Where is Britain’s favourite castle?

Britain's Favourite Castle
Britain’s favour­ite castle, but where is it? Photo (cc) Elvis Payne.

UKTV drummed up pub­li­city on the cheap this sum­mer for its History chan­nel by hav­ing a vote ask­ing what is Britain’s Best Historic Site. Best for what is never clear. Anyway the res­ults are in and to the sur­prise of, well no-one, Stonehenge won. HMS Victory and Liverpool Cathedral came behind.

But there are sur­prises in the list where a high rank­ing could make a dif­fer­ence. At num­ber four in the list is a castle, but where is it? London, Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast? No it’s Tamworth. To be hon­est I’d for­got­ten Tamworth had a castle, but in medi­eval Britain Tamworth was one of the major cit­ies on the island. For a while it was the cap­ital of Mercia.

It’s easy to be cyn­ical about these sort of votes. Certainly the first draught of this entry was, but when they throw up sur­prises like this they’re inter­est­ing. Tamworth was doing well to out­poll Warwick or Nottingham castles. When you con­sider that there’s other sites like the Tower of London which are far bet­ter known, it shows that Tamworth’s tour­ism board must have put some major effort into selling the site and impress­ing its vis­it­ors. Despite the claims of Salisbury’s tour­ism board I can’t believe that win­ning the vote will improve tour­ism num­bers to Stonehenge, but it gives the list some cred­ib­il­ity which rubs off onto the less well-known sites like Tamworth Castle or Erddig.

If you’re look­ing for a local site to visit in the UK then look­ing through the sites by region could provide some over­looked gems. Another thing worth look­ing through would be Elvis Payne’s pho­tos of Tamworth. It’s a bril­liant example of someone show­ing why local doesn’t have be mundane.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.