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Too many castles??

I'm trying to fine tune our itinerary for a trip next month to England/Scotland. I started with a huge list of things to do and have been trying to cut where possible. I just made a list of all the castles and palaces we plan on seeing and I'm wondering if it seems like too many?? I realize that it is personal preference, but would love any opinions. My 15 year old picked some of these, so there are a few that are must see for her...

Hampton Court
Kensington Palace
St. Michael's Mount
Tintagel
Windsor
Kenilworth
Middleham
(in Scotland)
Holyrood Palace
Edinburgh Castle
St. Andrews Castle
Eilean Donan
Urquart Castle

When I type it out it doesn't seem too bad...thoughts?? We'll be in the area for all of these over a three week period. Thanks in advance!!

Posted by
5011 posts

I dunno. Personally, I don't think I've ever met a castle I didn't enjoy poking around, but I'm generally fascinated by all sorts of old rocks and some people would think it's excessive. It's up to you.

First off, some of these aren't castles but palaces. They're all very different so if castles & palaces are your thing, go for it.

It's your travel plans between each of these sites that will have an impact, rather than the number of castles. How are you getting around? If driving, have you accounted for the UK's easily snarled-up roads? If using trains, have you costed out tickets and worked out what to do with luggage?

Incidentally you don't have the Tower of London on your list, which is a strange omission unless you've been there before. It's an outstanding castle right there in London. The Tower of London, Hampton Court & Kensington Palace are all covered by membership of Historic Royal Palaces so it's worth buying membership at the first one you visit, then you sail past the queue at the others.

Posted by
8889 posts

Lisa, You have hardly scratched the surface. For a full list in England only, see here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_castles_in_England
Many in the list are just a mound with a few ruined walls. But there are some very spectacular ones as well.

Obvious ommissions from your list:

  • Tower of london
  • Warwick
  • Leeds (Kent)
  • Bamburgh

And, if you are in to castles, you must go to York. Not much of a castle, but a full set of walls round the city with gates to get in and out.

You are going to have to be very selective, and pick those on your desired route.

Posted by
25732 posts

too few, I'm afraid.... many of the majors missing

Posted by
4866 posts

If you travel in Europe and want to see historical places, castles and cathedrals are usually the most common items to see.

We are planning a four week drive tour of England and Wales and have already identified a lot of both items to see. However, we will visit other places as well. In researching places to see in Wales, it seems there is another castle over every hill.

As for those specific castles, I would definitely recommend Windsor and Edinburgh Castles. Also, the Tower of London.

If you are going all the way to the border of Normandy and Brittany, then Mt. Saint Michel would be a must.

Posted by
6592 posts

If you'll be in London from 22 July to Oct. 1, you can buy tickets in advance to visit Buckingham Palace, the State Rooms and Gardens.

Posted by
28 posts

Hi all! Just by this initial response I think I'm okay...I was afraid it might seem excessive but clearly not!
@Jane - thanks for the info. I did mention my list was castles and palaces so I'm aware it is a mix of both, I felt they were similar enough to group together. We are driving (other than in London) and are prepared for traffic issues. We are seeing Tower of London, I wasn't sure where to classify it on my list I made and I put it under museums. My mistake!
@Chris - I'll look in to three you mentioned but I'm thinking they aren't close enough to the places we will be. I will check though, thanks!
@James - we aren't going to make it to Wales but hope to next time!
Thanks again everyone!

Posted by
4961 posts

Lisa - I haven't been to many of the places you list, but Hampton Court palace is truly a delight, full of history, and a remarkable building, inside and out. The Tudor kitchens are something to behold, built on a huge scale for roasting enormous quantities of meat to serve at massive banquets. Get on a tour led by a costumed docent - well worthwhile.

We got photos of Eilean Donan from the west and the east, but didn't actually visit the place . . . there wasn't a single open parking space available on a rainy afternoon in August 2014. There were tons of cars and tour buses taking up every parking spot, and the castle might or might not have been not-to-be-missed, but not with such a crowd!

To the Scotland list, consider adding Doune Castle in Doune. It's just the right size for a visit, it's in great shape, and was good enough for the Monty Python bunch to feature in their Holy Grail movie.

Just be aware that Cornwall is a looong way to drive especially during August and especially at weekends. No fast motorways; just a couple of routes down a very long county, with what feels like every single family in Britain heading there on holiday. And it's a long way from Tintagel to St Michael's Mount. So please tell me you're not doing this drive on an August weekend.... I personally would only do that drive if I was staying down there for at least a week!

Posted by
36 posts

I was in Scotland in late May with my 19 year old daughter. We saw Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle. Hands down I recommend skipping Edinburgh Castle and to not miss Stirling Castle. Stirling is a 30 minute train ride from Edinburgh and has more than enough in the town for a full day. Edinburgh Castle is crowded (took 45 minutes to get a ticket), expensive, has long line ups inside (30 minutes to get into the tower with the jewels) and hard to see anything because of the people. Stirling Castle has much more to see, is better set out and explained (the audio guide is worth it), has people dressed in period costume who will talk to you and explain things, and less people so you can actually move around. I know that Edinburgh Castle is the big one for tourists, but I don't see why.

Posted by
314 posts

Allow at least half a day for the Tower of London. It contains several smaller museums and is a lot of fun. I've been twice, once as a young teen and again when I took my own preteen boys. It was just about our favorite thing in London.

Posted by
7919 posts

Nooo, do not miss Edinburgh castle! Amazing. And so much in history happened there. I LOVE castles and palaces and Edinburgh castle is one on the list of highlights of the many I've seen.

Posted by
28 posts

Great information! I'll look at Doune Castle and see how it fits with where we are at! Hmmm, conflicting reports on Edinburgh :-) Initially that is why I wrote this post...wondering if I could skip it. I'll ponder that some more. I'm not sure I can fit Stirling Castle in but it sounds like I should try...the only time I'm in that area I had put aside for the Falkirk Wheel...it seemed interesting and different and we saw it on an Imax movie in Seattle and thought it was fascinating!
Jane, how long would you guess between St. Michael's Mount and Tintagel?? I know the Google Maps times are optimistic...I think they say 1 1/2 hours?? I'm okay if its within 3 hours but much more than that and I'd have to rethink. We're staying two nights in Exeter and planning on leaving around 6AM to head down to St. Michael's Mount to be a little ahead of the traffic. Looping up to Tintagel and back to Exeter. I'm thinking 6 hours of drive time but maybe I'm off?? We have a few big days in our trip and this is one of them. St. Michael's Mount is on my kiddo's "must see" list so we can skip Tintagel if needed.

Thanks, all!

Posted by
991 posts

Castles Palaces. Palaces Castles. It doesn't matter and I don't think there can be too many. Just don't forget Sterling and take a look at Dunnottar before you decide. If this was my list and I had to cut one, it'd be Kenilworth. Edinburgh Castle is one of my favorite castles. Ruins take less time to visit but they can take just as long to get to. Personally, I love ruins. Leeds is the loveliest castle in England. When we were there it was guided tours only then they showed us the door. Nice dog collar museum though.
You are a bit all over the map but with three weeks and a little fine tuning you're going to be just fine.

Posted by
3134 posts

Hampton Court and Windsor can be done on the same day. They are very different from each other; Hampton Court, a Tudor period restoration, and Windsor, much older but still in use.
You do have a lot of castles/palaces on your list. I would make another list with all th other things you want to see, and try to balance out the kinds of destinations. We had a similar problem on our recent trip to Greece. There were archaeological sites and museums everywhere. We had to choose among them so that we could experience some other aspect of Greece.

Posted by
1878 posts

Tower of London is probably one of the greatest in Europe, but it's like Disneyland even in shoulder season and not in a good way. Dover Castle, Stirling Castle are spectacular. I have never been to Arundel Castle but I think it looks really cool. In the southwest, Powderham, Berkeley and dipping just bit into Wales, Chepstow. Old Wardour Castle, a ruin in the general vicinity of Stonehenge. Castle Howard (actually a stately home) outside of York. There are many possibilities and a lot depends upon your route and mode of transit. I found some of the minor castles like Berkeley and Powderham to have a lot of personality, and every castle has a story to tell. Edit: I also think Glastonbury Tor, while not a castle exactly, and the town itself was an awesome visit. We visited just passing few and a few hours was plenty.

Posted by
28 posts

So many choices! It's overwhelming! I'm looking at my itinerary trying to see if I can somehow fit Stirling Castle in since it has been mentioned so much. It was originally on the list but as the itinerary developed it didn't work. In our 23 days we have a couple of big, busy days...one of them the St. Michael's Mount loop, and another is the only day I think I could make Stirling work. We are driving early from Edinburgh to St. Andrews to spend part of the day looking around there. After that we are driving west to Fort William, so a busy day. We could dip down to Stirling and visit the castle, we don't need to be to Fort William at any certain time. I wonder if that is too much? There is also the day we see the Falkirk Wheel but it would be one or the other since we then catch the train from Edinburgh down to London and fly home the next day. I suppose this is veering off to something that should be on the Scotland board but I love the ideas you all have! Thanks!

Posted by
218 posts

Cornwall is one of my very favorite places in England. Have been 3 times. Love St. Michael's Mount. Having said that, there is no way I would drive to Cornwall in August. My British friends who have a flat in Cornwall avoid it in August... because the Brits have a very short school summer holiday (July & August) and Cornwall is packed in August.

Also recommend you consider that driving distances in the U.K. are deceiving. A distance that would be quite reasonable for a day trip in the US may be a stretch in the U.K. due to traffic and lower speed limits (except for motorways). I recommend that you check www.theaa.com and click on Route Planner to get an idea of driving times between various location. That is the website for the British equivalent of AAA.

Posted by
28 posts

Thank you for the tip! I'll check that out and see if I need to revise! I'm hoping by getting an early start (by 6AM) we'll beat the traffic down and just have to deal with it on the way back up!

Okay, so you're staying in Exeter and hoping to do both St Michael's Mount & Tintagel as a day trip, then back to Exeter?

Firstly, don't do this at the weekend. Just don't.

Secondly, as it's August and you need to drive through all of Devon and Cornwall, allow extra on journey times. Probably 2.5 hours to St Michael's Mount, another two to Tintagel... but if it's a Friday or the weekend, all bets are off. Also make sure you allow time for parking everywhere you go. This counts for all places.

Thirdly, it absolutely breaks my heart that you are rushing down through the two most beautiful counties on earth in one day seeing almost nothing but the main road - I must admit I assumed from your plans to see both St Michael's Mount and Tintagel that you were basing yourselves in Cornwall for a couple of days. But I guess that's the nature of your trip.

Fourthly, definitely give yourself the option of missing out Tintagel and instead at least spending a little time enjoying the Cornish coast, stopping for an ice cream, paddling in the sea etc. It's what Cornwall is for.

Posted by
1838 posts

If you want to see how the traffic is doing in the south-west, just click this link:> https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@50.4147634,-4.5966512,10z/data=!5m1!1e1

Now, work out the time difference between home in America & UK time. Each time you click my link, you will see live traffic with red showing up as jams. I predict that this coming Friday 21 July at around 5pm UK time, there will be big jams. Click & drag the map NE to show the Bristol area - for that is where the jams are likely to be particularly bad - with the Severn Bridge to Newport likely to be jammed for those heading into south Wales.

Posted by
4365 posts

"....Fourthly, definitely give yourself the option of missing out Tintagel and instead at least spending a little time enjoying the Cornish coast, stopping for an ice cream, paddling in the sea etc. It's what Cornwall is for...."

But Jane, you can do that at Tintagel and what a location to do so.

I know some people are happy to give it a miss but I found Tintagel to have a real air of ancient mystery about it. Sure the ruins are less impressive than many others but the stunning location and stories surrounding it more than make up for that.

Posted by
4961 posts

Lisa, to add to Elizabeth's comments about travel times, weather can play a factor, too. We'd been heading the opposite direction, leaving Fort William in the morning and driving thru Glen Coe, en route to Doune and then to Stirling and beyond (our last full day on that trip). About 20 minutes into our drive, it absolutely poured and poured rain, and traffic slowed to a crawl, with our wipers set on the highest speed but barely moving the water out of the way fast enough. The traffic back-ups probably weren't helped by there being at least one British rental car with an American at the wheel, but there were also motorhomes with Dutch and Belgian license plates (people driving on the left side of the road in their vehicles from home, designed to be driven on the right, on presumably unfamiliar roads in heavy traffic with poor visibility). We stopped for lunch, and the rain ended, allowing us to proceed to Doune and visit the castle there (a true highlight), but we reached Stirling just a few minutes before 5PM, and the castle closed at 5, so we'll have to see it on another trip. We had reservations at a B&B to the east, so we continued beyond Stirling for the night. It's great to have an agenda and desired destinations, but sometimes circumstances can keep you from getting to everything on your list. Have a great trip!

I know some people are happy to give it a miss but I found Tintagel to
have a real air of ancient mystery about it. Sure the ruins are less
impressive than many others but the stunning location and stories
surrounding it more than make up for that.

I disliked it intensely! The castle was fun but I thought the village was horrible. Mind you I have zero tolerance for new age claptrap.

Anyway, the point is that we both agree it's a shame to go to Cornwall and not have time for an ice cream on the beach....

That said I recently read a blog post from an American family who went to Cornwall because so many British families seemed obsessed with it - and just couldn't see the attraction of being on a beach in the chill of a typical English August day.

Posted by
28 posts

More great info - thank you so much! I appreciate the traffic link, too!

Posted by
4365 posts

"....I disliked it intensely! The castle was fun but I thought the village was horrible. Mind you I have zero tolerance for new age claptrap...."

I'm with you on the village and I'm with you on the new age claptrap however we only walked through the village on the way to and from the car so didn't consider it as a stop in itself and I didn't really consider it part of Tintagel. Personally after visiting Tintagel I would drive somewhere else and have a decent lunch/ice cream.

Incidentally, how do you include quotes from other posters as you have done?

Posted by
10 posts

How about a cluster of small but beautiful examples close to each other in the SE

Herstmonceaux in Sussex (C15th), Leeds Castle (C16th) in Kent and Hever Castle (C14th) also in Kent.

Some of the most romantic looking castles you can find, and with amazing histories. Less overrun with large tour parties than some of the more internationally known ones and all day-trippable form London. Google them for some images

incidentally, how do you include quotes from other posters as you have
done?

Cut and paste then select the bit that's a quote & click on the speech marks in the edit toolbar above the reply box.

Posted by
4365 posts

Cut and paste then select the bit that's a quote & click on the speech marks in the edit toolbar above the reply box.

Thanks!

Posted by
1217 posts

In researching places to see in Wales, it seems there is another castle over every hill.


We were up at some essentially unfenced castle ruin in Brecon Beacons that had beer cans strewn about. Came to the conclusion it was rather amusing that castle ruins were so common in the region that they became the place for teenagers to drink and make out later at night.

Posted by
7919 posts

Netflix has an exceptional show/series called "English Castles" that would help you decide which of the best to see.

Posted by
28 posts

How about a cluster of small but beautiful examples close to each other in the SE

That is about the only area that we aren't going to be in! Originally it was in the plan but I've been cutting, cutting, cutting to make it more manageable. It will be top of the list when we (hopefully) get back again!

Posted by
3208 posts

In my opinion, yes, you may have too many castles to "enjoy" on one trip. I love castles, but after 5 or 6 they all begin to look the same and you don't appreciate them for what they are. Your list is really castles and palaces which I separate. There are only a couple on your list i haven't been to, but of the remaining ones, Hampton Court, Kensington Palace, and Hollyrood will be pretty similar. Tintagel castle is more ruin than castle and is a popular spot because of its affiliation with the legend of king Arthur and Merlin. It's not that close to the other castles on your list. Eilean Donan and Urquart are relatively close to each other so if you see one, you may as well see the other. Edinburgh and Hollyrood are only a mile apart, so hit both of them. Windsor is a must. I've never been to Kenilworth,
Middleham, or St Andrews. So I'd choose 5 or 6 castles geographically close to each other, and one or two of the palaces.