The history of England dates back thousands of years but most notably in the country’s past, to the nation-changing invasion of the Normans in 1066. This led to the country being flooded with castles and fortresses, the ruins of which can still be seen today. For hundreds of years after the dominion of William the Conqueror, the city of London has become a focal point for power. The city is filled with remnants from Mediaeval, Tudor and Georgian rule over the centuries. It’s true what they say, history is told by the winners, and the winners are the ones whose buildings remain standing. Guests of London Hotel packages who are staying in the centre of London can attest to that just by looking out the window.
Whilst London is home to some of the most famous castles in England, there are plenty more within driving and train distance of the English capital. London and its surrounding castles are home to hundreds of years of English history, having been inhabited by some of the most famous leaders in the country. Guests of Park Grand Lancaster Gate can easily reach many of them.
This blog will explore some of the most famous and important castles within 2 hours travel from London, providing guests of Park Grand accommodation Lancaster Gate UK with a range of options for their historic London sightseeing.
Buckingham Palace became a royal palace in the 1760s when King George III bought it for his wife, Queen Charlotte. Since the reign of Queen Victoria, Buckingham Palace has been known as the main royal headquarters for the reigning monarch. Today, visitors can explore the Palace State Rooms during the summer months and between October and June, watch the iconic royal guards from beyond the palace gates as they go about their daily duties.
Kensington Palace has not been the home of a reigning monarch since George III but has been the home of many members of the royal family. Presently a cottage (although a considerably large one) is reserved for use by Prince William, Princess Kate and their children. Visitors can enjoy exhibitions and tours of the King and Queen’s State Apartments throughout the year where they can learn about the culture and court of Georgian England. With its grand exterior and pleasant Georgian design, those who have enjoyed the Englishness of Grand Hotel afternoon teas will undoubtedly want to indulge in the truly modern royal aesthetics of Kensington Palace.
Windsor Castle is the largest still functioning castle close to London and is also the largest one that is still occupied in the world. The castle itself dates back a millennium to the Norman invasion of England but has changed greatly over the years. The castle is still occupied by about 500 people, including museum staff and royal service people. It’s still regularly used as a royal household for Queen Elizabeth II and sees more than a million visitors each year. This is for good reason, the many galleries and reconstructions of royal rooms boast an evolving architecture and story, charting the lives of dozens of monarchs.
Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace was built for Cardinal Wolsey, minister to King Henry VIII but was given to the famous 6-wife king in 1539. Most commonly associated with the Tudors and Elizabethan era, Hampton Court Palace saw major reconstruction during the reign of William III, leaving two distinct architectural styles to the grand, West London building. The palace is now a major tourist attraction where visitors learn about the reign of Henry VIII and enjoy the expansive grounds around it. The grounds and park include an historic Tudor maze that is still maintained to this day.
The Tower Of London
The Tower of London is an iconic landmark in the City of London, again upholding nearly a millennium of English history. Another symbol of power for William the Conqueror, the Tower has had many identities over the years. You can find out about its days as a royal treasury and armoury, a grisly prison and even a royal menagerie by visiting the Tower of London exhibition. This expansive museum, alongside traditional marching exercises by the royal guards known as “Beefeaters”, can be enjoyed between 9 am and 5.30 pm daily.
Now onto historically significant palaces outside, but within 2 hours of London. The Brighton Pavilion is a seeming oddity of the southeast coastal city of Brighton and Hove. inspired by Indian architecture, the Prince Regent – George IV – designed this palace in the heart of his preferred homestead town, Brighton. Indeed, it was the establishing of a royal court in Brighton that led to its growth as a retreat for the upper classes in the 18th century.
Hastings Castle was built in 1066 in the southeastern town of Hastings. Iot was one of the first castles built by William The Conqueror upon his defeat of Saxon King Harold in the hilly fields just outside of hastings. Now in ruins, this fortification overlooked the English Channel and its remains can still be explored to this day.
Lewes Castle is another Sussex county landmark first constructed by the Normans, sitting in the heart of the Ouse Valley town of Lewes. The historic Second Barons War was fought close by and many of Henry III’s troops were garrisoned at Lewes Castle beforehand. The castle was the retreat and stronghold of Henry III, who, upon defeat, had to sign up many of his powers to the 6th Earl of Leicester Simon de Montfort. The castle then, was a key site in the war which eventually saw the royalists beat the barons and change much of the mediaeval era political landscape of England.
Lewes is also an important cultural town for England, it being the town where 17 protestant martyrs were burnt at the stake by Mary I, or Bloody Mary. Every November 5th, a huge procession marches through Lewes and fireworks are ignited at different sites across the town. Visitors for the spectacle or indeed those wanting to simply explore the Lewes Castle Museum can reach Lewes via southeastern trains from Victoria Station.