Since the inception of the filming industry in Britain and the United States, a great number of castles in the United Kingdom have provided the backdrop to historical pieces, period dramas, raucous comedies, and fantasy epics. Whether you want to pretend you’re walking across the courtyards of Hogwarts or charging some insulting French knights (Run away! Run away!), many of these castles are open to the public on a daily basis.
Alnwick Castle is located in the county of Northumberland in Northern England and is the residence of the Duke of Northumberland. It was also one of the exterior locations used for Hogwarts across all eight Harry Potter films.
For more specific examples, the front gate of the castle appears in the first two films anytime Harry, Ron, and Hermione are seen walking out of the school to Hagrid’s cottage. The courtyard for Alnwick Castle most famously appears as the scene in Socerer’s Stone in which Harry rides a broom for the first time in Madame Hooch’s class.
Inside the Castle itself, the interior rooms are fantastic (I speak from personal experience), especially the Duke’s library. Beyond the castle, visitors can find the Alnwick Garden established by the Duchess of Northumberland and managed by a trust. Inside you can find a rose garden, The Serpent Garden, a fantastic tree house, and The Poison Garden full of some of the deadliest plants on Earth.
This castle can be found near the village of Doune in Scotland and is believed to have been constructed sometime in the thirteenth century. After the Scottish Wars of Independence, it was rebuilt in the fourteenth century by Robert Stewart. Little did he know that 600 years later, it would become the site of one of the greatest comedy films in history: Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail.
When the Pythons lost the permission of the National Trust of Scotland to use several of their castles for filming, Douglas Stuart, the 20th Earl of Moray, gave permission for his family’s castle to appear. With the exception of Castle Arrrrgghh (Castle Stalker) at the end of the film, all of the castle scenes were filmed here doubling for multiple other locations through redressing of rooms and clever camera angles.
Interesting to note is that the castle also doubles for Winterfell from Game of Thrones. Stuart donated the castle to the organization Historic Scotland in 1984, where it remains open to the public. It celebrates “Monty Python Day” every year and if you take the castle tour, get the audio guide narrated by Python’s own Terry Jones.
Another Scottish castle, this one is found on an island in Loch Duich. Visiting the castle, one may be tempted to yell “There can be only one!” since it was used as the home of Clan MacLeod in The Highlander.
The first defensive structure was built on the island in the early thirteenth century to protect the lands from raiding Vikings. The castle expanded steadily since until after the Jacobite Risings of 1715, when it was surrounded by three ships that bombarded Eilean Donon after being fired upon by Spanish soldiers holed up inside. The castle remained in ruins until it was restored between World War I and World War II.
In addition to Highlander, the castle has also been used as a filming location for the James Bond film The World is Not Enough, Entrapment, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Additionally, the castle is also a very popular place for weddings. It is owned and operated by the Conchra Charitable Trust and is open from March 1 through Christmas Eve.
Located in (you guessed it) Dover, it was built-in the twelfth century and has as much a reputation in history as it does in film and television. Called “The Key to England”, it was attacked by Louis VIII of France, won through trick in the English Civil War, and served as a military command center during World War II.
When it comes to being a filming location, Dover Castle has been the site for everything from Shakespeare to spy comedy. It served as a location for Franco Zeffirelli’s 1990 production of Hamlet starring Mel Gibson and Glen Close. It was featured in the Doctor Who serial “The Mind of Evil” with Third Doctor Jon Pertwee as Stangmoor Prison. It has also been known to double as the Tower of London in such films as The Other Boleyn Girl.
The castle is now open as a tourist destination courtesy of English Heritage and operation times vary depending on the time of year. It’s worth checking with English Heritage’s website before you plan your visit. They also conduct plenty of great activities for families and touring the wartime tunnels.
Another location associated with fantasy and magic, Warwick Castle is located in Warwickshire on the river Avon. The original castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and approximately 100 years later, it was upgraded to a stone castle and further expanded on by Richard III.
More recently, it’s known as the filming location of the Dragon Tower from BBC’s Merlin, which follows a younger version of Camelot’s famous mage in a kingdom where magic is banned. The castle plays up on this by having an interactive Merlin exhibit, a walk-through show that lasts fifteen minutes and gives visitors a chance to speak to the Great Dragon. Beyond that, many of the rooms have been restored, there is a working trebuchet, and even a Princess Tower where daring young ladies can take a chance that kissing a frog will turn him into a prince. Many shows and reenactments take place every day.
If you find yourself in England and want to relive some of your favorite movie scenes, definitely check these locations. On a good day you’ll encounter magic, history, comedy, fantasy, or maybe a bit of everything.
What’s your favorite British Castle that starred in a movie or TV show? Let us know in the comments!