For history enthusiasts, there’s nothing as magical as stepping back in time to experience premises that were inhabited thousands of years ago. It’s even more intriguing to explore castles that were mostly established as strategic fortifications, royal residences, or just as a symbol of wealth.
As you walk through the walls of these magisterial structures, some will evoke folklore, others will reveal deep scars of ancient wars, while the rest will simply give you a glimpse into the lifestyles of the ancient royal families.
I’m lucky to have grown up in Hampshire and had easy access to many incredible attractions, including these beautiful castles. If you’re ready to explore, here is a list of the best castles in Hampshire, south England to visit.
- 1 14 Amazing Castles to Visit in Hampshire
- 2 More Castles in Europe
- 3 Plan Your England Itinerary
14 Amazing Castles to Visit in Hampshire
Located approximately 65 miles west of London, Highclere is probably one of the most famous Castles near London. This is primarily because the castle is the main filming location for the famed “Downton Abbey”, a TV series that turned this stately home into an international tourist highlight.
However, even before Downton came into the picture in 2010, Highclere was still pretty popular thanks to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, George Herbert who was the financial backer in the search and discovery of King Tutankhamen’s tomb in 1922.
Unlike many country houses in England, this majestic architectural wonder is still in the hands of the original owners. In fact, the Lord and Lady Carnarvon reside in this stunning castle full time.
Highclere Castle is open to visitors approximately 60-70 days a year. This is during the Easter Holiday, each of the Bank Holidays, and in summer (between July and September). As expected, the demand for this castle’s tickets utterly exceeds the supply so it’s wise to buy your ticket well in advance. The Admission tickets cost £25 for adults and £15 for kids between the age of 4 and 16 years old.
Winchester Castle is a great mix of beautiful architecture and history. It’s located slap bang at the centre of old town Winchester and it was established a year after the Norman invasion of England.
The site of this castle was selected by William the conqueror as the place where one of the first Norman castles was to be built and for over a century, this castle served as the seat of the Norman government. The Great Hall, which was built later under Henry III, is the only surviving part of the castle.
The biggest draw to Winchester castle is the iconic King Arthur’s round table, Queen Eleanor’s garden, and the majestic gates that were built as a tribute to Prince Charles & Diana after their wedding. But there are also historical fact boards and other artefacts that are very informative. For an admission fee of only £4, this place is worth at least an hour of your time.
Situated just a short stroll from the Winchester Cathedral, this attraction is an easy add-on if you’re planning to explore the area.
Netley Castle is perched on a small village by the same name, on the edge of Southampton Water. This former artillery fort was built in 1540 for King Henry VIII. In the 19th century, Netley Castle was remodelled into an impressive gothic style structure and in 2000 it was converted into private residential flats retaining a wealth of ancient character and charm.
Today, the castle is a private 9-apartment complex which is the main reason why it’s no longer open to the public. Just across the road, you’ll find Netley Abbey, one of the most tranquil English Heritage sites in the area and a medieval monastery ruin that played a huge role during the construction of Netley Castle.
After the dissolution of Abbeys, some blocks from the ruins were used to build Netley Castle, and later the Abbey was converted into a private house. It’s the most complete abbey ruins in Southern England and an awesome place to visit for an hour or two for complete relaxation.
There are lots of information boards with details about every part of the building and what it was thousands of years ago so it is interesting to visit and learn about the history.
Portchester Castle is a stunning medieval structure nestled within a fortified naval base in Hampshire, at the north edge of Portsmouth harbour. Erected in the 3rd century, during Roman times, this castle is one of the oldest forts in the country, yet it has braved the test of time to be the only Roman fort whose walls are still intact.
Over the centuries, Portchester Castle has gone through lots of facelifts and renovations. Its role has also changed over the years to accommodate the needs of the owners. In the 11th century, for instance, parts of the castles were repurposed into a Norman keep, and in the 14th century, it was rebuilt into a castle. It also served as a prison during the Napoleonic Wars.
Today, this place has a lot to marvel at. You have the outer Roman walls plus its 90ft high keep where you can enjoy astounding views of the area, and in the far corner of the site you’ll find the St Mary’s church which is still in use up to date.
Entry to the inner fort, church, and grounds of the castle is free. So you can enjoy a picnic on summer days without spending a penny. However, to enter the main Norman and medieval castle you’ll need to pay £9 for adults and £6 for kids.
Popularly known by the locals as ‘King John’s Castle’, Odiham is perched in a stunning area next to the Basingstoke Canal.
During the reign of King John, only three castles were built, and Odiham was one of them which makes it a rare gem. It’s believed that King John stayed in this 13th-century castle, and actually rode from the castle to sign the Magna Carta, an important document that affirmed everyone is subject to the law including a king and his government.
There isn’t much of a building remaining but you can walk around and inside the ruin where you’ll find information boards with an intriguing history of the people who’ve lived here over the years.
Aside from the castle ruins, you can take a walk along the canal where you can read about its history. The castle is on the banks of River Whitewater in North Warnborough, and it was initially erected as a hunting lodge.
This small castle is set in the laid back coastal town of Calshot and it was built as yet another defence system by Henry VIII. Later, the site was used by the RAF as a base for flying boats.
Although there isn’t much to see or do, this castle has a basement and three floors steeped deep in history giving insights into how the site was modified and utilised to suit the defence needs of the time.
Established in the 16th century, this little gem is remarkably intact. The climb to the roof can be slightly strenuous but worth the effort if you want to enjoy picturesque views of Portsmouth, Fawley village, and the Isle of Wight.
Calshot Castle is located next to Calshot activities centre, overlooking the Southampton water so it’s pretty easy to access and there’s a good number of facilities nearby. Strolling around the castle is free but there’s a very affordable entry fee of £5 for adults and £3 for kids between the ages of 5 to 17 years old.
Unless you know where to find it, Warblington is easy to miss as it’s tucked in a secluded farm close to the town of Havant. This castle has been home to some of the most prominent figures in England’s history.
The site where Warblington Castle sits dates back to 1094 when it was owned by Roger, Baron of Shrewsbury. The estate was passed from family to family until it was ultimately owned by Margaret Pole, Countess of Salisbury, in the 15th century.
Much of the castle was demolished after the English Civil War, but part of the manor house has immaculately been revamped to give the garden a unique look. There is also a 17th-century country house that was reconstructed with Caen stone from a 16th-century fortified manor.
In 2018, Warblington Castle was listed for sale, so if you have £2.5 million to spare you can live out your childhood fairytale dream of living in a castle.
Wolvesey Castle, also known as Old Bishop’s Palace, is a ruined building in Winchester, not far from the Cathedral. The medieval Bishops of Winchester were rich and powerful men who were advisors of kings. Wolvesey was their main residence throughout the Middle Ages.
The extensive remains that you can see today are largely the remains from the great 12th century palace of Bishop Henry of Bois who was the brother of King Stephen. Even for ruins, they give an impression of their former grandeur.
The remains are free to enter and walk around. The grounds are open daily between 10am to 5pm between April and September. Then in October they are open daily between 10am to 4pm. In winter the grounds are only open on weekends between 10am to 4pm.
Located on the Isle of Wight, Yarmouth Castle was once one of Henry VIII’s most sophisticated coastal fortresses. Built in 1547, this square castle was used to protect Yarmouth Harbour from the threat of French attack.
The fortification remained in use throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, albeit with a smaller garrison until it was finally withdrawn in 1885. Now the site provides one of the best picnic spots on the island with breathtaking views across the waters of the Solent.
The castle is open to the public. You can explore the castle interior and see how it was used in the 16th century. Plus you can learn what life was like for the Tudor defenders who lived and worked in the castle. Tickets cost £6 for adults and £4 for kids between the ages of 5 to 17 years old.
Also located on the Isle of Wight in the village of Carisbrooke you’ll find Carisbrooke Castle. This historic motte and bailey castle can be found right in the heart of the island. A ruined wall suggests the site may have been occupied in Roman times.
Carisbrooke has been a central place of power and defence on the Isle of Wight for over 1,000 years. It has been a Saxon fortress as well as a castle of the Norman conquest. Most famously, Charles I was held prisoner here during the Civil War, shortly before his execution.
In modern times, this romantic castle has become a popular tourist attraction. Perched on the hilltop, the castle offers visitors beautiful views and a place to enjoy the fresh open air. Stroll around the Princess Beatrice Garden before meeting the famous Carisbrooke donkeys. Tickets cost £12 for adults and £7 for kids between the ages of 5 to 17 years old.
Historically known as Chaderton Castle, Southsea Castle is an artillery fort originally constructed by Henry VIII in 1544 due to tension between England, France and the Roman Empire. The castle had a square central keep, two rectangular gun platforms and two angled bastions.
Southsea Castle is free of charge between April and October each year but donations are welcome. Visitors can explore the keep while enjoying panoramic views of the Isle of Wight and Solent. The Castle is closed to visitors between November and March, however, the courtyard is open as well as the Courtyard Cafe.
Southsea Castle is unique to the other castles on the list as it is also home to a brewery. Southsea Brewing Company has made a name for itself amongst the locals with its range of tasty and varied small-batch brews. They are open on selected weekends selling beers on tap or bottles to take away.
Hurst Castle was built between 1541 and 1544 as an artillery fort established by Henry VIII. It formed part of the king’s Device Forts coastal protection programme to protect southern England from continental attack.
The castle is open daily to visitors who wish to explore, with refreshments available from outside the castle’s entrance. At the moment the east and west wings are closed to visitors due to repair work taking place. However, with open space for children and fantastic views of the Isle of Wight, Hurst Castle still has a lot to offer.
With the east and west wings currently closed, the entrance fee has been reduced to just £4.40 for adults and £2.50 for children aged between 5 and 17 years old. The castle is open between 10am to 5:30pm during April to September, open between 10am to 4pm during October and closed between November to March.
As a thriving port city that was a hub for trading wool and wine, Southampton Castle was also constructed as part of the defence system. It was one of the first castles in England to be equipped with cannon. The significance of this castle declined around the 16th century and most of it was demolished.
What’s interesting about Southampton Castle today is the fact that modern Southampton city has been built around the remains of this castle, creating a bewildering contrast between the past and the present world.
Since the surrounding area has been built up, it’s hard to access every section of the castle, but that’s the beauty of it. There is no entry fee, and you can get lost intentionally as you explore the four walls of the castle at a leisurely pace.
Osborne House is a former royal residence located on the Isle of Wight. This stunning building was built between 1845 and 1851 as a summer home for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. It was Albert who designed the house himself in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo.
The most significant addition was the Durbar Wing which was completed in 1892, after Prince Albert’s death. This wing contained a large reception room and accommodation for Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria’s youngest married daughter and her family.
Today, Osborne is open to the public to explore the grounds, admire the Swiss Cottage, visit the museum, relax in the cafe and walk around the gardens. The entrance fee is £19 for adults and £11.40 for kids between the ages of 5 to 17 years old.
There you have it, some of the best castles in Hampshire just waiting to be explored. Which will you visit first?
More Castles in Europe
Looking for more castles to visit in Europe? Why not check some of these out!
Plan Your England Itinerary
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- Norfolk’s Best Spa Hotel
- Stadium Tours in London
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