The United Kingdom introduced the world to the modern concept of parliamentary democracy at the same time, maintaining its traditional constitutional monarchy. This amazing country comprises of four culturally distinct regions of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and is blessed with stunning natural beauty, rich history dating back to the ancient times replete with rich culture and traditions.
Monarchy has played a key role in shaping the history and policies of the United Kingdom until the English Revolution established parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. Today, the constitutional monarchy is still celebrated in the country and all the important palaces, castles, and institutions thrive under the protection of the government of the UK. This has led to the preservation of palaces and castles all over the United Kingdom. So, on your next visit to the country, don’t forget to check out the most beautiful castles and palaces in the UK.
10 Must-Visit castles and palaces in the United Kingdom!
1. Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle is one of the most illustrious royal residences in the United Kingdom. The castle’s history dates to the 11th century after the successful Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror and since then it has been used by all the monarchs of the country. The Castle survived the turbulent English Civil War, Luftwaffe bombings of Second World War, a fire in 1992, and remains the preferred weekend home of Queen Elizabeth II and a venue for hosting official state visits.
Among the most prominent castles in England, Windsor Castle is the oldest and biggest occupied castle in the world where British monarchs continue to live for more than 1000 years. The change of the Royal Guards is one of the spectacular events that starts around 11 AM every morning. Other key attractions of the Windsor Castle includes an amazing doll collection, St. George Chapel and royal apartments. Do take a tour of Windsor Castle, which is among the best castles to visit in England.
2. Buckingham Palace
Buckingham Palace is one of the most beautiful palaces in the world as it continues to be the residence of the country’s royal family. Since 1761, the sprawling royal residence, designed in exquisite Belle Époque architecture, has served Queen Charlotte, Queen Victoria and the current Queen Elizabeth II. The Buckingham Palace Tour and Changing of the Guards Ceremony are two interesting tours that offer a glimpse of the UK’s royal family.
The Buckingham Palace is only open to the public during the summer. The Changing of Guards ceremony in Buckingham Palace is one of the most popular sights in London. You can also enjoy a guided tour of the Buckingham Palace and see it’s stately royal gallery, staterooms, period furnishings, and learn a great deal about the British Royal family.
3. Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace is the royal residence of the Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland. The Palace has served as the main royal residence of the Kings and Queens of Scotland till the union of Scotland and England. Located on the Royal Mile, just opposite the imposing Edinburg Castle, Holyrood Palace is the setting for state occasions and serves as the one-week residence at the start of every summer for Queen Elizabeth as she carries out ceremonial and official engagements.
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4. Kensington Palace
Kensington Palace located in Chelsea, London is the official London residence of Duke and Duchess of Cambridge – Prince William and Kate Middleton, Prince Harry and other members of the UK’s royal families. Today, this vast sprawling palace is managed by the independent charity Historic Royal Palaces and solely depends on the support of visitors, members, donors and sponsors. Do visit the Kensington Palace, which is one of the key royal palaces of London.
5. Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace located in the borough of Richmond upon Thames dates to the 16th century and served as a royal residence of King Henry VIII. The palace is open for public and tourists and is easily accessible by train and buses. The palace is maintained by the non-profit organisation, Historic Royal Palaces. Check out the highly acclaimed maze, historic tennis court and the huge grapevine apart from the palace interiors. Hampton Court Palace is still used as a royal house of the British Royal family.
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6. Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle, located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland was purchased by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria and since then, it’s part of the royal residence owned by the British Royal Family. The castle is designed in Scots Baronial architecture and comprises of a huge estate that has farmlands, forest and manicured lawns. Queen Elizabeth II endured a personal tragedy while staying at Balmoral Castle, when she received the news of the untimely death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the wife of the heir apparent and first son, Charles, Prince of Wales.
7. St James Palace
St James Palace located in the City of Westminster is the ceremonial meeting place of the Accession Council and the London residence of several members of the royal family including Princess Anne, the second child of Queen Elizabeth, Princess Alexandra, Princess Beatrice of York and Princess Eugenie of York. The Palace is also the site where the Charter of the United Nations was signed and the multi-country organisation was first proclaimed. St James Palace is still in use and among the key royal palaces in England.
8. Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of the United Kingdom. Located in Woodstock, Oxfordshire, the palace serves as the primary residence of the Dukes of Marlborough. Designed in English Baroque style, the palace is also the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill. The palace also featured in the latest James Bond movie Spectre and in the acclaimed Hamlet, the 1996 adaptations of William Shakespeare’s tragic play by the same name. One of the most popular royal palaces of England, do visit the Blenheim Palace.
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9. Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress that is now one of the cultural symbols of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. Located on the Castle Rock, a volcanic feature, Edinburgh Castle is one of the most attacked castles and fortresses in the world with 26 sieges in its 1100-years of history. Today, the castle houses the Honours of Scotland including its Scottish Regalia, Scottish Crown Jewels, the Crown, the Sceptre and the Sword of the State. The castle is also renowned for the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum.
10. Tower of London
The Tower of London is one of the most recognised landmarks of London and serves as the official place for keeping and maintaining the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom’s Royal Family. Today, this highly popular tourist attraction is managed by a charitable organisation. The Tower of London is associated with several ghost stories. It also served as a ‘Royal Menagerie’ – that served as a mini-zoo for displaying and keeping wild and domesticated animals.
The Tower of London is also home to Royal Ravens (six ravens maintained and cared for by the tower authorities). A popular legend says, “If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it”. So, the Tower of London authorities diligently maintain the six royal ravens with the utmost care and royal treatment. Visiting Tower of London is among the top things to do in England.