THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO VISITING CASTLES
There’s something very surreal about visiting castles. Their dreamlike nature just doesn’t seem real at times. And for many of us, it’s a form of escapism; an opportunity to reignite those daydreams from our childhood and live out the fairytale that has long been a part of our imagination. Here at Loyd & Townsend Rose, we make it our mission to provide the ultimate travel experience for our guests and that’s why we believe castles are so special, whether you’re just visiting or staying overnight. So we’ve created the ultimate guide to visiting castles in the UK and the rest of the world.
If you’re an avid castle aficionada, here’s everything you need to know about castles in our definitive guide.
TYPES OF CASTLES
If you’re new to exploring castles, you may not realize how many different types of castles are currently in existence. Here’s an overview of the different castles you may come across in your journey.
Motte & Bailey Castles
Motte & Bailey castles are defined by their motte (which is a large mound of earth) and a leveled courtyard (a bailey) which is located next to it. A fine example of a motte and bailey structure is Wiston Castle in Wales (which is the most well-preserved of its kind) and these types of castles were protected by a ditch and wooden fencing which surrounded the bailey.
Stone castles developed from motte and bailey style constructions when stone keeps became the preferred method of protection. Although motte and bailey castles were easy and inexpensive to build, they were often at great risk of fire so thick stone curtains were used instead of the palisade fences – and a great example is to see Goodrich Castle, a Norman Medieval castle in Hertfordshire.
Corvin Castle in Budapest (also referred to as Hunyadi or Hunedoara Castle) or Malbork Castle in Poland are two of the most striking castles of the Gothic Renaissance and well worth a visit if you are exploring Europe. Gothic castles are some of the most beautiful around and are instantly recognized for their grand architecture and large sweeping windows.
Concentric castles are identified by their circular walls which encircle the inner walls and turrets. The outer walls are designed to be lower than the inner walls so that archers could shoot over them and quite often, you’ll find a moat surrounding the castle.
French Renaissance architecture, such as the spectacular Chateaux de Versailles in the Ile-de-France region, encompasses anything following on from Gothic architecture between the 15th and 17th centuries. The Renaissance brought about stylistic influences from Italy and can be recognized by their ornate and ostentatious characteristics.
Fortresses were built as a place of refuge and from the 15th Century onwards, some of these fortified buildings were adapted to make them more comfortable to be lived in as homes. One of our favorite fortress castles is the magnificent hill-top Castle of Konigstein near Dresdon in Saxon Switzerland, Germany. Surrounded by the national park, it’s a truly stunning location.
Believe it or not, fantasy castles do exist in real life. And Munich’s Neuschwanstein Castle is one of them. The building of new castles started to die out during the 1500s and by the 1700s, and the shape of the world’s architecture had changed and rapidly industrialized. Nostalgic ideals led to romanticist castles being built and these structures are among some of the most well-kept castles we have today.
THE LARGEST CASTLES IN THE WORLD
Castles come in all shapes and sizes and here are 5 of the largest castles in the world:
1. Malbork Castle
As mentioned above, Malbork Castle in Poland is one of the most stunning Gothic castles in the world – and it’s also the world’s biggest. At over 140,000 square meters, this castle is impressive in size and surrounded by lush greenery, it makes a remarkable World Heritage Site. There are several attractions inside too, including a monastery and a museum.
2. Mehrangarh Fortress
By location alone, this fort castle is an exotic one. Covering an area of over 80,000 square meters, Mehrangarh Fort is the world’s second largest castle. Rising above the ‘Blue City’ of Jodhpur in the northern state of Rajasthan, this castle completes the stunning city skyline with its unique features from the 17th Century.
3. Prague Castle
This is undoubtedly the most recognized landmark in the Czech Republic, and at a striking 66,000 square meters in size, it’s easy to see why. It was first constructed in 880 AD (founded by Prince Borivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty), making it one of the oldest castles around.
4. Windsor Castle
Although most of us recognize Windsor Castle, many do not realize that it’s one of the larges castles in the world. It’s England’s oldest castle and it still serves as a residence to the Royal Family today. Queen Elizabeth II is known to spend several weekends at Windsor Castle and parts of it are also open to the public.
5. Hohensalzburg Castle
Hohensalzburg Castle in Salzburg (Austria) is one of the biggest medieval fortresses in Europe and it stretches over 54,000 square meters. The castle (also known as Hohensalzburg Fortress) was originally built back in 1077 but much of its architecture was added over the centuries.
BEST UK CASTLES TO VISIT
We’ve looked at the different types of castles and some of the largest castles in the world. But now let’s take a look a little closer to home; here we list some of the best castles to visit in the UK according to our expert team.
1. Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle’s top highlights (including The Great Hall, The Royal Palace, The Stone of Destiny, St Margaret’s Chapel and the National War Museum) will keep you occupied for hours. So it’s a great day out and a very hands-on place to take the kids to teach them about Scottish history. Located close to other attractions (such as The Cadies & Witchery Tour Centre, the National Museum and Camera Obscura) and with the city full of great pubs and restaurants, it’s one of our favorite castles for a weekend break.
2. Windsor Castle
Not only is Windsor Castle the UK’s oldest castle but it’s also the largest inhabited castle in the country too. It’s a weekend residence for the Royal Family and there’s over 13 acres of beautiful grassland, outdoor space and beautifully kept gardens. You can also take a guided tour of some of the rooms which have been preserved from more than 900 years ago. A great day out and perfect for kids.
3. Swinton Park Castle
The fantastic Swinton Park Castle is perfectly placed in the Yorkshire Dales, in close proximity to Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s one of the best UK castles to visit for outdoor enthusiasts who don’t mind getting their wellingtons dirty. Owned by the Cunliffe-Lister family since the 1880’s, Swinton Park Castle and its surrounding parklands is a hiker’s paradise. In addition to the beautiful surroundings, visitors can enjoy fine dining, lessons from the in-house cookery school, or a day at the on-site spa.
4. Highclere Castle
Downton Abbey fans will fall in love with this fantastic castle setting; Highclere Castle near Newbury is a Jacobean estate covering around 5,000 acres. Designed by Capability Brown, the grand castle is dripping in luxury as soon as you set foot inside. It’s the ‘real Downton Abbey’ with very exclusive opening periods. The gardens and grounds are currently closed to the public but it is set to reopen for a period in December and for the estate’s annual Christmas fair.
5. Bodiam Castle
This has got to be one of Britain’s most romantic castle venues and we think it’s a great day out for families, especially those traveling with young kids. Bodiam Castle is a 14th Century castle which features a well-preserved moat. The towers, which have been there for more than 600 years look almost as pristine as the day they were erected and their reflection can be seen in the surrounding water – so if you’re a keen photographer, remember to bring your camera.
BEST UK CASTLES TO STAY IN
Here at Loyd & Townsend Rose, we design bespoke overnight packages for the most magical experience. We can arrange private hire and castle accommodation in various locations but for inspiration, here is just a small handful of our top castles to stay in …
1. Aldourie Castle
This exclusive property is truly special; the beautiful Aldourie Castle is a 5 star hire venue for group bookings to group stays. Located along the southern coast of Loch Ness in Scotland, you’ll find yourself seduced by Scottish myths and legends. Ideal for exclusive family breaks or special occasion parties, the medieval Aldourie Castle is loved by its guests for the excellent 5 star service which extends to fine dining, courtesy of Michelin starred chefs and an excellent catering team. 500 acres of parkland, woodland and gardens will also provide your party with plenty of outdoor space to enjoy and explore.
2. Crom Castle
The 19th Century Crom Castle in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, is in a truly romantic location and it’s ideal for those who love the great outdoors. The historical ruins of Crom Castle are set along the shores of Upper Lough Erne, with the backdrop of beautiful woodlands; the perfect place to go fishing, butterfly watching or bird spotting.
Crom Castle covers over 2,000 acres of land and the property’s West Wing offers the very best in castle rentals. It’s the occasional home of Viscount Crichton (son of Lord Erne) and it boasts traditional charm and modern facilities for guests. The castle can be used for weekly or weekend lets, wedding hire and dinner events.
3. Lismore Castle
Lismore Castle, which has been the property of the Duke of Devonshire since the 1700s, is a beautiful stately home in County Waterford, Ireland. Not only is it a great castle to visit, but it’s also available for overnight hire so guests can get the complete castle experience. Lismore Castle offers fine dining and various other facilities and is able to accommodate up to 27 people at any one time. The large space and bedroom capacity makes Lismore Castle a top venue for corporate events and weekend business retreats.
4. Forter Castle
Forter Castle in Perthshire, Scotland was built in 1560 as a ‘Fortalice’. It was built and designed to protect the entrances to local passes. However, since then, it has been taken on by a father and daughter and lovingly restored. It is now available for wonderful family vacations in a stunning situation with an abundance of activities available locally. For the best weather conditions, the best time to travel is between April and September and you will get full board and service during your stay.
Just an hour and a quarter drive away from the city of Edinburgh, you won’t be too far from tourist attractions, shops and lively nightlife.
5. Lough Cutra Castle
Lough Cutra Castle was built in 1797 by Viscount Gort who sadly went bankcrupt shortly afterwards. In recent times, Lough Cutra Castle has been extensively refurbished and modernized to offer superb accommodation for 17 people in 9 beautifully decorated bedrooms. For larger parties there is further accommodation for 23 people in adjacent, recently renovated courtyard cottages. There are wonderful walks and gardens to explore as well as some hard surfaced trails that are ideal for biking. The private lake offers boating and pike fishing for visitors. This castle would make a magical venue for a special celebration as guests are expertly looked after by a team of friendly and welcoming staff for their stay.
If that’s whetted your appetite for a castle visit or discovering more about the history of castles in the UK and around the world, then you might like the carefully selected links below to explore further, which all feature more fabulous inspiration:
If you would like to inquire about any of the UK castles we have mentioned above, or would like to make a general inquiry about our available venues, please use our online contact form or call our team on + 44 (0) 1835 824642.