Last Updated on June 16, 2023 by Louise
Are you looking for a real castle dungeon to visit in the UK? Look no further because we have listed ten must-visit castle dungeons.
Dungeons are a great way to get kids and teens enthralled in the UK’s history. Their storie make us realise how lucky we are never to endure the hardships of the poor souls who inhabited these spaces.
Every dungeon has a unique and often grim story. From the imposing Tower of London, steeped in centuries of royal intrigue, to the hauntingly beautiful Chillingham Castle with its reputation for ghostly encounters.
Learn about the prisoners who endured the hardships of Edinburgh Castle Vaults and descend into the depths of Warwick Castle’s Castle Dungeon for a theatrical experience like no other.
Read on for the best dungeons in the UK.
Carlisle Castle Dungeons
Carlisle Castle is a well-preserved medieval fortresses in England, not far from the border with Scotland. It was founded in the 11th century during the reign of William II of England.
The castle has served as a military garrison and prison throughout its history. Some famous prisoners include Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Jacobite leader Lord Lovat.
Today, you can visit the castle ruins, walk the walls, see canons, go inside prison cells with prisoner graffiti carved into the walls and visit the dungeons.
After the Jacobites were defeated in 1746, many prisoners were sent to Carlisle Castle. 90 of the prisoners were kept in the underground dungeon whilst awaiting trial. The conditions were cramped and warm but as the dungeon was damp, moisture accumulated on the walls. With little water, prisoners licked the damp walls to keep alive which must have been a grim and desperate things to do. The imprints of where they licked can still be seen today .
The Castle is also home to a military museum.
Find out more at Carlisle Castle
Warwick Castle Dungeon
Photo credit: Martin Addison
If you visit Warwick Castle, you can book the dungeon experience as an extra during your castle visit.
Live actors take you through the dungeon on a scary, humorous and entertaining tour. They depict gruesome tales, stories of torture and other dark events. Visitors are often encouraged to get involved in the action!
The castle dungeons are not recommended for children under 10 years old.
Pontefract Castle, Yorkshire
Photo Credit: Mtaylor848
The ruins of Pontefract Castle include the inner bailey, the gatehouse, parts of the curtain wall and the dungeons.
A tour of the dungeons is bookable online most weekends and only costs a few pounds (the rest of the ruins are free to visit).
The dungeons are very big but the history is fascinating. On a tour, a guide tells you about the fascinating history castle from Norman times, through to Tudor times and the Civil War. Climb down the steep stone steps to an eerie underground space. See where Civil War prioners scratched their names upon the rocks.
Edinburgh Castle Vaults
Photo Credit: xlibber
Edinburgh’s amazing castle is well worth a visit. Highlights include the Scottish Crown jewels, the Great Hall and the castle Vaults (aka the dungeons)
The Vaults are a series of underground chambers below Crown Square. In the 1700s and 1800s hundreds of prisoners of war were held in these dark, cramped spaces. Pirates were also held in this space before they became a prison of war.
Today during a visit to Edinburgh Castle you can see how the vaults looked around 1800 and experience the wretched way of life for the men who lived here.
Find out more at Edinburgh Castle
Chillingham Castle Dungeon and Torture Chamber, Northumberland
Photo Credit: John Sparshatt
Located in Northumbria, Chillingham Castle has a reputation of being one of the most haunted castles in the UK. It has a torture chamber and a dungeon that visitors can explore.
The dungeon is small and lit only by a small arrow slit in the thick wall. Inside letters have been carved on the chamber wall by desperate prisoners. The conditions for prisoners was nothing short of dreadful.
The torture room is another chilling reminder of the Chillingham’s dark past. Filled with numerous medieval torture devices,it provides a glimpse into the gruesome methods used in the past.
Find out more at Chillingham Castle
Berkeley Castle Dungeon, Gloucestershire
It is home to a deep dungeon, a 28 foot pit, in the old keep. The carcesses of rotting animals were once thrown in here, along with the odd unfortunate peasant.
Famously King Edward II was imprisoned at Berkeley Castle. For five months he was confined to a windowless room above the dungeon. The stentch must have been awful.
Rumour has it that Edward was brutally murdered by having a hot poker thrust up his anus. However, many historians now discount this account of Edward’s death.
Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland
Photo Credit: Steve Collis
This wonderful castle in beautiful surroundings is located right next to a gorgeous beach.
There is a lot to do and see here including a small dungeon. The gruesome dungeon includes figures of people being tortured which brings the horror to life.
Other highlights include the state rooms, the armoury and the aviation museum which is located in the castle.
Bamburgh Castle is also famous for being the backdrop on many scenes in the Netflix series “The Last Kingdom”. Known as Bebbanburg in the TV series, some of the battles from season 3 were filmed on Bamburgh beach with the castle in the background. Visitors can now embark on a Last Kingdom tour at the castle and see some of the props and costumes from the TV series.
Find out more at Bamburgh Castle
Lancaster Castle Dungeons
Photo Credit: Asharkshooting
Lancaster Castle has a fascinating and varied history. It was originally built as a Roman fortress but over the years has also served as a residence for Royal visitors, a courtroom and a prison. Prisoners have been kept at the castle as early as 12th century until 2011 (it served as a category C prison for male offenders until March 2011).
The Well Tower at the Castle holds three stone-flagged underground dungeons which were used to incarcerate prisoners during medieval times. The Well Tower was built in about 1325 and as it’s name suggests contains two wells. It is also known as the Witches Tower. This is because in 1692 the Pendle Witch Trials took place at Lancaster Castle. The trial was of several individuals accused of witchcraft in the nearby Pendle Hill area. It is thought the accused were held in dungeons at Lancaster Castle before and during their trials. Ten of them were ultimately found guilty and sentenced to death.
Entry to the castle interiors which are open to the public is by guided tour only. On a tour, visitors can see the prison cells, the courtyard, castle interiors, and the Drop Room where the condemned prisoners were led to the gallows.
Please note, at the moment there is work taking place to update the fire alarm in part of the building so the guided tours are limited to 30 minute where you can see external courtyards and one of the prison buildings.
Find out more at Lancaster Castle
Tower of London
The infamous Tower of London is an amazing combination of medieval castle, armor museum and prison complete with dungeons and torture exhibits. The Tower of London has 21 towers and many prisoners were kept in there as well as in underground spaces which were often referred to as a dungeon.
On a visit, you can see these undeground spaces as well as where prisoners were held in the tower. At the top of the White Tower, you can find the items used for the beheadings, including actual wooden block, axe and executioners. The Tower is steeped in history and you can see the site where the beheading of Anne Bolyn took place. Be sure to chat to a Beefeater or go on a Yeoman tour where you can hear more about the gruesome events that took place here.
Find out more at the Tower of London
Photo Credit: Michael Garlick
Skipton Castle is a beautiful, well preserved medieval castle with banqueting room, drawing room, bedrooms, towers, etc and nooks & crannies to explore.
It’s also home to a dungeon which is located beneath the castle’s twin-towered gatehouse. Prisoners were held captive here in complete darkness in damp conditions. Sometimes they were held in leg irons.
Other highlights include a medieval toilet and courtyard with a tree growing in the middle.
Find out more at Skipton Castle
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