Cocktails, smart phones and pinball machines. Modern living is great. But sometimes we’re looking to escape the noise, which is why castles can be such a great day trip out. Helping us step back into a bygone era of war, chivalry and legend. Luckily there are plenty in driving distance of Birmingham. So whether you’re looking to make your Disney princess transformation, or live out your wildest Game of Thrones fantasies – or maybe, like us, you’re simply a bit of a history nerd – we’ve rounded up eight of the most magical castles near Birmingham.
1. Warwick Castle
The most magnificent and well-known castle in the UK is only 40 minutes from Birmingham. Warwick Castle dates back to the time of William the Conqueror when the Norman king built a wooden fortress there in 1068, before being fortified in stone centuries later. Where most castles might take a few hours to wander around, Warwick can take the whole day (if not days) to discover all its wonders. Repeat visits are a must to get the whole experience. There are regular astonishing events happening on the grounds too. From 360 immersive experiences telling the lost legend of Guy of Warwick to jousting spectacles that recreate the War of the Roses, there is so much to see and do.
Castle Lane, Warwick CV34 4QU
2. Dudley Castle
Everyone in Birmingham has been to Dudley Castle at some point. It’s only a 10 mile drive from the city centre and is home to Dudley Zoo as well. The castle can only be accessed through the zoo these days, laying on its grounds, but that only makes the trip more worthwhile. How do you feel about feeding giraffes as you soak up some local and ancient history? Dudley Castle dates back to the Norman conquest, then just a wooden motte-and-bailey castle. But it was rebuilt in stone during the twelfth century before being demolished by King Henry II. It was restored one last time in the thirteenth century, however, and utilised a Royalist garrison in the English Civil War. Part of it was destroyed shortly after to stop it from ever being used again. Giving it a ruined appearance that it maintains to this day.
Castle Hill, Dudley DY1 4QF
3. Kenilworth Castle
Once one of the country’s most formidable medieval fortresses, it was later transformed into a luscious palace to impress Queen Elizabeth I. The result today is the stunning, ruinous grounds of Kenilworth Castle. Be among the first to climb the tower in 350 years and soak in the spectacular views, or get lost in the Elizabethan gardens that still flourish with colour and fragrance. Finally, you can interact with a family-friendly exhibition that brings Kenilworth’s 900-year history back to life. Only 5 miles from Warwick Castle, it’s worth just as much of your attention!
Castle Green, Kenilworth CV8 1NG
4. Tamworth Castle
Tamworth Castle is one of the oldest left in the UK, second only to Windsor. It was home to many kings during the Anglo Saxon period before falling into disuse during the Viking invasions. Since the Normans revived it, Tamworth Castle has remained one of the best preserved castles in the country. The whole keep is explorable – with 15 rooms to discover – as well as a courtyard and other hidden areas. Each room, from the servant’s quarters to the grand dining hall, offers a glimpse at what life was like in something of this magnitude. Situated north of Birmingham, about 15 miles away, the castle grounds also contain a variety of entertainment. Including regular events, a play park, tennis courts, a skate park and a bandstand that in the summer holds concerts each weekend.
Lady Bank, Holloway, Tamworth B79 7NA
5. Ashby de la Zouch Castle
The furthest away from Birmingham, but you won’t regret it once you arrive. A haunting, ruined fortification, situated in the Leicestershire town of Ashby de la Zouch (a bit of a mouthful, we know), Ashby de la Zouch Castle is an eerie wonder. It received massive damage during the English Civil War and has remained in this state ever since. Despite the destruction, you can still climb the tower to the top and take in the glorious, panoramic view of the countryside. If you’re lucky, you might even find the underground passageway that connects the tower to the kitchen – created during the war – to explore.
South St, Ashby-de-la-Zouch LE65 1BR
6. Bridgnorth Castle and Gardens
Cromwell’s Roundheads are responsible for Bridgnorth Castle’s destruction in 1646 (we’re sensing a theme here) leaving little remaining. It was then left much as it was, as the stone was used to rebuild the town’s damaged buildings instead. Today, the tower leans at an angle of 15 degrees. Four times that of the Tower of Pisa, which is already giving us some brilliant photo op ideas! Unlike Bridgnorth Castle, the surrounding gardens have been well maintained and are the real stunning achievement of the area. They were created to commemorate Queen Victoria’s jubilee and, with beautifully well-kept lawns and vibrant flower beds, its the ideal spot for a summer picnic.
3 W Castle Street, Bridgnorth WV16 4AF
7. Stafford Castle
Stafford Castle is one of the best surviving examples of Norman fortifications in England and gives visitors a hands-on approach to history. You can dress in period garb, get to grips with the arms of the age, or simply try your hand at coin minting and brass rubbing. The fun-infused history lessons at the visitor centre can keep all ages entertained. There are also 26 acres to explore, from the keep to the dense woodland, and archaeological finds on display throughout the castle.
Newport Road, Stafford ST16 1DJ
8. Hartlebury Castle
They call it a castle, but it looks more like a manor house than anything else to us. It’s still here because Hartlebury Castle is worth your time whatever it’s called. You can debate what it is or not on the 20 mile drive there. Worcestershire County Museum is housed on the grounds, in which you can discover toys through time, archaeology, as well as local and social history. There is also an old Cider Mill to visit, alongside the Transport Gallery which houses a fire engine, hansom cab, many bicycles and carts, and a large collection of decorated Gypsy caravans. The castle itself is home to the Long Gallery, where you may marvel at the talking portraits.
Hartlebury Castle, Kidderminster DY11 7XZ