What could be more romantic than spending the night in a real castle?
England, Scotland and Wales are covered in castles - from ancient piles, dating back to the 10th and 11th centuries, to 18th and 19th century follies. Quite a few have been converted into fabulous, fantasy hotels, where you can spend a few days imagining a Camelot lifestyle.
If you are planning a romantic getaway for Valentine's Day or a special occasion - or you just fancy playing at Lord and Lady of the Manor, here's a list of some of the best castles to stay in around the United Kingdom.
Castle Hotels in England
- Amberley Castle Regularly named to lists of the worlds top hotels and most romantic places.
- The Castle Hotel, Taunton Once a Norman fortress, it's now a moderately priced, dog-friendly hotel in the heart of historic Taunton.
- Hazelwood Castle Another ancient Norman castle, this one was mentioned in the Domesday Book in 1087. Today it's popular for romantic weekends and weddings - it even has a chapel for blessings. And it has a ghost or two.
- Langley Castle Built in 1350, this castle has had a chequered history with several periods of dereliction and restoration over the centuries. Today it is a luxurious Northumberland hotel, with castle rooms and a castle-view lodge that welcomes pets.
- Lumley Castle This 600-year-old castle in the wonderfully named, County Durham town of Chester-le-Street, has been decorated to within an inch of its life. If you love lots of swags and furbelows, upholstered doodads, and heavily draped 4-poster beds, you will love this place, though some may feel smothered by all that decor.
- Peckforton Castle Peckforton, in Cheshire, may look like an ancient fortress but, in fact, it was built to resemble a medieval fortress castle in the 1850s. During World War II it housed hundreds of disabled children evacuated from England's cities. Today it is a Grade I listed building and a romantic venue for a wedding or simply a naughty weekend. The public spaces are impressive but the rooms are actually disappointingly old fashioned and conventional.
- Thornbury Castle Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn visited this magnificent castle that has the oldest Tudor Garden in the UK. It's areally spectacular (and expensive) place on the edge of the Gloucestershire Cotswolds. Unusually, they promote their facilities for families with children older than 8 years old. What a magical trip for imaginative boys and girls.
- Walworth Castle This County Durham, 12th century castle in England's northeast is now affiliated with a popular mid-priced international hotel chain. So it's a castle stay on a budget with all that entails. Read the reviews carefully before you book because, although it has many fans, some accommodations are less exciting than others.
Castle Hotels in Scotland
- Balfour Castle, this Orkney hotel on the island of Shapinsay, claims to be the most Northerly castle hotel in the world. It's baronial 19th century rooms and suites are beautifully decorated but it's only available for exclusive use - groups who take the entire place. If you are planning and out of this world wedding or scheduling a group tour or cruise outings it's worth having a look.
- Culcreuch Castle 700 year old seat of Galbraith clan, near Loch Lomond, it's one of Scotland's oldest hotels. Check out the Chinese Bird Room in the tower, decorated with handpainted Chinese wallpaper.
- Dalhousie Castle How exciting - a real pirate's castle! An ancestor of the Ramsay family, who built the castle, about 8 miles south of Edinburgh, was an obscure German pirate who followed William the Conqueror to Britain in 1066. Before settling down as a mercenaries for both Scottish and English kings, the Ramsays spend time enriching themselves by harrying the locals. Of course, all that is ancient history, But the castle you can stay in dates from the 13th to 15th centuries.
- By the way, 2016 is the 950th anniversary of the Norman Conquest in 1066. Why not make Dalhousie a stop while following the Norman Conquest Trail.
- Dornoch Castle A 16th century castle in the Scottish Highlands, it may once have been the site of the Bishop's palace for 13th century Dornoch Cathedral, just opposite.It has six different categories of themed rooms and all but the Deluxe rooms are moderately priced.
- Fernie Castle 450 years of history, near Fife, but by far the most interesting accommodation here is not the castle at all but the luxurious and magical treehouse, perched in a grove of sycamores and quite fabulous. The Castle is near St Andrews, handy for visitors to the home of golf or the ancient university.
Castle Hotels in Wales
Though Wales probably has more castles than any other part of the UK, many of them are great historic ruins. Only a few have been fitted out as hotels.
- Craig-y-nos Castle Once the home of 19th and early 20th century opera diva Adelina Patti, a superstar in her day. The hotel is very dog friendly and also reported to be the most haunted hotel in Wales.
- Ruthin Castle Luxury accommodation and a spa are just part of the appeal of this medieval castle. Medieval banquets, in its banqueting hall, complete with raucous entertainment, are scheduled several times a month. The castle's interesting history includes some nasty skullduggery. in the 13th century, while Prince Llewellyn was rebelling against the English King Edward I, his brother Dafydd built a fort on this site for the king. Edward, in turn, gave the fort back to Edward as a reward for his treachery. I'd listen out for ghosts if I were you.