The World’s Most Outrageous Modern and Medieval Castles
Forget fairy tales: These fortresses are more likely to be creepy, haunted, or just over-the-top extravagant.
By Jackie Middleton
Courtesy of Bran Castle
1. Bran Castle - Bran, Transylvania, Romania
Romania's Bran Castle
is often associated with the fictional tale of Count Dracula. Vlad III,
Prince of Wallachia–otherwise known as Vlad III Dracula, or Vlad the
Impaler–is thought to be the real life inspiration for the imaginary
protagonist in Bram Stoker’s best-selling 1897 novel, Dracula. Dracula fans flock to Bran Castle and other
Romanian sites to walk in the fabled footsteps of the fictional Count
as well as the notorious real-life Prince.
© Historic Royal Palaces
2. Tower of London - London, England
One of England’s most notorious castles, the Tower of London
boasts a chilling history. In the
1070s, England’s new king William the Conqueror had a vision to create
an imposing royal residence, fortress and prison on the north bank of
the River Thames. The resulting Tower of London struck fear and submission
into the hearts of its citizens. Individuals deemed guilty of crimes–both real and imagined–were locked up and made to endure cruel
punishment. By the 19th
century, the Tower’s gruesome past was put to rest and the property
opened to the curious public. It’s estimated that over two million
people visit each year.
3. Egeskov Castle - Funen, Denmark
the middle of a lake in 1554 with the original purpose to keep
enemies at bay. With its surrounding moat, drawbridge and battlements, Egeskov Castle
was a difficult fortress to crack. Today, Egeskov Castle is a peaceful
destination. The grounds play host to mazes, extravagant gardens and a
wealth of museums, including collections devoted to vintage motorbikes
and cars. And kids of all ages will fall in love with Titania’s Palace,
arguably the most impressive dollhouse in the world. Handmade in
Ireland, the intricate mini castle features 18 elaborate rooms filled
with handcrafted mahogany furniture and 3,000 tiny works of art.
4. Neuschwanstein Castle
is a romantic escape straight out of a fairy tale. The castle was commissioned by Ludwig II, the King of
Bavaria, as his personal retreat in 1869. Despite holding no real powers, Ludwig
II clung to a romantic view of what a king should be. He fantasized
about living as a recluse in a grand, mountain top palace surrounded by
inspirational art and stunning architecture. As a result, Neuschwanstein
Castle was born. In 1886, ‘The Fairy Tale King’ drowned mysteriously,
but his treasured castle lives on in the hearts of the millions of
admirers who visit each year. One such fan, Walt Disney, was so enamored with Neuschwanstein Castle that it’s believed that he modeled
Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle on its magnificent design.
Courtesy Hearst Castle®/California State Parks
5. Hearst Castle - San Simeon, California, U.S.A.
Looking out to the Pacific Ocean, Hearst Castle
has a star-studded history. Built by publishing czar William Randolph
Hearst and architect Julia Morgan, the immense grounds and castle took
almost 30 years (1919 to 1947) to complete. Formally named ‘the
Enchanted Hill,’ Hearst’s complex included 165 rooms, indoor and outdoor
pools, an airstrip, a zoo, a movie theater, and tennis courts. Hearst’s grand
masterpiece quickly became a magnet for the rich and famous. Hollywood stars, world
leaders and VIPs of the day including Greta Garbo, Charlie Chaplin, Cary
Grant, Winston Churchill, Howard Hughes, and Amelia Earhart were among
Hearst’s A-list visitors. Today, Hearst Castle is a State Historical
Monument and is open for public tours.
6. Swallow's Nest, Yalta, Ukraine
Perched precariously on a steep cliff overlooking the Black Sea, the Swallow’s Nest
was commissioned in 1911 by German oil magnate, Baron von Steingel. According to
local legend, a smitten von Steingel had the mini Neo-Gothic castle
created for his rumored mistress, a ballerina. Today, the "Castle of
Love" with its sweeping view of the sea has become one of southern
Ukraine’s most popular tourist attractions.
7. Predjama Castle - Slovenia
Castles are typically found atop mountains or beside lakes–it’s not
often that you discover one tucked into the mouth of a cave. Predjama Castle
in southwestern Slovenia offers such an incredible sight. It’s not
surprising that this prime piece of real estate with its nearly
impenetrable cave didn’t remain undeveloped for long. The
renaissance-style castle seen today was constructed in 1583. After
centuries of conflict, Predjama Castle has a much calmer existence today
as a tourist attraction.
8. Boldt Castle - 1000 Islands, New York, U.S.A.
Love and loss heavily influenced the creation of Boldt Castle.
In 1900, George C. Boldt–the millionaire proprietor of Manhattan’s
Waldorf-Astoria Hotel–hired over 300 workers to build a six story,
120-room castle. Boldt wanted to showcase his
love for his wife Louise with this extravagant, private residence built
in her honor. But in 1904 before the castle was
completed, Louise died suddenly. Bolt, overwhelmed by his loss, ordered
all construction to cease. The millionaire never returned to his St.
Lawrence River getaway and Boldt Castle was left unfinished and
abandoned. In 1977, the Thousand Island Bridge Authority purchased the
property, and opened Heart Island
to the public.
9. Hochosterwitz Castle - Carinthia, Austria
Castles are famous for their security features–moats, drawbridges,
lakeside locations. But here’s a medieval castle that took defense to a
whole new level. Hochosterwitz Castle
has the rare distinction that it was never invaded. The secret to its
security success? In 1570, the steep pathway winding upwards to the
castle’s entrance was fitted with 14 treacherous gates. Each elaborate
gate presented a unique–and dangerous–obstacle to its intruders:
drawbridges, concealed spikes, hidden archers, even
chutes that would spew boiling hot oil. Today, tourists are welcome to visit Hochosterwitz Castle during the
10. Urquhart Castle - Drumnad, Scotland
Other castles may be more extravagant, or in better shape, but Urquhart Castle
is notorious for its history and a famous elusive neighbor. Built in
the 13th century on the banks of Loch Ness, the highland castle spent
500 years deeply embroiled in several bloody battles. Its formidable tower,
lakeside location and size–it was once one of Scotland’s largest
castles - made it an appealing target for both English and Scottish
forces. After centuries of turmoil, Urquhart was finally abandoned in
1692. Fearing that enemies would seize Urquhart, fleeing soldiers blew
up part of the castle to render it uninhabitable. What remains today is a
beautiful ruin with a picture postcard vantage point of Loch Ness and
the mysterious sea monster that’s said to lurk beneath its dark waters.