Bringing fortification to your forays, read on for ten rambles around the ramparts…
This feature was first published in the May 2019 issue of The Great Outdoors.
The UK is home to thousands of castles. From painstakingly preserved structures to crumbling, eerie ruins, explorers are spoiled for choice when looking for a bit of history to go with their hikes. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most fascinating, with intriguing routes to wander in the surrounding areas of each historic building, so you can make the most of your visit.
1. Arundel Castle, West Sussex
The restored and remodelled Arundel Castle makes for a striking sight with its towering walls and luscious woodland grounds. There are plenty of options for walks that involve passing this wondrous sight, and many are suitable for families. One popular circular route starts at Whiteways Lodge and heads past Hirone Tower, giving you a chance to walk around the grounds and return via the River Arun. Meanwhile, Arundel Park offers routes around Swanbourne Lake that will make for a picturesque trip.
2. Crom Castle, Fermanagh
You’ll find a mix of grandeur and ruins here at the Crom Estate, with the Old Castle’s remains lingering in the grounds of the stately Crom Castle. The 2,000-acre demesne contains ancient woodlands, serene islands and quaint estate cottages that make for a tranquil outing. Enjoy one of the area’s most famous wildlife walks by starting at the jetty by the visitor centre, passing the Old Castle and continuing towards the deer park. Make sure you don’t miss spotting Ireland’s oldest yew tree near the Old Castle.
3. Benburb Castle, Tyrone
This castle is the perfect gateway to the Benburb Valley, offering a 4-mile Bluebell Walk that will take you along the River Blackwater and past the Benburb Priory. The valley is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, surrounded by lush countryside and rolling hills. There’s an eco-trail on offer for children to keep them engaged and entertained as they explore the area.
4. Harlech Castle, Gwynedd
Another dramatic clifftop castle, this World Heritage Site is a unique medieval fortification that is a must-see for visitors to the area. A Bronze Age trackway above the castle offers a linear trail to the iconic Bryn Cader Faner cairns in the foothills of the Rhinogydd mountain range – considered by some to be Snowdonia’s best-kept secret. If you’re not up for a long hike, you can instead enjoy a coastal stroll along Morfa Harlech and see what the renowned nature reserve has to offer.
5. Tintagel Castle, Cornwall
After a closure involving the building of a new footbridge, Tintagel Castle will reopen in Summer 2019 – making it the perfect time for a visit. The three Tintagel Circulars will ensure you can drink in the history and legends associated with the medieval fortress, with the village acting as a starting and finishing point for each walk. There’s also a King Arthur route, starting at the Tintagel visitor centre, that will take you past King Arthur’s Great Halls, St Materiana’s Church and ‘Merlin’s Cave’.
6. Dover Castle, Kent
This iconic fortress (the largest in England) offers stunning coastal views and cliffs to walk along. The White Cliffs Country Trails and the Saxon Shore Way are popular trails that run past the castle, enabling you to soak up some of the coastal sights on your travels. If you head east you can visit the Victorian South Foreland Lighthouse and the Pines Gardens at St Margaret’s. You could also cover two castles on the one trail by walking the linear, 10-mile route from Dover to Deal Castle. Just take care on the cliffs!
7. Cardigan Castle, Ceredigion
Nestled between the northern end of the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path and the southern end of the Ceredigion Coastal Path, Cardigan is a peaceful town that offers a range of hill, coastal, woodland and rural routes. Gentle walks through country lanes (or from Cardigan Castle to Cilgerran Castle) make perfect outings for families, whereas tackling the entire Teifi Estuary route will offer more of a challenge for those inclined.
8. Kilchurn Castle, Argyll and Bute
An evocative ruin perched on the banks of Loch Awe, what remains of this 15th Century stronghold is even more striking with the imposing Ben Cruachan behind it. Loch Awe offers a gentle, shoreline walk which is perfect for families on a summer’sday while Ben Cruachan presents a challenge as one of the highest peaks in the Southern Highlands. The most popular starting point for the trail up this Munro is from the Falls of Cruach railway station, a 20-minute drive from the castle.
9. Peveril Castle, Peak District
These colossal ruins stand high on the hill above Castleton. The climb from the village to the castle itself will reward you with magnificent views over the Hope Valley. If you’re looking for a more challenging climb, Mam Tor lies north-west of Castleton; or you could wander the cliffs and caverns surrounding the town using part of the Limestone Way.
10. Castle Tioram, Ardnamurchan
Castle Tioram is a ruin that sits on the tidal island of Eilean Tioram (known as the dry island) in Loch Moidart. Routes on offer here include the Silver Walk, which would see you start at the Ardmolich layby car park and follow the boggy, woodland walk to the castle itself. There are some brilliant views of the isles along this route. Please exercise caution if you plan on getting closer to the ruins for any pictures – most of it is blocked off as the structure is unstable.