Great Britain is home to some of the most spectacular settings in the popular imagination—from the moors of Wuthering Heights, to the sprawling estates of Downton Abbey, to the misty highland lake where the Loch Ness Monster is reputed to make its home. Whether you’re interested in history, literature, or BBC period pieces, Great Britain offers more than enough attractions to plan the trip of your dreams.
Expedia and VisitBritain—the national tourist board for England, Scotland and Wales—have launched “Find Your Storybook,” a new marketing campaign that “draws upon the parallel between reality and the fairytales of castles, knights and queens.” Visitors to the Find Your Storybook tool on Expedia can create a custom vacation to Great Britain based on their specific interests, whether they be arts and culture, the outdoors, food, sport or shopping.
Not wanting to be outdone, we at Untapped have rounded up some amazing castles that are worth adding to your storybook trip to Great Britain.
1. Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed
Actually located in Newbury (west of London), the home is still occupied by the Carnarvon family but is open for tours and events. If the architectural style rings a bell, that’s because it was designed by the same architect as the British Houses of Parliament.
2. Dunluce Castle Ruins (Antrim County, Northern Ireland)
Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Richard Munckton
The ruins of Dunluce Castle are accessible only by a bridge. Built in the 16th and 17th century, the place has a somewhat unlucky history. A fire destroyed the nearby town during the Irish uprising of 1641. The kitchen of the castle collapsed into the sea at some point, and a ship from the Spanish Armada shipwrecked just nearby, killing 240 people.
3. Inveraray Castle in Scotland
The final episode of Downton Abbey Season 3 takes place partially in Scotland, at the home of the fictional Lord and Lady Flintshire. Inveraray Castle is located on the banks of Loch Fyne, 60 miles from Glasgow. There has been an Inveraray Castle here since the 1400s, but the current incarnation was built in the mid 1700s, based on a sketch by Vanburgh, the architect of Blenheim Palace.
4. Blenheim Palace
Blenheim Palace, the house of the Duke of Marlborough, was used as the exterior for the Danish castle of Elsinore, in the 1996 BBC adaptation of Hamlet with Kenneth Branagh. You’ve likely also seen it in films such as Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix, The Young Victoria and The Avengers.
Interesting story about one of the dukes: in a desperate attempt to save the estate and his dukedom, the 9th Duke of Marlborough married the young American Consuelo Vanderbilt, an arranged marriage that she desperately fought against. Thanks in part to the infusion of Vanderbilt money resulting from that marriage, Blenheim Castle remains one of the largest houses in England and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
5. Brideshead, a.k.a. Castle Howard
In both the original and the 2008 re-adaptation of Brideshead Revisted, Castle Howard in Yorkshire was the set of the namesake estate. In real life, Castle Howard has been home to the Howard family for more than 300 years. It was designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, who later designed Blenheim Palace. Like Highclere Castle, there is an extensive list of events that are open to the public and, yes, you can have your wedding there too. It’s also still an operating rural estate specializing in traditional enterprises like farming and forestry.