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The 8 Best Castles in North Yorkshire

Nestled in the heart of England, North Yorkshire is a region steeped in history and cultural significance and is home to some of the most stunning castles in the country. From imposing fortresses to elegant stately homes, the castles in North Yorkshire are a testament to the region’s rich and varied history. 

In this guide, we’ll be exploring the eight best castles in North Yorkshire, each with its own unique past and charm. Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or simply looking for a day out in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, these castles are sure to impress. So, grab your walking shoes and your camera, and get ready to explore the best castles in North Yorkshire!

Castles in North Yorkshire: The Top 8

Exploring castles in North Yorkshire is a great way to uncover the fascinating history of England whilst also discovering the beauty of the English countryside. We’ve compiled a top-rated list of Yorkshire castles which are guaranteed to impress.

Bolton Castle 

Bolton Castle, nestled in the picturesque landscape of Wensleydale, is a captivating mediaeval fortress that has stood the test of time. Constructed in the 14th century by Sir Richard le Scrope, this historic gem has witnessed a plethora of events, from royal visits to sieges during the English Civil War. It’s even said that Mary, Queen of Scots, was once held captive within its walls before she escaped and made her way towards Leyburn. 

Today, visitors can explore its well-preserved Great Hall, climb the battlements for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, and stroll through the beautiful gardens. There are also opportunities to see a bird of prey display in the garden, take part in an archery demonstration, and witness wild boar feeding. With its rich history and stunning architecture, Bolton Castle is a must-visit for anyone interested in the castles in North Yorkshire. 

Open to the public, this North Yorkshire castle offers guided tours and hosts special events throughout the year. Be sure to check the opening hours and ticket prices before planning your visit, and consider visiting during the warmer months to fully appreciate the castle’s gardens and grounds. Aysgarth Lodges, one of our luxury holiday resorts, is only a 10-minute drive from Bolton Castle, making a great base for your explorations of the Yorkshire countryside.

Ripley Castle

Ripley Castle is another gem on the list of Yorkshire castles and is a stunning example of a historic building that has been lovingly preserved through the centuries. Sat in the beautiful town of Harrogate, it was originally built in the 14th century by Sir Thomas Ingilby and has been home to the Ingilby family for over 700 years. Over the years, it has played host to many notable figures, including King James I and Oliver Cromwell. 

Nowadays, the castle’s beautiful gardens are the selling point for visitors, renowned for their stunning floral displays and picturesque views of the surrounding countryside. Its beauty has also deemed it one of the most popular castles in North Yorkshire for weddings. The castle itself is also open to the public, with guided tours available to give visitors a glimpse into its rich history and architectural beauty. 

Ripley Castle is undoubtedly one of the prettiest castles in North Yorkshire, and it’s a great place to spend a day exploring the region’s history and natural beauty. It should be noted that the castle closes through the winter, so make you check the opening dates before planning a visit.

Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Castle is located in the market town of Helmsley within the North York Moors National Park and was once a mighty mediaeval fortress playing a significant role in the region’s history. Built in the 12th century by Walter Espec, the castle has witnessed numerous historical events, including the English Civil War during which the castle was besieged by Sir Thomas Fairfax. King Richard III supposedly spent time here during his reign too. 

This is one of the most historic ruined castles in North Yorkshire, so the history enthusiasts amongst us will have a field day exploring the well-preserved ruins, including the imposing keep and the Tudor-era courtyard. Visitors can also listen to fascinating audio tours and see a model showcasing what the castle once looked like, depending on whether they visit through a tour operator. 

Helmsley Castle is open to the public year-round, with guided tours available to provide insight into its rich history and architectural significance. It’s important to note that the castle is only open from Friday to Sunday, so bear that in mind when planning your trip. 

Richmond Castle 

Richmond Castle sits above the River Swale in the picturesque town of Richmond in North Yorkshire. Constructed in the 11th century by Alan Rufus, the castle has been a key strategic stronghold throughout the centuries. It played a significant role in the Wars of the Roses and later served as a prison for conscientious objectors during the First World War. 

Named after the area’s original use as a cockfighting pit during the 17th century, the Cockpit Garden is one of the main attractions at the castle, boasting neatly trimmed hedges, gravel paths, and a central fountain enclosed by ancient walls which provide a peaceful and secluded atmosphere. The castle’s garden, well-preserved ruins, impressive keep and panoramic views of the Yorkshire Dales from the top certainly earn it a place on the list of the best castles in North Yorkshire. 

Richmond Castle is open to the public year-round every day, with guided tours available to learn all about the long history and architectural significance. Visitors should consider exploring during the spring and summer to make the most of the castle’s beautiful surrounding landscapes.

Knaresborough Castle

Knaresborough Castle unsurprisingly resides in the charming town of Knaresborough in North Yorkshire, overlooking the picturesque River Nidd. Constructed in the 12th century by a Norman baron, Serlo de Burgh, the castle has played a significant role in the region’s history, including during the English Civil War. The king regarded it as an important northern fortress and spent a small fortune on improvements during the 14th century, particularly on the Great Keep.

Although it’s now one of the ruined castles in North Yorkshire, there is still much for visitors to enjoy such as a dungeon and a special secret tunnel. The beautiful grounds are now used as a public leisure space, where visitors can try their hand at putting and bowling on the greens which are open in summer. There is also a museum, where visitors can discover an original Tudor court room.

For those interested in castles in North Yorkshire, Knaresborough Castle offers the best of both worlds with stunning scenery, a rich history, and lots going on. Before visiting, check the opening hours as they differ depending on the season. It also plays host to frequent events, such as the annual FEVA (Festival of Visual Arts and Entertainment).

Middleham Castle 

Middleham Castle is a captivating mediaeval fortress, despite being roofless, to add to the list of the best ruined castles in North Yorkshire. Located in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, it has a rich and storied history and sits close to Bolton Castle. Built in the 12th century, the castle has been home to many notable figures, including Richard III, who spent most of his childhood here. It played a major role in the Wars of the Roses and later served as a royal residence.

The most prominent feature of Middleham Castle is its keep, which is considered to be one of the largest in England. Visitors can climb to the top for spectacular views of the surrounding area, including the picturesque town of Middleham and the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales. Look out for the famous remains of an oven and horse mill in the castle grounds too! The castle’s courtyard is a Tudor-era addition, providing visitors with a glimpse of what life might have been like within the castle walls.

This impressive North Yorkshire castle is only open on weekends from 10 am to 4 pm, so bear that in mind before you plan your visit. If you want to explore inside the castle, you’ll have to book tickets which have a small entrance fee. It’s worth noting that our Aysgarth Lodge Park is also only a 20-minute drive from this castle, which you can visit as a holiday home or invest in shared ownership of one of the luxury lodges if you’re planning on spending more time in the heart of North Yorkshire.

Castle Howard 

Castle Howard, residing proudly in York, is a magnificent stately home with a rich history and stunning architecture. Designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, construction originally began at the very end of the 17th century; it took just over a century for the castle to be completed with the decoration of the Long Gallery in 1811. 

It has belonged to the Howard family for over 300 years and in 1952, then-owner Lord Howard of Henderskelfe, opened it to the public. You may recognise this extravagant home from your TV screens, as it has starred as the setting for the likes of Downton Abbey, Bridgerton, and more.

The intricate architectural features, extravagant interiors, and immaculate upkeep are not what you’d typically expect of an old castle. Technically, it’s not a castle but an English country house, although it takes the title as it was built on the site of a former castle. Either way, it is undoubtedly the most breathtaking of all castles in North Yorkshire.

Visitors to Castle Howard can marvel at its grand rooms, including the Great Hall, the Long Gallery (which includes many portraits of the Howard family and other notable figures), and the breathtaking dome. The castle’s gardens are somewhat of a showstopper, each one meticulously manicured. From the walled garden and the rose garden to the tranquil waterways, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Before you visit one of the most extravagant castles in North Yorkshire, know that it hosts many different events for special occasions such as a Mother’s Day floral basket workshop, so you could tie in your visit with a celebration. Be sure to check the website beforehand to see what’s on offer.

Visitor Tips and Recommendations for Castles in North Yorkshire 

When planning your visit to these magnificent castles in North Yorkshire, there are a few tips and recommendations to keep in mind. 

Firstly, consider visiting during the warmer months, typically from late spring to early autumn, to fully appreciate the gardens and grounds. 

Be sure to check the opening hours and ticket prices for each castle before planning your visit, and consider purchasing a combined ticket or pass if you plan to visit multiple sites. This can often save you money and provide access to additional attractions or special events. 

Don’t forget that the surrounding areas of these North Yorkshire castles often have many other attractions and dining options nearby, so be sure to plan ahead and explore what’s on offer elsewhere to make the most of your day out. From charming villages to scenic walks, there’s plenty to see and do in North Yorkshire.

Summary 

Visiting castles in North Yorkshire is not just a journey through history, but also an exploration of the region’s rich cultural heritage. Each castle, from the imposing Bolton Castle to the elegant Castle Howard, offers a unique glimpse into the past and the people who shaped North Yorkshire’s history. 

Whether you’re interested in mediaeval architecture, royal residences, or simply enjoying the beauty of Yorkshire’s countryside, these castles have something to offer everyone. So why not plan a visit to North Yorkshire and explore these fascinating Yorkshire castles and gardens for yourself? You won’t be disappointed!

 

Interested in exploring the best castles in North Yorkshire? Leisure Resorts has plenty of luxury holiday homes in the heart of North Yorkshire at our award-winning Angrove Country Park. Sat amongst beautiful stretches of greenery, our holiday homes have decking, hot tubs and plenty of activities on-site for you to enjoy.

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