These castles are the perfect places to visit when you're looking to get the royal treatment.
1. ASHFORD CASTLE // COUNTY GALWAY, IRELAND
Ashford Castle was built in 1228 on an early Monastic site. While it's changed hands several times over its long history, it was originally constructed and owned by the House of Burke (originally de Burgos), an early Anglo-Norman family, and was purchased by Sir Benjamin Guinness of the Guinness brewing company in 1852. After several hundred years of additions and renovations, the castle was converted into a hotel in 1939. It served as home base and a backdrop for 1951's The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara and directed by John Ford, and was named the world's best luxury hotel in 2015 by Virtuoso.
Book it: Ashford Castle
2. AYRSHIRE CASTLE // WEST KILBRIDE, SCOTLAND
Also known as Castle Law, this Scottish castle was built in the 15th century as a wedding present for Princess Mary, the daughter of James II of Scotland, following her marriage to Thomas Boyd, the Earl of Arran. On a slightly less romantic note, among the structure’s many authentic medieval touches are a trapdoor-accessed pit prison and a “murder hole” that was once used to pour scalding oil onto unsuspecting enemies below. Today, visitors can enjoy fresh linens, a fireplace, stunning views, and a secret staircase during their stay.
Book it: Airbnb
3. TALABGAON CASTLE // DAUSA, INDIA
Located in the western Indian state of Rajasthan (which translates to “Land of Kings”), Talabgaon Castle was originally built as a fort in 1818, during a dispute between two warring states over the nearby Sambhur Lake—and its salt deposits. It was later converted into a castle in 1900 by Thakur Vijay Singh ji Rathore, and is still owned by the Singh Rathore family today.
Book it: Talabgaon Castle.
4. SCHLOSS KAPFENSTEIN // KAPFENSTEIN, AUSTRIA
Schloss Kapfenstein is built atop an extinct volcano in southeastern Styria, a region of Austria near the borders of Hungary and Slovenia. It was originally built as a fortress in the 11th century to guard against invading Huns and Turks. Nowadays, Schloss Kapfenstein hosts travelers and wine connoisseurs from around the world, who come to tour the surrounding vineyards that are owned by the same family who own the castle.
Book it: Schloss Hotels
5. CHATEAU AUBEPINE // FOURNEAUX, RHONE-ALPES, FRANCE
Chateau Aubepine is classified as a “classé Monument Historique,” the highest honor bestowed by the French government in recognition of historical significance. The private chateau, built in 1621, sits among gardens created by Le Nôtre, Louis XIV's gardener. It's nestled among 247 acres of private woodland, and the grounds contain tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a private fishing lake.
Book it: Oliver's Travels
6. CASTLE PERGINE // TRENTINO, ITALY
Originally constructed around 1000 CE and converted into a medieval fortress in the 13th century, Castle Pergine was owned by Austrian dukes for a time, then became property of the Prince-Bishop of Trent in 1531. In 1900, renovations began to convert the building and today, the castle is an exclusive luxury hotel with 20 rooms and three towers, all located within what is called the “Ala Clesiana” wing, which was added in the mid-1500s.
Book it: Castelpergine
7. PARADOR DE OROPESA // OROPESA, SPAIN
Restored in 1402 after almost being destroyed, Parador de Oropesa is one of Spain’s oldest paradors: historically significant structures converted into hotels by the government in order to pay for their upkeep and restoration. The castle was once the home of the Toledo family of nobles, and the castle’s legacy has given birth to a yearly celebration in the town of Oropesa called “Jornadas Medievales,” or “Medieval Days”.
Book it: Parador
8. DALHOUSIE CASTLE // MIDLOTHIAN, SCOTLAND
Roger W Haworth, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5
Eight miles outside of Edinburgh and overlooking the River Esk, the main structure of Dalhousie Castle was originally built in the mid-1400s. The castle has had a role in several important moments in Scottish history: King Edward I stayed there en route to meeting Sir William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk, which was a pivotal battle in the Scottish War for Independence. Later, Oliver Cromwell used Dalhousie Castle as his base while invading Scotland. For those wishing to get a taste of historic Scotland today, the castle-turned-hotel offers a formal restaurant located in the castle’s old dungeons, as well as a recreational “falconry experience.”
Book it: Dalhousie Castle
9. POUSADA DE CASTELO // OBIDOS, PORTUGAL
Obidos, Portugal is a small coastal town—once an early Roman settlement—whose name is said to derive from the Latin oppidum, or “fortified city.” The town’s namesake fortifications are still around today, as is its centerpiece castle, now a luxury hotel. Because the castle and surrounding property were gifted by King Denis of Portugal to his bride Queen Isabel in 1282, Obidos is also sometimes known as the “wedding present town.” The luxury hotel Pousada de Castelo is housed in the 12th century castle in the heart of the town.
Book it: Pousadas
10. CHATEAU DE LA CAZE // SAINTE-ENIMIE, FRANCE
This 15th century castle was originally constructed as a honeymoon getaway for French noblewoman Soubeyrane Alamand. Built into the cliffs overlooking the Tarn River, this fairytale castle-turned-hotel features interiors decorated with tapestries and antiques, as well as exteriors dotted with authentic arrow slits, both recalling its medieval past.
Book it: Chateau De LaCaze
11. SCHLOSS SOMMERSDORF // BURGOBERBACH, GERMANY
This castle, located in the heart of Bavaria, was built in the 14th century under one Ludvig von Eyb. In 1550, the castle came into the ownership of the prominent Crailsheim family, who brought the Protestant reformation to the surrounding town of Sommersdorf. After barely surviving the Thirty Years War, the castle underwent renovations that replaced its drawbridge with a permanent bridge. Today, the castle is still owned by the Crailsheim family—rather than a hotel, the castle is actually the home of Dr. Manfred Baron von Crailsheim, who enjoys hosting guests. Fun Fact: Graf Crailsheim, of the Crailsheim family, was one of several officials who in the early 19th century attempted to have then-king Ludwig II deposed and certified as insane. Ludwig II was later found dead, mysteriously drowned in waist-high water.
Book it: Schloss sommersdorf
12. HEVER CASTLE // HEVER, ENGLAND
This 13th century double-moated castle—now a luxury bed and breakfast—is located in Hever, a small village in Kent, England. The castle once served as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the doomed second wife of King Henry VIII. The castle passed through several hands and eventually fell into disrepair until the early 1900s, when it was revived through the restoration efforts of American mogul William Waldorf Astor. Today, visitors from all over the world come to see 125 acres of formal gardens and collections of Tudor-era artifacts, including a prayer book said to be the one Anne Boleyn took with her to her execution.
Book it: Hever Castle
13. THE SABABURG (OR DORNRÖSCHENSCHLOSS SABABURG) // SABABURG, GERMANY
The small town of Sababurg is located in the heart of the Reinhardswald, an enchanting forest straight out of a fairytale—literally. The forest is said to have inspired the tales of the Brothers Grimm, and the nearby castle of Sababurg (also known as Dornröschenschloss or “Sleeping Beauty Castle”) served as the setting for the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Today, the restored 650-year-old castle houses a luxury hotel as well as a theater.
Book it: Sababurg
14. RUTHIN CASTLE // RUTHIN, WALES
Jim Linwood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
First constructed in the late 1200s, Ruthin Castle was originally known as Castell Coch yn yr Gwernfor, or The Red Castle in the Great Marsh, because of its red sandstone walls. The castle was the residence of the prominent de Grey family up until the 1500s, when it was sold to Henry VII, who then handed it to King Henry VIII. The estate continued to pass through royal hands, and was eventually sold by King Charles I before being partially dismantled during the English Civil War as part of a process of organized defortification called slighting, an effort to prevent castles from being militarily viable in the future. After centuries withstanding war and sieges, the castle was given new life by the wealthy Myddleton family, who repaired and rebuilt upon the medieval ruins. Ruthin Castle was converted into Britain's first private hospital in 1923, and finally into a hotel in the 1960s. Today, the castle retains touches of its violent past, like its whipping pit, drowning pool, and dungeon, but visitors wishing for a tamer medieval experience can attend one of the hotel’s themed Medieval Feasts, complete with period-appropriate costumes and a toast of mead. It also may or may not be haunted.
Book it: RuthinCastle.co.uk
15. BALFOUR CASTLE // SHAPINSAY, SCOTLAND
Located in the Orkney Islands off the northeastern coast of Scotland, Balfour Castle promotes itself as “the world’s most northerly castle.” Located on the island of Shapinsay, which is said to have once served as a mooring for fleets of Viking longships, the surrounding bay now plays host to seal colonies and the occasional pod of orca whales. The castle itself is a rare example of a “Calendar House,” with architectural elements that correspond to the number of days in a year, months in a year, weeks in a year, and days in a week; Balfour Castle’s design features 365 window panes, 12 external doors, 52 rooms, and 7 turrets. The castle was commissioned by Colonel David Balfour, and constructed in 1847. It was designed by architect David Bryce, and built around an older structure built in the 18th century. If you're not able to afford the luxurious island castle, you can still ogle it here.
Book it: Balfour Castle