My Favourite Castles of 2014

Travelling through Belgium, France and the UK, there were no shortage of castles for me to choose from. Here are some of my favourites that I visited in 2014:

Coudenberg Palace

Brussels, Belgium

Coudenberg Palace
Underground! Inside the Coudenberg palace

My brother found this one for me while looking for things to do in Brussels. The remains of the twelfth century Coudenberg Palace lie underneath the city, and you are free to explore them on a self-guided tour. The cavernous rooms lined with stones made for an interesting welcome to the Belgian capital.

Gravensteen Castle

Ghent, Belgium

Gravensteen Castle
Gravensteen Castle

Gravensteen Castle was cool. The twelfth century castle had a weaponry room (the detail on the hilts of the swords was amazing!), a replica guillotine, a room filled with torture devices, and some of the best views of Ghent.

The Palace of Versailles

Paris, France

The Palace of Versailles
The courtyard at the palace of Versailles

Ah, Versailles! The main palace demonstrates the wealth and luxury of the Bourbon family, but it is the Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet that I really loved. Getting lost in the gardens on the way to the Grand and Petit Trianons was all part of the fun.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh Castle at night
Edinburgh Castle at night

There’s really something for everyone at Edinburgh Castle, from war and military museums, to Scottish history and the complex story of the Honours of Scotland. We visited on Remembrance Day, and standing in the National War Memorial reading all of the names of the Scottish soldiers who gave their lives during the wars was very moving.

Alnwick Castle

Alnwick, England

The entry to Alnwick Castle
The entry to Alnwick Castle

This castle looks like it is straight out of a fairy tale. In fact, it was used as a film location for the Harry Potter series as well as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. I loved the dining room in the State Apartments, and the many museums and exhibitions housed along the castle walls. There was even a wedding reception being held in the beautiful castle grounds!

Warwick Castle

Warwick, England

Warwick Castle
Looking over the River Avon at Warwick Castle

The thing I enjoyed most about Warwick Castle was The Castle Dungeon tour. Not knowing what was going to jump out at us next was both scary and all part of the fun (though it was a relief when the tour finished and I no longer had to wonder what was on the other side of the next door!). The castle itself, although small, has had a long history. There are even peacocks strolling around the grounds! While we saw the falconry exhibition we were unfortunately there too late in the year to be able to see the jousting or the trebuchet in action.

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly, Wales

Caerphilly Castle
Caerphilly Castle

While we didn’t have time to go inside Caerphilly Castle, we were able to drive all the way around it. Surrounded by water the old castle is very picturesque and is now among my favourite Welsh castles.

Old Sarum

Near Salisbury, England

The ruins of Old Sarum
The ruins of Old Sarum

I knew nothing about Old Sarum before I arrived. Since I had always heard its name in association with Stonehenge and Avebury, I assumed it was another stone circle. I was very surprised when we arrived to discover that Old Sarum was originally an Iron Age fort and was later the site of a castle for King Henry I.

Blenheim Palace

Woodstock, England

The courtyard of Blenheim Palace
The courtyard of Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Palace may be best known as the birthplace of Winston Churchill, but the palace itself is pretty in its own right, both inside and out. I especially loved the hidden Secret Garden, tucked away to the side of the palace.

The Tower of London

London, England

The 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' art installation at the Tower of London
The sea of poppies in the ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ art installation at the Tower of London

So much history is tied up in this fortress. The last time I visited I raced through with an audio guide stuck to my ear. This time, we went on a guided tour with a Yeoman Guard. If you ever get the opportunity, make sure you tag along with them – they bring the Tower’s stories of happiness, horror and woe to life.