To see Britain in its full glory, you have to see its castles - around 4,000 were built in England alone since the Norman conquest, each one unique. Those that still exist, whether perfectly preserved or in ruins, provide perfect adventures for daytrips, beautiful scenery and a real peek into the past. Here's as a little taster of some real beauties. Bet you haven't heard of them all...
Ten of the most beautiful castles in the UK
Ten of Britain's most beautiful castles: How many do you know?
This spectacular artifice has wonderful coastal views. Although the building as it stands is relatively recent - much of it dates back to late Victorian times - the castle boasts a long history: it was once home to the kings of ancient Northumbria, and archaeological digs have unearthed some spectacular prehistoric finds. Don't miss: live archeology during July and August, complete with children's dig pit.
OK, so this one isn't exactly a secret castle - it's one of the most iconic images of Scotland - but we love it too much not to include it. Sitting on an island at the point where three lochs meet, this amazing sixth century castle is surrounded by majestic scenery. Open every day from March 1 - October 31. Don't miss: seeingthe castle at dusk when the views of the reflected castle in the water are beautiful.
The sheer scale of this castle gives it a rather overwhelming presence and majestic persona. It was designed to echo the walls of Constantinople, and has remained unchanged ever since. Open all year. Don't miss: The wonderful views from the towers. You'll have to be fit to climb all the steps but it's worth it!
Perched on a rocky crag and only accessible via a three-mile causeway at low tide, Lindisfarne was originally a Tudor fort that was part of the national defence for more than 300 years. Open: selected dates March - October, plus certain weekends in winter. Visit nationaltrust.org for more details. Don't miss: The castle's own internal wind indicator, which is still in working order.
Built on a rock in the 13th century, this beautiful castle has been well preserved. Although it is privately owned, there are a number of private tours available each year. Don't miss: a stroll up the hill above the castle to see best views of the structure as well as the surrounding countryside.
For 600 years, Mont Orgueil Castle did a rather good job of protecting Jersey from French invasion. Today, lifesize wooden soldiers guard the castle from attack to give the visitor a taste of its past life. Open all year. Don't miss: The 'witchcraft' exhibit in the cellar.
You can't do a roundup of castles without including this one. Did you know that tn 1588, it was on St Michael's Mount that the first beacon was lit to warn of the arrival of the Spanish Armada? Open 26 March - 28 September, and selected dates during winter. Don't miss: the new Bronze Age Hoard exhibition.
Set in peaceful countryside near the Welsh border, this manor house dates back to the 11th century with a great hall that has remained unaltered since 1291. Open all year round. Don't miss: The timber-framed gatehouse, and the original medieval tiled roof in the north tower.
A Tudor fan's paradise, this double-moated castle was once the childhood home of Anne Boleyn and dates back to 1270. The long gallery features costumed figures of Henry VIII . Open all year. Don't miss: The two huge Books of Hours (prayer books) signed by Anne Boleyn.
This late-13th century gem is simply majestic: appears to grow organically out of the rock on which it perches. Gazing out across the landscape, it keeps a watchful eye on Snowdonia. Its fascinating history includes a long seige her during the Wars of the Roses. Open all year. Don't miss: The small exhibition telling the story of the castle and the history of the rooms.
Built by the English monarch Edward I to establish his authority over Wales, this unfinished masterpiece is regarded by many as the finest of all Edwardian castles in Wales. It has been acclaimed as a technical and architectural masterpiece for its nigh-on perfect symmetry. Overlooking mountains and sea, this is a spectacular World Heritage site well worth a visit. Open all year. Don't miss: The hundreds of cleverly positioned 'murder holes' - one of the many reasons enemies would have found the castle impossible to penetrate.
Fancy being the king of your own castle? Check out these British gems!
Ten of the best: Private castles to rent in the UK
Ten of Britain's most beautiful castles: How many do you know?
Standing in 1,500 acres of coastal and woodland estate, this 18th century castle is set close to the shores of Loche Fyne. The area is famed for its mountain scenery and coastal landscapes. Traditionally decorated, with wooden panelling, a large country style kitchen, drawing room, grand piano, open fire and more. Baronial Castle has seven bedrooms, sleeps 15, and starts from £2,250 per night.
This grade II listed 21 bedroom masterpiece overlooks the Menai Strait. Built in the style of a Loire Valley French Chateau, it offers charisma, exceptional views and luxury facilities. Plas Rhianfa costs £6,500 per week based on 32 guests sharing. Alternatively, book it by the night: during June and July there is a 50 per cent discount, meaning prices start at £135.
This grade II listed property features bedrooms in the outlying seven turrets and offers views over wooded North Somerset countryside on one side and across the Bristol Channel to Wales on the other. The 17th Century castle has eight bedrooms, sleeps 16, and prices from £6,695 per week.
The ancient village in which the castle is situated is on the south side of the River Inny as it enters Lough Sheelin. Its origins go back to the early iron age - the tower was completed by him in 1537. The great hall and further extensions were finished by his grandson, the 13th Baron of Delvin in 1539. County Meath Castle has six bedrooms, sleeps 12, and starts from £3,884 per week.
Originally built in 1560 and subsequently partially destroyed in 1640 by the Duke of Argyll, the Fortalice has been rebuilt and renovated to ensure modern comforts while maintaining the original character. The Fortalice has six bedrooms, sleeps 12 and starts from £4,377 per week.
At the Pitfour Castle apartment you'll find a roaring log fire, a huge south facing drawing room with views towards the River Tay, and a circular bedroom with a king size four poster bed. Pitfour Castle has one bedroom (apartment inside the castle) which sleeps two, and starts from £300 a week.
In the heart of the highlands, this 15th century castle can be rented by the room or in its entirety. Low profile and totally private, it's an ideal choice for a big celebration. From the moment the piper welcomes you til the moment you're waved off by the entire staff, Ackergill Tower promises to exceed your expectations. Prices start at £4,000 per night for exclusive use, based on up to 32 guests. Alternatively, book a tower room for £250 per night half board.
Situated in a beautiful spot in the west of Ireland, this 17th Century Irish castle boasts original features including a gothic fireplace. Smith's Castle has four bedrooms, sleeps eight, and starts from £989 per week.
Formerly the Gamekeeper’s house at Leeds Castle, Keeper's House is located in a secluded position within the castle grounds overlooking the weir pond. The house has been newly refurbished with antiques and modern furnishings and many original features remain. Keeper's House has five bedrooms, sleeps 10, and starts from £1,020 per week.
Located within extensive private landscaped grounds, this restored Norman Castle offers ensuite bedrooms with panoramic views over the sea, mountains and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Roch Castle has six bedrooms, sleeps 12, and starts from £2,800 per week.
This unusual historic sea fortress in the Solent has just been transformed into an amazing exclusive hotel. With nine luxurious bedrooms, three bars and restaurant areas and a spa thrown in for good measure, this is a unique place to rent out for a special occasion. There's an introductory offer of £5,200 per night for exclusive use (it sleeps 16). This includes private boat transfers, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, breakfast, Champagne, and unlimited use of the rooftop hot pool sauna, fire pit and games room. You can also book it by the room from £850 per night, based on two sharing. Visit www.clarenco.com for more details.