping of Scottish history – Stirling Bridge where William Wallace (Braveheart) defeated the English in 1297, and Bannockburn where Robert Bruce saw off the same enemy 17 years later. This is my favourite castle in Scotland and should not be overlooked – especially for the incredible views.
Bamburgh Castle is yet another hilltop fortress, situated on the cliffs of Northumberland looking out across the North Sea and the golf links below – which incidentally won it a position in the final of ITV`s Britain`s Favourite View. Although the castle was largely restored in the 1900`s visitors can still appreciate its past, the earliest parts of which dates back to antiquity sometime around AD57 making it one of the oldest structures in Britain.
The list of best castles in the north of Britain would not be complete without a mention of my hometown castle. Also known as the “Castle Rock” it dominates the Edinburgh skyline and offers visitors stunning panoramic views of the Scottish capital. It is unclear when the castle was originally built although archaeologists have determined it was inhabited as early as the 2nd Century AD and was the residency of King David I of Scotland in the 12th century. If you happen to be in the fortress at 1pm cover your ears as every day an 18-pound muzzle-loaded cannon is fired and the boom can be heard half-way across the city.
Mary Cooper is passionate about travelling and discovering new food and cultures. She currently lives with her family in Edinburgh and works for Tidal Holidays. You can catch her latest murmurings on Google+.