Burlington Arcade….

The Burlington Arcade is the most famous and most sumptuous of the covered shopping arcades that opened in the nineteenth century in the posh neighborhoods of St. James’s and Mayfair.
Burlington Arcade, London

Burlington Arcade
Covered arcades, which had started to appear in abundance in early nineteenth century Paris, were the precursor of upscale shopping malls. They protected shoppers from traffic and inclement weather, and they proved equally popular in rainy London. These arcades were home to high-end shops that catered almost exclusively to the well-off.

History

The reason why Burlington Arcade came into being is quite unusual. It all started when Lady Cavendish, who lived with her husband Lord George Cavendish in Burlington House, got fed up with passers-by throwing rubbish in their garden. A wall was built to separate the long and narrow garden from the street, but this didn’t help much since people just flung their rubbish over the wall. So Lord Cavendish asked architect Samuel Ward to build a covered shopping arcade.

Piccadilly facade of Burlington Arcade in London

Piccadilly facade

Ward took inspiration from the existingcovered ‘passages’ in Paris and created a covered arcade with a glass roof and seventy-two elegantly designed store fronts in mahogany. Construction started in 1818 and the arcade opened the following year. Little has changed since, except for the bombastic facade on Piccadilly Street which was added in 1911 by Arthur Beresford Pites and the floor, which was originally in wood but now in stone.

During the war Burlington Arcade was damaged by bombs but it was completely restored in the 1950s.

Shops

Inside Burlington Arcade, London

Burlington Arcade Interior
From its inception, Burlington Arcade has always been a destination for the most demanding shoppers. Many of the shops are Royal Warrant holders, which means they supply goods to the British Royal Family. The shops are quite exclusive and you won’t find any high street chains here. The shops sell mostly luxury goods including leatherware, watches, shoes, high-end cameras, jewelry, accessories, perfume and gifts.

Beadles

In early nineteenth-century London, there was no police force and the streets were extremely unsafe. To provide a safe environment for shoppers in his arcade, Lord Cavendish decided to employ former members of his regiment of so-called Hussites to maintain order. These private guards, who are called ‘Beadles’ are still present, clad in formal attire with a top hat and tail-coat. They enforce the rules which include no singing, whistling, running or opening an umbrella. There used to be armchairs at either end of Burlington Arcade where they could rest, but today’s Beadles no longer enjoy that luxury.

Other arcades

The Royal Arcade, London

Royal Arcade
Burlington Arcade isn’t the only arcade in the vicinity. Right opposite Burlington Arcade is Piccadilly Arcade, a covered arcade that opened almost a century later, in 1909. The Royal Arcade, between Albemarle Street and Old Bond Street opened in 1880. Also in Piccadilly is Princes Arcade, which opened in 1933 and links Piccadilly with Jermyn Street. A bit more to the south-east, between Pall Mall and Charles II Street is London’s oldest arcade, the Royal Opera Arcade. It opened in 1815 and is lit by beautiful circular skylights.

St. Bartholomew-the-Great…

St. Bartholomew-the-Great is the oldest monastic church in London. Only a part of the original twelfth century church remains, but it’s still one of the best examples of Norman architecture in London.

History

The founding by Rahere

St. Bartholomew-the-Great, London

St. Bartholomew-
the-Great

The choir of St. Bartholomew-the-Great in London

The choir
The church was founded in 1123 by the Augustinian monk Rahere as part of a priory. Rahere was a jester at the court of King Henry I, the son of William the Conqueror. On a pilgrimage to Rome Rahere became so severely ill with malaria that it caused hallucinations. Rahere believed one of the hallucinations was a vision in which the saint Bartholomew appeared to him and saved him.
After he recovered Rahere decided to become an Augustinian monk. He founded a priory with an adjoining hospital, dedicated to saint Bartholomew. In the hospital, which still exists today, Rahere and his fellow monks treated the sick poor. The priory contained a large church, St. Bartholomew-the-Great. The priory and church were funded with the proceeds from the Bartholomew Fair, one of London’s largest annual fairs.

Demolishment of the priory

In 1539 the priory was dissolved on the order of King Henry VIII. The priory was acquired by Richard Rich, the Lord Chancellor. Rich demolished much of the priory, including the nave of the church and a part of the cloister. The remaining structures were used for secular purposes and housed a school, a wine cellar, a smithy, a stable and a printing works where Benjamin Franklin worked in 1725.

The Church Today

The halftimbered gatehouse at St. Bartholomew the Great

The gatehouse
The church we see today is the result of a restoration carried out by Aston Webb between 1887 and 1928.
You reach the church by entering the picturesque gate at Little Britain street. The gate marks the entrance of the former church. The arch is still original but the half-timbered house above the entrance was built in the sixteenth century, probably by Richard Rich.
Behind the entrance lies a green forecourt with a raised churchyard that now occupies the area where once the ten-bay long nave of the church stood. The current facade, with its checkered patterns, is a creation of Aston Webb. Today’s church is only half the size of the original; the Lady Chapel, the four-bay choir, a small section of the transepts and just one bay of the nave are all that is left of the original church.

Interior

Tomb of Rahere, St. Bartholomew the Great

Founder’s Tomb

Lady Chapel, St. Bartholomew the Great

Lady Chapel

The cloister of St. Bartholomew-the-Great in London

Cloister Café
Inside, the church of St. Bartholomew-the-Great is dark and atmospheric. Massive columns with round arches, typical for Romanesque architecture, line the choir. The interior is sparsely decorated aside from a few monuments.The most notable monument in the church is the tomb of its founder, Rahere. The Gothic tomb, created in 1405, shows the prior praying with at his feet an angel. Two kneeling monks by his side are reading from the bible. The angel holds a shield decorated with the arms of the priory: two lions below two crowns. Other notable monuments include the tomb of Sir Walter Mildway, Chancellor under Queen Elisabeth I, and a monument to Robert Chamberlayne from 1615 which shows a kneeling figure below a canopy, flanked by two angels.

Behind the choir is the Lady Chapel, restored in 1896. The painting of the madonna and child is a recent addition: it was painted in 1998 by Alfredo Roldan, a Spanish artist. The High Altar in the sanctuary is also from the twentieth century, created in 1950 by Seely and Paget. Much older is the oriel window on the south aisle. It was created around 1517 by William Bolton, an accomplished builder who was the prior of St. Bartholomew’s from 1505 until 1532.

Cloister

To the south of the church, near the gatehouse, is the Cloister Café, housed in a beautifully vaulted ambulatory, the only part that remains of the Augustinian priory’s cloister.The cloister was originally built in 1160 but rebuilt in 1405. Three bays survived the sixteenth century demolition of the priory. They were used as stables until 1905 when they were restored. In 1923-1928 Webb reconstructed the other bays of the cloister’s north ambulatory.

 

St. Martin-in-the-Fields…

On the northeast side of Trafalgar Square is one of London’s best-known churches: St. Martin-in-the-Fields. The design of the eighteenth-century church has had a profound impact on ecclesiastical architecture around the world.
St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London
St. Martin-in-the-Fields churchSt. Martin-in-the-FieldsSt. Martin-in-the-Fields interiorInterior

St. Martin-in-the-Fields organOrgan

A church already stood at this site in the early thirteenth century. It was rebuilt in 1542 under the reign of Henry VIII. Today St. Martin-in-the-Fields sits at one of the most crowded squares in London but at the time this was the parish church of a large rural area, with plenty of grassland and fields, hence the name of the church. The present church was built between 1721 and 1726 to replace the derelict medieval church.

The Design

The church was designed by the Scottish architect James Gibbs, who had worked in Romefor the esteemed architect Carlo Fontana.Gibbs was the first to successfully combine a Palladian temple front with a medieval-style church steeple. The steeple is well in proportion with the magnificent Corinthian portico. At first Gibbs’s design was quite controversial, but it soon became the model for many other churches, in particular in the British colonies in North America.

The interior is noted for the beautiful plasterwork decoration on the barrel-vaulted ceiling, the work of Giovanni Battista Bagutti and Chrysostom Wilkins. Outside, take a close look at the beautiful church tower – clearly inspired by the steeples of Christopher Wren. But the star is really the monumental portico. Its pediment is supported by eight massive Corinthian columns. On either side of the church are two more columns, creating the impression of a portico that wraps itself around the church.

Royal Connection

St. Martin-in-the-Fields is the official parish church of Buckingham Palace and St James’s Palace; George I was even churchwarden here. You can see several references to this royal connection in and on the church: to the left of the main altar is the royal pew, and the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom embellishes the ceiling. The large relief on the pediment also shows the royal coat-of-arms.

The Crypt

There’s usually little activity in crypts, but the crypt underneath St. Martin-the-Fields is quite different: there’s a restaurant – the ‘Café in the Crypt’ – and a souvenir shop. The crypt, accessible from the north side, is also used to hold temporary exhibits of modern art. It is also the place where – for a small fee – you can try brass-rubbing, an activity that was popular in Victorian times, when people traced brass ornaments with a crayon and paper. They kept the paper reproduction as a souvenir. The church has a collection of over one hundred replicas of brasses.

Cumberland Terrace…

One of the large-scale works of architect John Nash, Cumberland Terrace was part of a grand development plan of what is now known as Regency London. The palatial terrace was designed in the vein of a neoclassical temple.
Cumberland Terrace, London

Cumberland Terrace
Sitting on the eastern side of Regent’s Park in the borough of Camden, Cumberland Terrace is an imposing block of houses – thirty-one in all – designed by English architect John Nash in a grand neoclassical style. The homes were built by William Mountford Nurse and completed in 1826. They were named for one of the king’s eight brothers, the Duke of Cumberland.

The Buildings

This ornate block of buildings is four stories high and is organized into three groups, with beautiful triumphal arches linking the groups and leading into small courtyards. The main group has fifteen homes with the five in the center projecting forward.

Portico, Cumberland Terrace, London

One of the porticoes

Pediment, Cumberland Terrace, London

Pediment

The ground floor of the three middle houses in that group of five projects out even further and along with the house on either side forms a stepped platform from which a screen of Ionic columns extends up to the second floor. Urns sit atop the balustrade and the whole composition culminates in a pediment decorated with reliefs and crowned with statuary.

The remaining sixteen homes are recessed and feature fluted Ionic pilasters situated between the windows to the first and second floors, rising from a ground-floor platform, not unlike the main group. An attractive wrought-iron balcony runs in front of the first floor windows.

The inside of the homes are said to be quite ornate as well, with circular staircases and large bedroom fireplaces, ornate cornices, and much more. Many of the homes are still occupied as single-family residences but some have been converted to flats. The single-family homes cost in the millions of pounds.

Regency Architecture

Regent Street, London

Regent Street
Cumberland Terraces is just one of a number of terraces that were built as part of the ‘Metropolitan improvements’ that were implemented in what is now known as Regency London, an area that stretches from Regent Street toRegent’s Park.The area is known as such since the development plans were launched by the Prince Regent (who would go on to become King George IV). John Nash created the master plan for the area and is responsible for many of the buildings including those of Cumberland Terrace. The regal architectural style used for the projects became known as Regency Architecture.

Other Terraces

Sussex Terrace, London

Sussex Terrace
Other, similar terraces were created around the same time Cumberland Terrace was developed. The first series of terraces were built from 1821-1823: York, Cornwall, Sussex and Hanover. Other terraces: the Ulster, Cambridge, Chester, and Gloucester terraces were completed in 1827.The creation of the terraces helped transform London from an industrial city to a grand metropolis befitting its position as capital of an empire.

 

Queen’s House…

The Queen’s House was built in 1616-1638 for Anne of Denmark, Queen consort of James I. The house, which is home to a collection of paintings from the National Maritime Museum, marked a milestone in the architectural history of England.

History

The Queen's House, Greenwich, London

Queen’s House

The Queen's House seen from Greenwich Park, London

View from Greenwich Park
Queen Anne of Denmark wasn’t too happy with the old Palace of Placentia inGreenwich so her husband James I instructed Inigo Jones, surveyor-general of the King’s Works, to build a new summer house near the old palace. Jones had just returned from a visit to Italy which inspired him to design England’s first building in Palladian style, a style heavily influenced by classical architecture.Construction of the house started in 1616 but when Queen Anne died three years later the building was left unfinished. In 1632 construction resumed when King Charles I decided to complete the house for his wife, Henrietta Maria of France. The house was finally finished in 1638 by John Webb, assistant and son-in-law of Inigo Jones.

The Queen’s House was only sparingly used by the royals who preferred to reside at the much larger Hampton Court Palace. In 1690 the house became the residence of the Ranger of Greenwich Park. In 1806 King George III donated the house to the Royal Naval Asylum, a school created for orphaned children of military personnel who were killed in action. The school moved to another location in 1933. The house was restored and opened to the public four years later, in 1937, as the National Maritime Museum.

Architecture

South facade of the Queen's House in Greenwich

South facade

The colonnade of the Queen's House in Greenwich, London

The colonnade

View from the loggia of the Queen's House, Greenwich

View from the loggia

The Great Hall, Queen's House, Greenwich

Great Hall
The Queen’s House had a significant impact on English architecture. It was the first neoclassical building in the country and it contrasted starkly with the then-prevalent Elizabethan architecture which was often characterized by turrets and towers.The building’s design looks simple but elegant, with a rectangular layout and just two stories topped with a flat balustraded roof. The south side was designed as the front facade, and features a loggia with Ionic columns on the first floor which overlooks Greenwich Park. The other side, facing the river, features a wide double staircase. The open colonnades that connect the house with the annexes were built much later, in 1807, to designs by Daniel Alexander.

Interior

The main entrance on the north side leads straight to the Great Hall, a perfect cube measuring twelve meters (40 ft) on each side. The beautiful black-and-white patterned marble floor was laid by Nicholas Stone, the master mason of Charles I. The ceiling was decorated in 1636-1638 with paintings created by Orazio Gentileschi. Unfortunately they were removed in 1708 and now adorn Marlborough House.To the left is the Tulip Staircase, the first self-supporting stairs in England. It is named for the flower decorations on the iron handrail, even though these probably depict lilies. The lily-motif, symbol of France, reappears in the Queen’s Cabinet, where it is intertwined with acanthus leaves and accompanied by royal monograms that symbolize the marriage between King Charles I and Henrietta Maria of France. The most interesting room is the Queen’s Bedroom, which is decorated with an eighteenth century ceiling painting of ‘Aurora Dispersing the Shades of Night’ that replaced the original painting from 1640.

Art Gallery

Battle of Trafalgar, Queen's House

Battle of Trafalgar
The Queen’s House was the original location of the National Maritime Museum. The main collection of the museum is now housed in a separate, larger building, but you can still admire a fine selection of nautical paintings in the Queen’s House. The paintings illustrate the illustrious history of the Royal Navy, and show naval battle scenes and portraits of some of England’s heroes. The most famous work is the ‘Battle of Trafalgar’, a large canvas painting created by Joseph Mallord William Turner. The painting was commissioned in 1822 by King George IV who intended it for the state room of St. James’s Palace.

 

Guildhall…

Ever since it was built in the early fifteenth century, the Guildhall has been the home of the Corporation of London, the governing body of the Livery Companies – guilds – in the City of London.
Even today the Corporation of London, presided by the lord mayor, governs the City of London (with the City referring to London’s historic heart,

Guildhall, London

Guildhall

also known as the Square Mile and not Greater London). The lord mayor is assisted by twenty-four aldermen who govern one of the twenty-four districts in the City, known as wards.

The Building

The Guildhall was built from 1411 to 1429 by master mason John Croxton and was the third such building at this site. It is the only secular stone building that survived the Great Fire of 1666, although much of the interior was destroyed. The current front facade dates back to 1788 when it was reconstructed in a mixture of neo-Gothic and oriental styles. The medieval porch however is still authentic even though some additions were made in 1671.The roof – which had been rebuilt after the fire of 1666 – was destroyed again in December 1940 during the blitz,

The porch of the Guildhall in the City of London

The porch

and replaced with the current roof in 1954.

Interior

The grandeur of the building becomes apparent in the Great Hall. Measuring 46 by 14.6 meters (151 x 48ft) the grand medieval hall was long the largest civic hall in England. The hall is decorated with banners of the city’s twelve guilds. A number of statues, depicting national heroes can be found in the hall. Some of the most famous British immortalized in the hall are admiral Nelson, with a sculpture created by James Smith in 1806-1810, duke Wellington sculpted by John Bell in 1856 and a seated bronze statue of Winston Churchill, cast by Oscar Nemon in 1955.Another impressive hall is the Old Library, which used to house the Guildhall’s library and museum. The library moved to a more modern building nearby and the museum is now part of the Museum of London. In the Guildhall’s art gallery, a collection of paintings collected by the Corporation of London is displayed.

The Guildhall’s undercroft

Below the Guildhall are two crypts. The oldest crypt, situated to the west, was restored in the 1970s and was probably built in the thirteenth or early fourteenth century. The other, more impressive crypt was built by John Croxton although its foundations go back to the eleventh century.Excavations carried out at the Guildhall Yard in front of the Guildhall between 1988 and 1995 revealed the remains of London’s only Roman amphitheater, situated six meters below ground.

Guildhall Library

A unique collection of illustrations, drawings and books about the history of London as well as other historic books is housed in a more recent, adjoining building west of the Guildhall. The same building is also home to the Clockmaker’s Company Collection, a museum with a collection of clocks and watches, mainly from the seventeen and eighteen centuries.

Wellington Arch…

The Wellington Arch is a triumphal arch named after the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815 at Waterloo. The arch is home to a small museum.

Construction

Designed by Decimus Burton,

Wellington Arch, London

Wellington Arch

the construction of Wellington Arch (andMarble Arch to the north) was ordered in 1825 by King George IV, who wanted to create a landmark that would commemorate British victory in the Napoleonic Wars. The arch was built between 1826 and 1830 and was originally known as Green Park Arch and later Constitution Arch.

The arch sits to the south of Hyde Park and was to serve as a gateway towards Buckingham Palace and, hence, an entrance to Central London for those arriving from the west. It was originally located right near the Apsley House, once the home of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington, and now a museum displaying the duke’s life and work. At the end of the nineteenth century, the arch was moved a bit to its present position due to a road widening project.

The Quadriga

The idea was to decorate the arches with reliefs and sculptures in the vein of the Roman triumphal arches but due to a lack of funds it was left unadorned. In 1838 it was decided that the first Duke of Wellington would be honored with a large statue that was to be placed atop the arch. Hence the current name of the arch.

Quadriga on top of the Wellington Arch in London

The Quadriga

However, the equestrian statue – designed by Matthew Coates Wyatt and placed on the arch in 1846 – was heavily criticized; it was considered too large in proportion to the arch and the Queen reportedly called it an eyesore. In 1883 the nine-meter (30ft) tall statue was removed from the arch and later transported to Aldershot, where it stands today.

Lord Michelham of Hellingly, a wealthy banker, proposed to fund a new sculpture to replace Wellesley’s statue. Designed by Adrian Jones, this sculpture in honor of King Edward VII is the one we see today: an enormous bronze sculpture group that depicts the angel of peace who descends on the chariot of war, pulled by four horses and led by a small boy. Lord Michelham’s oldest son, Herman Stern, acted as a model for the boy.

Use of the Arch

Wellington Arch is hollow inside, so over the years, it has had several different uses.

Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner, London

Until 1992, it housed the second-smallest police station in London. Currently, it boasts a three-story museum that educates visitors on the history of the arch. There’s also a balcony that allows good views of other nearby landmarks.

Because it was moved to accommodate traffic in the growing city of London, Wellington Arch is stranded on Hyde Park Corner, an island surrounded by heavily trafficked streets so it sometimes tends to be overlooked by tourists perusing the city. However, English Heritage Foundation – which oversees the monument – is attempting to make the arch more accessible and visitor-friendly.

Britain’s cathedrals…

A millennium of history

York Minster Source:© Nick Garrod

York Minster

Britain’s cathedrals combine a millennium of soaring architecture with incredible stories of saints, conquerors, fire, even murder! It’s no wonder visitors and film crews flock to hear the incredible stories connected with these majestic buildings.

Durham Cathedral is most recently known for its role in the first two Harry Potter films , but is also one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Britain. Together with Durham Castle, it forms a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Climb to the top of the 217-foot tower, or sneak into the library, which contains three copies of the Magna Carta.

It’s said that the masons who worked at Durham also created the unique red and yellow sandstone work on Britain’s most northerly cathedral, St Magnus in the Orkney Islands . It was Viking Earl Rognvald who oversaw construction of the 12th-century St Magnus Cathedral, named after his uncle and the patron saint of the Orkney Islands. Both men are buried in the crypt.

Back in 1170 the cold-blooded murder of Archbishop Thomas Becket inside Canterbury Cathedral caused pilgrims to flock there, as famously told in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales . Today you can see the spot where Becket fell and marvel at the cathedral’s stained-glass windows which show stories of ordinary people in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Elsewhere, you’ll want to explore York Minster whose tower has views across the maze of medieval streets below,Lincoln Cathedral that was used as a backdrop to the Da Vinci Code film and Salisbury Cathedral which has the tallest spire in Britain. And if you’re more interested in modern architecture, try Liverpool’s distinctive wigwam-shaped Roman Catholic Cathedral that has more coloured glass than any other building in Europe.

Perhaps the greatest of all British cathedrals is St Paul’s Cathedral , an elegant highlight of London’s famous skyline. After almost burning down twice, once during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and once over 1,000 years before, the building survives today as the masterpiece of world famous architect Sir Christopher Wren, who chose the Crypt as his final resting place.

Historic houses…

Holiday homes with a difference

The Pineapple, Dunmore Source:Taffy van Doorn

The Pineapple, Dunmore

We’ve all been there – looked up at a beautiful building with a lustful sigh and wondered aloud what it would have been like to live inside. But did you know you can play Lord or Lady of the Manor at some of best historic and architecturally interesting buildings in Britain?

These are no ordinary holiday homes. Charities like the National Trust , Landmark Trust and Vivat Trust have taken some of Britain’s most beautiful and interesting buildings and saved them from neglect by letting them as unique holiday accommodation.

Love history? Turn your holiday into a medieval experience with a stay at Shute Barton in Devon. Dating partly from 1380, this incredible house transports you back in time with its battlements, turrets and gothic windows. Plus, if your day of fossil collecting along the Jurassic Coast leaves you too tired to cook, you can hire a private chef to cook you a medieval feast.

Or maybe you’d like to live inside Henry VIII’s home? You can take your pick from two properties at Hampton Court Palace – Fish Court , which was originally for the Officers of the Pastry, or The Georgian House , which was built as a kitchen for George, Prince of Wales in 1719. A stay at the Palace means you can visit the public rooms as much as you like during opening hours, but you can also explore the magnificent gardens and courtyards early and late.

There are plenty of weird and wonderful architectural gems to pick from, too. The Pineapple in Central Scotland makes for some unique holiday photos, while The Ruin is a little slice of ancient Rome in North Yorkshire.

So when you’re planning your trip to Britain, forget about the dull hotels and pick a home that will make your holiday unforgettable.

Britain’s castles…

Dramatically situated, packed with history

Eilean Donan Castle at night Source:Allan Gourlay

Castle at night

Allan Gourlay

Want to know a secret about British castles? They really are the stuff of your wildest dreams. Dramatically situated, packed with history and scattered throughout the land, there’s a castle for you whatever your particular interest. Here’s a look at some of our famous British castles.

Capital Castles

British capital cities are all home to very different, very special British castles. The Tower of London would be merely a world-class castle were it not for the presence of the Crown Jewels, ravens and its thousand-year-old history. Edinburgh Castle rewards the wander up the Royal Mile. Cardiff Castle’s Victorian renovation turned a medieval pile into something altogether more spectacular. But what makes these castles special is that they’re part of a bigger heritage you can explore all over Britain. Don’t miss them, but make sure they’re not the only castles you collect on your way round the country.

The Best British Castle You’ve Never Heard Of

As one of the less famous British castles hotspots, Northumberland is a castle-buffs heaven, with over a dozen imposing fortresses paying testimony to the centuries of border tension with Scottish neighbours. Dunstanburgh Castle’s remoteness ensures it’s less heralded than most British castles, and yet this stunning ruin, only accessible on foot, is surely one of the nation’s most atmospheric. Pack a warm jacket and boots and make a day of hiking along the coast from the fishing village of Alnwick, itself home to a fine British castle.

As Seen on TV

Eilean Donan Castle can come as a shock. Having driven, walked or cycled for hours, you can’t escape the feeling that you’ve been here before. The remote fortress has featured in many films and TV shows, most notably Highlander and James Bond’s The World Is Not Enough . As dramatically situated and visually stunning in real life as on film, Eilean Donan is an essential pause on the way to Skye or the northwest Highlands.

Volunteer at a Castle

The heyday of castle building went out with the era of swords and armour, but you can still get involved in the modern life of castles in Britain. The National Trust and National Trust for Scotland offer working holidays on a variety of properties, including castles. Other castles all over Britain recruit summer workers, both paid and unpaid so if your heart’s set on one place, contact them directly.

Most Haunted British Castles

British castles wouldn’t be the same without tales of rattling chains, blood-curling screams and headless horsemen. Glamis Castle in central Scotland claims to be the most haunted, though Northumberland’s Chillinghamhas an equal claim to the title. Both are home to ghost stories by the dozen and regular spooky sightings. But visit any castle during winter or on a stormy night and you’ll think each keep, tower and dungeon is home to an unhappy spirit.

Sleep in a British Castle

Fancy a night in a haunted castle? No problem – historic houses all over Britain throw open their doors to paying guests. Try Gloucestershire’s Thornbury Castle or to truly sleep like a king, Warwickshire’s Studley Castle . For something special though, try the Landmark Trust . They offer weekends and longer stays in historic buildings – not just castles but towers, pavilions and cottages of architectural and historic importance. They even have a 250-year-old pineapple-shaped house in Scotland.

Welsh Wonders

Wales has more castles per head than anywhere else in the world. British Castle junkies should aim for north Wales, where the coast and hills are packed with dramatic fortifications. Conwy, Harlech and Beaumaris are the best known, but castle connoisseurs will direct you to Denbigh, Ewloe and Criccieth. And if you need a change of scenery, there’s the small matter of Snowdonia National Park or a day on the beach in Llandudno or Rhyl. For a full rundown of Wales’ castles, check out the Visit Wales castles pages .

Castles for Kids

The clash of swords, rumble of jousting knights and shrill cry of falcons still rings out from castles across Britain – and the kids will love it. Two of the best places where kids can pick up some tips on the art of chivalry are Warwick Castle and Leed’s Royal Armouries , but you’ll never find a castle without dingy dungeons and a ghost story or two to delight junior visitors.

Not Quite Castles – But Don’t Miss Them

Not every graceful heap of stones you stumble on qualifies as a castle. Many of Britain’s most dramatic historic sites were abbeys, swept away by Henry VIII’s soldiers during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Fountains and Riveaulx Abbey in North Yorkshire and Wales’ Tintern Abbey are unmissable sights on a historic tour of Britain. And Britain’s stately homes – the later incarnations of castles – can help fill in the historical gaps between the Middle Ages and the present day. Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire and Chatsworth in Derbyshire are two of the finest.