For a romantic weekend away like no other, check-in to one of the UK’s best castle hotels and rest your head where former royalty once resided. Retrace famous footsteps as you soak in centuries of history, sweeping countryside views and magnificent architecture, or indulge in some TLC at a state-of-the-art spa and while away an evening enjoying fine dining led by some of the country’s most notable chefs. From the childhood home of Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII’s honeymoon abode, holiday like a king or queen, quite literally, with a fabulous real-life castle stay.
Amberley Castle, West Sussex
Recorded in the Domesday Book and more than 900 years old, Amberley Castle is steeped in history dating back to the 12th-century. Over the years, the castle as frequently hosted royalty, including Henry VIII (when he was looking for advice on how to divorce Catherine of Aragon), Charles II and Elizabeth II, explaining its distinctly regal air.
Today, it is a member of the Relais & Chateaux hotel group with 19 bedrooms, where impressive traditional features and antique furnishings meet contemporary styling (and welcoming extras, like homemade biscuits and L’Occitane products). Some rooms also boast separate lounges and whirlpool bathtubs.
The portcullis entrance offers the first indication of the castle’s stately background and the grandeur of the guests who have previously passed through it. Bedrooms overlook the castle grounds, which include an 18-hole golf course and croquet lawn, and dinner is served in the magnificent dome-ceilinged Queen’s Room.
From £158 per night, amberleycastle.co.uk
Warwick Castle, Warwickshire
There are just two rooms to choose from at Warwick Castle, but this pair of 14th-century tower suites, complete with their own battlements, are sure to create a visit worthy of royalty. The chambers – the Rose Suite and the Peacock Suite – are situated on a private floor reached by spiral staircase and overlook gardens landscaped by Capability Brown.
If you’re debating between the two, it’s worth knowing that the Rose room was occupied by King Edward IV during the Wars of the Roses, but the Peacock Suite offers the perk of a bath. In both, the history is as rich as the decor – slumber in a four-poster bed surrounded by opulent drapes and ornate medieval architecture.
24-hour private concierge service is on hand for anything you might require, breakfast is served in bed, and guests will be given an after-hours tour of the castle by a resident history specialist.
From £165 per person per night, warwick-castle.com
Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire
Thornbury Castle has origins dating from the 10th century, and is perhaps best known as the place that Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn chose to spend 10 days of their honeymoon (before the relationship took its disastrous turn). It has played its part in other historical dramas, too – the original manor was seized by William the Conquerer following a rumoured love triangle.
Tapestries and suits of armour line the wood-panelled halls, while some of its lavishly appointed bedrooms have retained features such as arrow-slit windows.
Dinner can be provided in the atmospheric dungeons beneath the castle, with menus also inspired by its Tudor roots. Much of the food comes from Thronbury’s kitchen garden, creating an authentic British dining experience. Don’t miss the “Royal Tasting Menu”, including dishes such as local Gloucestershire Pork and home-grown rhubarb and caramel, all paired with wines from the castle’s exceptional collection.
From £195 for a double room, thornburycastle.co.uk
Hever Castle, Kent
The childhood home of Anne Boleyn, 13th-century double-moated Hever Castle is every part as majestic as one might imagine. The 28 beautifully appointed bedrooms are located in the Astor Wing and the Anne Boleyn Wing, where Tudor design adheres to the castle’s defining period of history when the Boleyn family was in residence.
The breakfast room has a vista over the orchard, while guests can discover other delights in the extensive grounds such as the yew maze, boating lake and award-winning gardens. Entrance to the castle is also included, where you can see Anne Boleyn’s bedroom and the ornate “Long Gallery” that currently houses an exhibition curated by TV historian Dr David Starkey which depicts the Tudor period from the Wars of the Roses through to the Reformation.
Look out for the Dine and Stay retreats offered throughout the year, featuring wine tastings, murder mysteries and Christmas feasting.
From £175 for a double room, hevercastle.co.uk
Inverlochy Castle, Fort William
The Scottish Highlands might well be full to the brim with fairytale castles, but Inverlochy is easily the most beautiful. Nestled in the foothills of Ben Nevis and surrounded by the highlands’ serene peaks, this 19th-century castle garnered many a powerful fan, including Queen Victoria, who came here in 1873 and declared that she never saw “a lovelier or more romantic spot”.
While the picturesque setting is reason enough, the food is also a draw for visitors. At the helm of the restaurant are Albert and Michel Roux Jr, the father and son team behind the two Michelin-starred Le Gavroche in Mayfair.
Dishes here are made with locally-sourced produce – think Isle of Skye Crab, gin-poached loin of venison and chateaubriand from Scottish beef – and are eaten atop furniture gifted by the King of Norway. However, the best way to appreciate Inverlochy’s regal setting is by simply rowing around the loch here and admiring the majestic views.
From £320 per night, inverlochycastlehotel.com
Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire
It’s fair to say that Glenapp Castle is something of a hidden gem. This ivy-clad testimony to Scottish baronial splendour is secreted away in its estate filled with landscaped gardens and verdant forests. Many of the sumptuous four-poster suites offer panoramic views across the Irish Sea to the volcanic island of Ailsa Craig.
Want to explore the waters? Try a Hebridean Sea Safari aboard the Glenapp boat and explore the islands on your own Mara Cuairt-Dànachd, which is Scottish Gaelic for “a sea adventure”. On your trip you can stop off to see an ancient monastery, hidden castle garden, a whisky distillery ashore, as well as plenty of wildlife at sea. Make sure you ask for Ripley to join you on your tour – the castle’s resident sea eagle who has been trained to catch fish in the local waters.
From £395 a night, glenappcastle.com
Ashford Castle, Ireland
This 800-year-old castle, was once the home of the Guinness Family, but has played host to many famous faces over the years, from Oscar Wilde to Grace Kelly.
Today, the castle, set in 350 acres is one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World and has a reputation for being one of Ireland’s best hotels. It’s easy to see why – the place has a truly decadent feel. Each of the castle’s 82 suites is individually decorated, with interiors showcasing Ireland’s exceptional craftsmanship, from Waterford crystal chandeliers to Connemara marble bar tops.
The piece de résistance, however, is the state-of-the-art spa in the hotel’s former conservatory, which is frequently voted the best in the country thanks to its panoramic pool with views across the grounds. Insider tip: these are best seen on morning walks with with Garvan and Cronan, the hotels two resident Irish Wolfhounds.
From £275 a night, ashfordcastle.com
Bovey Castle, Devon
This stately country pile sits dramatically in the midst of Dartmoor National Park – 368 square miles of rugged wilderness filled with Stone Age circles and roaming wild ponies.
The castle grounds stretch across 275 acres and include everything you’d need for an active country weekend, including a 18-hole championship golf course with putting green, tennis courts, a croquet pitch, a shooting range, archery and even a deer pad where, at the right time of the year, you can bottle-feed the fawns.
Spend your time strolling around the picturesque lake or along the Bovey River, from where the hotel draws all its water to up its eco-credentials.
After a day of rural pursuits, relax in the huge Elan Spa, a serene sanctuary by ESPA, then settle into one of the individually designed rooms. Prefer something more private? There are also 22 luxurious self-catering lodges on the grounds, too.
From £189 per night, bovevycastle.com
Augill Castle, Lake District
With towers, turrets and secret staircases galore, this neo-gothic castle has everything you could want for a fairytale trip to the poetic lakes, without any of the usual stuffiness. Furnished more like a cosy, welcoming family abode than a stately one, Augill Castle feels like a home from home. Guests here can expect homemade cake every day, an honesty bar filled with British tipples and three course meals served dinner party style on the weekend.
Upstairs, bedrooms are as sizeable as they are quirky, filled with eccentric decor and curiosities ensuring plenty of character. While it’s family friendly, this boutique castle hotel was voted The Good Hotel Guide 2020 Editor Choice’s for best Romantic Hotel, so book in here for idyllic weekend exploring the Lakes – or the nearby Yorkshire Dales – with your other half.
From £160 per night, stayinacastle.com