The Normans built over 500 bailey castles in England in a time frame of just twenty years. 90 of these Norman castles in England and Ireland can still be seen today.
In September 1066, William I – The Duke of Normandy – landed on the East Sussex coast. And only a few weeks later he killed King Harold during the Battle of Hastings. This Norman invasion was the beginning of the Middle Ages in England.
The first Norman castles were mainly wooden structures. These castles were built on high ground with a wooden palisade (a defensive wall). The Normans could build their motte-and-bailey castles in just a few weeks. Some of these castles were (partially) pre-built in France and shipped off to England where they could be put together in a very short time. The later stone castles have (round) towers, higher walls, and a gatehouse.
This post will show you the best 34 Norman Castles in England that you can visit, organized per region.
What is a Motte-and-Bailey Castle?
A motte and bailey castle is a fortification where the stone of wooden keep is located on a motte (a raised area of ground). The keep has a courtyard that is enclosed by a curtain wall (the bailey). This is then surrounded by a ditch or (wooden) palisade.
Norman Castles in South East England
Pevensey Castle is the first castle built by the Normans, erected just after they landed in England. The Normans initially built a temporary structure using the ruined Roman fortifications at this location.
William’s son Robert built the permanent Norman fortification with two baileys divided by a ditch and a wooden palisade. The castle has been in ruins since the 16th century.
Pevensey Castle visitor information: the castle is open daily April-October. And on Weekends Novemer-March. Visit the website for current opening hours.
Tower of London
The Tower of London was founded in 1066 during the Norman Invasion. The White Tower, after which the entire castle is named, was built in 1078 by William the Conqueror.
Even though the Tower of London is now best known for being a prison, it was initially built as a Royal residence. The castle buildings are set within a defensive wall and a moat.
The Tower of London visitor information: the tower is open for visitors. Visit the website for currenr opening hours.
Windsor Castle is a Royal castle it’s the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. The castle was founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. Windsor Castle was one of the motte-and-bailey castles that formed a defensive ring around London. The castle was located in a strategic location near the River Thames.
Though the castle was not originally built as a Royal Residence, it has been the home of 39 monarchs since its construction.
Windsor Castle visitor information: the castle is open Thursday-Monday. It’s a working palace so it can be closed on certain days. Visit the website for current opening hours.
Strategically located astride the London Road and guarding the crossing of the River Medway, Rochester Castle is a prime example of a Norman Castle.
The castle was built in 1087, when William the Conqueror’s eldest son William Rufus, asked Gundulf, Bishop of Rochester, to build a new stone castle. The Norman keep was built in 1127 by William of Corbeil, Archbishop of Canterbury.
Rochester Castle visitor information: the castle is open Tuesday-Sunday. Visit the website for current opening hours.
After the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror and his army traveled to Dover to build a new castle. Dover Castle is the longest-serving fortress in England. Unfortunately, nothing remains of the original Norman castle, since Henry II (and later monarchs) rebuilt the castle.
However you can discover the oldest surviving lighthouse in England, the Medieval palace of King Henry II, and the secret wartime tunnels used during World War II.
Dover Castle visitor information: the castle is open thoughout the year. Visit the website for current opening hours.
Hastings Castle is a keep and bailey castle ruin overlooking the English Channel. The castle is one of three fortifications that was built shortly after the Norman landing in 1066 (the others being Dover Castle and Pevensey Castle).
The original castle was built of wood, but after the Battle of Hastings, the castle was rebuilt in stone together with the St. Mary’s Chapel. The castle didn’t stand for long, King John ordered the castle to be destroyed so it wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Dauphin Louis. Later, wild weather and more attacks only left a ruin.
Hastings Castle visitor information: the castle is open April-August. Visit the website for current opening hours.
Chilham Castle is a Jacobean manor house but on-site stands a Norman keep built-in 1174. The Norman keep stands on an Anglo-Saxon fortification dating back to the 7th-century. The Norman keep of Chilham Castle is still inhabited and therefore one of the oldest inhabited castles in England.
Chilham Castle visitor information: the house and gardens are open to visitors. Visit the website for opening times.
Oxford Castle is a partly ruined Medieval castle. The castle was built in 1071 by the Norman baron Robert D’Oyly. The castle was originally built as a moated wooden motte & bailey castle that was later rebuilt in stone. Today, the Norman motte and crypt can be visited. The St. George tower is even older and dates back to the Saxon period.
Oxford Castle visitor information: the castle is open daily. Visit the website for opening hours.
Lewes Castle is a Norman castle built shortly after the Battle of Hastings. The castle stands on a man-made mount guarding the gap of the South Downs. Lewes Castle is one of two castles in England that has two mottes (the other being Lincoln Castle).
From the castle you have panoramic views over Sussex and adjoining the castle is the Museum of Sussex Archaeology where you can view artifacts from prehistoric to medieval Sussex.
Lewes Castle & Museum visitor information: the castle is open daily. Visit the website for tickets.
Arundel Castle was built as a motte-and-bailey castle by Roger de Montgomery (a cousin of William the Conqueror). The castle was almost completely rebuilt between the 1870s and 1890s in Gothic style but the Norman Keep, medieval Gatehouse, and Barbican have survived.
Arundel Castle visitor information: the castle is open April-October. Visit the website for opening hours.
Canterbury Castle is one of three Royal castles in Kent (the others being Rochester Castle and Dover Castle). All three castles were built shortly after the Battle of Hastings. The original castle was a wooden motte and bailey castle built-in 1066. The motte of this castle is visible as the mount in the Dane John Gardens. The stone keep was built during the reign of Henry I and is now in a ruinous state and closed to visitors.
Norman Castles in Yorkshire & North East England
Six years after the Norman invasion, William the Conqueror ordered the build of Durham Castle. The castle was built as a traditional bailey castle and was used as a defensive castle against the Scots and Danes.
The construction of the castle was supervised by Waltheof, Earl of Northumbria until he rebelled and was executed. Bishop William Walcher purchased his earldom and was appointed by the king to exercise royal authority on his behalf. The castle became the seat of the Bishops of Durham.
The Norman Chapel is the oldest part of the castle that can be visited. The castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Durham Castle visitor information: The castle is open for guided tours thoughout the year. Visit the website to book your ticket.
Richmond Castle is one of the best-preserved Norman castles in England. The castle was built in 1071 by Alan Rufus and in the 12th century the castle was expanded and during this time the keep was built. The castle fell into ruin in the 16th century, but it also inspired the artist William Turner.
During the First World War the castle was occupied by the Northern Non-Combatant Corps, a unit for men who had asked for exemption from military service. On the walls of the 19th-century cell block at Richmond Castle, they found thousands of inscriptions made by prisoners.
Richmond Castle visitor information: the castle is open daily April-October. Weekends November-March. Visit the website for current opening hours.
Alnwick Castle is a Norman castle and country house. It is the seat of the Duke of Northumberland and one of the most visited castles in England.
The 950 years, the castle has existed, and it has a rich history. And today it is the second-largest inhabited castle in the UK. But next to it being a family home of the Percy family, it has also been a military outpost, a refuge for evacuees, and a film set.
Alnwick Castle visitor information: the castle is open daily. Visit the website for opening times.
See also: castles & stately homes near Newcastle
The core of Bamburgh Castle is of Norman origin. The castle became the property of the reigning English monarchy in the 12th century. It was the ﬁrst castle in the world to fall to gunpowder in the War of the Roses.
In 1894 inventor, industrialist and philanthropist William George Armstrong bought Bamburgh Castle. He transformed it into his vision of the archetypal castle. The castle houses his unique collection of artwork, ceramics, and objets d’art that Armstrong loved and brought him joy.
Bamburgh Castle visitor information: The castle is open on weekends 10am-4pm. The castle also offeres accomondations and you can rent it as wedding venue. Visit the website.
Pontefract Castle is the ruin of a Norman castle that was one of the grandest castles in Yorkshire. The castle was built in 1070 by Ilbert de Lacy. The original castle was built in wood which was later rebuilt in stone.
Conisbrough Castle is a medieval fortification in South Yorkshire, built shortly after the Norman conquest. The castle was later rebuilt in stone and has an inner and an outer bailey, surrounded by a stone curtain wall and defended by fortified towers and the castle keep. The castle fell into ruin but was made popular again partly due to it being the location of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.
Conisbrough Castle visitor information: the castle is open throughout the year. Visit the website for opening hours.
Burton Agnes Manor House
Burton Agnes Manor House is a rare example of a Norman manor house with a well-preserved Norman undercroft. The house has been remodeled several times and now includes Norman features, 15th-century interiors, and 18th-century exterior.
Burton Agnes Manor House visitor information: the house is open daily April-October. Visit the website for opening hours.
Norman Castles in South West England
Soon after the Norman conquest of England, a castle was built in Corfe by William the Conqueror. It was his son, King Henry I who built the stone keep whose remains you can still see today. The castle remained a Royal fortress until Elizabeth I sold it in 1572. After 6 centuries of being a treasury, military garrison, royal residence, and family home, the castle was destroyed.
Corfe Castle visitor information: the castle is open thoughout the year. Visit the website for current opening hours.
Totnes Castle on the River Dart in Devon is one of the best-preserved Norman motte and bailey castles in England. The castle was built in 1066 by the Breton Juhel of Totnes who was one of William the Conqueror’s lieutenants. The castle was later rebuilt in stone and the stone keep and curtain wall you see today date back to the 14th century.
Totnes Castle visitor information: the castle is open through the year. Daily in Spring/Summer and Weekends in the Winter months. Visit the website for current opening hours.
Restormel Castle is one of four Norman castles in Cornwall (the others being Launceston, Tintagel, and Trematon). The castle was built on a tactical location overlooking the primary crossing point over the River Fowey. The castle is unique thanks to its perfectly round shape.
Restormel Castle visitor information: the castle is open April-October. Visit the website for opening hours.
See also: visit the stately homes in Cornwall
Launceston Castle was originally built as an earthwork and timber castle with a large motte in the corner. The castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century. The castle is now a ruin, but many of the defensive structures such as the motte, keep, and high tower remains.
Launceston Castle visitor information: the castle is open April-October. Visit the website for opening hours.
Trematon Castle is a Norman castle designed in a similar style as Restormel Castle. The castle was built by Robert, Count of Mortain (half brother of William the Conqueror) on the location of a Roman fort.
The first Lydford Castle was a wooden Norman fort, designed as a ringwork on the site of an Anglo-Saxon burg. In 1195 the stone tower with a bailey was constructed (rebuilt in the 13th century) which was mainly used as a prison. It is one of the earliest purpose-built prisons in England.
Norman Castles in East England
Colchester Castle is a Norman castle built by William the Conqueror. The castle was built on top of the Roman Temple of Claudius. The Norman Keep is mostly intact and is the largest Norman Keep in Europe.
In the 17th century, the curtain walls and the upper part of the keep were demolished. The castle became a prison and large garden pavilion. Today, the castle houses the Colchester Museum which shows an important collection of Roman exhibits.
Colchester Castle visitor information: the castle & museum is open daily. Visit the website for opening hours.
Norman Castles in the Midlands
Ludlow Castle is a ruined medieval fortification overlooking the River Teme. The castle was built by Walter de Lacy shortly after the Norman conquest. Ludlow Castle is one of the first stone castles built in England. During the 16th and 17th centuries, it was a Royal castle and during this time it got its Elizabethan appearance.
Ludlow Castle visitor information: the castle is open throughout the year. Visit the website to see the current opening hours.
Kenilworth Castle was founded during the Norman conquest. The main castle was built around a Norman great tower in the 1120s. The castle was extended several times up to the Tudor period. Kenilworth is one of the largest historical sites in Britain, the medieval castle showcases some of the finest Elizabethan architecture.
Kenilworth Castle visitor information: the castle is open thoughout the year. Visit the website for current opening times.
Lincoln Castle is a late 11th-century castle built by William the Conqueror on the foundations of a Roman fortress that was located in a strategic location. It is one of two castles in England that has two mottes (the other is Lewes Castle).
The castle was the location of two battles. The First Battle of Lincoln in 1141 was during the struggle between King Stephen and Empress Matilda. The Second Battle of Lincoln in 1217 happened during the political struggle after the sealing of the Magna Carta. The castle now houses a new exhibition center focusing on Lincoln’s copy of the Magna Carta.
Lincoln Castle visitor information: the castle is open daily, except Christmas and New Years Day. Visit the website for opening hours.
Longtown Castle is a ruined Norman motte-and-bailey castle close to the Welsh border. The castle was built in the 11th century by Walter de Lacy using Roman earthworks. The castle fell into ruin in the 14th century and today you can only see the ruined keep, the internal gatehouse, and fragments of the curtain wall.
Tamworth Castle is a Norman castle overlooking the mouth of the River Anker into the Tame. The site was the residence of the Mercian Kings during the Anglo-Saxon times, the Norman refortified and enlarged the building. Tamworth Castle is one of the best-preserved motte-and-bailey castles in England.
Tamworth Castle visitor information: the castle is open Tuesday-Sunday. Visit the website for opening hours.
Dudley Castle – now part of Dudley Zoo – was built shortly after the Norman invasion by Ansculf de Picquigny. Only the Norman motte of that castle is still visible. The remainder of the castle ruins date back to the 13th century.
Warwick Castle is a medieval castle on a meander of the River Avon. The original wooden motte-and-bailey-castle was rebuilt in stone in the 12th century. During the Hundred Years War, the façade was refortified into a classic example of military architecture.
Warwick Castle visitor information: the castle is open thoughout the year. Visit the website for opening hours.
Stay in a Norman castle
The majority of Horton Court was built in the 16th century. But the house includes a Norman Hall which was built in the 12th-century. The house also includes some of the earliest Renaissance decorative motifs found in England. Horton Court is now available as a holiday rental.
St. Briavels Castle
St. Briavels Castle is a moated Norman castle in Gloucestershire. The castle was built in the 11th-century as the Royal center for the Forest of Dean. The castle became the favorite hunting lodge of King John. The castle is now used as a youth hostel.