These spectacular castles are most often experienced at arm’s length with a visitors pass and under the watchful eye of an attendant, but now such majestic properties are opening their doors for guests who wish to peer behind the velvet ropes and live like royalty. From sleeping atop a four-poster bed in a Shakespearean castles in Scotland or embarking on Austen-esque rambles in the manicured gardens of a Kent fortress, here are our top picks of British castles you can book a room in this spring.
Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye
A place of charm and intrigue, The Isle of Skye is the embodiment of Scottish enchantment and nowhere more so than Dunvegan Castle. After 800 years as the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod, the castle is opening its (very grand) doors to guests for the first time. While you can’t stay overnight in the castle itself, you can have your pick of any of the five Victorian cottages in the castle grounds which are delightful in their own right. Stay the night in the Keepers Cottage or the Laundry Cottage – once used as the castle’s laundry. Apart from spectacular lodgings, guests have an array of activities on their doorstep; a boat trip on Loch Dunvegan to spot seals, or a visit to the Fairy Flag said to be a sacred banner with miraculous powers when unfurled in battle. Best of all, once the castle’s visiting hours are over, the entirety of the grounds are yours to explore.
BOOK IT: Stays at Dunvegan Castle are from £795 based on a five night stay in Laundry Cottage; dunvegancastle.com
Hever Castle, Kent
A perfect option if you want a fairytale getaway without straying too far from the city, Hever Castle is home to over 700 years of history – and yourself for a night or two. Best known as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the castle is steeped in legend and offers plenty to discover. Choose from any of the 28 bedrooms within the castle sprawled across the Astor Wing and the Anne Boleyn Wing. Each bedroom is individually designed with some featuring four-poster beds and roll-top baths. For the royal treatment, the Edward VII Suite is a no-brainer, offering a vast Romanesque bed with ornate pillars and unbeatable views across an apple orchard onto the main castle. From the opulent state rooms furnished finely with antiques and tapestries, as well as books inscribed by Anne Boleyn herself, to the 125 acres of splendid gardens beyond the walls (complete with two mazes, miniature model village and a boating lake), guests have plenty to explore.
BOOK IT: Stays at Hever Castle are from £130 per night based on two sharing a Standard Twin room on a B&B basis, hevercastle.co.uk
Monzie Castle, Crieff
Burrowed in bountiful Crieff countryside, Monzie Castle offers views of green as far as you can see. Dating back to 1634, the castle was essentially destroyed after a fire in 1908 leaving only the facade in its place. After a major restoration project to the hands of Sir Robert Lorimer, Scotland’s leading architect at the time, the castle boasts a sensitively and lovingly restored rooms which do its original stature justice. Guests can spend the night in one of the four cottages on the estate; perched on a private hillside with a personal hot tub, Brae Cottage is our pick for a romantic countryside sojourn. Beyond the walls, guests will don their walking boots and embark on plenty of beautiful trails boasting wildlife to spot and unrivalled peace and tranquillity. Guests also receive a complimentary tour of the castle to discover its history and the stories it tells.
BOOK IT: Stays at Monzie Castle are from £175 per night based on four sharing a mid-week stay in the Gardener’s Cottage with a minimum two-night stay; monzieestate.com
Thirlestane Castle, Scottish Borders
This magnificent 16th century castle is fit for a Shakespearean play; set in a tranquil meadow landscape in the Scottish Borders, is stands dramatically against its pastoral setting. What was before a must-see for tourists is now a must-stay for visitors and locals alike, with the castle opening its (very grand) doors to overnight guests. As if lifted from a storybook, the incredible facade opens into equally stunning lodgings; fives apartments comprised of eight immaculate en-suite bedrooms, all furnished with an eclectic mix of stylish contemporary furniture and original items from the castle collections, which include portraits and tactile soft furnishings. Armed with a complimentary pass to the castle, guests can explore every inch of this storied property. The option to stay in the castle on a self-catered basis is there, but to truly live like a king, order room service in one of the State Rooms.
BOOK IT: Stays at Thirlestane Castle are from £371.25 per night based on two sharing a one-bedroom suite on a B&B basis; thirlestanecastle.co.uk
Skibo Castle, The Scottish Highlands
Say Skibo Castle and, most obviously, the doomed nuptials of the world’s biggest songstress, Madonna, spring to mind but amongst its breathtakingly beautiful 7,000-plus acres of lochs, woods, pastures, golf course, and 20-bedroom castellated mansion is storied far beyond the Material Girl’s secret ceremony. One of the most (if not the most) exclusive members clubs in the UK, there’s nothing quite like it. Of course, there are Scottish estates, with shooting, fishing, golf, riding, quad biking and all the other country pursuits you’d expect, but the key to Skibo is that it really feels like you’re at the most spoiling country house party. Wake to the sound of bagpipes, take a dip in the heavenly pool house, dine with other guests in a candelabra-clad huge table before a posh but raucous ceilidh for a day of incredible fun and memorable experiences that end with climbing into a four poster bed already warmed with a hot water bottle in preparation just for you.
BOOK IT: If you want in, you’ll have to cough up a one-off joining fee of £30,000, plus an annual membership charge of £9,000, plus a mere £1,500 per night when you do actually stay. Worth every penny, we say…; carnegieclub.co.uk
Amberley Castle, Sussex
Situated in the idyllic village of Amberley at the foot of the South Downs, the magnificent 900-year-old castle houses a charming, luxurious hotel befitting of its venue. With origins dating back to 1103 and recorded in the Doomsday Book as Amberley, the castle is imbued with a rich sense of history evident not only in the many original architectural features it retains but also the sense of the past imbued throughout its grounds. Enclosed by a 60-foot high curtain wall and portcullis that remains open, Amberley Castle fosters an intimate feeling of seclusion and exclusivity, while the pastoral setting of South Downs National Park offer a sense of whimsy and romance. Within its walls, you’ll find over 12 acres of formal gardens perfect for a picturesque stroll during which you’ll encounter medieval stonework, rose-covered arches and topiary dating from the 1920s. The 19 luxurious guest rooms are furnished with antiques and fine fabrics alongside contemporary comforts – the sumptuous Premier Deluxe Room boasts spectacular views, four-poster beds, Cathedral windows, and original granite fireplaces.
BOOK IT: Amberley Castle are offering a special Spring Fling package available on stays until 30th June; including an overnight stay, superb three-course dinner for two including Champagne, a full English and continental breakfast, a morning newspaper delivered to your room and of course all the pastoral splendour the castle is home to. Available from £309 per room; amberleycastle.co.uk
Peckforton Castle, Cheshire
As you pass through the gatehouse lodge and surrounding woodland, making your way up the winding driveway, before entering via an open carriage-way protected by a superb portcullis, Peckforton Castle’s sense of magic and fairytale is obvious. The fortified home, built in the style of a medieval castle, took 9 years to complete, finally finished to perfection in 1851. Now, thanks to its rich history and spectacular stature, Peckforton Castle is listed as a Grade-I property, and has been used as filming locations for the likes of Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who. Live like a lord (or a Hollywood star) and book a room in one of the castle’s 48 guest rooms. Designed to delight, lodging is nothing short of breathtaking with rooms boasting original period features and a mix of classic decor with a contemporary finish that marries grandeur and comfort, old and new in a stunning experience – sleeping beauty indeed. The castle’s tranquility spa is a peaceful retreat to unwind if morning strolls, archery lessons and castle exploration just get all too much…
BOOK IT: Stays at Peckforton Castle are from £145 per night; peckfortoncastle.co.uk