Words – Angela Youngman
Romantic and impressive; castles dominate the UK landscape. With flags fluttering from turrets, these are buildings that are steeped in history; of battles won and lost, fairy tales and ghosts; and you no longer need to be a prince or princess to stay there. Just as for a lord or lady of old, the stunning castle backdrops can provide the perfect setting for family celebrations, weddings or special events. Across the UK there are numerous castles that can be hired for your exclusive use.
Privacy is guaranteed. The only other people on site are likely to be the castle owners and their staff. During your stay, the castle is yours to enjoy.
The choice of castles available is extensive; from medieval buildings like Walton Castle to Victorian gothic, Scottish baronial or Tudor mansions. The accommodation is luxurious and often includes antique furniture and furnishings; some may even have State Apartments, providing a majestic setting for any celebration. Prices vary considerably, depending on the size and location of the property, the size of your group, and the facilities you are seeking.
Many castles are registered as wedding venues, and can provide everything required, from flowers to registrars; guest accommodation; receptions; and honeymoon suites. Additional accommodation is frequently available in adjacent courtyards and cottages within the grounds, enabling even the largest groups to be accommodated in privacy. Bespoke packages can be arranged – all you have to do is ask.
Over at Cringletie near the Scottish border town of Peebles, the owners have arranged all kinds of unusual wedding requests, from barn owls flying in with the rings, horse-drawn carriages, weddings with alpacas and fireworks over the lawns: French castle style turrets, magnificent gardens and a romantic bridge over a river provide a stunning backdrop for photographs.
Much depends on what you are looking for. No two castles are the same, thus offering considerable versatility regarding the location. Perhaps you want something stately, or prefer something intimate, or reminiscent of a fairy tale; maybe a coastal location or one inland?
As an island nation, coastal castles and forts have always played a major role in the history and heritage for visitors. Down in Cornwall, Polhawn Fort has been described as ‘the most romantic Wedding venue in the UK’. Hidden in a small cove with its own private beach, access is gained over a drawbridge; inside a spiral staircase leads into the massive eighty foot long vaulted hall.
Across the Irish Sea, Belle Isle near Enniskillen occupies its own private island. The high sculpted windows flood lavishly furnished rooms with masses of natural light, and grand four poster beds add a touch of extra romance. At the heart of the castle is an imposing Grand Hall, complete with a Minstrel’s gallery, making it ideal for wedding festivities.
Sleek triangular shaped turrets, balconies and walkways create a fairytale ambience, surrounding the French style Chateau Rhianfa on the Island of Anglesey. This lies just off the coast of Snowdonia: Built by Sir John Hay-Williams as a special gift to his wife, Lady Sarah, in memory of their travels through the Loire Valley in France; it is beautifully romantic. Combined with a spectacular setting, the opulent, elegant interiors make this a dream location for a substantial celebration. Numerous special activities can be arranged, including kayaking and coasteering to help entertain your guests throughout their stay.
Walton Castle in Somerset is definitely a classic medieval castle. Listed in the Domesday Book of 1086, Walton Castle was partially destroyed during the Civil Wars of the seventeenth century. Surrounded by stone walls complete with ramparts; the great stone keep stands tall in the centre of the castle. With its own private helicopter pad, it makes a lovely setting for a small, exclusive celebration. It even boasts its own private swimming pool. Among the potential activities on offer are archery, falconry and even sword fighting; whilst for visitors wanting a challenge, Walton Castle can even set up a murder mystery event, requiring participants to find their way out of a locked tower.
Amberley Castle in West Sussex also dates back to medieval times. Surrounded by a 60 foot curtain wall; there are gun loops, a portcullis and a win tower gatehouse. Guests can step back in time; surrounded by suits of armour and intricate coats of arms. Landscaped gardens provide pretty vistas for wedding photographs.
In Yorkshire, the enchanting vistas surrounding Peckforton Castle will be familiar to anyone watching TV programmes like Dr Who, Sherlock Holmes and Robin Hood. Dating back to the mid nineteenth century, Peckforton Castle is a palatial medieval style building. Although now a hotel and spa, it can be hired for exclusive use catering for groups of up to 165 guests.
Follow in the footsteps of legendary lovers Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn – you can even sleep in the bedchamber that they slept in – by staying at Thornbury Castle, Gloucestershire. This beautiful Tudor castle boasts a grand hall perfect for balls, feasts and dances, along with wonderful places for those special photographs such as spiral stone steps and romantic gateways. Lavish Tudor style décor with wall hangings and four poster beds make this a castle of dreams.
Eastnor Castle is set amid the pretty Malvern Hills, and has its own lake and forest. Circular turrets mark each corner of the castle, with a square keep in the centre, with lots of arched windows bringing light into the beautiful state rooms. With just 12 bedrooms, this is a fairly compact castle, with extra accommodation available in the grounds in a variety of houses and cottages.
Peaceful, tranquil and intensely beautiful, Eastnor makes a stunning wedding location; fit for a princess.
Head north to Kinnetties Castle near Aberdeen. Set in 44 acres of stunning gardens and surrounded by pine woods, it offers breathtaking views of the Scottish landscape. High ceilings, chandeliers, ornate cornices and lavish furnishings make this a spectacular place to stay. Games rooms help to keep guests busy, whilst bridal parties can take advantage of the beautiful terrace, helping to create an exceptional wedding ceremony.
Whichever castle you choose, don’t expect it to be available at a moment’s notice. These castles are much in demand, and are often fully booked months ahead. The wait, however, is definitely worth it; you will be able to enjoy something totally out of this world for your special celebration.
Websites to check out for grand venues: