Here we choose ten of our favourite English Heritage castles from across the country highlighting each one’s unique features and attractions. With over twenty coastal castles to visit, your English Heritage membership will be worth every penny.
Pendennis Castle – Cornwall
Situated overlooking Falmouth port on the River Fal, Pendennis Castle is a fortress of some considerable note. Built by Henry VIII, Pendennis Castle includes a magnificent Tudor gun deck and immersible exhibition, where you can relive an enemy attack from a Second World War observation post.
You can also take a short ferry ride over to St Mawes, and have a quick look round St Mawes Castle, before enjoying lunch at one of the many traditional fishing village pubs that overlook this stunning stretch of Cornish coastline.
Orford Castle – Suffolk
Twelve miles north of Ipswich is the small town of Orford nestled within the Suffolk Coast and Heaths’ Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Built by Henry II in 1165, it has stood the test of time to be still the most complete castle in the east of England, boasting a unique polygonal tower keep.
Explore the maze of passages within Orford Castle and enjoy the splendid sea views towards Orford Ness shingle spit, which lead up to Aldeburgh where the fish and chips are highly recommended.
Hurst Castle – Hampshire
The adventure starts before you’ve even arrived at the castle as you take the Hurst Castle Ferry, from the New Forest National Park in Milford-on-Sea, to the end of the shingle spit and its entrance in the Solent.
Hurst Castle is a 38-ton gun fortress and lighthouse built by Henry VIII. To make the most of your day you can also catch another local ferry from Hurst to visit Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
Dunstanburgh Castle – Northumberland
Dunstanburgh is one of the largest English Heritage castles, covering nearly ten acres of headland between Craster and Embleton along the North Northumberland Heritage Coast.
Dunstanburgh Castle is a walker’s paradise with magnificent coastal views, a twin-towered keep to explore and the local Craster Kippers are also not to be missed.
Dover Castle - Kent
Another great day out for walkers, Dover Castle is a 10-mile hike from Saga’s Head Office in Folkestone along the stunning White Cliffs and the North Downs Way coastal path.
For more than 20 centuries, Dover Castle has, in one form or another, stood guard over the gateway to England. It is often referred to as the ‘Key to England’ and here you can walk down to the Secret Wartime Tunnels from World War Two and, by complete contrast, enjoy King Henry II’s medieval court, all in one day.
Click the link for more beautiful English Heritage castles to visit, and don't forget to enter SG10W at the checkout to get your exclusive Saga discount. www.english-heritage.org.uk
Deal Castle – Kent
Deal Castle is just under ten miles further north of Dover along the South Foreland Heritage Coast in Kent and is one of King Henry VIII’s finest examples of a Tudor artillery castle.
You can explore Deal Castle in its entirety including the squat tower, bastions and canons as well as enjoying an interactive exhibition of this Kent castle’s rich history.>
Dartmouth Castle – Devon
Situated at the mouth of the Dart Estuary for over 600 years, Dartmouth Castle is an explorer’s delight with an immaculately preserved Gun Tower purposely built to mount ‘ship sinking’ heavy canons, as well as a chain that stretched across the estuary acting as an effective blockade.
There are woodland and coastal walks to enjoy, an energetic climb to the top of the battlements and a relaxing river boat trip from the town quay to the castle gates.
Cromwell’s Castle – Isle of Scilly
Constructed in 1651, on the Isle of Scilly’s second largest island of Tresco, stands Cromwell’s Castle which was built to guard the anchorage between Tresco and the opposite island of Bryher.
There is a lot more to find on this horticultural paradise with dramatic rocky outcrops, secluded sandy beaches and, with no cars on the island, you can hire a bike and explore it for yourself, and at your own pace.
Camber Castle – East Sussex
Camber Castle is one of King Henry VIII’s 30 Henrician Castles and an imposing artillery fortification in the Rye anchorage.
Less than two miles away is Camber Sands, a fantastic beach and the only sand dune system in East Sussex, with the 1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield less than ten miles away, all of which are highly recommended to visit.
Calshot Castle – Hampshire
Built to guard the entrance to Southampton Water in the Solent, and one of King Henry VIII’s Device Forts, Calshot is another great English Heritage castle to visit.
Situated on Calshot Spit near Fawley, Calshot Castle is a three-storey circular blockhouse and keep with picturesque views.
Saga readers can now save £10 on a year's membership to over 400 English Heritage properties, so why not start the holiday season with a trip to one, or all, of the five best English Heritage castles to visit this summer.
How many of these castles have you visited? Leave a comment and tell us where your favourite castle is.
By David Knockton
David Knockton is Saga's Social Media Manager, and looks after the Saga Facebook, Twitter and Google pages.