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Discover the best castles in Yorkshire holiday cottages

Discover the best castles in Yorkshire

Julie 12 July 2023

With a rich and sometimes bloody history that includes the War of the Roses and the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots, it’s no surprise that Yorkshire is home to a vast array of castles and fortresses. In fact, there are more than 30 castles to explore in Yorkshire.

Many Yorkshire castles have on-site museums where you can learn stories from the past plus well-preserved towers that you can climb up to enjoy the view from the top. 

Exploring a Yorkshire castle is a great school holiday activity to do with kids and as most of them are dog friendly, they can also be visited with four-legged friends. For even more holiday inspiration, read our guide to the best things to do in Yorkshire.


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Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Castle lookin out over Helmsley

The remains of this medieval castle look out over the pretty market town of Helmsley in the North York Moors National Park with bronze statues of archers protecting the ancient fortress. Nestled alongside the 900-year-old ruins is a well-preserved Tudor mansion house where you can find out more about the history of Helmsley Castle in a fun hands-on exhibition.

There’s lots to do in Helmsley after exploring the English Heritage-managed castle including visiting a Helmsley Walled Garden which was used in the 2020 film The Secret Garden and walking along the Cleveland Way National Trail to nearby Rievaulx Abbey.

Rievaulx Abbey near Helmsley

Need to know:

  • Address: Castlegate, Helmsley, YO62 5AB
  • Opening times: 10am - 5pm, seven days a week
  • Facilities: Parking, picnic benches, shop, refreshments, toilets 
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds

Pickering Castle

Remains of Pickering Castle

This sprawling 13th-century motte and bailey castle is located on the outskirts of Pickering, a popular North Yorkshire town which is around halfway between Helmsley and Scarborough. You can climb to the top of Pickering Castle via a series of original stone steps and enjoy wonderful views of the surrounding moorland. It’s also worth looking at the castle keep, known as the King’s Room, and visiting the on-site chapel which houses a fascinating exhibition.

There are lots of Pickering shops and cafes to call in at, plus a 1930’s themed NYMR station where you can catch a train to Whitby is just half a mile from the castle.

Street leading through Pickering in North York Moors

Need to know:

  • Address: Castlegate, Pickering, YO18 7AX
  • Opening times: 10am - 5pm, seven days a week
  • Facilities: Parking, picnic benches, shop, refreshments, toilets
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds

Scarborough Castle

Scarborough Castle towering above the sea

With a spectacular spot on a promontory that lies between Scarborough’s North and South Bays, this historic castle is perfectly placed to enjoy views out over the seaside town. The remains of Scarborough Castle are surrounded by 16 acres of wildlife-rich headland and include a long curtain wall and a Great Tower viewing platform where you can stop to admire your stunning surroundings. Audio tours are also available at Scarborough Castle to help you explore at your leisure.

Scarborough is one of the UK’s most popular seaside towns with a couple of beaches to choose from along with a miniature train to ride and ornate Victorian pleasure gardens with a boating lake. 

Beach in foreground and Scarborough Castle in background

Need to know:

  • Address: Castle Road, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 1HY.
  • Opening times: 10am - 5pm, seven days a week.
  • Facilities: Picnic benches, shop, refreshments. There is no on-site parking. 
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.

Richmond Castle

Grassy hill with Richmond Castle atop it

Originally built during the 11th century to keep the North of England under control, Richmond Castle is one of the UK’s finest Norman fortresses. It’s perched high on a hill above the cobbled Georgian market town and you can climb to the top of a stone tower to look out across the River Swale and surrounding Yorkshire Dales. There’s plenty of space in the large grounds for kids to run around and a tranquil garden where you can sit and relax.

Richmond lies at the top of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and after exploring the castle, you can take a tour of Britain’s most complete Georgian theatre and then stroll along the River Swale to the pretty ruins of Easby Abbey.  

Richmond in Yorkshire Dales

Need to know:

  • Address: Tower Street, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 4QW.
  • Opening times: 10am - 5pm, seven days a week.
  • Facilities: Picnic benches, shop, refreshments, toilets. There is no on-site parking. 
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.

Bolton Castle

Close up of Bolton Castle

This very well-preserved 14th-century castle has an idyllic spot in the Wensleydale countryside and makes a great choice for a Yorkshire day out with the kids. There’s lots to see and do on a visit to Bolton Castle including falconry experiences, archery demonstrations and a tricky maze to try and get out of. Beautiful grounds include a bowling green, a vineyard and a fragrant rose garden. 

There are several lovely walks to try from Bolton Castle including following the Leyburn Shawl, a limestone escarpment where Mary Queen of Scots is said to have dropped her shawl while fleeing imprisonment from the castle.

Bolton Castle above Wensleydale countryside

Need to know:

  • Address: Nr Leyburn, North Yorkshire DL8 4ET.
  • Opening times: 10am - 5pm, seven days a week.
  • Facilities: Parking, cafe, shop, refreshments, toilets. 
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.

Middleham Castle 

Middleham Castle

Middleham Castle is best known as the childhood home of Richard III who lived there with the powerful Warwick family from the age of 13. Parts of the castle date back to the 12th century and you can explore a keep that’s the largest in England and climb up original spiral staircases to a viewing platform at the top of the castle. It’s also worth visiting an on-site museum where you can see a replica of the beautiful Middleham Jewel, a sapphire pendant from the 15th century. 

There are pubs and antique shops dotted around Middleham’s market square and the pretty village is also famous for its racing stables. You’ll regularly see racehorses being walked through Middleham on the way to their gallops in the Yorkshire Dales.

Racehorses walking through Middleham

Need to know:

  • Address: Castle Hill, Middleham, North Yorkshire, DL8 4QG.
  • Opening times: 10am - 5pm, seven days a week.
  • Facilities: Picnic benches, shop, refreshments There is no on-site parking. 
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.

Ripley Castle

Ripley Castle

This Nidderdale castle may date back more than 700 years but its grand rooms are still beautifully intact. Guided tours of Ripley Castle are available from April to September with the grounds and gardens open throughout the year. Try out fun outdoor activities such as archery and zorbing in the sprawling castle grounds and you can also take a walk around a large ornamental lake to discover the castle’s ancient deer park.

Ripley itself is postcard pretty and you’ll find a village shop that sells its own secret recipe ice cream along with a traditional coaching inn called The Boar’s Head and a castle courtyard that’s full of independent shops.

Nidderdale countryside

Need to know:

  • Address: Ripley, Harrogate, HG3 3AY.
  • Opening times: 10am - 4pm, garden and grounds. Castle tours at 10.30am, 12.00pm, 1.30pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays between April and September.
  • Facilities: Parking, shop, cafe, toilets. 
  • Dogs: Dogs are not permitted at Ripley Castle.

Skipton Castle

 Skipton Castle

Skipton Castle is one of the UK’s best-preserved medieval castles with mighty 900-year-old stone walls that have withheld various battles and bombardments over the years. Visitors can immerse themselves in the past with a look around the original castle bed chambers and banqueting hall before heading to the murky depths of the dungeon to experience life as a medieval prisoner. A tour sheet is given to all visitors to help them explore Skipton Castle.

 Skipton is a handsome Yorkshire Dales market town with a canal running through the middle of it and a high street that’s full of pubs, shops and restaurants. Skipton market takes place four times a week and you can purchase lots of fresh produce and artisan gifts from a variety of local traders.

Skipton Canal in Yorkshire

Need to know: 

  • Address: The Bailey, Skipton, BD23 1AW.
  • Opening times: 10am - 5pm, seven days a week.
  • Facilities: Parking, picnic benches, shop, refreshments, toilets.
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.

Knaresborough Castle

Knaresborough Castle

Standing atop a high cliff with views of the River Nidd, Knaresborough Castle has been a royal stronghold over the years and the land is still owned by the Duchy of Lancaster. An on-site museum tells some of the bloody tales of the past and pays homage to interesting local characters such as Guy Fawkes and Mother Shipton. There’s also an underground tunnel to explore along with a Tudor courtroom and a sinister underground dungeon.

Knaresborough Castle is surrounded by gorgeous parkland where you can play bowls, crazy golf and tennis with live music in the summer months. Rowing boats are also available to hire on the nearby River Nidd.  

Knaresborough in Nidderdale

Need to know:

  • Address: Castle Yard, Knaresborough, HG5 8AS.
  • Opening times: 10am - 4pm on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
  • Facilities: Parking, picnic benches, shop, refreshments, toilets.
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.

Pontefract Castle

Although this once fearsome fortress is now in ruins, there are still lots of adventures to be had in the grounds of Pontefract Castle. There are wide open spaces for children to run around, a playground where they can swing, slide and let off steam and information boards with fun activities to try. You can still climb to the top of the original Norman keep, take a tour of the eerie dungeon and hear tales from the past at one of the castle’s regular talks.

Pontefract Castle is just a few miles away from Nostell, a National Trust managed treasure house with rose gardens and woodland play areas that are set within 300 acres of parkland. 

Nostell is a stately home in Yorkshire

Need to know: 

  • Address: Castle Chain, Pontefract, WF8 1HQ.
  • Opening times: 8.30am - 5pm on Monday to Friday, 9.30am - 5pm on Saturday and Sunday. 
  • Facilities: Parking, picnic benches, shop, refreshments, toilets.
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.

Conisbrough Castle

Conisborough Castle near Doncaster

This wonderful, moated castle could have come straight from the pages of a romance novel so it’s no wonder that Conisbrough Castle inspired Sir Ivan Scott to write Ivanhoe. Fun display boards and animated characters help to tell the story of 12th-century inhabitants, Lord and Lady de Warenne. A dramatic circular keep has also been beautifully restored so that you can explore their private rooms in this amazing space before climbing spiral staircases to look out over the surrounding countryside.    

Conisbrough Castle is located near the banks of the River Don and you can take a scenic riverside walk after your visit. It’s worth heading to Conisbrough Viaduct and the Sprotbrough Flash Nature Reserve which is a haven for local wildlife. 

Conisbrough Viaduct

Need to know:

  • Address: Castle Hill, Conisbrough, Doncaster, DN12 3BU.
  • Opening times: 10am - 5pm, seven days a week.
  • Facilities: Picnic benches, shop, refreshments, toilets. There is on-street parking in the village.
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome in the grounds.

Spofforth Castle

Spofforth Castle in Yorkshire

This free-to-enter castle stands right in the middle of Spofforth village and started life as a fortified manor house that was the main home of the powerful Percy family. The 14th-century ruins are located on a pretty village green and are perfect for a game of hide and seek with steps to clamber over and holes to climb through. The remains of Spofforth Castle include the great hall and undercroft with a selection of information boards available.    

Spofforth is reputedly the place where the Magna Carta was drawn up in 1215 and there’s a village shop and pub where you can call in for refreshments. It’s also just a couple of miles from Stockeld Park, a huge adventure playground and magical forest attraction for kids. 

Spofforth Village near Harrogate

Need to know:

  • Address: Castle Street, Spofforth, Harrogate, HG3 1DA.
  • Opening times: 10am - 6pm between April and September, 10am - 4pm during the rest of the year.
  • Facilities: Parking, shops and refreshments are available in Spofforth village.
  • Dogs: Dogs on leads are welcome at the castle.

Plan your Yorkshire getaway

If you have been inspired to visit Yorkshire and explore some of these historic castles, there are a range of lovely holiday cottages where you can rest your head after days of exploring.

Browse our full range of holiday homes, including dog-friendly and family-friendly options, to find your perfect Yorkshire base.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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