In the run-up to Valentine's Day our mind turns to all things romantic, and what could be more romantic than a visit to a beautiful castle fit for a king or queen?
The British countryside is dotted with a vast array of gorgeous castles, many of which are set in pristine grounds with manicured gardens and open parkland perfect for romantic walks or picnics. Most are open to the public at select times throughout the year.
If you are looking to make a visit, here are three romantic castles you shouldn't miss:
When you think of a romantic castle, chances are you will envisage something that looks very much like Arundel Castle in the Sussex countryside. This magnificent property, which has been the family home of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for almost 1,000 years, features a crenellated keep, gatehouse, barbican and tower, and is set within pristine gardens offering commanding views over the landscape. Inside, it houses a wonderful collection of rare art - including paintings by Van Dyck, Gainsborough and Canaletto - historic weaponry, tapestries and furniture, as well as a magnificent library featuring rich mahogany panelling and vaulting that marks it as one of the finest Regency interiors in the world. Arundel Castle is open to the public from the end of March to the end of October each year.
To find out more, read our article on Arundel Castle.
Every romantic castle has to have a moat, and Hever Castle, in the Kent-Surrey-Sussex borders, certainly doesn't disappoint on that front. This beautiful crenellated castle, which dates from the 13th century, was once the childhood home of Anne Boylen, the second wife of Henry VIII and Mother of Elizabeth I. Today its lavish garden, complimented by an extensive lake and pristine parklands, is open to the public (usually between early February to Christmas). You can also tour the inside of the castle, which houses an impressive art collection and gorgeously ornate rooms. And don't miss the English yew maze, which will really test your sense of direction.
To find out more, read our article on Hever Castle.
Best known as the "real Downton Abbey", this elegant castle in the Hampshire countryside has been home to the Carnarvon family and their forebears since 1679. Designed by the same architect responsible for the Houses of Parliament, it is regarded as not only one of the most romantic castles in Britain but one of the most beautiful. Only open to the public at select times of the year, it boasts almost 1,000 acres of parkland designed by Capability Brown. As well picnicking in the beautiful gardens, visitors can take a tour inside the castle and visit the Egyptian Exhibition, which houses antiquities and artifacts, many of which were acquired by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who was a keen archeologist more than a century ago.
To find out more, read our article on Highclere Castle. If you'd like to visit the castle this summer, don't miss our Highclere Castle experience, which includes dinner bed and Breakfast at The Jack Russell Inn (6.1 miles away)
Photographs: Shutterstock /aaabbbccc; Shutterstock / Alexandra Reinwald; Shutterstock / Emily Marie Wilson