Sometimes we are so fascinated by the ancient wonders found all over the world, that we can often overlook some of the amazing history on our own doorstep. Throughout the countryside, towns and coastal landscapes, you can find some of the most spectacular ruins that tell of Britain’s exciting and varied past.
Britain’s ruins have stood the test of time, and now act as a reminder for events that happened before us. Many have now opened new chapters in their stories as tourist attractions and homes for wildlife.
From abandoned medieval castles to the remains of Roman settlements, there’s a whole variety of history to unearth with a visit to one of Britain’s majestic ruins. Here at Parkdean Resorts, we’ve created a list of some of the forgotten ruins that you can discover on your next holiday with us.
Carew Castle, Pembrokeshire
The history of Carew Castle spans over 2,000 years, and showcases the castle’s evolution from a Norman stronghold to a grand mansion. Set in a stunning location, overlooking a 23-acre tidal millpond, this is one of the most architecturally varied castles in Britain.
The earliest part of the castle dates back to around 1100. Built by Gerald de Windsor, Carew Castle was the centre of Norman rule in South Pembrokeshire. However, this was not the first settlement to be built on this site. Recent excavations have revealed the remains of an ancient Iron Age Fort that once stood here before, and even some Roman pottery.
The castle was later developed and greatly improved, transforming it from a medieval fortress into a magnificent Elizabethan manor. During the Civil War, the castle was owned by Sir George Carew, and provided a strategic location for many of the battles fought in the area, before being abandoned in 1686.
In 1983, the site was leased by the National Park Authority who began to restore the remains of the castle and the surrounding landscape, adding another chapter to its history.
Today, the ruins of this once majestic castle stand in triumph on the low-lying banks of the river Carew. There are plenty of mysterious passages and towers to explore, and stunning viewpoints to enjoy in the castle grounds.
Across the still waters of the millpond you’ll find the Tidal Mill, the only restored mill of its kind in Wales. Though the mill is no longer in operation, inside you can see the machinery that would have been used here, and discover more about how water has been used as a source of power through the ages. The still waters of the causeway make the perfect spot for crabbing, especially during high tide.
Just 30 minutes from Pendine Sands Holiday Park, a visit to Carew Castle allows you to step back in time and discover more about the history of Pembrokeshire.
Video sourced from Helidan
Corfe Castle, Dorset
The dramatic ruins of Corfe Castle tell a story of 1000 years of fierce battles, strange mysteries and treacherous plots. During its varied history, it’s been a royal residence, a family home and a military garrison.
Close to Dorset’s coast, and only 15 minutes away from Sandford Holiday Park, Corfe Castle is one of the most iconic survivors of Britain’s Civil War. The castle has a very colourful history, and with fallen walls and secret hidden spaces, it’s packed with tales of betrayal and treason.
Originally built in 1086, it was one of the country’s greatest strongholds during the Civil War - and was fiercely defended by Lady Bankes, the wife of the castle’s owner. Stories tell of Lady Bankes’ heroic efforts to protect her husband’s castle, until she was betrayed by someone within its own walls - causing the great fortress to fall into the hands of her enemies.
Whilst Lady Bankes was lucky to escape punishment, Corfe Castle itself paid the price. In 1646 it was destroyed to prevent anyone else from using it, however its triumphant ruins remain and tell a story of survival and victory against its enemies.
Now cared for by the National Trust, Corfe Castle is a fascinating place to visit. Arrow loops and “murder holes” in the castle walls tell of its violent past, and history comes to life with exciting events and re-enactments. As you stroll around the crumbling ruins it’s easy to imagine the castle in its heyday, as a luxurious royal palace, or a place of fierce fighting.
Video sourced from jamie25152749
Ambleside Roman Fort, Lake District
The remains of Ambleside Roman Fort date from the 2nd century, and it was believed to have been built under the rule of the Emperor Hadrian. The ruins you see today are of the second fort built on this site, created to house approximately 500 men, which remained in use into the 4th century. Close to the fort, the remains of a civilian settlement have also been found, thought to be the evidence of shops, bath houses, temples and even take-away food outlets, as well as accommodation for the friends and families of the soldiers living there.
Not a lot is known about the men who stayed here, and details of the fort’s history are scarce. Excavations have revealed evidence of possible power struggles between those living at Ambleside Roman Fort. A headstone found nearby, belonging to Flavius Romanus, a record clerk who lived and worked there, bears the inscription “killed by the enemy inside the fort”, suggesting a struggle to maintain law and order within.
Today, you can see the remains of the main gate and south gate, as well as several other buildings such as the granary and the commanding officer’s house. Only 5 minutes from White Cross Bay Holiday Park, this peaceful setting transports you back in time, and reveals a lesser-known side to the Lake District.
Overlooking the northern edge of the beautiful Lake Windermere, Ambleside Roman Fort provides a peaceful location for you to escape and discover more about the history of the stunning Lake District.
Video sourced from Damiam Webber
Dover Castle and Roman Lighthouse, Kent
The most iconic of all English fortresses, Dover Castle acted as the gateway to Britain for hundreds of years. Built in the 12th century, it has been given the name “The key to England” as it was considered the nation’s first line of defence for centuries, guarding our shores from invasion. First manned after the battle of 1066, until as recently as 1958, it played an important role in many of Britain’s wars, including the Napoleonic Wars against France and both World Wars.
The largest castle in England, Dover Castle is only 10 minutes away from St Margarets Bay Holiday Park - perched on the White Cliffs of Dover overlooking the English Channel.
Nowadays, a visit to Dover Castle reveals its significance as one of Britain’s most strategic military defences. Visitors can step inside the Great Tower and discover a medieval fortress, or travel below ground and explore the secret underground hospital.
Hidden within the castle grounds, one of Britain’s forgotten ruins can be found; the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country, and one of the oldest in the world. The Roman ‘Pharos’ was once used by the Romans to aid travel across the English Channel from France, and was built around 43 AD.
Today, the lighthouse is about four-storeys and stands at around 60 feet high. It’s originally thought to have been around eight-storeys high, standing at roughly 80 feet. A glowing beacon of fire would have burned at the top of the lighthouse, helping Roman boats navigate towards the shore safely, avoiding the rocky headland below.
Video sourced from Jenny Laird
Dunstanburgh Castle, Northumberland
Dunstanburgh Castle is the largest castle in Northumberland. Standing on a remote headland, this imposing ruin looks magnificent silhouetted against the horizon, surrounded by water and the sweeping coastal landscape.
The castle was built at a time of Civil War and unrest in Britain, created by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, who was executed before he could make use of the castle. It then passed to John of Gaunt, who strengthened the castle to protect himself from the threats from Scotland.
During the Wars of the Roses the castle was besieged twice, falling into the hands of Yorkist forces, before being abandoned and falling into decay. The remains of this grand fortification tell the story of wars that helped shape the face of the castle, and the history of its owners.
Settled on Northumberland’s dramatic coastline, it can be reached from the nearby town of Craster, by taking a scenic walk along the coast to reach the castle. If you’re paying the castle a visit, don’t forget to try the local delicacy, the famous Craster kippers.
The castle grounds offer unique views of the wave-battered coastline, and the clifftops provide the perfect home for nature. The site is now a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and the clifftops provide an ideal nesting place for many different species of seabirds which can be seen swooping down to the waves below.
The landscape surrounding the castle is just as striking as the ruins themselves, with clifftop paths running along the rocky coastline, full of great rock pooling spots. Look out for evidence of another chapter in Britain’s history too, and see if you can spot the remains of World War 2 pillboxes, evidence of anti-invasion defences during the war.
Only 40 minutes from Cresswell Towers Holiday Park, Dunstanburgh Castle is a beautiful location for a coastal walk, nature spotting and enjoying the stunning views of one of Britain’s iconic ruins.
Video sourced from Mark Bradshaw ABirdsEyeView Media Productions