From escape rooms and dungeon tours, to ramparts and banqueting halls, Britain’s beautiful castles bring history to life and make fantastic narrowboat holiday destinations.
Here are our top five castles to visit on a canal boat holiday in 2022:
1. Enter the Jailbreak Escape Room at Oxford Castle & Prison
Cruising from our base at Oxford on the River Thames, it’s a tranquil three-hour cruise to moorings at Hythe Bridge, close to Oxford Castle. The journey travels six miles and passes through three locks. Oxford Castle was founded by the Norman baron Robert D’Oilly the elder in 1071, but most of the fortress was destroyed in the English Civil War. By the 18th century, the remaining buildings had become Oxford’s local prison. Today, as well as exploring the castle’s tower, crypt and mound, visitors can pit their wits to solve puzzles, codes and clues to escape from the Jailbreak Escape Room.
2. See the Changing of the Guard at Windsor Castle
Departing from our boat yard on the Kennet & Avon Canal at Aldermaston, it takes two days to reach Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. The journey travels 39 miles and passes through 22 locks. With 1,000 years of Royal history to discover, including Charles II’s magnificent State Apartments, Windsor Castle is packed with treasures from the Royal Collection. The Changing of the Guard ceremony, which takes place on Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am, is a colour spectacle of British pageantry, with a continuing military purpose.
3. Climb the ramparts at Warwick Castle
From our Stockton base on the Grand Union Canal in Warwickshire, it’s a seven-hour journey, passing through 20 locks, to reach Warwick Castle on the banks of the River Avon. Dating back to William the Conqueror, Warwick Castle offers a fantastic day out with ramparts to climb, the spooky Castle Dungeon tour to experience, the Great Hall and Staterooms to explore, and the sights, sounds and smells of the medieval period to witness in the Kingmaker exhibition. There are also soaring birds of prey and trebuchet firing displays to watch, landscaped gardens wonder through and regular special live action performances.
4. Find out about the siege at Skipton Castle
Cruising from our narrow boat hire base at Barnoldswick on the Leeds & Liverpool Canal in West Yorkshire, it takes just around 20 cruising hours to reach Skipton Castle. The journey travels 13 miles and passes 15 locks. Skipton Castle, with its 900-year old fortress, is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England. This impressive fortress which withstood a three-year siege during the English Civil War. Visitors can climb from the depths of the Dungeon up to the top of the Watch Tower, and explore the magnificent Banqueting Hall, Kitchen, Bedchamber and Privy in between.
5. Explore the dungeons at Chirk Castle
Setting out from our base at Chirk on the Llangollen Canal in North Wales, it takes just 40 minutes to cruise to Chirk Bank visitor moorings. From there, it takes around 30 minutes to walk up to Chirk Castle. Owned by the National Trust, Chirk Castle is one of several medieval marcher fortresses built on the Welsh-English border to keep the Welsh under English rule. Started in 1295, Chirk Castle had the most up-to-date defences of the time, including round ‘drum’ towers that allowed archers a wide firing field, and created a ‘killing zone’ where the fields of fire overlapped. Visitors today can explore the Castle’s lavishly furnished rooms and Adam Tower, complete with two-level dungeons, medieval toilets and murder holes. There are also 480 acres of parkland with walking trails to enjoy, and a glorious gardens to stroll through.