A View Fit for a Queen and 5 More Great Views From the Top

  • 01 of 06

    English Heritage Reveals Historic Points of View

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    © English Heritage

    The view from the top of Kenilworth Castle was created just for Queen Elizabeth I. It was meant to win her heart and it was hidden for more than 350 years. Until this year that is. It's one of the great, historic views from the top that English Heritage is crowing about and that you might want to plug into your itinerary plans.

    These days, we're so used to views from several stories above ground that only mega skyscrapers have any wow factor. But, in the era of castle building, the average person lived much closer to the ground, in houses or cottages that were one or two stories at most.  The few people who literally and regularly had a "view from the top", who lived in the castles or in the great houses placed dramatically high over the landscape were, essentially, the top people. Even today, people with influence are said to have friends in high places.

    Could these expressions have come about back when the average person rarely got to look out over or down on anyone?

    Well, that's my theory anyway. And you can put it to the test by visiting some great historic English views from high places. Once only enjoyed by aristocrats, warrior lords, and royals, these five are among those preserved for us to clamber around by English Heritage - beginning with:

     A view created for a Queen and seen in 2014 for the first time in 350 years.

     

    Continue to 2 of 6 below.
  • 02 of 06

    A View Created for a Queen

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    © English Heritage

    The views from Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire were created by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester for the private use of Queen Elizabeth I, particularly for her three week visit in 1575. The Virgin Queen had never stayed in a courtier's home for so long but Dudley was a special favorite.

    He and the queen had been childhood friends. During the brief reign of her sister, Mary Tudor (known as Bloody Mary), they both were sent to the Tower for, different perceived offences, at the same time. When Elizabeth became queen, she created him Earl of Leicester and presented him with vast estates in the West Midlands.

    They remained close throughout his life and some believe they might have married if not for the scandal surrounding the death of Dudley's first wife, who broke her neck falling down a flight of stairs.

    When he built Elizabeth's private quarters in his castle he was free to marry and the gesture was possibly a suitor's gift. The rooms had views from the biggest windows ever seen in Tudor England and, from a tower 100 feet high, also some of the highest.

    The castle was sacked during the English Civil War and was left as a shell with no access to the royal views. But in September 2014, English Heritage, who manage the site revealed a new arrangement of staircases and platforms that allow the public to scale the heights and enjoy Queen Elizabeth I's view for the first time in 350 years.

    How to Visit Kenilworth

    • Where: Castle Green, Off Castle Road, Kenilworth, Warwickshire, CV8 1NE. About 100 miles northwest of Central London, 14 miles northeast of Stratford upon Avon.
    • When: Open year round, daily from April 1 to November 2, weekends and school vacations only from November 3 to the end of March. Seasonal closing times vary so check the website.
    • Admission: Adult, child and concessionary tickets as well as family tickets available. British taxpayers can add a voluntary 10% "Gift Aid" donation.
    • Visit their website
    Continue to 3 of 6 below.
  • 03 of 06

    Views from The Castle of the Rock

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    © English Heritage

    In the middle ages, Beeston Castle in Cheshire was known as the ‘Castle of the Rock’. It was built around 1220 by Ranulf, Earl of Chester, one of Henry III's most powerful nobles, and was meant to be a bold statement of his wealth and power. Its position, atop a rocky crag with cliffs on three sides was intended to defend it against Ranulf's aristocratic rivals.

    The castle's well preserved inner baily offers views across eight counties, from the mountains of Snowdonia to the Pennines in the east. It's also known for​ having the one of the deepest wells in an English castle - 100 meters/329 feet deep. Richard II was said to have hidden his treasures in the well in the 14th century, though none have ever been found.

    How to Visit Beeston Castle and Woodland Park

    • Where: Beeston Castle and Woodland Park, Chapel Lane, Beeston, Cheshire - CW6 9TX. About 192 miles northwest of Central London,  12 miles southeast of Chester.
    • When: Open year round, daily from April 1 to November 2, weekends and school vacations only from November 3 to the end of March. Seasonal closing times vary so check the website.
    • Admission: Adult, child and concessionary tickets as well as family tickets available.
    • Visit their website
    Continue to 4 of 6 below.
  • 04 of 06

    Goodrich Castle Above the River Wye

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    © English Heritage

    Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire near the Welsh Border Marches, dominates a wooded hill above the winding River Wye as it enters the strangely named valley known as Symonds Yat. Its strong square keep has remained virtually intact since it was built in the mid -12th century.

    Its original builder, an English landowner called Godric, created Goodrich in the 11th century and named it after himself - which should give you a clue about the pronunciation of early English names. Other owners were a roll call of powerful medieval nobles with evocative names - Richard "Strongbow de Clare, William de Valance (Henry III's brother). At one time, the castle was held by both sides in the English Civil War.

    Besides the view from the top of the square tower - reached via a spiral staircase for the brave - the castle has some of the best preserved domestic buildings of any English castle. And don't miss the exhibition of Roaring Meg, the only known surviving mortar from the English Civil War. It was Roaring Meg that resulted in the surrender of the castle to the Roundheads.

    How to Visit Goodrich Castle

    • Where: Castle Lane, Goodrich, Ross on Wye, Herefordshire - HR9 6HY. About 125 miles northwest of Central London,  20 miles west of Gloucester.
    • When: Open year round, daily from April 1 to November 2, weekends and school vacations only from November 3 to the end of March. Seasonal closing times vary so check the website.
    • Admission: Adult, child, and concessionary tickets as well as family tickets available.
    • Visit their website
    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Framlingham Castle - Mary Tudor's Refuge

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    © English Heritage

    Henry VIII's only son Edward VI died at age 15 after a reign of only six years (he was 9 when he was crowned). When he first became ill, he attempted to have Mary Tudor, Henry's oldest daughter, removed from the succession, because she was a Catholic, and replaced by his cousin, Lady Jane Grey. But Mary assembled an army of East Anglian supporters at her sanctuary in Framlingham, Suffolk. She snatched the throne away from Jane and had her quickly beheaded. (It was Mary's penchant for beheading her enemies and Protestants that earned her the nickname Bloody Mary.)

    Climb a spiral staircase to the top of the walls of Framlingham Castle and you can imagine Mary's view as she surveyed her army of supporters, filling this inner court, armed, armored and ready to march on London.

    How to Visit Framlingham Castle

    • Where: Church Street, Framlingham, Suffolk - IP13 9BP. About 93 miles northeast of Central London,  28 miles north of Aldeburgh and the Suffolk Heritage Coast.
    • When: Open year round, daily from April 1 to November 2, weekends and school vacations only from November 3 to the end of March.Open some days between Christmas and New Years and there are variations in seasonal closing times so check the website for both.
    • Admission: Adult, child and concessionary tickets as well as family tickets available.
    • Visit their website
    Continue to 6 of 6 below.
  • 06 of 06

    Osborne House - Queen Victoria's Favorite View

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    © English Heritage

    Okay, it's not a castle like the other historic viewpoints in this selection, but Osborne House on the Isle of Wight was Queen Victoria's private family home with some of her favorite views sea and garden views. She bought the house with Prince Albert in 1845 and they lived there with their nine children.

    According to English Heritage, who maintain Osborne House, after her first visit, Queen Victoria was reported to have said, "It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot."

    And Prince Albert compared the views across the Solent from the terraces to the Bay of Naples. When you visit to see the state apartments, the family quarters and the children's play house, Swiss Cottage, don't neglect the gardens and Queen Victoria's private beach. The views are superb.

    If you are visiting from abroad, don't be put off by the fact that the Isle of Wight is, well, an island. It is easy to reach by ferry or Hovercraft (a great experience in itself) for a day trip from London and the Southeast.

    How to Visit Osborne House

    • Where: York Avenue, East Cowes, Isle of Wight - PO32 6JX
    • Directions: Red Funnel Ferries operates year round car ferries to East Cowes from Southampton. It's a 55-60 minute journey. Pedestrian passengers can take their Red Jet High Speed ferry from Southampton to West Cowes for a 25-minute crossing. Or you can book Hover Travel's 10-minute passenger crossing between Southsea (near Portsmouth) and Ryde on the Isle of Wight. It's a bit more of a journey to Osborne House from their but if you've never experienced a trip on a Hover, it's worth the experience.
    • When: Open year round, daily from April 1 to November 2, weekends and school vacations only from November 3 to the end of March.There are variations in seasonal closing times so check the website.
    • Admission: Adult, child, and concessionary tickets as well as family tickets available. British taxpayers can add a voluntary 10% "Gift Aid" donation.
    • Visit their website