If you’ve just booked a hotel in Newcastle and are searching for things to do on your short break, I recommend checking out the local castles. There are some fantastic ones in the city itself, while the surrounding area is peppered with impressive keeps, so there are plenty of options to choose from.
Below, you’ll find my list of favourites – hopefully, this will give you some inspiration for your own trip.
First on my list is Castle Keep, which is in the centre of Newcastle. For me, this is the number one place to visit, because it’s from the old motte and bailey Norman castle that once stood here that the city takes its name. In fact, there have been many important historical sites located here over the years, including an Anglo-Saxon cemetery and a Roman fort.
Today, though, it stands as one of England’s finest surviving Norman stone castles. A Grade 1 listed building, it is not only impressive to look at, but the top offers amazing views over the river and seven bridges too.
Tynemouth Priory and Castle
Next on my list is Tynemouth Priory and Castle, which – perhaps unsurprisingly, considering its name – is located in Tynemouth. In fact, its location is one of the most impressive things about it in my opinion, perched as it is overlooking the River Tyne and the North Sea on a steep headland.
In its heyday, it was one of the most fortified strongholds in England; today, it’s a popular tourist attraction. It’s a particularly good place for families, I think, because there are nice touches like interactive exhibits that’ll help keep kids occupied.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durham Castle stands next to the equally impressive Durham Cathedral, towering over the city. These days it’s used as a university building, but once upon a time it was home to the city’s bishops – a role it had for some 750 years.
It dates all the way back to 1072, and there are two chapels you can see inside. Make sure you check the opening times for the date of your visit before you set off, though, because these do change frequently.
As one of the largest inhabited castles in England, Alnwick Castle is a pretty exciting place to visit. Plus, it’s also home to the stunning Alnwick Gardens, so by coming here you can enjoy two attractions in one!
You might have heard Alnwick Castle referred to as the Windsor of the North, which should give you some indication of just how striking it is. Come here and you can explore some incredible state rooms filled with art and heritage furniture – but film fans might be more excited by its other attractions.
You see, Alnwick Castle has had a starring role in a fair few films – including the first two Harry Potter movies. As well as simply spotting which parts of the castle were used in these titles, you can sometimes take part in special themed events, like broomstick training. Well, I say you can – I think it’s more for kids, really, but you could always try to sneak in!
Last on my list is Bamburgh Castle, which was once home to the kings of ancient Northumbria. While it doesn’t house royalty any more, it is one of Northumberland’s most recognisable and striking buildings – and it’s definitely well worth visiting during your trip.
There has been a castle where it stands since prehistoric times, but the building you see today is actually from the Victorian period, when a famous industrialist decided to restore the site to its former glory. There are 14 public rooms to explore, filled with more than 2,000 artefacts, including armour and porcelain.
Photo credit: Daniel Weir