Over 30 medieval castles still stand in the southeast region of England as reminders of the days when Britain was a nation divided by ruling families who built strong fortresses to protect their lands from invaders, both foreign and domestic. Contemporary castle tours allow visitors to gain of sense of how important these beautifully preserved buildings are to the rich history and culture of Britain.
Exploring the the royal collections of notable aristocrats like Mary Queen of Scots during guided tours of the Arundel Castle in West Sussex give visitors a sense of the grandeur and elegance that surrounded the British aristocracy in medieval times. The professional guides tell stories that bring the past to life as they recount famous struggles and legends that surround this fascinating castle.
At the majestic Guildford Castle, visitors can safely ascend to high atop of the Great Tower to see the panoramic view that was used by the castle's defenders to see approaching enemy troops. Inside are displays that let guests study models of the castle as it was originally constructed in the 1300s. Informational videos explain the role that Guildford Castle played in British history.
As soon as the magnificent Herstmonceux castle comes into view, visitors are impressed by the moat that emphasizes how strong defenses were required to discourage invaders when this castle was build in the turbulent times of 15th century England. Although once in ruins, the castle has been beautifully restored and is now home of the Queen's Bader Institute. Surrounding the castle alongside the moat are public grounds that reflect the Elizabethan age when gardens were elegant playgrounds for the aristocracy. Following the winding forest trails that lead to woodland sculptures that are displayed in the Shakesphere garden, Rose Garden and the Herb Garden give visitors a sense of how the romance of chivalry was once played out amid these spectacular settings.
High atop the famous white cliffs of Kent, the Dover Castle's breath-taking views across the English channel make it clear why this ancient site has been used for centuries to defend the south eastern shores of Britain. Dover Castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1066 after his victory at the Battle of Hastings, but there are ruins surrounding the castle that date back much further, and evidence of improvements through the years. Seeing the many versions of this strategic site, including a hall once referred to as Arthur's Hall, gives modern visitors a taste of Britain's rich history.
When you enter Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boylen, the homely atmosphere is quite different from other southeastern English castles. The displays of personal items and recreations of the gowns worn by the six wives of Henry the VIII reflects the opulence of 16th century Tudor lifestyle. But the collection of weapons, armor and instruments of torture and execution in the Council Chamber speak of a much darker side of life full of high intrigue and genuine danger that lurked in the medieval courts.