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The best castle stays in the UK

If you’re thinking of taking a staycation in the UK, why not treat yourself to something special? Forget country cottages and rustic beach huts and luxuriate in the glamour of 15th-century fortresses that come complete with free-standing baths, Wi-Fi and gourmet cuisine – all wrapped in an imposing historic package

22/01/2021Fact-checked 31/08/2022

Amberley Castle is near the charming market town of Arundel

Amberley Castle, West Sussex

At the end of Amberley’s grand gravelled driveway there’s a royal welcome waiting for you: delicately manicured gardens, imposing turrets topped with flapping Union Jacks, a croquet pitch in what was once a moat (but, of course!), a charming 15th-century portcullis and the sound of dozens of cooing doves who peek out from the fortress’s crenelated walls. Inside, you’ll find a beautiful 12th-century manor house working as a luxurious time capsule where deceptively large, Wi-Fi-enabled, Tudor-beamed rooms sporting generous baths abound, while cosy corridors, creaky stairs and prominent displays of intimidating weaponry keep its historical authenticity intact. Enjoy dinner in the Queen’s Room, a barrel-vaulted, tapestry-clad space with a roaring open fire. Everything on the menu is good, but it’s especially versatile for those with dietary requirements (vegans should look out for the delicious dark chocolate and banana sponge dessert). It’s a stellar foodie experience, so remember to bring your stretchiest trousers.

High Life says: The incredible service at Amberley is part of what makes it so special, so be bold and make requests of the staff. They’ll love concocting something off-menu for you and you’ll love the attention. It’s a win-win.  

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Mediaeval Warwick Castle can be traced back to 914 AD (Liz Healey)

Warwick Castle, Warwickshire

Looking for something super special with regal status? Warwick Castle’s best-kept secret has to be its two lavishly decorated Tower Suites hidden within the castle’s 14th-century walls. Upgrade your overnight stay from the Knight’s Village Lodges to an exclusive stay in the castle itself for ultimate luxury. Wake up to high-vaulted ceilings, from an opulent four-poster bed swathed in tapestries to VIP extras including Champagne on arrival, a privilege card, priority parking and a private tour. Prepare for excitement, as this is a fortress full to the turrets with activities for all ages. Children will love visiting Zog Playland, unravelling the Horrible Histories adventure maze, testing out their archery skills and challenging an opponent to a pretend sword fight. Explore the castle, visiting the magnificent Great Hall and State Rooms before getting lost within the 64 acres of stunningly sculpted gardens and wandering the Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown-designed lawns, complete with topiary peacocks.

High Life says: Expect pizzazz! There might not be much time left aside from all the entertainment and exploring to relax, but there are bound to be many memorable moments to treasure. Bringing the kids? Book the Rose Suite – it’s exquisite and sleeps four.

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A fairy-tale four-poster room at Peckforton Castle

Peckforton Castle, Cheshire

From its quintessential villages to Chester’s ancient city walls, 1,000-year-old cathedral and the oldest racecourse in Britain, Cheshire exudes historic charm. In the heart of the county’s rolling countryside sits Peckforton Castle – a truly magical abode in which to reside. You might even recognise it from the movies – Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who have all featured its stunning vista. Marvel at the exquisite architecture, walk around the castle grounds, read books and play games. When hunger calls, head to the 2010 brasserie for light bites and cosmopolitan classics. It’s in the castle’s former scullery and retains many of its original features. Feeling romantic? Request a table in the courtyard and enjoy al fresco dining. For a gastronomic extravaganza featuring classical French and modern British cuisine, visit the hotel’s supreme 1851 restaurant.

High Life says: Get behind the wheel! You don’t have to be a motoring enthusiast to enjoy Peckforton’s exhilarating off-road driving experience. Navigating your way through beautiful Cheshire countryside in a brand-new Land Rover is the perfect way to explore the grounds and beyond.

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Château Rhianfa has a private beach and panoramic views over the Menai Strait

Château Rhianfa, Anglesey

For breathtaking beauty, the winter season doesn’t get much more glamorous than visiting this Welsh wonder. Château Rhianfa is a Grade II-listed French château perched on the banks of the Menai Strait, combining beguiling Victorian architecture with modern-day luxury. A former home to members of the aristocracy, the 19th-century property is well accustomed to hosting super-stylish grand parties, and they know just how to make their guests feel oh-so special. Savour a Champagne afternoon tea, enjoy exquisite flavours in the Le Dragon Rouge Restaurant while marvelling over spectacular views of the mountains of Snowdonia, wander down to explore the château’s private beach before retiring to the Music Room for a cosy up in front of the roaring log fire (take note of the bookcase here, which features spines from former owner Lady Sarah’s books). The hotel’s Wine Cave is another must-visit for some atmospheric tasting. Wake up to the sunrise over Penrhyn Bay before enjoying an excellent Welsh breakfast.

High Life says: Dress to impress – you will want to look your best when walking the corkscrew staircases, passing the grand pianos and relaxing on the luxurious velvet sofas.

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Stroll in the footsteps of the Starks at Ballygally Castle

Ballygally Castle, County Antrim

For a beautifully blissful and tranquil stay, head to Northern Ireland’s oldest inhabited castle, which overlooks the golden sands of Ballygally Bay with uninterrupted views across the Irish Sea. Arrive, take a long, deep breath, then unwind with a ramble along the Antrim Coast (filming location for some of Game of Thrones). There’s an abundance of beautiful beaches, deep silent glens and lush forest parks just waiting to be discovered. Work up an appetite to enjoy the Game of Thrones afternoon tea menu (Dothraki Trifle, anyone?). Or save yourself for the Garden Restaurant’s chef’s special: Westeros Tomahawk, a 20oz salt-aged Northern Irish beef steak on the bone served on a wooden platter with a ‘Valyrian steel’-inspired carving knife (pre-booking is a must). Room for more? Decadent desserts, including locally made Glastry Farm ice cream, are also available. Burn it off with a stroll along the beach, lose yourself in the walled gardens, then relax with a drink in the lounge, admiring the view of Mull of Kintyre.

High Life says: With an enviable location on the famous Causeway Coastal Route, take a drive on ‘One of the World’s Great Road Journeys’. Northern Ireland’s north coast is the landscape of myths and legends, from the famous Gobbins Cliff to the epic Dark Hedges and iconic Mussenden Temple – it’s awe-inspiring.

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Bovey Castle (also opening image) was built in the Jacobean style on Dartmoor

Bovey Castle, Devon

The 275-acre Bovey Castle Estate has an unrivalled location. Nestled in the rolling valleys of Dartmoor National Park, this beguiling granite country house is a perfect base for enjoying the best of England’s countryside and experiencing the great outdoors. Built in 1906, it was formerly home to William Henry Smith (WH Smith). Following a £3.5m refit, now’s the time to plan a visit. Find yourself a pair of wellies and waxed jacket before heading out to explore the beautiful moors and tors that surround the hotel. Relax in the spa, challenge yourself with a game on the hotel’s 18-hole championship golf course – or try one of the many other outdoor pursuits on site. From archery, bike riding, clay pigeon shooting, fly fishing and falconry, to a horse-drawn carriage ride, there are more than enough activities to keep the entire family entertained. In the evening, compare notes over a scrumptious meal, choosing from fine dining in the Great Western or the classic British menu in Smith’s Brasserie.

High Life says: Book bedroom 18 – this Grand State Room is the only room to have its own private balcony – a south-facing terrace with beautiful views across the high moor. 

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