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Last updated: 20 July, 2023

From hilltop-smothering fortifications to simple one-room towers, castles have fascinated, protected (and imprisoned) for centuries. Many, sadly, lie in ruins, others are museums, but a few accept guests for sleep-overs.

Here’s our round-up of the best ‘real castles’ (no manor houses here) for a unique heritage stay, and an authentic experience of life from a bygone era.

Table of Contents

Amberley Castle [English castle]

Arundel, West Sussex, United Kingdom (UK)

This 900-year-old castle retains authentic features and interiors: beamed bedrooms, suits of armour in the dining room, gleaming wood panelling and ornate tapestries, all create a feeling of stepping back in time.

Beneath the historic decor lies a smoothly-run 21st-century hotel, with Michelin-esque dining. Arundel Castle, one of England’s best, is 15 minutes away.

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Ashford Castle [Irish castle]

Cong, County Galway, Ireland

Ashford Castle was originally built in 1228 as the stronghold of the Anglo-Norman de Burgo family. Over the centuries, an 18th-century French-style chateau and 350 acres of grounds were added to the estate.

Today, this luxury 5-star countryside retreat offers a castle-themed experience of original medieval features and furnishings, four-poster beds, and falconry displays.

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Burg Reichenstein [Rhine castle]

Trechtingshausen, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

The 67km, UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is home to 40+ castles, reflecting the importance of the Rhine as a trade route over centuries.

This 1100s Burg has been reconstructed to retain many of its original features. Its 24 guest rooms, while contemporary, are in the heart of the complex.

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Burghotel auf Schonburg [Rhine castle]

Oberwesel, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

This 12th-century Rhine castle was the home of the Dukes of Schonburg, who ruled the town of Oberwesel and levied customs on the Rhine’s flourishing trade.

Today’s 27-room hotel has many original features, including four-poster beds; you dine in the ‘Knights Room’ and views from the terrace are fit for royalty.

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Cison di Valmarino, Veneto, Italy

Originally a Roman-era defensive fortress dating back to AD 46, the current castle complex is a culmination of centuries of additions by a long history of counts, barons, and lords.

The 50 rooms, in the castle’s heart, feature suitable period styling and furniture and have views down over the valley and villages of Treviso.

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Castillo de Grisel [Spanish castle]

Grisel, Aragon, Spain

One of the best-preserved Gothic castles in Aragon, this iconic 11th-century fortress bewitches with its machicolations, crenellated walls (battlements), defensive towers and walkways. Inside, contemporary décor blends seamlessly with original features.

It hosts regular history and cultural events and activities, and groups can book a ‘medieval experience’ or exclusive use. 8 bedrooms, but no restaurant.

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Castillo del Buen Amor [Spanish castle]

Salamanca, Castile and Leon, Spain

This imposing 11th-century fortress in Salamanca, with an enormous moat, has been the home of both Catholic monarchs and powerful bishops; it’s thus featured in centuries of political intrigue and warmongering.

Today, it’s a more tranquil 4-star hotel, beautifully restored to retain even the smallest, original architectural detail. The gardens include a medieval maze and vineyard.

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Chateau de Bagnols [French castle]

Bagnols, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

This 800-year-old chateau-castle in Bagnols, France, was built by a powerful lord Guichard d’Oingt in 1217, complete with high-wall fortifications and moat.

Beautifully-restored, mixing contemporary with historic features, it’s now a luxury hotel offering an authentic taste of wealthy French bourgeoise life; better yet, it’s located in the Beaujolais, surrounded by world-class wine.

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Chateau de Beauvois [French chateau]

Saint-Etienne-de-Chigny, Centre-Val de Loire, France

A 15th-century tower, 17th-century manor, and cellars carved into the bedrock, make up the stunning Chateau de Beauvois, niched in woodland north of the Loire.

It has 36 gorgeously rustic rooms with furnishings varying from pseudo-medieval to Louis XV, and an inventive restaurant, with a grand dining room for winter stays, and a lovely terraced garden in summer.

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Chateau Eza [French castle]

Eze, Cote d'Azur, France

Charming, authentic and classy, this secluded, 17th-century chateau in Eze (between Monaco and Cap Ferrat) is fit for a prince. Literally, in fact: for years it was the summer residence of Prince William of Sweden.

With unforgettable views over this verdant, fabled sliver of coastline, lapped by turquoise sea, the hotel’s rooms come with four-posters, ornate, traditional furnishings and views over the French Riviera.

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Chateau Marcay [French chateau]

Marcay, France

This 33-room, 15th-century chateau in the beautiful Loire Valley is a perfect combination of countryside calm and authentic chateau splendour.

The hotel is a true gourmet stop, with a great restaurant, kitchen garden and truffle plantation, alongside its own vineyard (with tours & tastings of course).

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Domaine de la Tortiniere [French chateau]

Veigne, Centre-Val de Loire, France

A fanciful 19th-century Loire Valley chateau with a sense of fun, the Tortiniere brings a refreshing contemporary spirit to chateau-hotel style, mixing stylish fabrics and clean lines with antiques and grand fireplaces.

Set amidst beautiful woodland, Tortiniere has been run by the same family for three generations and feels relaxed and welcoming, whether you’re here for a quiet, romantic weekend or a family holiday.

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Helen’s Tower[stone tower]

Bangor, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom (UK)

Built in 1848, this enchanting 3-storey stone tower rich in local legend, 45 minutes from Belfast, sleeps just 2. Stone walls, spiral staircases, panelled ceilings and single-floor octagonal rooms combine to create a homely, castle-esque atmosphere.

Stand on the parapet for spectacular views of the surrounding rolling hills, home to some excellent walks. Bangor, County Down.

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Hever Castle [English castle-manor house]

Edenbridge, Kent, United Kingdom (UK)

This 13th-century castle-come-manor house, 1.5 hours south of London, is best known as the home of Anne Boleyn.

It’s a beautifully-preserved historic gem, with evocative interiors of elaborately-panelled rooms, grandiose four-poster beds and walls bedecked with tapestries and portraits; the exterior features battlements and protective moats outside.

It’s a fascinating museum – and you can stay next door.

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Hotel Burg Liebenstein [Rhine castle]

Kamp-Bornhofen, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

This character-filled Rhine castle is one of its most famous, rich in the legend of feuding brothers. A small, family-run hotel now operates in the 13th-century main tower.

Original features predominate – exposed stone walls, low beamed ceilings and a medieval dining room. The restaurant serves up traditional German dishes in the ‘Knights’ Hall’, and there are tranquil valley views from the panorama terrace.

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Hotel Burg Trendelburg [German castle]

TrendelburgTrendelburg, Hessen, Germany

This 13th-century, fairytale-like castle is home to a 38m tower that’s rumoured to have inspired the tale of Rapunzel.

There are 22 hotel rooms integrated within the original medieval structure, with four-poster beds, secret doors and passages, low, beamed ceilings and exposed stone walls creating an authentic castle ambience.

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Kasbah Bab Ourika [Moroccan fortress]

Ourika Valley , Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

This countryside castle, ‘Moroccan-style’, offers an authentic get-away-from-it-all hotel stay surrounded by vistas of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains, just 40 minutes from Marrakech.

Sited in the beautiful Ourika Valley, it was built by local Berber artisans. The shabby-chic interiors feature traditional Moroccan craftsmanship, Berber rugs and exotic furnishings from Marrakech’s souks.

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Kasbah Tamadot [Moroccan fortress]

Asni, Marrakech-Safi, Morocco

A historic Moroccan kasbah (fortress or castle), owned by Richard Branson and one hour from Marrakech, is an extravagant sumptuous and palatial retreat.

Expect sprawling gardens, grand staircases, opulent tented suites with antiques, a colossal infinity pool, and plenty of turrets, terraces and domes. Food and drink are top-notch and served on enchanting dining terraces with stupendous views of the surrounding mountains and local Berber villages.

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Kemi Snow Castle

Kemi, Lapland, Finland

Bucket List Experience

Perhaps we’re stretching the definition a bit here… but why not a castle made of ice? Built each winter, this icy architectural showcase has become one of Lapland’s biggest draws.

Designed by a different architect each year, it always includes the castle, a restaurant, wedding chapel and the infamous ‘Snow Hotel’. The ‘castle’ complex contains bedrooms for guests to stay over in; beds are made from of ice and room temperatures are a chilly 0°C to -5°C.

Best for ages: 13+ | £350


Kilmartin Castle [Scottish castle]

Lochgilphead, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

A quirky 16th-century castle, complete with spiral staircases and stone-vaulted ceilings, converted into a bijou, 5-room B&B.

It’s located in history-steeped Kilmartin Glen, on the wild and unspoiled west coast of Scotland, on the edge of the Scottish Highlands.

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Kingswear Castle [artillery fort]

Dartmouth, Devon, United Kingdom (UK)

This bewitching artillery fort, built in 1502, is now a 2-room historic hideaway with lovely views across the estuary to Dartmouth Castle.

Interiors are contemporary, with all the home comforts you’d expect, but sufficient original features remain – from thick stone walls, low, beamed ceilings and passageways to bedrooms, to evoke the sense of history.

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Langley Castle [English medieval castle]

Hexham, Northumberland, United Kingdom (UK)

Built in 1350, this is one of the few medieval-fortified castle hotels in England, and previously home to lords, ladies, viscounts and earls.

Now a luxury 4-star hotel, it’s been carefully and beautifully restored, retaining every original feature – exposed stone walls, tapestries on the walls, oversized fireplaces and four-poster beds.

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Neemrana Fort-Palace [indian fort-palace]

Alwar, Rajasthan, India

Originally built in the 1460s, this wonderfully restored and enhanced fort-palace hotel captures all of the romance of regal Rajasthan.

Built into the Aravalli Hills outside of Delhi, with views and sunsets galore, it’s a sublime confection of medieval fortress and fairy-tale palace.

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Parador de Alarcon [Spanish castle]

Cuenca, Castilla–La Mancha, Spain

This 5-towered, hill-top former Arab fortress overlooks an idyllic river valley in Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha region.

Inside the imposing walls, 14 atmospheric bedrooms feature modern comforts blended in with exposed stone walls and original features.

Authentic local Cuenca cuisine is served in the castle dining hall, as it would have been 13 centuries ago.

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Parador de Cardona [Spanish castle]

Cardona, Catalonia, Spain

This imposing, 9th-century medieval fortress – a forbidding complex of moats, towers and walls – commands views over the Cardoner river valley from atop a hill above the town.

Now a 4-star hotel, the interiors are a mix of original and contemporary, atmospheric and bland; the Catalan cuisine is decent, the terrace lovely, and it’s only 1.5hrs from Barcelona.

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Parador de Siguenza [Spanish castle]

Siguenza, Castilla–La Mancha, Spain

This 5th-century Moorish castle was conquered and converted to a bishop’s palace in the 12th century; it opened as a 4-star hotel in 1964, 700 years later.

The interior features a wealth of authenticity: suits of armour, giant banners and chandeliers, rooms with four-poster beds, and an impressively long, stone-vaulted dining room.

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Parador de Zafra [Spanish castle]

Zafra, Extremadura, Spain

This majestic castle was originally built in 1437 for the Duke of Feria, in the pretty town of Zafra.

The exterior features imposingly high, crenellated walls of stone, defensive towers and walkways. Interiors blend luxury finishes with original features.

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Roch Castle [Welsh castle]

Haverfordwest, Wales, United Kingdom (UK)

Built in the late 12th century, to fortify the Welsh border, this small, 6-bedroom castle features your classic thick stone walls, arched windows, stone staircases leading to single-storey tower rooms.

Interiors are contemporary, so ideal for those who are willing to compromise on authenticity for their home comforts. Also available for exclusive hire.

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Tainaron Blue Tower [fortified tower]

Vathia, Peloponnese, Greece

This dreamy 19th-century fortification in Mina, Greece, has been beautifully restored into an exquisite 3-room micro-hotel.

Stone walls, low ceilings, stone staircases and tower rooms, giving that authentic castle flavour, complement luxury mod-cons and spellbinding, unobstructed sea and mountain views. An intimate restaurant serves superb Greek specialities using locally-sourced ingredients.

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Thornbury Castle [Tudor castle]

Thornbury, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom (UK)

This 1511 Tudor castle turned luxury hotel, just outside of Bristol, hosted King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn on their honeymoon. It was the home of Queen (then Princess) Mary I.

It’s everything you expect from a castle: Tudor-style interiors, large open fireplaces, panelled rooms with four-poster beds, and archery and falconry in the grounds.

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