Ride between 25 historic castles on a 120-mile, 200-mile or 330-mile virtual cycle challenge!
Jump in the saddle and rack up some late summer miles by joining Pilgrims Hospices virtual cycling event; Tour de Castles.
Ride it your way by choosing between a 120-mile, 200-mile or 330-mile challenge that represent the equivalent distance of riding between 10, 15 or 25 historic English castles before the end of September. The 25 Castles virtual route begins at the impressive Arundel Castle in West Sussex, and showcases the beautiful landscape of the south coast and Kent countryside in an epic tour through the region's rich history, dating back as far as the Roman conquest. Rolling hills, ancient forests, chalk cliffs and quiet country lanes all await exploration from your own doorstep.
The 15 Castle virtual route starts from the beautiful Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn, and the 10 Castle virtual route begins at England's largest, Dover Castle. Whichever distance you choose, you'll be riding towards the same goal - to reach the gates of the famous Tower of London before the end of the month!
Starting from, or near to, your own home, you'll be able to track your progress, and everyone else's, along a virtual route map using the award-winning Pilgrims event App. Ride your favourite local routes, or plan to cycle to your nearest castle. Simply ride when and how often you can throughout September and see if you can reach the Tower of London before the month is up. You can even include the miles you do on an indoor training bike.
Along the way, you'll 'visit' crumbling Roman fortresses, Norman strongholds, the height of Tudor opulence and imposing medieval coastal defences that were still in use during the Second World War. It's a truly memorable experience and we're giving you the chance, wherever you live, to take on this bespoke virtual challenge to help raise vital funds for Pilgrims specialist end-of-life care.
The interactive route map
Press the blue buttons to load all rider positions for each of the challenge routes.
- Tour de Castles virtual cycle challenge entry: £5
Entry includes event app tracking with achievements, digital milestone badges, fundraising support, and access to an active cycling community group to stay motivated.
Virtual event tracking requires a free MapMyTracks account.
The 25 castles
- Arundel Castle, start: A stately, medieval castle that has stood since 1067 and was restored in the 18th and 19th centuries after being damaged in the English Civil War.
- Bramber Castle, 16 miles: An early Norman motte and bailey castle built around 1075 that sustained heavy cannon fire during the English Civil War leaving only the ruined gatehouse today.
- Lewes Castle, 33 miles: Standing at the highest point of Lewes, the castle comprises a keep with octagonal towers and a fine 14th century barbican in an unusual motte and bailey design with two mottes.
- Pevensey Castle, 60 miles: The Roman fort of Anderida has stood since the 3rd century, with a great stone keep being added later following the Norman conquest. The castle has survived numerous sieges and remained in use throughout the Late Middle Ages.
- Herstmonceux Castle, 64 miles: A palatial, brick-built Tudor Castle with moat and gardens, built in 1441 for the princely sum of £3,000.
- Hastings Castle, 78 miles: The first new fortification ordered by William of Normandy upon landing in England in 1066. Originally a timber and earth, motte and bailey castle, it was rebuilt in stone just 4 years later and survived until the 13th century, when violent storms eroded much of the sandstone cliffs it had been built upon.
- Camber Castle, 88 miles: Ruins of an artillery fort built by Henry VIII to guard the port of Rye. Camber was part of a chain of coastal defences built to protect the coast following Henry's break from the Roman Catholic Church. By the end of the 16th century, the silting of the Camber made the castle obselete.
- Rye Castle, 90 miles: Built around 1249, during the reign of King Henry III, Rye Castle formed part of his defences against frequent attacks from the warring French. As one of England’s five historic Cinque Ports, the town of Rye has traditionally provided one of the main coastal defences for the realm in exchange for certain trading privileges.
- Bodiam Castle, 102 miles: One of Britain's most romantic and picturesque castles, Bodiam was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of King Edward III. Said to have been built to defend the area against French invasion during the Hundred Years' War.
- Scotney Castle, 115 miles: Ruins of 14th century moated castle. Originally built as a fortified house with towers in each corner, it was rebuilt in Elizabethan style in 1580 and again in 1630. The Catholic Darrell family, who owned the estate for some 350 years, hid Jesuit priests who were preaching at a time when Catholicism was illegal in England.
- Hever Castle, 134 miles: Picturesque, mainly Tudor moated castle and gardens. The childhood home of its most famous inhabitant, Anne Boleyn, it later passed to Henry's fourth wife, Anne of Cleves.
- Tonbridge Castle, 144 miles: Rebuilt in stone after the initial wooden motte and bailey castle was destroyed by King William II, this impressive gatehouse and curtain wall still stands today, where it has guarded the crossing of the River Medway for nearly 1,000 years.
- Sutton Valence Castle, 162 miles: The ruins of this 12th century Norman castle stands atop a tall mound controlling the Roman road that runs from Maidstone to the coast. In 1401, the estate was sold to provide a ransom for the release of Baron Grey of Ruthin who had been captured by Owain Glyndŵr.
- Leeds Castle, 167 miles: Widely renowned as one of the most beautiful medieval castles in England, Leeds dates back to 1119. Due to its favour with monarchs such as King Edward I and Henry VIII, the castle saw significant investment over the centuries and today enjoys a picturesque position amid a tranquil lake and 500 acres of beautiful parkland.
- Westenhanger Castle, 193 miles: The de Criol family built the fortified manor house on the site in 1343, and it remained with the family until the War of the Roses when Sir Thomas de Criol was beheaded. Strengthened in response to threats of attack from France during the 14th century, in 1588 Queen Elizabeth used the castle as the command centre for troops who were to defend the south coast from the Spanish Armada.
- Dover Castle, 213 miles and start of 10 Castles Challenge: Situated above the White Cliffs of Dover, this grand medieval castle, the largest in England, has a long and fascinating history. Centuries before Henry II founded his great stone castle here in the 1160s, the site hosted an Iron Age hill fort and still includes a Roman lighthouse. In the 13th century, King John ordered the construction of underground tunnels to quickly deploy troops in order to surprise attacking forces. These tunnels were later used as a military command HQ during WWII.
- Walmer Castle, 220 miles: Built between 1539 and 1540, this well preserved Tudor artillery fortress was one of three constructed to protect the Downs, an area of safe anchorage off the Kent coast. Walmer's only taste of action was during the English Civil War, when in 1648 it surrendered to Parliamentary forces after a three week siege. Inhabited by the Duke of Wellington in his role as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, it was here that the hero of Waterloo died in 1852.
- Deal Castle, 221 miles: One of the finest Tudor artillery castles in England. Whether by design or coincidence, the Tudor rose shaped fortress was built between 1539 - 1540 re-using stone, with a twist of irony, from nearby religious houses following the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
- Richborough Roman Fort, 230 miles: Ruins of a Roman and Saxon shore fort dating back as far as the Roman invasion of Britian in 43 AD. Because of its position near the mouth of the Stour, the fort was the major British port under the Romans and the starting point for the road now known as Watling Street. The 5 acre fort was surrounded by massive stone walls, forming an almost perfect square.
- Reculver Castle, 290 miles: Remains of a Roman fort, built around 43 AD, that once occupied a strategic location at the north-western end of the Wantsum Channel, a sea lane that separated the Isle of Thanet and the Kent mainland until the late Middle Ages.
- Canterbury Castle: 255 miles: Construction of this great stone keep took place between 1086-1120. After Henry II built his new castle at Dover, Canterbury Castle declined in importance and became the county gaol, and by the 17th century it had fallen into ruin.
- Rochester Castle, 290 miles: Strategically placed alongside the London Road and guarding an important crossing of the River Medway, this imposing Norman castle was built on the site of an earlier Roman fort and one of the best preserved Norman keeps in England.
- Upnor Castle, 292 miles: This rare example of an Elizabethan artillery fort was begun in 1559 to protect the Royal Navy warships being built and repaired at Chatham dockyards on the River Medway. After the Dutch sailed right past it and destroyed much of the English fleet at anchor, the defences of Chatham were revised in 1668. The castles defences were further updated in the decades that followed and it continued in service until 1945, when it was declared a museum.
- Eynsford Castle, 310 miles: Built around 1088 by William de Eynsford, Sheriff of Kent, the castle was constructed to an enclosure type design, with an encircling curtain wall protecting the inner cluster of buildings, setting it apart from many other early Norman castles designs. Broken into and ransacked in the 14th century, the castle was abandoned and fell in to ruin.
- Tower of London, 330 miles: Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress. The Tower of London's history dates back to William the Conqueror, following the Norman conquest in 1066, who integrated the existing Roman town walls into its structure. The White Tower is the earliest stone keep to be built in England. Since then, the tower has been used as a home for kings and queens, a royal mint, treasury, prison and royal zoo, and today houses the Crown Jewels.
Cycling is good for us, both for our physical fitness and mental well-being, and you can join our friendly community of Pilgrims Hospice cyclists in our Pilgrims Hospices Cycling Facebook group.
It's tough but achievable; with some training and determination anyone can conquer the Tour de Castles. Why not complete the ride with friends, family or your local club to make the journey even more enjoyable.
How it works
To take part in the Tour de Castles, simply enter via the 'Register Now' button at the top of this page. Once signed up, you'll receive instructions on how to record your cycling activities and track your progress along the virtual virtual route map using the award-winning Pilgrims Event App for iOS and Android devices.
It’s free to download from the App Store and Google Play and, along with the free companion app MapMyTracks, will track your cycling activities throughout September and update your position along the interactive route map above; so you can see exactly how far you've come and how far you have left until you reach the Tower of London. You can also like and comment on your teammate's activities, earn Achievements, receive up-to-date event information and link your JustGiving page to see how your fundraising is going, all in one place.
The challenge runs from 1st - 30th September and all of your cycling activities recorded via the Pilgrims Event App during this time will count towards your overall progress along the Tour de Castles route.
You can use any route you like in order to reach your mileage goal. So if you have some favourite routes around your local area, then please use those to do your virtual ride. Or, plan a special route that visits some of the castles in your area. You can break the mileage down into as many days as you need to throughout September. All that matters is you cover the distance.
Every participant will receive exclusive digital milestone ‘badges’ upon entering that they can share as they complete milestones in their journey on social media and elsewhere to show your support for Pilgrims Hospices.
Please note: Only activities recorded using the Pilgrims Event App (MapMyTracks) AND with the activity type of 'Cycling' and set as 'Public' will be included in your progress along the virtual map below. If you wish to use Strava or another fitness app to record your rides, that's fine, but remember to add those miles manually to the Pilgrims Event App so they count.
Achievements are an exciting feature within the Pilgrims Event App. During the Tour de Castles, as well as the digital milestone badges along the way, you can earn badges within the app for completing all kinds of Achievements.
The app will automatically recognise when you have achieved the criteria for any of the badges and add it to the 'Achievements' page within the 'Profile' area of the Pilgrims Event App, together with the date that you earned it!
Eg. Once you have recorded your first ride during an event, either by MapMyTracks recording or by a manual upload, you will earn the Back in the Saddle badge.
Full list of cycling badges to achieve
- Back in the Saddle: Complete your first ride during this event.
- Grand Tour: Complete ten rides during this event.
- Leg Spinner: Complete a ride of at least 25 miles during this event.
- Extra Mile: Complete a ride of at least 50 miles during this event.
- Gran Fondo: Complete a ride of at least 75 miles during this event.
- Century: Complete a ride of at least 100 miles during this event.
- Breakaway: Cover at least 25% of the event distance.
- On the Rivet: Cover at least 50% of the event distance.
- Flamme Rouge: Cover at least 75% of the event distance.
- Finisher: Complete the full event distance and cross the finish line.
- Tour de Force: Log over 10 hours of Cycling during this event.
- Cycle Tourist: Upload at least one photo during this event.
- Super Saturday: Log an activity on the first Saturday of this event.
- Everester: Climb the height of Mt Everest (8848 m) during this event.
Show your support with the official Pilgrims Hospices cycle jersey and neck scarf
We're excited to bring you the official Pilgrims Hospices cycle jersey and neck scarf. Show your support out on the road with these stylish, quality garments, packed with great features such as a zipped valuables pocket, full-length zip and silicone waist gripper. We also have Pilgrims neck scarfs, ideal for keeping you warm on cold or windy days and providing shade from the sun on hot days. Grab yours today and help us be there for thousands of people coping with incurable illness in east Kent.
Cycle Jersey: £35, Neck Scarf: £5
Sizes available: S, M, L, XL, XXL
We need your help to be there for people living with an incurable illness and encourage you to raise as much sponsorship as you can for your challenge! If you raise:
- £100 – you will receive a Pilgrims Hospices wristband
- £250 – you can choose to receive a Pilgrims Hospices neck buff, the perfect accessory for keeping you warm on cold or windy days and providing shade from the sun on hot days, or any previously unlocked reward
- £500 – you will receive a Pilgrims Hospices technical t-shirt, or any previously unlocked reward
- £750 – you will receive free entry into the Pilgrims Hospices Cycle Challenge 2023*, a Pilgrims Hospices cycle jersey, or any previously unlocked reward.
Click here for full Terms and Conditions on fundraising rewards.
Pilgrims Hospices nurses and support staff are providing skilled and compassionate end-of-life care, free of charge, for people living with life-limiting illness across east Kent right now.
By doing your part for Pilgrims Hospices, you'll truly be making a difference to the lives of our patients. Here's how:
- £10 could pay for a patient's meals for the day
- £25 could pay for an hour of specialist nursing care
- £30 could pay for our Community Team to hold a video consultation with a patient in their own home
- £45 could pay for a virtual counselling session for an individual coping with the loss of a loved one
- £90 could pay for all the medicine needed at one of our inpatient units over 24 hours
- Frequently Asked Questions: Tour de Castles
- Join the Pilgrims Hospices Cycling Group
- Download a Pilgrims Hospices sponsorship form
- Make a JustGiving page
- Top tips for raising sponsorship
- See how money you raise can help