Man the forts! The best castles near Surrey
Ready for a right royal day out? We've rounded up 10 of the coolest castles in reach of Surrey that are open for business. Tiara at the ready, let's go!
Guildford Castle, Guildford
Located smack bang in the centre of town, Guildford Castle was almost certainly built just after the invasion of England by William the Conqueror in 1066. So that makes it rather ancient indeed. While visitors are unable to go inside the castle at the moment, the grounds and gardens are open to visitors where you’ll find beautifully maintained gardens and flower displays. The Castle Grounds are free to enter. Dogs are welcome if kept on the lead.
Bodiam Castle, near Robertsbridge, East Sussex
This 14th century moated castle was built to impress. It’s one of Britain’s most picturesque and evocative castles, set in the heart of an historic landscape with stunning views from the top of the towers. Set on the border of Sussex and Kent near to the village of Robertsbridge, Bodiam Castle has been a brooding symbol of power for over 700 years and possesses all of the key ingredients – spiral staircases, battlements, portcullis and a surrounding moat with a ruined interior that will fire up anybody’s imagination. The grounds and castle courtyard (limited capacity) are open. Wharf tea room and Castle view cafe are open and serving hot food and drinks (take away only). Bookings in advance are a must.
Hever Castle, Kent
This 13th-century stunner and childhood home of Anne Boleyn has everything you’d want from a castle – towers, a moat, and a royal haunting thanks to rumours that Anne’s ghost still resides in the chambers. Inside the spectacular castle remains closed for now, but the gardens (including playgrounds and water maze) are open, with the café doing takeaway. The 38-acre man-made lake offers lovely vistas, nature walks, and even boat hire. Booking essential. Adult tickets from £15.55, child from £9.75, under-5s go FREE.
Arundel Castle, Sussex
Arundel Castle looks like something out of a storybook with its old motte perched high (100 feet to be exact) on an artificial mound overlooking the beautiful West Sussex countryside and the River Arun. The grounds are open to explore, though the castle’s interior won’t open until 18 May at the earliest. If you visit now, the gardens will be resplendent with one of the largest displays of tulips in the country, thanks to its annual Tulip Festival. The castle is also looking to host a Medieval event on 17-18 April, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Booking essential. Adult tickets from £12, child tickets £6.
Leeds Castle, Kent
Perched on an island in the middle of the River Len, five miles southeast of Maidstone, this castle has a lot on offer for a jam-packed day including – deep breath – playgrounds, mini golf, pretty gardens, and takeaway kiosks. From 12 April, the Birds of Prey Centre, maze, and shops will reopen. The Castle and Castle View Restaurant will reopen on 17 May. Tickets are on the pricier side (adult £28, child £19.50), but you’ll be able to visit again as many times as you want in the next 15 months. Booking essential.
Wallingford Castle, Wallingford, Oxon
The ruins of this major medieval castle in the pretty market town of Wallingford make for a gorgeous picnic spot. The castle grounds are bursting with colourful blooms (they’ve been recognised by the Britain in Bloom awards no less!) and there’s an abundance of butterflies in the summertime. Open 8.30am – 7pm.
Berkhamsted Castle, Herts
Considering it was built during the Norman Conquest, way back in 1066, what remains of this timber motte-and-bailey castle is still pretty substantial (come on, use your imagination!) and a great option for a family walk peppered with history. Come for a walk around the ruins, and discover Berkhamsted’s history with their mobile-friendly interactive Castle guide. The heritage site is open to visitors from 10am – 6pm. Free entry.
A LITTLE FURTHER AFIELD… BUT WORTH THE JOURNEY
Sudeley Castle, Glos, Cotswolds
Located near Winchcombe and reopening 12 April, it’s no surprise that this majestic castle is a popular wedding venue: the grounds are perfectly manicured and boast views of the rolling Cotswolds. (History nerds will also be interested to know that it’s the only private castle in England to have actual royalty buried within its grounds – Henry VIII’s last wife, Katherine Parr.) There’s plenty to entertain for an afternoon with an adventure playground and 10 – yes 10! – award-winning gardens to explore. Extra points if you spot all 16 species of pheasants that strut around the grounds. The Castle’s reopening to the public is being celebrated with the appearance of a herd of life-sized elephant statues, which are making a gradual migration around the world, and head to London later in the summer. They’ll be available to see at Sudeley until 31 May. Booking essential. Adult tickets £12, child £5, under-3s go FREE.
Warwick Castle, Warks
This spectacular castle just over the border is always a winner with Muddy and it’s very good at luring us back. The castle and knight’s village are both open from 12 April (although with limited access to some inside areas), and to keep the little people entertained there’s The Falconer’s Quest (the UK’s biggest birds of prey show) and the spooky castle dungeon. The castle is also introducing an exciting new 3D interactive trail, starring Julia Donaldson’s Zog the lovable dragon, available until 5 Sep. Tickets from £17.
Kenilworth Castle, Warks
Although the inside remains closed for now, this impressive medieval fortress-turned-Elizabethan-palace has loads to see within its grounds, including the mighty Norman keep at the heart (above). Also worth mentioning are the beautifully restored Elizabethan gardens with their marble fountain, ornate aviary and pretty floral displays. The café remains open for takeaway if you fancy a bite after exploring. You have to pay to visit, unless you’re a member of English Heritage (£12.60 for adults, £7.60 for kids), but there are some lovely walks around the castle on public footpaths. Booking in advance is essential.
AND… REOPENING SOON
Windsor Castle, Berks
The Queen’s weekend hangout, Windsor Castle, is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world – pretty impressive, right? Inside the castle you can see a collection of WWII pantomime pictures, painted as backdrop for the shows Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret performed to raise funds for troops at the front. An opening date has yet to be confirmed.
Farnham Castle Keep, Farnham
Farnham Castle is a wedding and events venue set in stunning grounds and gardens. The Castle Keep stands on the crest of a hill, overlooking Farnham. It was founded in 1138 by Henry of Blois, Bishop of Winchester and brother of King Stephen. In medieval times the diocese of Winchester was the richest in England, and Farnham was a favourite residence of the bishops. The castle keep is expected to reopen for visitors in the summer. Stay tuned!