best castles in yorkshire

14 Must Visit Castles in Yorkshire, England

There are more than 30 Castles in Yorkshire, many of which, sadly are little more than mounds or ruins of stones.  There are, however, several stunning examples of Norman and Medieval Castles in Yorkshire that are well worth a visit.   Many of Yorkshire’s Castles have an interesting history that you’ll see reflected through the history of England.  Fortifications in Yorkshire date back to Roman Times, there’s evidence of Roman, Saxon, and Viking fortresses underneath the remains of current-day buildings.  We’ve outlined 13 of the best of Yorkshire’s Castles to take a look at.


The Best Castles in Yorkshire

We’ve brought you a selection of the best castles in Yorkshire.  Some of quite stunning in their location and overlook, like the majestic Richmond Castle in North Yorkshire.  Others retain little of their former splendor but have the most stunning of views, like Scarborough Castle on the Yorkshire Coast.  Yorkshire’s Castles have imprisoned Kings and Queens, been the alleged location of their murders, and have been the inspiration for literary legends.  Read on to find legends and myths of Yorkshire Castles, history, and some quite stunning days out!

Map of Castles in Yorkshire

You can also find the map of Yorkshire Castles here.

Map of Castles in Yorkshire

Plan Your Stay in Yorkshire

Check out these amazing places to stay in Yorkshire – why not explore from a home base – hot tubs, saunas, and a whole lot more!

English Heritage Yorkshire

Many of the castles that we’ve included in this list are managed by English Heritage, a charity that manages more than 400 historic properties throughout the country.  You can join English Heritage as an individual, couple, family, or international visitor and save a lot of money with your annual pass.  Get more details and join English Heritage here.

The Top 14 Yorkshire Castles to Visit

We’ve ordered our recommended castles to visit in Yorkshire alphabetically to make them easier to find, but you can also use our table of contents to discover your favorite Yorkshire Castle.

1. Bolton Castle, Yorkshire (near Leyburn)

Bolton Castle is the first of our castles in the Yorkshire Dales.  The castle at Bolton was begun in 1379 by the Lord Chancellor to Richard II.  Bolton Castle has been a prison to Mary Queen of Scots and it’s also been besieged by Parliament during the English Civil War.  The castle at Bolton is quite simply a stunningly complete medieval castle.

Castles in Yorkshire Bolton Castle

Bolton Castle is Grade II listed and is located inside the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  There’s a medieval garden, herb garden, vineyard, rose gardens, bowling green and a maze here too.

  • Bolton Castle Address:  Castle Bolton, North Leyburn, Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire, England, DL8 4ET
  • Bolton Castle is Owned & Maintained by Privately Owned and Maintained
  • Bolton Castle Opening Hours:  Feb 15th  to Nov 1st 1000-1700 apart from wedding dates, check the website
  • Bolton Castle Entrance Fee: From £4.50
  • Bolton Castle Website:

2. Clifford’s Tower, York Castle

York Castle was originally built by William the Conqueror in 1068.  What remains today, in the restored ruins of Clifford’s Tower is an add-on built by Henry III in the 13th century.  It sits on a particularly high mound above the River Ouse.  The restored remains of York Castle’s Clifford Tower include exhibitions and the parapet walk at the top provides for excellent views over the river and city of York.  Come to York Castle to learn more about the rise of Anti-Semitism in Medieval England.  York Castle is probably the easiest castle in Yorkshire to visit, you can walk here from the train station in York quite easily. If you’re spending time in York, then Clifford’s Tower entrance is covered FOR FREE on the York Pass.

Castles in Yorkshire Clifford Tower York Castle

Clifford Tower is managed by English Heritage and there are usually special events throughout the year run by the organization.

Save Money on Entry fees to Clifford Tower and York Castle – Join English Heritage today.

Where to stay to visit York Castle

The Fat Badger by Best Western is a glorious boutique hotel in the center of York. Rooms here are extremely stylish and well-appointed, with amazingly comfortable beds and bedding. The bar here serves great food and local ales. Book early, this is a popular location!

3. Conisbrough Castle, Doncaster, South Yorkshire

Conisbrough Castle was constructed in 1180 and consists of a 28-meter high circular keep with six buttresses.  The castle at Conisbrough is the oldest surviving of its type in England. The castle was built by William de Warenne, The Earl of Surrey.

Conisbrough Castle was owned by Harold Godwinson, who went on to become King Harold, and its name reminds us of its royal connections. The name Conisbrough is most likely a contraction of the Saxon Cyningesburh, or ‘King’s burh’.

Save Money on Entry fees to Conisburgh Castle – Join English Heritage today.

The imposing Conisbrough Castle, set on a natural slope above the Don Valley in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, was allegedly the inspiration for Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Ivanhoe.  Conisbrough Castle is nowadays managed by English Heritage and is open on weekends through the winter, and then every day from April 1st with opening hours of 1000- 1800.

  • Conisbrough Castle Address:  Castle Hill, Conisbrough, Yorkshire, England, DN12 3BU
  • Conisbrough Castle is Owned & Maintained by English Heritage
  • Conisbrough Castle Opening Hours:  1000-1800.  Weekends only November to April, Every day from April 1.
  • Conisbrough Castle Entrance Fee: Free with English Heritage Membership, or from £6.90 (adult)
  • Conisbrough Castle Website:  English Heritage

4. Helmsley Castle, Yorkshire

Helmsley Castle is located on the outskirts of the market town of Helmsley on the edge of the North York Moors National Park. the castle at Helmsley was built around 1120 by Walter Espec, who also founded Rievaulx Abbey and Kirkham Priory.  There isn’t much left of Helmsley Castle, but nestled as it is on the edge of the town of Helmsley, this is one of the most atmospheric castles in the Yorkshire Dales.

Castles in Yorkshire Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Castle has been a medieval fortress, a Tudor Mansion, and a Civil War stronghold.  Today we can see craggy ruins where a single tower is surrounded by moat ditches.  There are glorious views from Helmsley castle over the market town of Helmsley, the nearby River Rye, and the North York Moors.  There is an excellent audio tour available at Helmsley Castle.

  • Helmsley Castle Address:  Castlegate, Helmsley, North York Moors, Yorkshire, England, YO62 5AB
  • Helmsley Castle is Owned & Maintained by English Heritage
  • Helmsley Castle Opening Hours: Check English Heritage
  • Helmsley Castle Entrance Fee: Free with English Heritage Membership, or from £8.70 (adult)
  • Helmsley Castle Website:  English Heritage

Save Money on Entry fees to Helmsley Castle – Join English Heritage today.

5. Castle Howard, Yorkshire

While this is not technically a castle, Castle Howard is one of the most stunning castles near York and is well worth a visit!  This Grade I listed building is found 15 miles north of York and is set in 1,000 acres of quite glorious landscape.  Castle Howard has been home to the Howard family for more than 300 years.  It’s not technically a castle but is the top of Yorkshire’s stately homes. Castle Howard is often visited as a day trip from York. So if you’re spending more than a weekend in York, it’s well worth buying the York City Pass, which gives you free entry to Castle Howard.

Castle Howard Uk (165212083)

The first wing of Castle Howard was built for the third Earl of Carlisle by Sir John Vanburgh in the early 1700s and has been called home by the Howard family since. The house is a stunning example of Baroque and Palladian design and the Temple of the Four Winds in the grounds is equally impressive.  Castle Howard is most famous as the filming location of Brideshead Revisited, a 1980s UK TV show.

  • Castle Howard Address:   Castle Howard Estate, York, YO60 7DA
  • Castle Howard is Owned & Maintained by The Howard Family
  • Castle Howard Opening Hours:   Grounds 1000-1600, the house opens at the end of March.
  • Castle Howard Entrance Fee:  From £17.95 – or free with the York City Pass
  • Castle Howard Website:  Castle Howard

Like Castles? You’ll love these top castles in Northumberland to visit

6. Knaresborough Castle, Yorkshire

Knaresborough Castle Yorkshire was begun around the year 1100 and stands on a cliff above the River Nidd.  It was once a royal residence and also a prison for Richard II.  Knaresborough Castle grounds contain a Courthouse Museum which has original Tudor furnishings.

  • Knaresborough Castle Address:  Castle Yard, Knaresborough, Yorkshire, England, HG5 8AS
  • Knaresborough Castle is Owned & Maintained by Harrogate Borough Council
  • Knaresborough Castle Opening Hours:  1100-1600 every day (April to September)
  • Knaresborough Castle Entrance Fee:  From  £3.20 (adult)
  • Knaresborough Castle Website:  Visit Harrogate

7. Middleham Castle, Yorkshire

Once the childhood home of Richard III, Middleham Castle goes back to just after the Norman Conquest.  Middleham Castle was once a mighty fortress that was so magnificent it was known as the Windsor of the North.  Today this Yorkshire Dales castle is a ruin, managed by English Heritage.

Middleham Castle 08

Middleham Castle is built on a hill between the rivers Cover and Ure and was the main power base of the Neville family during the Middle Ages.  The Battle of Barnet in 1471 saw the castle seized by the Crown and during the English Civil War, it was damaged.  Only the castle walls and the keep survive today.

Save Money on Entry fees to Middleham Castle – Join English Heritage today.

An excellent exhibition details the families and royal personages who have lived at Middleham Castle and the views of Wensleydale are stunning.

  • Middleham Castle Address:  Castle Hill, Middleham, Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire, England, DL8 4QG
  • Middleham Castle is Owned & Maintained by English Heritage
  • Middleham Castle Opening Hours:  Check with English Heritage
  • Middleham Castle Entrance Fee: Free with English Heritage Membership, or from £7.60 (adult)
  • Middleham Castle Website: English Heritage

8. Pickering Castle, North Yorkshire

Pickering Castle is found at the gateway to the North Yorkshire Moors National Park and on a hill above the medieval market town of Pickering.  Perhaps one of the best elements of Pickering Castle is the view from it.  The castle at Pickering is easy to reach from the town and is well managed by English Heritage North Yorkshire. Our guide of things to do in Pickering is here.

Castles in Yorkshire Pickering Castle

Pickering Castle was originally begun as a motte and bailey castle during the reign of William the Conqueror in 1069.  The relatively well-preserved remains of Pickering Castle are from the 13th century.

Save Money on Entry fees to Pickering Castle – Join English Heritage today.

The castle has been used as a holiday home a royal hunting lodge and a horse stud farm!  The history of Pickering Castle is detailed in English Heritage literature and there are also informative exhibitions in the chapel and you can also explore the keep.  For more things to do in Pickering, check out our guide here.

  • Pickering Castle Address:   Castlegate, Pickering, North Yorkshire, YO18 7AX
  • Pickering Castle is Owned & Maintained by English Heritage
  • Pickering Castle Opening Hours: Check with English Heritage
  • Pickering Castle Entrance Fee: Free with English Heritage Membership, or from £6.50 (adult)
  • Pickering Castle Website: English Heritage

Where to stay to visit Pickering Castle

The White Swan Inn, Pickering is found right in Market Place.  It’s a gorgeous spot to stay, right in the center of the town, but gloriously quiet too.  The rooms are superbly appointed, and this coaching inn dates from the 16th century, so there’s so much history here too!  It very rightly gets amazing reviews – check prices and book a room now!

9. Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire

The building of a medieval castle at Pontefract began around 1070, although Pontefract is best known as the place where Richard II died.  It’s believed he was probably murdered in 1399.

Pontefract Castle was one of the North’s most important castles and it became a royal castle in 1399.  The multi-lobed donjon is the castle’s most impressive element.  John of Gaunt, son of Edward III later took it as his home.  Pontefract Castle was used as a royal garrison during the Civil War but was eventually destroyed by Parliamentarians in 1644.

  • Pontefract Castle Address:  Castle Chain, Pontefract, Yorkshire, England, WF8 1QH
  • Pontefract Castle is Owned & Maintained by Wakefield Museums and Castles
  • Pontefract Castle Opening Hours:  Check the website
  • Pontefract Castle Entrance Fee:    Free, but a fee for dungeon tours.
  • Pontefract Castle Website:  Pontefract Castle

10. Richmond Castle, North Yorkshire

Richmond Castle, or “Riche Mount” was originally built in four years after the battle of Hastings by Alan Rufus one of the Norman conquerors to keep the Saxons in order and as a power consolidation in the North of England.  The name “Riche Mount” means the strong hill.  Richmond Castle is a huge, powerful castle that overlooks the River Swale and the town of Richmond.  There have been few alterations to Richmond Castle since the 12th century and it is the stuff of legends and fairytales.

Castles in Yorkshire Richmond Castle

Photo Credit: Immanuel Giel / Public domain

While many of the castles in Yorkshire are mere ruins or shells, that’s not the case with Richmond Castle.  While the castle was abandoned in the 14th century, 18th-century renovations left us with what we have today.  The square keep is almost intact and the castle is quite simply magnificent and one of my childhood favorites, aside from my hometown castle of Barnard Castle of course!  Aside from Barnard Castle, this was the first of the castles in North Yorkshire that I visited and I keep going back!

Save Money on Entry fees to Richmond Castle – Join English Heritage today.

Richmond Castle is easy to reach from the town center of Richmond and the views from the top of the keep are stunning.  Be sure to visit the gardens, and the conscientious objectors exhibition and learn more about the legend of the Little Drummer Boy.  Find out what else to do in Richmond here.

  • Richmond Castle Address:  Riverside Road, Richmond, Yorkshire, England, DL10 4QW
  • Richmond Castle Owned & Maintained by English Heritage
  • Richmond Castle Opening Hours:  Check English Heritage
  • Richmond Castle Entrance Fee: Free with English Heritage Membership, or from £7.60 (adult)
  • Richmond Castle Website: English Heritage

11. Ripley Castle, Yorkshire

Ripley Castle is located 3 miles from Harrogate in North Yorkshire in a small village on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  Ripley Castle grounds are home to wild deer, a lake, and a gin distillery and school.  Activities such as body zorbing, falconry, archery, and lessons in making Gin are available here on the stunning grounds.  All the botanicals for the Gin come from the Victorian-era glasshouse.  Ripley Castle is privately owned and that more than likely accounts for the fact that it is the most complete of the North Yorkshire castles.

Ripley Castle - panoramio

This beautiful location of Ripley Castle hosts concerts, plays, and a Classic Car Rally at times throughout the year.

  • Ripley Castle Address:  Ripley Castle, Ripley, Harrogate, HG3 3AY
  • Ripley Castle Owned & Maintained by Private Ownership
  • Ripley Castle Opening Hours:  Check Website
  • Ripley Castle Entrance Fee:  Check Website
  • Ripley Castle Website:  Ripley Castle

Other castles near Harrogate include Knaresborough Castle and Spofforth Castle.

12. Scarborough Castle, North Yorkshire

While there isn’t much remaining of Scarborough Castle it is worth coming here for the views alone. For me, this has the best views of the castles of Yorkshire.  Scarborough Castle’s site, right on a cliff on the outskirts of the Yorkshire town of Scarborough makes it a natural fortress there has been a fortification here since Roman times and Scarborough Castle has played a major role throughout history.

Castles in Yorkshire Scarborough Castle

After the Roman fortifications came a Saxon building and then Vikings, it was Henry II who built the Scarborough Castle that we see the remains of today.

Save Money on Entry fees to Scarborough Castle – Join English Heritage today.

Best visited in good weather to appreciate the views, Scarborough Castle is rarely busy and the excellent exhibition in the Master Gunners house detail the history of the castle from Romans to World War I and World War II.  The cakes in the English Heritage run shop here are particularly good and there are picnic tables available for use too.

  • Scarborough Castle Address:  Castle Road, Scarborough, Yorkshire, England, YO11 1HY
  • Scarborough Castle is Owned & Maintained by English Heritage
  • Scarborough Castle Opening Hours:  Check the website
  • Scarborough Castle Entrance Fee: Free with English Heritage Membership, or from £8.70(adult)
  • Scarborough Castle Website:  English Heritage

13. Skipton Castle, Yorkshire

Skipton Castle was built around 1090 by Robert de Romille and is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in England.  Skipton Castle is located in the Georgian town of Skipton and was given to the crown by the Clifford family in 1310.

Skipton Castle castle was besieged by Parliamentarian troops in the English Civil War for a period of 3 years and eventually surrendered.  Following this, it fell into ruin and it wasn’t until 1659 that it was restored by Lady Anne Clifford.  At the center of Skipton Castle is a cobbled courtyard containing a yew tree, planted by Lady Clifford to celebrate the castle’s restoration. The castle isn’t but, but is startlingly intact.  There is a free tour sheet in 10 different languages available at Skipton Castle.

  • Skipton Castle Address:  The Bailey, Skipton, Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire, England, BD23 1AW
  • Skipton Castle is Owned & Maintained by Private Ownership
  • Skipton Castle Opening Hours: 1000-1700 April to September, until 1600 for the rest of the year.  Open at 1100 on Sundays.
  • Skipton Castle Entrance Fee: £8.70 (adult)
  • Skipton Castle Website:   Skipton Castle

14. Spofforth Castle, Yorkshire

There has been a manor house here at Spofforth Castle since the 11th century, but the current castle remains, a fortified manor house that belonged to the Percy family (one of the most powerful families of the area) from the 14th and 15th centuries.  Remains dating to the 13th century are found in the undercroft of the ruins of Spofforth Castle, which is beneath the great hall and family area.

Castles in Yorkshire Spofforth Castle
  • Spofforth Castle Address:  Castle Street, Spofforth, Yorkshire, England
  • Spofforth Castle is Owned & Maintained by English Heritage
  • Spofforth Castle Opening Hours: 1 April – 30 Sept 1000 – 1800.  All other times 1000-1600
  • Spofforth Castle Entrance Fee: Free Entry
  • Spofforth Castle Website:  English Heritage

Travel Tips for Exploring England

Final Words on the Top 14 Castles in Yorkshire to Visit

From Castles on the edges of National Parks to Scarborough Castle teetering on the North Yorkshire Coast, visiting several of Yorkshire’s Castles gives you an interesting history lesson on the fortification of the county.  There are stunning histories here, incredible views, and varying degrees of restoration and preservation, the story of Yorkshire’s Castles, though is quite stunning and well worth exploring.

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