Castles of the World | World Castle List

The castles of the world are some of the most popular historic sites on the planet. The list of world castles is as varied as it is long and contains everything from world famous castles to hidden castles and ruined castles which are now but a shadow of their former glory.

The castles that we know today really began appearing from around 800-1000AD in Europe. As more countries took on a feudal structure, local lords and nobles began building castles to secure their hold over their particularl fiefdom. Later, castles began to be constructed in a more connected fashion, by increasingly-powerful kings developing more cohesive military systems – a good example of this trend was seen after the Norman conquest of England in 1066AD.

Castles were used to secure a military hold over an area as well as providing a base to both defend and launch attacking raids in un-subdued territory. However, these fortifications were also used as status symbols, grand residences and even became vital administrative centres. In time, castles sprang up throughout Europe and, with the advent of the Crusades, castles were increasingly common in the Middle East and North Africa.

However, the development of gunpowder-based weaponry – particularly artillery – meant that the military importance of the castle declined and soon castles became militarily defunct. However, the cachet associated with castles remained and many of the wealthier classes continued to build castles as grand private homes, ensuring that the list of castles of the world we have today kept growing throughout the centuries.

Nowadays, castle enthusiasts can explore castles in many different countries. The list of castles of the world is immense and can be fascinating to explore. Indeed, the castles of the world appeal to both family day trippers, casual travellers and ardent historians alike, making castles some of the most popular tourist attractions.

We’ve pulled together a list of some of the most interesting castles around the world as well as some of the biggest castles and the most famous castles in the world. Our list of world castles continues to grow and you can explore using the world castles map above or the list of world castles below. Click on each castle for further information, map location, directions and entry details.

Castles of the World | World Castle List: Editor's Picks

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1. Schwerin Castle

Schwerin Castle is a picturesque palace and once the home of the dukes of Mecklenburg.

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Schwerin Castle (Schweriner Schloss) is a picturesque palace which seemingly floats upon Schwerin Lake. Whilst it is thought that there was a fort on this location as early as the tenth century, the beginnings of Schwerin Castle date back to 1160, when Henry the Lion (Henry III) built a castle there.

This first incarnation of Schwerin Castle later became a palace of the dukes of Mecklenburg, but fell into a state of dereliction once the dukes relocated in 1765. It was only from around 1843 that Schwerin Castle began to take the form we see today. Vast renovation of the building took place, with only some of its older parts having been kept.

Taken over by the German state in 1918, Schwerin Castle would undergo yet another set of renovations in the twentieth century, following a fire.

Schwerin Castle is now both the seat of the local government and an art museum displaying pieces ranging from the ancient to the twentieth century. Some of the most important pieces at Schwerin’s museum are its seventeenth century Dutch and Flemish paintings.

Schwerin Castle features as one of our top tourist attractions in Germany.

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2. Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle in Kent was a 12th century stronghold which has since served as a royal palace, a prison and as a stately home.

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Leeds Castle was originally constructed as a fortification in 1119 by Robert de Crevecoeur, a lord under William the Conqueror.

In 1278, Leeds Castle took on a different role, as a royal palace to King Edward I, who expanded it, adding further elements such as an impressive barbican.

Leeds Castle passed through numerous royal hands over the coming centuries, hosting a myriad of important guests including Henry VIII, who visited it on several occasions. Henry VIII also extensively renovated the castle for his first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Eventually falling into private ownership under King Edward VI, Leeds Castle survived the English Civil War in the hands of parliamentarians and later acted as a prison for Dutch and French prisoners of war.

Today, Leeds Castle is a leisure facility, housing an aviary and a maze along with a dog collar museum. Guided tours are available for groups and schools and audio tours are also available.

Photo by Historvius

3. Krak des Chevaliers

Perhaps the best preserved example of a Crusader fortress in existence today, the magnificent fortress of Krak des Chevaliers is a stunning example of Medieval military architecture.

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Krak des Chevaliers is a stunning example of Crusader-era military architecture and was the headquarters of the famous Knights Hospitallier during the 12th and 13th centuries.

It is perhaps the best preserved example of a Crusader fortress in existence today, and is an awe-inspiring example of medieval military architecture.

Built to withstand a siege for up to five years, Krak des Chevaliers stands atop a 650-metre high hill which dominated the route from Antioch to Beirut. The main enclosure was surrounded by a man-made moat which was carved out of solid rock in a dramatic example of Crusade-era engineering.

Captured by the Mameluke Sultan Baibars in 1271, Krak des Chevaliers was used as a base for Mameluk expansion towards the end of the 13th Century. Situated close to the border with Lebanon, it provides a unique experience to those wishing to find out more about the Crusades.

Krak des Chevaliers was designated a World Heritage site in 2006.

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4. Castel del Monte

Ranking high on any list of castles of the world, Castel del Monte is an impressive 13th century fortified palace of Frederick II listed by UNESCO.

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Castel del Monte in Puglia, Italy is a medieval palace originally built as a hunting lodge by the Emperor Frederick II and later used as his seat of power. Built in the thirteenth century and completed in 1240, Castel del Monte has been described by UNESCO, with whom it is listed as a World Heritage site, as a “unique piece of medieval military architecture”.

Frederick II used his knowledge of culture, natural sciences and mathematics to create a number of castles of which Castel del Monte was the largest. With its set of perfectly octagonal towers, it was also a great example of symmetry in medieval building.

Castel del Monte is not only extremely well defended, with thick limestone walls and a position on an, albeit low, hill, but it blends the influences of the cultures to which Frederick II had been exposed and had learned about. This palace also employed many sophisticated functions from around the world, as demonstrated by the oriental-inspired complex hydraulic systems of the bathroom facilities.

After the death of Frederick II, Castel del Monte served primarily as a stronghold and military base until the nineteenth century. Visitors to Castel del Monte can tour its two floors. Much of the original splendour, such as its marble walls, has now disappeared, but traces appear here and there.

There are information boards in several languages. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Italy.

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5. Portchester Castle

One of the oldest castles in the world, Portchester Castle has been a Roman fort, a Norman keep and even a wartime prison.

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Portchester Castle in Hampshire offers a fantastic insight into various periods of British history and originally dates back to the Roman era.

Built during Roman times, probably in the third century AD, Portchester Castle is the country’s only example of a Roman fort whose walls still stand complete up to around six metres.

Over the centuries, Portchester Castle has been renovated and rebuilt many times and its use has altered to suit the needs of its owners. In the eleventh century, parts of Portchester Castle were rebuilt into a Norman keep and in the fourteenth century Richard II transformed it into a palace. Like their Roman predecessor, both of these incarnations served a defensive function.

Yet, during the Napoleonic Wars, the role of Portchester Castle changed, as it became a prison for around 7,000 French prisoners of war. This change was due in large part to the reduced importance of Portchester Castle as a defensive structure following the building of the Portsmouth Royal Dockyard by King Henry VII.

Today, Portchester Castle is run by English Heritage who offer audio tours and exhibitions about the site as well as children’s activities.

Castles of the World | World Castle List: Site Index

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Aalborghus Castle

Aalborghus Castle is a 16th century castle in northern Denmark which includes the fascinating old dungeons.

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Aalborghus Castle, translated as ‘Aalborghus Slot’, is a castle and former fortification in the city of Aalborg in Denmark. Built by Christian III between 1539 and 1555, it was intended as the home of the local governor.

Today, visitors can tour Aalborghus Castle and, perhaps most interestingly, its dungeons.

Photo by BrianTaylor42 (cc)

Acton Burnell Castle

Acton Burnell Castle is a picturesque ruined English manor and castle near Shrewsbury.

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Acton Burnell Castle is a ruined 13th century English fortified manor located south of Shrewsbury, UK. Made up of partially-preserved red sandstone walls, the site is a picturesque shell which makes for a peaceful, atmospheric visit.

Originally built around 1284, Acton Burnell Castle belonged to Robert Burnell, a powerful local landowner and close friend of the English King, Edward I. In fact, Burnell served as Chancellor of England under Edward and was also the Bishop of Bath & Wells.

When constructed, Acton Burnell Castle had walls standing up to 40ft high, with three-storey towers at each corner. It was clearly a well-appointed manor house, as witnessed by the fact that it played host to King Edward I and his retinue on several occasions.

The initial hall, which was attached to Acton Burnell Castle, was even used to host one or two meetings of the English parliament.

Today, Acton Burnell Castle lies in ruins, having been slowly abandoned through the middle ages and finally replaced altogether by the nearby 19th century Acton Burnell Hall.

The site is now operated by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Photo by Dale Gillard (cc)

Ajlun Castle

A grand medieval castle commissioned by Saladin, Ajlun Castle is an excellent example of Ayyubid-era fortifications which is now a tourist attraction and museum.

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A grand medieval castle commissioned by Saladin and built by his nephew Izz al-Din Usama, Ajlun Castle was a fortress designed to strike fear in the heart of the Franks.

While the crusaders in Levant played cat and mouse with the great Saladin, his generals were preparing for warfare on their own terms – a war that would see the Franks destroyed at the battle of Hattin several years later in 1187. Arab military fortifications were strengthened as the years went by and Saladin worked hard to unite the Muslim forces.

An imposing stronghold, complete with moat, drawbridge and towers, Ajlun, itself, was built in 1184 but lost much of its military significance after the fall of Karak – a crusader strong hold in the South of Jordan. However, the castle continued to guard important trade routes into Syria and was consequently never allowed to fall into disuse – serving primarily as an administrative centre under Ayyubid and later Mamluk control.

Ajlun would even feature heavily during the wars between the Mongols and the Mamluk empire. The castle was occupied and severely damaged by the Mongol invaders before being reclaimed by the Mameluk Sultan Baibars after the Mongol defeat at the iconic battle of Ayn Jalut; where the remarkable Mongol advance would finally be turned back.

Later, after the Ottomans established their rule in the area, Ajlun Castle would continue its administrative role which lasted right up until the 19th century, when severe damage from an earthquake led to its abandonment.

Today, a visit to Ajlun Castle will immerse visitors into the culture of siege warfare and take them back in time to one of the most destructive periods in the region’s history. The site also holds the remarkable Ajlun Archeological Museum, housed inside the castle, offering fine examples of pottery and ceramics as well as other displays and artefacts from the region.

While spectacular views of Jordan are a feature of your visit, visitors can also experience the local wildlife in the nearby Ajlun Nature Reserve.

Contributed by Rebecca Lewis

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Akershus Fortress

Akershus Fortress in Olso has been a vital stronghold and royal residence since the fourteenth century.

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Akershus Fortress (Akershus Festning) has been a vital stronghold and royal residence in Oslo since the 14th century. Also known as Akershus Castle (Akershus Slott), it was begun in 1299 under King Hakon V and would go on to play an important defensive role, surviving several sieges.

Over the centuries, different figures put their mark on Akershus Fortress including King Christian, although it would suffer from neglect in the 17th and 18th centuries. Now fully restored, Akershus Fortress is both a popular tourist attraction and a site used for official government and state functions.

There’s plenty to see at Akershus Fortress. The castle boasts everything from the former living quarters of medieval Danish-Norwegian royalty to dank dungeons and also the castle church, now a military church. Akershus Fortress is also home to the Armed Forces Museum and Norway's Resistance Museum.

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Alanya Castle

With Hellenistic foundations, this magnificent Seljuk ruin sits atop a 250m high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean sea.

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Alanya Castle is a magnificent Seljuk ruin which sits atop a 250-metre high peninsular overlooking the Mediterranean sea. With walls stretching over 6km, Alanya Castle – sometimes called Alanya Fortress – encloses a number of fascinating sites and structures which are well worth exploring today.

The origins of the city today known as Alanya date back thousands of years. References to the ancient city of Coracesium, the name for the early settlement, can be found from the 4th Century BC. During much of antiquity, Alanya notoriously sheltered pirates thanks to its perfectly designed bay and harbour. However, during Pompey the Great’s famous campaign to rid the Mediterranean of pirates, Alanya was the site of an important battle in which the pirates were defeated. For the remainder of the Empire period, the city remained under Roman and subsequently Byzantine control but it was not one of the region’s more prominent settlements during this time.

It wasn’t until 1221 that the city really rose to prominence. After the city’s conquest by the Seljuk Turks, Sultan Alaaddin Keykubat I decided to make Alanya his winter home and the city entered its zenith.

The harbour and port that shielded Cicilian bandits and pirates in the 3rd Century BC, referred to as the Tersane or Dockyard, was turned into the main naval base of the Seljuk navy; defensive walls were restored and the Red Tower, perhaps the most striking of monuments that remain at the site, was constructed. From then until the 18th Century Alanya, incorporated into the Ottoman empire in 1471, became an important port for trading with other Mediterranean countries, particularly Egypt, Syria and Cyprus. Today Alanya is the best preserved dockyard of the Mediterranean basin.

The Red Tower (sometimes referred to as Kizilkule) ranks among the most impressive elements of Alanya Castle and stands 29 meters high. The Castle walls start here and pass through the middle battlements (Ehmedek), the Citadel or Inner Castle (Ickale), the Arab Saint bastion (Arap Evliyasi), the Esat bastion, the arsenal (Tophane) and the historic shipyard (Tersane) before finishing once again at the Red Tower.

Inside the Castle walls are a number of interesting buildings and monuments, including the palace of Alaaddin Keykubat, as well as several Mosques (including the 16th Century Suleymaniye Mosque) and even a church, proof of the often diverse and tolerant nature of the city.

Opposite the Suleymaniye Mosque is a covered Bazaar or Bedesten, used during the 14th and 15th centuries as a trading base. There are numerous other buildings and fortifications surrounding the Castle, including the Ehmedek (middle battlements), an arsenal (or Tophane) and a Mint (Darphane), although interestingly not a single coin was minted there. There are also many sea caves that can only be reached by boat. The Castle Citadel (or Ickale), dating to the 6th century, contains a platform that today offers magnificent views of the Mediterranean peninsula.

That Alanya Castle is currently on the UNESCO World Heritage tentative list is testament to its diverse and sprawling history. With over 6km of defensive wall reinforced by 140 bastions and 400 cisterns, Alanya was perhaps one of the best-defended cities in the Mediterranean.

Contributed by Ros Gammie

Photo by Enrique__ (cc)

Alcazaba Fortress

Merida's Alcazaba Fortress was a castle fortress built in the middle of the 9th century of which only part remains today.

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The Alcazaba Fortress of Merida was a stronghold built in approximately 835 AD, during the reign of Abd al-Rahman II. This commanding ninth century structure with its twenty five bastions remains today, albeit with medieval additions and renovations.

The Alcazaba Fortress of Merida also has characteristics typical of other civilisations, notably the Visigoths, indicating that it may have been constructed earlier.

Very little remains of the original interior within the ten-metre high walls of Alcazaba Fortress, though an original well has survived. The ruins of several Roman buildings can also be seen. Overall, this is considered to be an important site, not least because there are few remains from this era in the area.

The Alcazaba Fortress of Merida is grouped as part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Archaeological Ensemble of Mérida.

Photo by Alaskan Dude (cc)

Alcazar of Segovia

Ranking among the most famous castles in the world, the Alcazar of Segovia is an imposing medieval fortress turned royal palace.

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The Alcazar of Segovia (Alcazar de Segovia) is an imposing medieval fortress which embodies much of what one would consider to be the ideal vision of a fairytale castle, complete with picturesque turrets and cliff-top location.

It is thought that a fort has existed on this site since Roman times, but the first known written mention of the Alcazar of Segovia is found in twelfth century Christian records. Having started life as an Arab fort, in the thirteenth century, the Alcazar of Segovia made the transition from military stronghold to palatial residence and was slowly renovated in a gothic style, with further changes made in the sixteenth century.

The interior of the Alcazar of Segovia doesn’t disappoint and visitors can tour this magnificent site as well as climbing to its towers for great views of the town. This spectacular castle features as one of our top Tourist Attractions of Spain.

Photo by thetejon (cc)

Alnwick Castle

Ever wanted to head to Hogwarts? Why not visit Alnwick Castle? This historic site in Northumberland is home to the Harry Potter Franchise and is one of the largest castles in England.

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Alnwick Castle in Northumberland is one of the largest castle complexes in England and has been the historic home of the famous Percy family for over 700 years. It has risen to more recent fame due to its role as the location of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movie franchise.

A great medieval castle, akin to Windsor, the foundation of Alnwick was laid sometime after the great Norman invasion of England in 1066. The castle was, however, substantially rebuilt by the Percys in the 14th century and it is the fascinating tale of them, the Duke of Northumberland’s family, which echoe throughout Alnwick’s walls. From political clout and military achievement to failed rebellions and gunpowder-plotter, the Percys have often played a crucial role in English history.

One of the most famous members of the family was the young knight Harry 'Hotspur' Percy, who was immortalised in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV. A statue of Harry Hotspur stands at Alnwick Castle today.

More recently, Alnwick has become even more recognisable as the set for the film adaptations of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series. While it’s not recommended that you travel here via platform 9 and 3/4, a visit to Alnwick is definitely a must for fans of the franchise. Seasonal tours and themed activities - broomstick training and archery to name but a few - mean a day packed full of friendly fun for all the family.

The new attraction, the ‘Lost Cellars’ is sure to excite with top of the notch visual and audio effects to heighten the sensory experience – just be sure not to face the cellars alone!

The gardens are also not to be missed featuring one of the country’s largest tree-houses to keep the children entertained; moreover, many of the attractions can be toured with a guide and the poison garden is a particular highlight.

If that isn’t enough, the castle also boasts an impressive picture collection, chapel and a series of museums that are weaved throughout the interior celebrating the history of both Alnwick Castle and the wider Northumberland area.

Contributed by Rebecca Lewis

Photo by caspermoller (cc)

Amalienborg Slot

One of many fascinating Nordic castles, Amalienborg Slot is an 18th century royal palace in north Copenhagen.

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Amalienborg Slot in northern Copenhagen is a Rococo style palace originally constructed under the orders of King Frederik V.

Made up of four externally similar buildings built around a central courtyard, Amalienborg Slot was completed in 1760. The first residents of the palace were not royals, but rather wealthy families. However, in 1749, Amalienborg Slot became a royal palace after Christiansborg Slot was destroyed in a fire.

The four buildings are divided into Christian IX’s Palace, Christian VII’s Palace, Christian VIII’s Palace (now the Amalienborg Museum) and Frederik VIII’s Palace.

Today, Amalienborg Slot is the winter home of the Danish royals. Visitors can tour parts of Amalienborg Slot, viewing royal collections and objects as well as enjoying the palace’s Rococo architecture, including the ornate Knight’s Chamber.

The entrance hall of the palace is also fascinating, having been restored to its eighteenth century state. In the central courtyard, the sculpture of Frederik V is understood to have been as expensive to create as Amalienborg Slot itself. This site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions of Denmark.

Photo by salihigde (cc)

Anadolu Hisari

Anadolu Hisari was built by the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid I in 1395 and is among many Ottoman castles that is definitely worth visiting today.

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Anadolu Hisari (Anadoluhisari), translated as the Anatolian Castle, was built by the great grandfather of Mehmet the Conqueror, Sultan Beyazid I in 1395.

Anadolu Hisari is not open to the public. However the fifteenth century Rumeli Fortress, which sits just across the Bosporus, is open to tourists.

Photo by אסף.צ (cc)

Arsuf

Perhaps one of the lesser known castles of the world, Arsuf is an amazing Crusader castle once occupied by the Knights Hospitaller.

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Arsuf, also known as Apollonia, contains the remains of an ancient settlement on the Israeli coast that has stood for over 1,000 years. Arsuf is best known for the remains of a once-mighty Crusader castle which was once home to the Knights Hospitaller, but the site also contains remnants from the many other civilisations that have occupied the area.

Founded by the Phoenicians in the 6th or 5th century BC, Arsuf was occupied by the Persians, Seleucid Greeks (from where it gained the name Apollonia), Romans, Byzantines, Muslims and finally the Crusaders who captured the town in 1101AD. In 1191AD Richard the Lionheart defeated Saladin here in the Battle of Arsuf.

The area was fought over throughout the Crusader period and, from 1261AD the fortress of Arsuf was occupied by the Knights Hospitaller. However, just four years later the Mamluk Sultan Baibars captured the fortress after a 40-day siege. His forces destroyed the town and the site was abandoned.

Today, Arsuf has been excavated and is now Apollonia National Park. Visitors can see the remains of the Crusader fortress, including evidence from the final battle. The clifftop setting and impressive defensive moat bring to life the scale and drama of the once-mighty castle. Also on show are the remains of a Roman villa, which highlights the diverse nature of the settlement at Arsuf.

Visitors can wander through the remnants of Crusader chambers and the site contains useful information on the various areas of the ruins. The site itself takes only about an hour to view, and contains some pleasant coastal and tranquil walkways.

During the holidays, events are often held here for children and the site can make for a good family day out. Purists be warned, those core historians seeking to explore the atmosphere of the ancient ruins should check ahead to avoid these events, as the site can be overrun with children dressed as pirates!

Photo by Chris. P (cc)

Arundel Castle

Ranking high on any list of castles of the world, the 11th century Arundel Castle is the historic home of the Dukes of Norfolk and has been continually occupied and renovated over the centuries.

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Arundel Castle is the historic home of the Dukes of Norfolk and has been occupied by their line for over 850 years. Amongst the dynasties to have inhabited Arundel Castle was the highly influential Howard family whose number included Catherine Howard, wife of Henry VIII.

The first structure on the Arundel Castle site was built in the 11th Century by the Normans after the invasion of William the Conqueror, with the earthworks and first buildings completed by 1070 AD. Work continued during the reign of King Henry II and further renovations were undertaken over the following centuries.

During the English Civil War, Arundel Castle was besieged twice - first by the Royalists who successfully captured the site and then by the Parliamentarians.

A significant restoration project took place in the latter half of the 19th century and this ensured that Arundel remained a property of some note.

Today, Arundel Castle sits amongst 40 acres of eye-catching grounds and gardens and is home to an impressive array of priceless artwork, furniture, sculptures and tapestries. The displays on site include possessions of Mary, Queen of Scots, as well as collections from the Duke of Norfolk.

There are also a number of special events hosted at Arundel Castle throughout the year, details of which can be seen on the official website.

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Ashby Castle

One of the most beatuful castle ruins in the UK, Ashby Castle was a Royalist stronghold destroyed after the English Civil War.

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Ashby Castle or ‘Ashby de la Zouch’ is a twelfth century manor house turned castle, the ruins of which can be seen in Leicestershire. Originally constructed during Norman times, Ashby Castle was the property of the Zouch family until the end of the fourteenth century.

Expanded and renovated, Ashby Castle achieved the transition from a stately home to a castle in the fifteenth century, after which it was the site of several royal visits from the likes of Henry VII and Charles I. Amongst its additions during this time, Ashby Castle gained the imposing 24-metre high Hastings Tower, built by Lord Hastings.

The demise of Ashby Castle occurred following the English Civil War. During the war, the castle had served as a Royalist base, but in 1646 it was taken by the Parliamentarians and subsequently fell into disuse. Ashby Castle would later inspire Sir Walter Scott, who set certain jousting scenes from his nineteenth century novel Ivanhoe at the site.

Visitors to Ashby Castle can immerse themselves in the site’s history, from enjoying entertaining audio tours and exploring its sunken gardens to embarking on tours of its underground passageways.

Photo by Historvius

Baba Vida Fortress

Baba Vida Fortress is one of the most - if not actually the most - well-preserved medieval castles in Bulgaria.

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The Baba Vida Fortress is hailed as one of the most - if not actually the most - well-preserved medieval castles in Bulgaria.

Located in the northwest of the country, the Baba Vida Fortress was first built in the 10th century atop the ruins of the Roman watchtower of Bononia, itself built in the 1st century AD on the remains of a Thracian settlement.

As the central defensive mechanism of Vidin, the Baba Vida Fortress withstood various attacks and sieges - such as by the Byzantine forces of Basil II. Conversely, it has also been captured by different armies including the Hungarians and the Ottomans, the latter of whom used it as a munitions store and prison. In the fourteenth century, it also played the role of royal residence of Tsar Ivan Stratsimir.

Over the course of its existence, the Baba Vida Fortress been built and rebuilt on many occasions, with elements of its past visible throughout. Today, this restored site and museum has a main courtyard surrounded by an inner and outer wall as well as four towers.

The name “Baba Vida” refers to a legend about three Bulgarian sister princesses, two of whom married rashly and wasted their inheritances while the third - Vida - remained single and built the castle.

The Baba Vida Fortress features as one of our top visitor attractions in Bulgaria.

Photo by Bert Kaufmann (cc)

Balmoral Castle

Ranking among the most famous castles in the world, Balmoral Castle has been the official Highlands home of the British royals since Queen Victoria.

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Balmoral Castle has been the official Highlands home of the British royal family since the reign of Queen Victoria.

Having fallen in love with the Highlands after their first visit in 1842, it was in fact Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who built Balmoral Castle between 1853 and 1856.

Today, parts of Balmoral Castle and its grounds are open to the public, with audio guides available (included in the admission price) detailing the workings of the estate and its history. There are also a series of exhibitions at Balmoral Castle related to the royal family.

This site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in the UK.

Photo by llewellyn_jenkins (cc)

Bamburgh Castle

One of many castles around the world with a rich history, Bamburgh Castle is a grand structure which looms high upon a crag overlooking the coast of Northumberland.

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Bamburgh Castle is a grand structure which looms high upon a crag overlooking the coast of Northumberland. It looks like everything one would expect of the former home of the kings of Northumbria, even though the castle which currently stands is actually relatively young.

The site upon which Bamburgh Castle is located is initially known to have been occupied by an ancient tribe known as the Votadini in circa 800 BC, however the first mention of Bamburgh Castle itself dates back to around 547 AD. At this time, the Anglo Saxons invaded and captured it. There they set up their capital, Din Guayrdi and built the first stronghold, the site where their kings would reside.

In 993 AD, this incarnation of Bamburgh Castle was destroyed by the Vikings and this was later replaced by a castle built by the Normans. In the twelfth century, King Henry II owned the land, where he built a keep. Remaining sections of this medieval structure can still be seen today, they being the oldest parts of the current Bamburgh Castle. However, most of Henry II’s work was not left to stand for long.

During the Wars of the Roses, Bamburgh Castle was attacked by Edward VI and severely damaged by what was then the latest weaponry. Thereafter, Bamburgh Castle passed hands several times, lying largely derelict. It was only in when it was sold to industrialist Lord Armstrong in 1894 that the Bamburgh Castle we see today began taking shape.

Armstrong restored Bamburgh Castle and it remains in the hands of his family today. It is now open to the public and displays several historical objects.

Photo by yashima (cc)

Barnard Castle

Barnard Castle contains the ruins of a Norman stronghold which was later owned by Richard III.

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The charming ruins of Barnard Castle in County Durham sit above the small market town of the same name.

The first stone fortifications were built on the site by the Norman lord Guy de Baliol, who was granted the estate by William Rufus in 1095AD. However, it was under his nephew Barnard de Baliol that the site and town were truly expanded and it was for Barnard that the castle was named.

In 1216 another of their successors, Hugh de Baliol, successfully defended Barnard Castle from enemies of King John, who besieged the fortress.

During the 14th century Barnard Castle passed into the holdings of the Earls of Warwick and subsequently the Nevilles before coming into the possession of Richard, Duke of Gloucester, who would later be crowned Richard III.

In 1569 the castle was besieged again – and this time captured – during the uprising against Elizabeth I by the Northern Lords.

By 1626 Barnard Castle has fallen into neglect and the estate was sold to Sir Henry Vane. Sir Henry had also acquired the nearby Raby Castle and chose to strip Barnard Castle of materials to refurbish Raby.

Today Barnard Castle is run by English Heritage and forms a picturesque ruin for visitors to explore. People can stroll around the ruins and still seeing remains including the castle towers and the 14th century Great Hall.

Photo by lyng883 (cc)

Beaumaris Castle

Beaumaris Castle was to be the largest of King Edward’s iron ring of castles intended to encircle Wales.

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Beaumaris Castle is an incomplete but nonetheless striking medieval castle on the Isle of Anglesey built by King Edward I.

Begun in 1295, this was the last of the king’s ring of castles which he commissioned so as to affirm his conquest of Wales. Designed to be the largest of this imposing circle, Beaumaris Castle was never completed.

Despite its unfinished state, Beaumaris Castle did play a military role, being besieged and captured by Prince of Wales Owain Glyn Dwron in 1403 before being retaken by the English in 1405. Charles I also used it as a base for moving supplies and troops during the English Civil War.

Today, the picturesque ruins of Beaumaris Castle offer a glimpse into its real and potential grandeur. Together with three of Edward’s other Welsh strongholds, Beaumaris Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by etrusko25 (cc)

Berat

Berat is a popular historic town in Albania containing an impressive 13th century castle which looms above the town.

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Berat is one of the most popular historic destinations in Albania. An ancient town that has continually been inhabited through the ages, it retains much of its historic charm.

Founded in antiquity, an early Macedonian city was built here in the third or fourth centuries BC named Antipatreia after the Macedonian general Antipater. Later forming part of the Roman Empire and subsequently the Byzantine Empire, it was at various times ruled by Bulgarians, Angevins, Serbs and Ottomans, who ruled Berat from the 15th century until the breakup of the Ottoman Empire.

Today, visitors to Berat can admire a number of sights. One of the most striking is the multitude of pictureqsque houses that cover the slopes below the castle – leading to the Berat being known as the ‘town of a thousand windows’.

Among the most popular and obvious sites is Berat castle itself. Though it has been occupied since Roman times, the current structure dates back to the 13th century AD and beyond. Almost a mini-town in itself, the citadel – known as the Kala – gives great views of the area. Inside, you will find the remains of churches, mosques - including the ruins of the Xhamia e Kuqe / Red Mosque - and the Onufri Museum (located in the inner part of Saint Mary Church), housing works by the famous medieval artist. Be warned, the path up to Berat castle is steep.

Also worth visiting in Berat is the Ethnographic Museum which contains displays relating to the history and life of the local area.

Berat was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2005.

Photo by hartjeff12 (cc)

Berkeley Castle

Berkeley Castle was originally built nearly 1,000 years ago, but since then has undergone a number of changes and has been the site of many interesting – and sometimes bloody – events.

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Berkeley Castle has been a feature of the Gloucestershire countryside since the 11th Century. Built by William FitzOsbern in 1067, it was one of many motte-and-bailey castles constructed by the Normans shortly after the Conquest of 1066. Before long it passed into the hands of the Berkeley family and was rebuilt by them in the 12th Century.

In its long history, the castle has witnessed a number of dramatic events. It was the centre of a controversy during a period of civil war in Britain and Normandy known as The Anarchy, when Roger de Berkeley was dispossessed for failing to ally himself with the House of Plantagenet. It was because of this that the castle passed to Robert Fitzharding in 1152, a wealthy burgess of Bristol and supporter of the Plantagenets who founded a new Berkeley line. His descendants still hold the castle now, making it the oldest castle in Britain to be lived in continually by the same family.

Two centuries later, Berkeley Castle was once again a site of intrigue. Early in 1327, Edward II had been deposed by his wife, Queen Isabella, and sent to the castle for imprisonment. On 21st September, Edward was reportedly murdered. No details are known, but popular stories tell a tale of a red hot poker or suffocation. Visitors can still see the cell where the deed is thought to have occurred and might even hear the echoes of Edward’s cries in the 11m-deep dungeon on the anniversary of the event.

Like many major strongholds in England, Berkeley Castle was also caught up in the English Civil War – the parliamentarians laid siege to the castle in 1645 and eventually captured it from the Royalist defenders.

Berkeley Castle’s sombre past can also been seen in the grand Great Hall. It was here that the last court jester in England, Dickie Pearce, died after falling from the Minstrels' gallery. In the adjoining chapel, visitors can see some of the more pleasant aspects of the castle, including painted wooden vaulted ceilings and an illustrated vellum book of Catholic chants.

A walk around the castle also reveals a number of tapestries and paintings by English and Dutch Masters. And outside, the castle has yet more to offer. Its beautiful Elizabethan gardens are home to Elizabeth I's bowling green and a pine that is thought to have originated from a tree at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, where the attempts of Charles Stuart to challenge Hanoverian power in Britain were halted.

Visitors can hear about the history of the castle in full on an hour-long tour that is included in the admission price, and may be treated to special events on bank holidays and during the school holidays. There is also a butterfly house within the grounds, entry to which is included in the ticket price.

Contributed by Siobhan Coskeran

Photo by stephenrwalli (cc)

Berkhamsted Castle

Berkhamsted Castle was a medieval stronghold, the ruins of which lie in Berkhamsted, Herts, UK.

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Berkhamsted Castle was originally a timber castle constructed in the eleventh century by William the Conqueror’s half-brother, Robert of Mortain. This was in the aftermath of William’s success in the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

Located in the strategically important area of Berkhamsted, this motte and bailey castle was a vital stronghold. However, most of the stone remains of Berkhamsted Castle which can be seen today date back to the twelfth century. The timber castle having been destroyed after Robert of Mortain’s son dissented against the king, this later incarnation of Berkhamsted Castle was initiated during the reign of Henry I and expanded over the years to become a large, fortified palace where royalty was often entertained.

The earthworks, walls and ditches of Berkhamsted Castle are now open to the public under the remit of English Heritage.

Photo by Philandthehounds (cc)

Berwick Castle

Berwick Castle was a medieval castle, the ruins of which are located in Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Northumberland.

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Berwick Castle was a medieval castle originally built by King David I of Scotland in the 12th century and rebuilt in the thirteenth century by King Edward I of England.

Located near the border between Scotland and England, Berwick Castle was an important stronghold and changed hands between the two sides several times in the course of history.

Despite being reconstructed in the 17th and 18th centuries, Berwick Castle is now a ruin maintained and managed by English Heritage. Visitors can walk around the site freely and explore the remains at their own pace.

Photo by Charles D P Miller (cc)

Bishop's Waltham Palace

The ruins of the medieval Bishop’s Waltham Palace and castle can be seen in Hampshire, UK.

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Bishop's Waltham Palace is a medieval castle in Hampshire built in the 12th century, although the current picturesque ruins mostly date from the early 14th century works of the Bishop William Wykeham. In its time, Bishop's Waltham Palace acted as a residence for a series of the Bishops of Winchester and their clergy until it was destroyed during the English Civil War.

Today, the ground floor of Bishop's Waltham Palace is the location of the Bishop's Waltham Town Museum and the site is under the remit of English Heritage.

Photo by Sean MacEntee (cc)

Blarney Castle

Blarney Castle is a 15th century stone castle in Cork, Ireland, and is home to the famous Blarney Stone.

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Blarney Castle in Cork, Ireland is the pretty ruin of a medieval structure built by the King of Munster, Cormac Laidhir MacCarthy in 1446.

Steeped in mystery and legend, Blarney Castle is home to the Blarney Stone, which is believed to imbue anyone who kisses it with the gift of eloquence. This gift would be well deserved of anyone who actually manages this feat, it involving having to hang precariously upside down from the castle’s battlements.

Blarney Castle stands near the nineteenth century Blarney House, constructed by the Colhurst family.

Photo by Ryan Lea (cc)

Bodiam Castle

Perhaps one of England’s best known moated castles, Bodiam Castle was built in 1385. The castle suffered during the English Civil War and was restored before being bequeathed to the National Trust. It now ranks among the most beautiful castles in the world.

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Perhaps one of Britain’s most picturesque castles, Bodiam Castle was built by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge in 1385 and is now a popular tourist attraction operated by the National Trust.

Originally a manor home, Bodiam was converted into a castle by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, who was granted a licence by Richard II to crenellate the walls and fortify Bodiam. Dalyngrigge fought during the Hundred Years War, and, upon returning to England in 1377, married Elizabeth Wardeux, through whom he came into possession of Bodiam Manor. The castle served a dual purpose, both as a status symbol for Dalyngrigge, and as a defence against a potential, albeit unlikely, French invasion.

The castle itself, of quadrangular design, is characterised by a great moat and courtyard. The living quarters were built into the walls, which surround an open courtyard. The construction of a significant moat was made possible by technological advances which allowed the moat to be filled by springs. This lent the castle a modern edge, as prior to this most moats would have been fed by nearby rivers.

The moat thus served as an almost impregnable defence, and although the castle was never attacked, the moat would have negated the effectiveness of siege warfare. Indeed, apart from when the then Lancastrian owner Sir Thomas Lewknor surrendered to Yorkist forces, Bodiam Castle was never taken by force.

However, Bodiam’s tough defences did not always save the castle from damages. The interior of the castle was almost entirely destroyed by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War, to avoid the castle being used by the Royalists. During this period the façade was also allowed to fall into ruin, although a succession of owners in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, notably Lord Curzon who purchased the site in 1926, contributed to the restoration of Bodiam Castle to its current state.

Today, visitors are invited to explore this beatiful castle and its surrounding grounds. Families and school children are also welcome, and there are a wide range of events and activities taking place throughout the year. For a full calendar of events check out the National Trust Bodiam Castle events page.

Contributed by Chris Reid

Photo by HBarrison (cc)

Bodrum Castle

Bodrum Castle in Turkey is a fifteenth century citadel built by Christian knights and houses the Museum of Underwater Archaeology.

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Bodrum Castle (Bodrum Kalesi), also known as The Castle of St. Peter, in Bodrum, Turkey was built by the Knights Hospitaller in 1402 in order to offer protection from the invading Seljuk Turks.

Constructed according to the highest standards at the time, it remained an important Christian stronghold for over a century, serving as a focal point in Asia Minor. Bodrum Castle incorporates many pieces from the nearby Mausoleum of Mausolus, including sculptures and building materials, the latter of which were used to strengthen Bodrum Castle from invasion by Sultan Suleiman in 1522.

Today, Bodrum Castle is open to the public and houses the world renowned Museum of Underwater Archaeology founded in 1962. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Turkey.

Photo by tokarcik.tomas (cc)

Bojnice Castle

One of the oldest castles in the world, Bojnice Castle is said to be Slovakia's most romantic castle, and has a history dating to the twelth century.

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Bojnice Castle (Bojnicky zamok) is seen by many as Slovakia's most romantic castle, with a history dating to the 12th century. The castle has undergone many changes over the centuries. In its present form it is more similar to a French chateaux or Bavaria's Neuschwanstein than to other Slovak fortresses.

A castle is first recorded on the site in 1113; in the early 14th century a castle on the site belonged to Matus Cak Trenciansky, who had captured it in the 13th century, before passing to other aristocratic owners. Amongst these nobles were members of the Thurzo family who were first gifted it by King Ferdinand I in 1527 and updated the castle from a Gothic to a more comfortable Renaissance palace.

In the 17th century the Palfi family received control of Bojnice Castle. It was Count Jan Palfi who decided in the late 19th century to renovate the castle in the romantic style seen today.

Bojnice Castle has been part of the Slovak National Museum since 1950. The interiors include furniture from the early modern period through to the late 19th century. The chapel features a 14th century Florentine altar, and Count Jan Palfi is buried in a chapel in the rock below the castle.

Beneath the courtyard is a cave that contains the castle's water source. The grounds around Bojnice Castle include a moat with swans and a 600-year-old tree. Besides the standard daytime tour, the castle also offers night tours. In late April and early May the International Festival of Ghosts and Spirits is held there.

Photo by Philandthehounds (cc)

Bolsover Castle

Once the site of a medieval fortress before its replacement with an ornate 17th century manor house, Bolsover Castle is today run by English Heritage.

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Bolsover Castle near Chesterfield in Derbyshire contains the remains of a 17th century English mansion house, modelled on a medieval castle.

The site where Bolsover Castle now stands once contained a small fortification; however this was dismantled in 1612 by the landowner Charles Cavendish, who began a fresh construction on the site. The main development was intended to reflect a small medieval fortress, and became known as the ‘Little Castle’. Though Charles himself did not live to see the completion of this project, it was continued by his son William – said to be something of a playboy at the time – who completed the scheme along with additional buildings and an ornate riding house.

In 1634 Bolsover Castle hosted a visit by Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria and William continued to be a supporter of the King during the English Civil War. However, this support did not bode well for Bolsover Castle, which was captured and partially demolished by the Parliamentarians. William, who fled into exile during the war, returned in around 1660 and undertook repairs to the estate.

After William’s death Bolsover Castle did not take pride of place among the Cavendish estates and his successors failed to maintain much of the site. By the 19th century most of Bolsover Castle had fallen into ruin, though the Little Castle remained, used as a vicarage.

Today, visitors to Bolsover Castle can enjoy a number of interesting sites and activities, including the intricate decorations of the Little Castle and the fascinating riding house. Bolsover Castle also contains a number of audio visual displays and activities for children – in fact, there are a number of special events days at Bolsover, you can view a list on the official site. The castle grounds are also well worth seeing, offering great views of the local area and excellent picnicking opportunities!

Photo by Håkan Dahlström (cc)

Borgholm Castle

Borgholm Castle is a picturesque ruined medieval castle on the Swedish island of Öland which is now a popular tourist attraction.

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Borgholm Castle, also known as Borgholms Slott, is a ruined medieval castle and palace complex located on the Swedish island of Öland. It is now a popular tourist attraction and one of the most picturesque castles in the country.

The origins of the original fortifications built on this site are obscure, but it is believed that a castle has stood at Borgholm since around the 12th century AD.

Over the following centuries, Borgholm Castle was often involved in the conflicts which often took place between the Nordic kingdoms and was damaged and rebuilt several times – including a significant rebuild under Gustav I of Sweden and his son John III.

In the 17th century Borgholm Castle was remodelled along the lines of an opulent Baroque palace by King Charles X Gustav – he is the only king to have actually lived at the castle. However, the lifetime of this palace was short due to a devastating fire which swept through the complex in 1806, leaving just the impressive and striking ruined shell which still survives intact.

Today, Borgholm Castle is a popular tourist attraction and visitors can explore the castle ruins as well as learning more about the history of this strategic crossroads.

Photo by Bert Kaufmann (cc)

Bothwell Castle

A ruined medieval stronghold near Glasgow, Bothwell Castle played a key role in the Scottish Wars of Independence.

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Bothwell Castle is a stunning ruined medieval stronghold near Glasgow and one of the most celebrated of its kind. Begun by the Morays, an important aristocratic family, in around 1242, Bothwell Castle was intended to be a large and imposing fort. The tower or "donjon" which remains there today offers a glimpse into the Morays’ vision.

Construction of Bothwell Castle had to be ceased, thought to be due to the fact that the Wars of Independence broke out in 1296. It was never completed. Yet, despite its unfinished state, Bothwell Castle did play a role in the Wars of Independence.

It was subjected to several sieges and being taken by each of the opposing sides several times. The most famous of these attacks occurred in 1301. At this time, Edward I laid siege to Bothwell and, with a force of almost seven thousand, the English eventually succeeded in taking the castle.

In 1362, Bothwell Castle passed to the aristocratic Black Douglas family by marriage and they rebuilt it. Whilst not adhering to the structure of the Morays, the new Bothwell Castle was still formidable and parts of it - notably its chapel - can still be seen.

Photo by kyletaylor (cc)

Bran Castle

Oddly linked to the myth of Dracula, Bran Castle is an impressive medieval fortification in Romania which actually has very little to do with the famous vampire legend. Still worth a visit though.

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Commanding a strategic crossroads for hundreds of years, Bran Castle in Romania is an impressive medieval fortification and popular tourist attraction. Famously known as Dracula’s Castle, Bran in fact has little or no link to any of the legends surrounding the fictional vampire or even the genuine figure of Vlad the Impaler, on who the character is loosely based.

Built on the orders of King Louis I of Hungary, Bran Castle was completed in just a few years around 1377. It served as an important strategic stronghold in an area which was often involved in local and regional conflicts. Frequently garrisoned by mercenaries, one interesting note Târnava mentions brigades of “English ballista men” serving at the castle.

The castle was modified a number of times over the centuries, and was occasionally a focal point in the conflicts of the region – most notably in 1442 when it withstood a siege from Ottoman forces. It also served as an important trading and customs post, generating significant income for the local towns. Over time, the military importance of Bran Castle diminished and it became an important political centre and residence.

In 1920, Bran Castle became an official palace of the Romanian Royal Family, and the famous Queen Marie played an important role in its restoration, development and décor – as she did with many of the royal residences at the time.

In terms of its links to Dracula, Bran Castle doesn’t seem to be an obvious choice. While the figure upon which the vampire is loosely based Vlad Tepes (or Vlad the Impaler) was a prisoner of Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus here for about two months in 1462 there is little more that connects them. Indeed, according to the account on the official website, it was American tourists in the 1970s and 1980s who established the link, due to the castle’s location and exterior design.

However it happened, the myth has superseded the reality, and today as well as exploring the castle’s exterior and stately interior, tourists have to navigate a sea of pointed-toothed merchandise.

Photo by Andrew Gatt (cc)

Broughton Castle

Situated on the border of Oxfordshire, Broughton Castle is surrounded by a three acre moat, and set amongst the scenic parkland of Broughton park.

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Broughton Castle in Oxfordshire is a medieval fortified manor house surrounded by a three acre moat and set amongst scenic parkland.

In actual fact, Broughton is more a fortified manor house than a castle, and has been the family seat of the Fiennes family (who hold the title Lord and Lady Saye and Sele) since the 14th century. The castle received its name from Sir John de Broughton, who built the castle around 1300AD. It was subsequently sold to Bishop Wykeham of Winchester in 1377 who ranked among Britain’s most powerful figures at the time. One of Wykeham’s descendants married into the Fiennes family, in whose hands the castle still rests today. The castle underwent a significant re-build in the second half of the 16th century, leaving us largely with the structure which can be seen today.

Among the most important historical events to occur at Broughton Castle took place during English Civil War when to the head of household, William Fiennes, was strongly opposed to Charles I. William refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to the King, and Broughton became a key meeting place for those set against him. William raised a regiment to fight during the Civil War, and he and his four sons all fought at the Battle of Edgehill. Following this clash, Broughton Castle fell under siege and was captured. Later in the conflict, William actually opposed the execution of Charles I, and stepped away from public office as a result of the execution, a fact which earned him a pardon from Charles II after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.

Today Broughton Castle is a mixture of beautiful parkland, striking buildings and the three streams which allowed the construction of a large moat.

The house itself is magnificent - the Great Hall has an impressive display of arms and armour from the English Civil War, as well as from the Fiennes family tree. The Oak Room is panelled, as the name suggests, with oak from floor to ceiling, whilst the Queen Ann room commemorates the visit of James I's wife, Queen Ann of Denmark, in 1604. The King's Chamber was used by James I and Edward VII. The oldest section of the castle is the dining room, and passageway. The passageways contain vaulted ceilings, and there is a staircase which leads to the rare 14th century chapel. The garden is also well worth a look, with its curiously designed box hedging.

Contributed by Chris Reid

Photo by Jorge Lascar (cc)

Buda Castle

One of the biggest castles in the world, Buda Castle is a vast palace in Budapest’s Castle Quarter housing a series of museums including the National Gallery.

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Buda Castle (Budai Var) is a vast palace in Budapest’s Castle Quarter housing a series of museums including the National Gallery.

In the thirteenth century, the then separate cities of Buda and Pest were endangered by Mongol raids, to which Pest succumbed in the 1241-1242. A few years later, King Bela IV decided to fortify Buda, a project completed in around 1265, offering his subjects defensive walls within which to shelter.

The first incarnation of Buda Castle dates to the fourteenth century, but since then it has been destroyed and rebuilt several times, including by the Ottomans in the sixteenth century. Rebuilding projects took place throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as well as extensive renovations following World War II. As a result of the constant changes to Buda Castle, it’s difficult to identify the periods to which each part of the site dates.

Those who want to learn about the history of Buda Castle can visit the Budapest History Museum, which is located within the castle.

Photo by Her Own Journey (cc)

Burg Rheinfels

Among the more picturesque of the world’s castles, Burg Rheinfels was an imposing medieval fort, the dramatic ruins of which lie in St Goar in Germany.

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Burg Rheinfels was an imposing medieval fortification, the dramatic ruins of which lie in St Goar in Germany.

Initially built in 1245 as a sort of medieval "toll booth" levying charges on ships that sailed along the Rhine, Burg Rheinfels was hated by the citizens of the Rhineland. So much so in fact that the affected towns came together and laid siege to Burg Rheinfels for over a year. However, this vast and powerful fortress was too much for even these thousands of men and the siege was ultimately unsuccessful.

Over the next centuries, Burg Rheinfels was fortified even further. It withstood another siege - this time by the Spanish - in 1626 and the efforts of King Louis XIV’s army later that same century. Burg Rheinfels finally fell to the French in 1794 and was then slowly destroyed.

Nevertheless, what remains of Burg Rheinfels is still fascinating. Visitors can even tour its fifteenth century underground tunnels or stay in part of the castle - which is now a hotel. There is also a museum about the history of Burg Rheinfels, which includes models showing how it would once have looked.

Photo by froutes (cc)

Burgkloster

The Burgkloster was a medieval monastery and castle turned poorhouse, court and Nazi prison.

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The Burgkloster (Castle Monastery) in Lubeck is considered to be one of the most important medieval monasteries in Germany. Established in 1229, the Burgkloster served as a monastery until the Protestant Reformation (circa sixteenth century) after which it was used as a poorhouse until the nineteenth century.

Under the Third Reich, the Burgkloster was used as a Nazi prison, bearing witness to terrible atrocities, particularly against Jews and those who formed the resistance movement.

Today, the Burgkloster is a museum of Lubeck’s history. Visitors can tour the building as well as viewing exhibits on the history of Lubeck’s Jewish community and about Lubeck’s time as an important member of the Hanseatic League. This was a medieval trade block which controlled much of the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

Byblos

Byblos is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, and contains a twelth century Crusader castle.

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Byblos (Jbail) in Lebanon is one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities, as attested by the incredibly diverse ages of its ruins. Thought to have first inhabited sometime around the fifth millennium BC, Byblos began as a Neolithic village of fisherman.

Over time, Byblos would, amongst other things, become a Phoenician trading hub called Gublu, be taken by Alexander the Great in 333BC, be ruled by the Greeks (this as when it acquired its current name) and then fall to Pompey, becoming a Roman city in the 1st century BC. Byblos began to decline under the Byzantines, who took it in 399AD.

Today, Byblos bears the marks of all of these civilisations. Stone Age, Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age dwelling sit side by side with a royal Phoenician necropolis and Roman sites such as a theatre, a road and nympheum. There is also a 12th century Crusader Castle, a reminder of when Byblos was conquered in 1104.

In addition to its fascinating ruins, Byblos is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its contribution to modern language. In particular, Byblos is connected with the Phoenicians' development of the predecessor of our alphabet. There’s plenty to see at Byblos, some in its main archaeological site, other elements dotted around its medieval town centre.

Photo by Paul Stevenson (cc)

Caerlaverock Castle

Set in truly jaw-dropping Scottish countryside, Caerlaverock Castle was an important fortification, providing defence for the Scottish crown in a period of deep rooted rivalry with England.

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Caerlaverock Castle is an impressive a medieval fortress which stands out for its unique triangular design and picturesque location, ensuring it ranks among Scotland’s most remarkable castles.

First built in the late-13th century on the site of previous fortifications, Caerlaverock Castle has a long and fascinating history and still bares the wounds of many of its battles.

Standing strong on the Scottish border, the castle is in many ways a symbol of the divisions that for so many years tore England and Scotland apart. Due to its strategic location, Caerlaverock was often central to the on-going rivalry and warfare which took place between the two crowns.

Indeed in the early 14th century Caerlaverock Castle was besieged and captured by the English king Edward I, as he led his armies against Scotland. Despite holding off an initial assault, the small Scottish garrison could do little once Edward turned his siege machines against the fortress and it was captured within two days.

In the 17th century Caerlaverock was home to Robert Maxwell, the 1st Earl of Nithsdale, who remodelled the structure and based the living quarters on Linlithgow Palace. However, Caerlaverock retained its military significance and was the scene of a major siege in 1640 which damaged the castle’s exterior and left it partially ruined. The southern wall was largely destroyed in this siege but this damage does little to take away from the imposing might of the castle’s iconic and unique triangular structure.

Today Caerlaverock Castle stands in the centre of picturesque countryside and the surrounding land is even classed as a ‘National Scenic Area’; protected and celebrated for its natural beauty.

The imposing moat, once a fearsome deterrent to attackers and important strategic tool against the undermining of enemies, is now a highlight for visitors and a stunning site all year round – reflecting the glistening sunlight in summer or laced with ice and snow during the winter months.

A trip to Caerlaverock Castle itself offers a lesson in siege warfare and there are many interesting reconstructions of medieval siege engines; exciting educational tools that instantly transport visitors to the battlefield. For families, there’s even a castle-themed adventure park to provide extra entertainment for children, ensuring there always lots to see and do at Caerlaverock!

This site features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in the United Kingdom. Contributed by Rebecca Lewis

Photo by andrew_j_w (cc)

Caernarfon Castle

One of many castles of the world that is now popular with tourists, Caernarfon Castle is a stunning medieval stronghold in Wales built by Edward I.

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Caernarfon Castle is a stunning medieval stronghold in Wales built by Edward I and listed by UNESCO. Edward, who had conquered Wales by 1283, encircled it with a ring of castles, of which Caernarfon was one. Grand and imposing, Caernarfon Castle was an impressive mix of fort, royal home and political seat.

Caernarfon Castle was of great significance to the king, whose son was born there in 1284. Since then, Caernarfon Castle has fared very well, remaining exceptionally intact. It has also continued to play host to important events, including the investiture of Prince Charles as the Prince of Wales in 1969.

Today, the site offers exhibits and tours.

Photo by Rob the moment (cc)

Caerphilly Castle

Caerphilly Castle is a vast thirteenth century Anglo-Norman stronghold built to defend against Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd. Certainly ranking high among any list of the most picturesque castles of the world.

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Caerphilly Castle is a vast thirteenth century Anglo-Norman stronghold built to defend against Welsh prince Llywelyn ap Gruffudd.

Begun in around 1268 and mostly completed by 1271, its imposing medieval architecture and 30 acre span make Caerphilly Castle one of the most impressive - and formidable - surviving British castles. It is even said to have helped inspire the buildings of some of Edward I’s iron ring of castles.

Today, visitors can tour Caerphilly Castle and enjoy two on-site exhibits about its history.

Photo by The Integer Club (cc)

Camber Castle

Camber Castle is a huge 16th century castle and fortification built by famous English king Henry VIII.

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Camber Castle, also known as Winchelsea Castle, was one of a number of forts built by Henry VIII to protect England’s southern coast.

Construction of Camber Castle began in 1539, a year after France and Spain had signed a treaty. At the time, the monarch built these fortifications to defend the country against any subsequent invasions.

A highly symmetrical and vast sandstone construct shielded by a curtain wall, artillery platforms and semi-circular towers, Camber Castle was built in stages and was completed in 1544. However, soon after its completion, the silting of the surrounding landscape compromised the usefulness of Camber Castle and its garrison of almost thirty men was disbanded in 1637.

Today, Camber Castle is an English Heritage site and part of the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. It is managed by the Reserve and East Sussex County Council. Camber Castle is open to the public and guided tours are available. Further information on the castle can be found on the Rye Harbour Nature Reserve website.

Photo by lorentey (cc)

Carcassonne

Near the top of any list of world castles, Carcassonne is a UNESCO listed fortified town in France with a history dating back to before the Roman era.

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Carcassonne, known as “La Cite” is a fortified town in southern France whose important strategic position between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic led to it being inhabited since before the Ancient Roman era.

Carcassonne is believed to have first been a hill fort known as an “oppidum” created in the sixth century BC and which formed a vital link between Europe as a whole and the Iberian Peninsula.

In the first century BC, Carcassonne and the area in which it was located were incorporated into the Roman Empire and, in the third and fourth centuries, the town began taking shape with the construction of a mighty wall. This, now largely ruined, wall is still visible in Carcassonne today.

In the Visigoth era, Carcassonne was a powerful stronghold, leading to a series of construction campaigns. However, it was from the twelfth century onwards that the structure of Carcassonne really took hold, initially with the building of the Count’s Castle or “Chateau Comtal”. The medieval fortifications seen today were built in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Throughout its history, Carcassonne has been considered untouchable. Even before its walls were built it was the subject of two failed sieges in the thirteenth century and, during the Hundred Years’ War, an attack was never even attempted.

It was only in the nineteenth century that Carcassonne began to suffer deterioration was it was exploited for materials. The Carcassonne seen today was reconstructed by Violett-le-Duc.

There is much to see at Carcassonne, including its incredible double fortified 3 km walls and 52 towers. There are audio guided tours of the majestic citadel and visitors can explore the cathedral, both built by the then ruling Trencavels.

Since 1997, Carcassonne has been a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by Charles D P Miller (cc)

Cardiff Castle

One of the oldest castles in the world, Cardiff Castle is a medieval complex with a diverse history dating back to the Romans.

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Cardiff Castle is a medieval complex comprised of a range of styles and with a diverse history. With its good access to the sea, the site of Cardiff Castle was first home to a succession of Roman forts, initially built in the mid first century AD.

In the eleventh century, the Normans built first a timber then a stone castle on the site of the Roman fortifications. The shell of the stone keep can still be seen and entered by visitors today and the reconstructed Roman wall is also visible.

Over the centuries, several aristocratic families - including the incredibly wealthy Butes - came to own Cardiff Castle, many of whom added to the complex. Under the Victorians, Cardiff Castle was expanded and renovated, creating a luxurious and grand complex with lavish, themed rooms adorned with incredible artwork and architectural features, all designed by famous architect William Burges.

Today, visitors can tour Cardiff Castle’s opulent apartments. Also located at Cardiff Castle is the military museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales as well as pretty gardens to enjoy.

Photo by donnamarijne (cc)

Carrickfergus Castle

Carrickfergus Castle is a Norman-built fortification which was in continual use as a military stronghold for over 700 years.

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Carrickfergus Castle was established in 1177 and remained a prominent stronghold in Northern Ireland for over 700 years.

Originally built by the Anglo-Norman nobleman John de Courcy, Carrickfergus Castle was modified repeatedly over the centuries as new weapons, tactics and threats brought fresh challenges to those defending the area. Significant works to Carrickfergus Castle were carried out in the 13th, 16th and 17th centuries.

Notable events in Carrickfergus Castle’s history include a successful siege by King John in 1210, the arrival of William of Orange (William III) to Ireland in 1690 and a raid by French forces in 1760. Carrickfergus Castle even witnessed a small naval encounter fought during the America Revolution.

Later uses of Carrickfergus Castle included being used as a prison, armoury, military garrison and an air raid shelter during World War II.

Today Carrickfergus Castle is an historic site run by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and is open to the public. Notable areas of Carrickfergus Castle that are worth seeing on a visit include the restored banqueting hall, medieval life exhibits and the 17th-19th century cannons which once formed part of the castle’s defences.

Photo by edwin.11 (cc)

Castel Sant Angelo

Castel Sant Angelo was the tomb of the Roman Emperor Hadrian later used as a mediecal castle.

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Castel Sant Angelo in Rome was originally constructed as the magnificent Mausoleum of Hadrian, the fourteenth emperor of Rome from 117AD to 138AD. It is unclearly as to exactly when Castel Sant Angelo was built, but most sources date it to between 123 and 139 AD.

A fortress-like structure, successive Roman emperors and other leaders used Castel Sant Angelo for a variety of purposes. In 401, Emperor Flavius Augustus Honorius incorporated Castel Sant Angelo in Rome’s Aurelian Walls, destroying and losing many of the contents of Hadrian’s mausoleum in the process. It later turned into a medieval stronghold and a prison.

In the fourteenth century, popes began using Castel Sant Angelo as a place of safety, an emergency shelter in times of danger. In fact, there is a corridor linking Castel Sant Angelo with Vatican Palace. Various changes were made to Castel Sant Angelo in order to meet the requirements of the popes and to further fortify this already well-defended building.

Today, Castel Sant Angelo houses a museum which tells the story of its history, from the Roman remains of the Mausoleum of Hadrian to remnants of the fortified castle, the original prison cells and the papal apartments.

Photo by Vvillamon (cc)

Castell de Bellver

Castell de Bellver is a striking 14th century citadel near Palma in Majorca.

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Castell de Bellver or “Bellver Castle” is a striking completely round fourteenth century citadel near Palma in Majorca. Set high atop the bay of Palma, it comes as little surprise that the Catalan name “Castell de Bellver” translates as “The castle with a lovely view”.

Construction of Castell de Bellver began in 1300 under the rule of King Jaume II and it remains extremely well preserved. With three main towers centred on a pretty courtyard and a looming keep, Castell de Bellver is a great example of military advances of the time, particularly as this style of castle is fairly unusual in Spain.

The lower levels of Castell de Bellver have a history of their own, having acted as a prison. The most famous figures imprisoned at Castell de Bellver include the family of King Jaume III.

Today, Castell de Bellver houses a museum of history (Museu de Mallorca), displaying objects ranging from ancient Roman artefacts through to Arab pottery and seventeenth century ceramics.

Photo by cristianocani (cc)

Castello di San Michele

Castello di San Michele is a medieval castle turned luxury home, hospital and museum.

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Castello di San Michele is an imposing medieval citadel in Cagliari in Sardinia built by the Spanish in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. However, there were structures on this site from the tenth century.

Later serving as the luxurious home of the Carroz family until 1511, the function of Castello di San Michele changed entirely in the seventeenth century when it became a quarantine section for plague victims.

Now home to temporary exhibits, Castello di San Michele is made up of three main towers joined by a series of thick walls.

Photo by Historvius

Castelo de Almourol

The Castle of Almourol is a medieval castle built by the Knights Templar on an islet in the Tagus River.

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Almourol Castle was built in the 12th century, on an islet in the middle of the Tagus River, as part of the defensive line held by the Knights Templar during the Portuguese Reconquista.

Although the site of Almourol Castle had been used as a fortification since at least Roman times the castle that stands today was primarily built under the Knights Templar, who began construction in 1171 AD. Subsequent excavations at the site have found evidence of this earlier Roman occupation, including the foundations of the Roman structure built here.

After the dissolution of the Templar Order in 1312 AD the castle was largely abandoned, particularly as the military situation in the area had changed meaning Almourol Castle was no longer of crucial strategic importance.

It was not until the Romanticist movement of the 19th century gathered pace that the castle became the subject of scrutiny once again, and it was largely restored at this time. Further restoration work took place in the mid-20th century.

Today the castle’s distinctive location and Templar architecture has led to Almourol becoming a popular attraction and a noted symbol of the Reconquest. Small wonder then that it's one of our picks for Portugal's top 10 visitor attractions.

Contributed by nmac

Photo by Morgaine (cc)

Castelo dos Mouros

One of the oldest castles in the world, Castelo dos Mouros is a picturesque ruined castle with a history dating back to the eighth century.

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Castelo dos Mouros (Castle of the Moors) is a picturesque ruined castle overlooking Sintra in Portugal. Believed to have originally been built by the Moors in around the eighth century - hence the name - Castelo dos Mouros was attacked several times until it was finally taken by King Afonso Henriques in 1147.

However, much of the building of Castelo dos Mouros seen today does not date back to these early turbulent times. Left to decay for several hundreds of years, it was only in the nineteenth century that Castelo dos Mouros was restored and a big proportion of the current site formed part of this project. Having said this, there are still several signs of the former Moorish inhabitants, including an old cistern.

Amongst its attractions, Castelo dos Mouros is also home to the ruin of a medieval chapel. This fascinating site also features as one of our top ten tourist attractions of Portugal.

Photo by grongar (cc)

Castelvecchio Museum

Castelvecchio Museum and Fortress is a fourteenth century medieval castle which now hosts a fine art gallery and museum.

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Castelvecchio Museum and Fortress in Verona is a 14th century medieval castle which now hosts a fine art gallery and collections of ancient artifacts.

The Castelvecchio fortress itself is a site in its own right and dates back to the 14th century. Built by Cangrande II della Scala, Castelvecchio boasts imposing walls and vast towers which lend a magnificence and sense of raw power to the castle complex. It was built alongside the Ponte Scaligero which runs from the castle across the River Adige.

Castelvecchio fortress was a testament to the power of the Della Scala (Scaliger) family who ruled Verona in the 13th and 14th centuries until their internecine conflicts led to their downfall.

From 1404 Verona became part of the Venetian Republic and Castelvecchio became a munitions depot and subsequently was the home of the Venetian Military Academy. In the 1797 revolt against the French Castelvecchio was used as a barracks and the castle was the site of a number of actions during the uprising.

Today, Castelvecchio is a museum which hosts an impressive art gallery showcasing medieval and Renaissance artworks mostly from the local area. There are also Roman artifacts and sculptures and early Christian collections. The Castelvecchio complex was remodelled in 1957 by Carlo Scarpa.

 

Photo by paulinaclemente (cc)

Castillo de Chapultepec

Chapultepec Castle was once the home of Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg and now houses Mexico’s National History Museum

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Chapultepec Castle (Castillo de Chapultepec) is an eighteenth century building in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park now containing Mexico’s National History Museum (Museo Nacional de Historia).

Original construction of Chapultepec Castle began in 1785, but it was only completed after Mexico achieved independence and later refurbished as the home of Emperor Maximilian of Habsburg in 1864, before becoming the residence of Mexico’s presidents. Parts of Chapultepec Castle are still dedicated to their time as Emperor Maximilian’s home, however today, most of Chapultepec Castle is dedicated to the National History Museum.

Within its twelve halls, Mexico’s National History Museum charts the country’s diverse history, from the Pre-Hispanic era through to Spanish colonialism, Mexico’s revolution and its independence. Some of the National History Museum’s most significant exhibitions include the sword wielded by independence fighter José María Morelos in the Siege of Cuautla in 1812 as well as several murals depicting famous battles.

Chapultepec Castle features as one of our Top 10 Mexican Tourist Attractions.

Castillo de San Andres

Castillo de San Andres is the pretty ruin of an 18th, perhaps 17th, century fortification in Tenerife.

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Castillo de San Andres is the pretty ruin of an eighteenth - perhaps seventeenth - century fortification built to deter pirates from the island of Tenerife. All that remains today are parts of its main tower, the ruins of which are on display in a public plaza.

Photo by LANZATE (cc)

Castillo de San Jose

Castillo de San Jose is a dramatic cliff-top eighteenth century fort built to protect Lanzarote’s main port from pirate attacks.

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Castillo de San Jose is a dramatic cliff-top eighteenth century fort built to protect Lanzarote’s main port from pirate attacks. Commissioned by King Carlos III, Castillo de San Jose was completed in around 1779.

At a time of the construction of Castillo de San Jose, the Canary Islands had undergone a period of great hardship. As such, the work provided by the project of building Castillo de San Jose was greatly welcomed by the locals, leading it to being known as Fortaleza del Hambre or the "Hunger Fortress".

In later years, as the threat of raids subsided, Castillo de San Jose was used as a munitions storage facility before being left to decay.

Since 1976, Castillo de San Jose has been home to the Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo (Contemporary Art Museum). Visitors to the site can enjoy a great mix of the old and new, being the contrast between the older architecture of the castle and the modern artwork on display.

Photo by dumbledad (cc)

Castle Acre Priory

Castle Acre Priory was an eleventh century monastery built on a former castle site and dissolved by King Henry VIII.

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Castle Acre Priory was a monastery founded in 1090 AD by William de Warenne, the Second Earl of Surrey. Inspired by the French monastery of Cluny, de Warenne built Castle Acre Priory in its image. The result was an impressive and ornately decorated medieval monastic structure later accompanied by a twelfth century church.

Castle Acre Priory survived until 1537, when it became one of many monasteries to be dissolved by Henry VIII. Today, the ruins and remains of Castle Acre Priory form one England’s largest monastic sites and, managed by English Heritage, it offers visitors an insight into the history of the order of the Cluniacs.

There are several exhibitions at Castle Acre Priory, including a recreation of the monks’ herb garden and displays of original artefacts. Audio guides are available, making the site easy to navigate and understand. A visit usually last around a couple of hours.

Photo by dumbledad (cc)

Castle Drogo

Castle Drogo is an early 20th century country home constructed in the style of a mediaeval castle. This impressive building is now owned by the National Trust and open to visitors.

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The rather deceptive Castle Drogo in Devon has all the appearance of a medieval castle and yet was actually constructed in the early 20th century. It is said to be the last castle to be built in England.

Built to resemble an imposing medieval fortress, Castle Drogo was in fact built for businessman, retailer and entrepreneur Julius Drewe, who made his fortune at a young age and wished to have his family home built in the style of a medieval castle. Designed by renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, the castle took 20 years to complete.

At the time of writing Castle Drogo is open to the public, but is also undergoing a five year conservation project due to be completed in 2017. Visitors to this National Trust property at its stunning setting above the Teign Gorge can tour the castle’s updated layout and newly displayed historic treasures as well as its expansive grounds and gardens. There’s also a viewing tower which offers a good view of the works taking place (restrictions apply).

Photo by LHOON (cc)

Castle Keep

Castle Keep in Newcastle upon Tyne is one of the city’s most famous attractions and one of the best preserved Norman fortifications in the country.

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Castle Keep in Newcastle upon Tyne is a partially restored Norman fortification and one of the best preserved of its kind in Britain.

Built at a key strategic location, the site of Castle Keep has been occupied for almost 2,000 years with the Romans first fortifying the site in the mid-2nd century AD. Indeed the remains of this Roman fort, Pons Aelius, have been excavated and a few elements are visible close to Castle Keep. Following the fall of the Empire, the site came into use as an Anglo-Saxon Christian burial ground.

After the Norman invasion the site was refortified by Robert Curthose, eldest son of William the Conqueror. This fortification was called the ‘new’ castle upon the Tyne – later lending its name to the city which grew up around it.

The stone structure we see today was built by King Henry II in the late 12th century and was modified further over the next hundred years; in particular a barbican known as the ‘Black Gate’ was added to the in the reign of Henry III. However, by the 14th century the Castle Keep became largely militarily redundant due to the new, wider fortifications built around the town.

Though it was briefly refortified during the English Civil War - and was the last Royalist stronghold in the city – it would never again serve in a military capacity and was used as a prison for some time after. Restoration work during the 19th and 20th centuries returned much of the castle from a ruinous state and it now serves as a popular visitors attraction.

As well as exploring the Castle Keep – including the remains of the former prison chambers – visitors can get a great view of the surrounding area from the top of the fortification.

Photo by Historvius

Castle of Good Hope

An example of the reach of European castle architecture, the Castle of Good Hope is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa.

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The Castle of Good Hope (Casteel de Goede Hoop) in Cape Town is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa and the current seat of the military in the Cape.

The Castle of Good Hope was built by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) between 1666 and 1679 as a maritime replenishment station, but became a thriving settlement for military personnel and civilians alike. Imposing and expansive, the castle casts a very distinct pentagonal shape across Cape Town. Visitors enter through its large gateway bearing the coat of arms of the United Netherlands, built in 1682 to replace the original sea-facing entrance.

Visitors can either explore the Castle of Good Hope independently or join one of the many tours which uncover the Castle’s extensive history including a fascinating (if slightly creepy) visit to a dungeon.

There are also a number of exhibitions, including the Castle Military Museum exploring past battles and wars, the William Ferh Collection of period paintings and furniture and a replica of the original Castle Forge. The Castle of Good Hope features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in South Africa.

Photo by Lars Plougmann (cc)

Castle of the Knights - Kos

One of many surviving Crusader castles, the Castle of the Knights in Kos was the one of the fortifications of the Knights Hospitaller.

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The Castle of the Knights in Kos, sometimes referred to as Kos Castle, was the one of the fortifications of the Knights Hospitaller. Begun in the fourteenth century, the main purpose of the Castle of the Knights was to defend Kos from the Ottomans.

In 1495, the Castle of the Knights was damaged by an earthquake and then it was restored in the sixteenth century. What remains of the Castle of the Knights today is a great mixture of the different construction periods of the site. Many of its thick walls and imposing towers remain intact and even the some battlements can still be seen.

Chateau de Chillon

Castle Chillon is a beautiful fort using Lake Geneva and a moat created between a small island and the mainland for defense.

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Chateau de Chillon, also called Castle Chillon, is a beautiful fort which uses both Lake Geneva and a moat created between a small island and the mainland for defense. First mentioned between 1160 or 1005 AD, it is along the shoreline of Lake Geneva near Veytaux.

Through the centuries it has been home to the Counts of Savoy as well as Lord Byron.

This article is a stub and is currently being expanded by our editorial team.

Photo by Dirty S (cc)

Chateau de Prangins

Chateau de Prangins is an eighteenth century French style castle and home to one of the branches of the Swiss National Museum.

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Chateau de Prangins (Prangins Castle) is an 18th century French style castle and home to one of the branches of the Swiss National Museum.

Dating back to the 1730s, Chateau de Prangins was home to great figures ranging from barons to Joseph Bonaparte and Voltaire before becoming a school. Now restored to the peak of its grandeur, Chateau de Prangins offers in an insight into its past and this period of Swiss history including a permanent open-air tour of its grounds.

Donated to the Confederation in 1975, Chateau de Prangins is now a national museum displaying a range of historical and cultural exhibits. In particular, among its permanent exhibits is a collection about Swiss life between the 18th and 20th centuries. Prangins lies just a few minutes from Nyon. It is an impressive example of the links between a living place and one that is steeped in history.

Photo by peuplier (cc)

Citadel of Salah Ed-Din

The Citadel of Salah Ed-Din is a Crusader castle situated in Syria which was captured by Saladin and is now a World Heritage site.

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The Citadel of Salah Ed-Din, also known as Saladin Castle and Saone, is a partly-preserved fortress in Syria which is an interesting example of Crusader-era fortifications.

The site has been used as a fortification for many centuries, and is thought to have first been occupied by the Phoenicians and later by Alexander the Great. The current site was built by the Byzantines and became a Crusader stronghold until its capture by Saladin in 1188.

The Citadel of Salah Ed-Din was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006.

Photo by fw190a8 (cc)

Clifford’s Tower

One of many castles of the world that is now popular with tourists, Clifford’s Tower is a 13th century castle with a diverse history.

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Clifford's Tower is a stone structure with a long and varied history which sits high atop a mound in York. In fact, Clifford’s Tower has been everything from a royal mint to a prison and only attained its name in the fourteenth century when it was named after Roger de Clifford who was hanged there in 1322.

The current 13th century structure known as Clifford’s Tower is not the first to be built on this site. Originally constructed by William the Conqueror as a castle in 1086, Clifford’s Tower was destroyed by a rebellion early in its life and rebuilt. However, in the 12th century, Clifford’s Tower suffered destruction yet again. This time it followed the accession of Richard I or Richard the Lionheart. At this time, the Jewish community in York, who had been protected during the reign of his father, Henry II, were persecuted in England.

In 1190, the Jews of York took refuge in Clifford’s Tower, trying to escape a mob. Rather than fall into the hands of this mob, most of the inhabitants at Clifford’s Tower committed suicide and burnt the structure down. When the survivors emerged the following day, they were massacred by the mob. This incident is commemorated by a plaque at the foot of Clifford’s Tower.

Managed by English Heritage, visitors to Clifford’s Tower can climb up its steep and winding steps for beautiful views of York.

Photo by Annie Mole (cc)

Colchester Castle

A beautifully preserved Norman stronghold with a rich history dating back to Roman times, Colchester Castle was built on the site of the Temple of Claudius.

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Colchester Castle is a beautifully preserved Norman stronghold with a rich history dating back to Roman times.

Built from 1076 (some say from 1069) and completed in around 1100, Colchester Castle was constructed under the order of King William I for use as a royal fortress.

Colchester Castle would go on to serve several other roles, including being besieged in 1215 by King John and becoming the site of interrogation and jailing of “witches” in 1645 by a self-proclaimed Witchfinder General called Matthew Hopkins. It was also a private home and a library at different times.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Colchester Castle is its keep, which is said to be the largest example of a Norman keep Britain. The grand size of this central tower is a legacy from Roman times as it was built on the foundations of a vast Roman temple known as the Temple of Claudius (said to date back to the 1st century AD). Colchester itself was Roman Britain’s first capital.

The Temple of Claudius has a dramatic story of its own, having been attacked by the forces of Queen Boudica. The people of Colchester then shut themselves inside the temple, only to be killed within two days.

Today, Colchester Castle is a museum open to the public. Guided tours are available and allow access to those who wish to view the foundations and remains of the Temple of Claudius.

Photo by cyesuta (cc)

Conwy Castle

Conwy Castle was one of a ring of medieval strongholds encircling Wales built by King Edward I.

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Conwy Castle (sometimes spelt Conway Castle) is the medieval military masterpiece of architect James of St. George.

Constructed under the orders of King Edward I of England and built between 1283 and 1289, Conwy Castle was one of a ring of strongholds that the monarch commissioned to establish his dominance over Wales.

Later, Conwy Castle would be the subject of a siege by the Welsh and would be garrisoned in several conflicts over the centuries.

With imposing towers and turrets and its position over the Conwy estuary, Conwy Castle remains a picturesque site. It is one of four welsh castles built by Edward listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by Robert Brook (cc)

Corfe Castle

Among the most picturesque of the world’s castles, Corfe Castle is the stunning ruin of a former royal residence, military stronghold and prison.

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Corfe Castle is the stunning ruin of a castle which has been everything from a royal residence to a military stronghold and even a prison.

The current incarnation of Corfe Castle was built by William the Conqueror in around 1066, although even before this, the site was of great historical importance, Indeed, it is said that King Edward the Martyr was murdered here in a plot to position Ethelred "the Unready" as monarch.

Corfe Castle would be expanded and altered over the coming centuries, especially in the 12th to 13th centuries under King John. Not only did this monarch further fortify the castle, he also used it as a prison and even a home. Sold by Elizabeth I in 1572, Corfe Castle became the grand private home, first to Sir Christopher Hatton and which was bought by Sir John Bankes in 1635.

The demise of Corfe Castle and the cause of its current ruined state came with the English Civil War. Having survived one siege in 1643, it would fall to another only three years later, then being demolished by the Parliamentarians.

Today, Corfe Castle is open to the public under the remit of the National Trust.

Photo by conskeptical (cc)

Craigmillar Castle

One of many castles around the world with a rich history, Craigmillar Castle once played host to Mary Queen of Scots.

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Craigmillar Castle was built from the fourteenth century and is now a pretty and well-preserved medieval ruin. The most famed aspect of Craigmillar Castle was that it played host to Mary Queen of Scots when she was recovering from an illness. It is also the namesake of a pact between several noblemen to murder her husband, Lord Darnley.

Today, several aspects of the fourteenth century structure of Craigmillar Castle remain, including an impressive tower. There is also a maze of medieval tunnels.

Photo by Hotfield (cc)

Crichton Castle

Crichton Castle is a distinctive 14th century castle.

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Crichton Castle is a distinctive medieval castle built as the residence of the aristocratic Crichton family in the fourteenth century. It would later pass to the Earls of Bothwell.

For visitors to Crichton Castle, there is its impressive tower house, unusual facade and fifteenth century great hall.

Photo by Historvius

Denbigh Castle

Just a ruin today, Denbigh Castle is one of the ring of castles which was built by King Edward I in order to establish his dominance over Wales.

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Denbigh Castle is one of the ring of castles built by King Edward I in order to establish his dominance over Wales. Edward invaded Wales in 1277, defeating its leader, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd (Llywelyn the Last) and then proceeded to encircle it with imposing castles.

Denbigh Castle was constructed from around 1282 atop the ruins of a Welsh fortification. It’s worth noting that the construction had to be halted in around 1294 when the Welsh briefly took hold of the fortification, but later continued.

Today, the ruins of Denbigh Castle form a dramatic sight. There are better preserved castles left over from Edward’s campaign; in fact, four of them - Beaumaris, Caernarfon, Conwy and Harlech - are listed by UNESCO. However, despite being in a more ruined state than its counterparts, Denbigh Castle is still worth seeing and is an important reminder of this period. It still has discernible curtain walls and a well preserved gatehouse.

NOTE: The site is currently closed due to recent excavation work.

Photo by Historvius

Devin Castle

One of the oldest castles in the world, Devin Castle overlooks the Danube and the border between Slovakia and Austria and its site has a history stretching back to Roman times.

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Devin Castle (Devínsky hrad) occupies a strategically important spot in Slovakia. It is located on a cliff above the point where the Morava River empties into the Danube, making it close to Bratislava and Hainburg, Austria.

In late antiquity the site was part of the Limes Romanus or limits or borders of the Roman Empire. In the 9th century the prince Rastislav built a fort on the site in service of the kingdom of Great Moravia. The Upper Castle dates from the 13th century, with palace buildings following in the 15th to 17th centuries. Napoleon's troops destroyed much of the castle in 1809.

Devin Castle became a National Heritage Site in 1961. Because Austria was just across the river, the site was heavily guarded to prevent citizens from escaping into the free west before the fall of Communism in 1989. The Maiden Tower, Devin Castle’s most famous sight, was depicted on the Slovak 50 halier coin before the adoption of the euro in 2009.

Besides the Upper Castle and remains of the palaces, the grounds also feature the castle's well, into which visitors can pour a bucket of water to hear its depth, and the ruins of a 4th-century church.

Devin Castle is now part of the Bratislava City Museum. There is an archaeological exhibit featuring artifacts found in the castle area and the history of excavation of the site. Unfortunately, due to an unstable foundation, the Upper Castle has been closed since 2008 for reconstruction. The rest of the castle area is still open to visitors.

Photo by PhillipC (cc)

Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle was an imposing medieval fortress and noble residence, which is now a picturesque ruin not far from Edinburgh.

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Dirleton Castle was an imposing medieval fortress and noble residence, which is now a picturesque ruin not far from Edinburgh.

First built in the thirteenth century by royal steward John de Vaux, Dirleton Castle became the home of the de Vauxes, under whose ownership it was severely damaged and captured on several occasions in the Wars of Independence.

Dirleton Castle would go on to become home to two further noble families, the Haliburtons (circa 1365) and the Ruthvens (circa 1510), each of whom made changes and additions. The Haliburtons left behind some fascinating ruins, including a chapel and an ominous dungeon.

The life of Dirleton Castle as a defensive structure ended in 1650, when it was devastated by the siege of Oliver Cromwell and it was abandoned altogether not long thereafter upon the demise of the Ruthven family.

Now on land owned by the Nisbet family, Dirleton Castle offers a great deal to see. Amongst its highlights are its several towers, some of which were built in the 1240s, making them amongst Scotland’s oldest castle remains. Dirleton Castle is also home to one of the country’s best preserved pigeon houses.

Photo by Historvius

Dover Castle

Ranking high on any list of castles of the world, the medieval Dover Castle is one of Britain’s most significant fortresses and has a fascinating history.

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Dover Castle has been a vitally important fortress in English history, leading it to be known as 'the key to England'. Dover Castle’s location is a central aspect of this history.

Perched high on the England’s coastal white cliffs overlooking the shortest crossing between the island and mainland Europe, Dover Castle has been seen as the first line of defence from invasion. In fact, even before the castle was erected, Dover’s cliffs were a popular site for building strongholds over the centuries with evidence dating back to the Iron Age. Two other such sites, an Ancient Roman lighthouse and an Anglo Saxon fort, are still visible nearby.

The first incarnation of Dover Castle was itself built in the eleventh century by William the Conqueror. Fresh from his victory at the 1066 Battle of Hastings, he built a castle of timber and earth. Over the centuries, Dover Castle would be improved, expanded and renovated, but throughout this time and until 1958 it would be continually garrisoned.

It was King Henry II who gave Dover Castle its recognizable form as a stone fortress in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, with further adaptations being made over time to cope with ever changing threats. One of the most interesting parts of Dover Castle is its labyrinth of underground passages.

The Tunnels

Designed by William Twiss and constructed within the cliffs themselves in the eighteenth century, these underground tunnels and barracks were intended to defend Britain from a perceived threat of invasion during the Napoleonic Wars. Despite never being needed for this purpose, the tunnels have proved eminently useful in other endeavours, including as a headquarters in the fight against smuggling and, upon being adapted to become bomb-proof, as secret wartime tunnels during World War Two. Dover Castle’s tunnels continued to play a military role and, in what is known as their finest hour, they formed a base during the Dunkirk evacuations in 1940.

Dover Castle Today

Today, Dover Castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public, providing a fascinating insight into the fortress’s history. Visitors can explore the medieval castle and its underground tunnels, viewing numerous exhibitions which immerse them in the lives of Dover Castle’s former inhabitants and tell its fascinating story. Much of this extremely well preserved castle has been restored to its original state or to show what it would have been like at different points in history, offering a truly authentic experience. Fans of ancient history can also view a well-preserved Roman lighthouse. Guided tours are available, some free, some at a charge.

Photo by infomatique (cc)

Dublin Castle

Among the most famous castles in the world, Dublin Castle has been everything from a fortification and royal home to a gunpowder storage facility and a prison.

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Dublin Castle has served as everything from a fortification and royal home to a gunpowder storage facility and a prison. Construction of Dublin Castle began in 1204 by King John of England, on a site that previously housed a Danish fortress. This first incarnation of Dublin Castle, completed circa 1230, was primarily intended as a stronghold to defend the city as well as being a place from which the King could run the administration of Ireland. Few aspects of this original build remain, but those that do, such as the Record Tower, demonstrate its purpose as a fortification.

Over the centuries, Dublin Castle has been renovated and reconstructed several times, especially between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries. As a result, it contains a mix of architectural influences, the most lavish of which date back to the Georgian period (eighteenth century) and include the State Apartments and St Patrick’s Hall.

Today, Dublin Castle is open to the public but still serves official roles as the site of presidential inaugurations and international conferences.

Photo by brianac37 (cc)

Dudley Castle

Dudley Castle is a ruined Norman motte and bailey castle which is now open to visitors and also hosts the popular Dudley Zoo within its grounds.

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Dudley Castle is a ruined Norman motte and bailey castle which is now open to visitors and also hosts the popular Dudley Zoo within its grounds.

Originally built in the 11th century it was constructed by Ansculf de Picquigny, one of the followers of William the Conqueror. It was rebuilt over the centuries, particularly in the mid-16th century when under the ownership of John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, and a key player in the politics of the time. Dudley was beheaded for his attempt to set Lady Jane Grey on the throne after the death of Edward VI.

Dudley’s son, Robert was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and the queen visited Dudley Castle in 1575.

The castle was held by the Royalists during the English Civil War and was besieged by Parliamentarian troops in 1644 and 1646 before it was surrendered on May 13, 1646. As with many Royalist strongholds of the time, the Parliamentarian forces later ordered the castle to be slighted, leaving much of the castle in ruins.

In 1750 a fire raged through the complex, finally gutting the once-magnificent palace. Never rebuilt, Dudley Castle became the picturesque ruin which we see today.

Today the castle forms part of Dudley Zoo and a visitors centre within the grounds contains more about the history of the site.

Photo by baaker2009 (cc)

Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton Castle served as a wartime prison, a royal shelter and a defence against both foreign and local threats.

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Dumbarton Castle was a medieval stronghold which served as a wartime prison, a royal shelter and a defence against both foreign and national threats. Even the site upon which Dumbarton Castle sits -Dumbarton Rock - has an illustrious past. Little survives of the medieval castle - most of it is from the eighteenth century - but this is still a fascinating site to visit.

Mentions of Dumbarton Rock date back to the fifth century AD, when it was called the Rock of the Clyde or "Alt Clut". From this time until the early eleventh century, Dumbarton Rock was the centre of the capital of Strathclyde. There is thought to have been a castle there at the time, which would have defended this British kingdom from ongoing Viking attacks, although there are no visible remains of this.

The building of the medieval Dumbarton Castle began in the 1220, amidst the danger of attacks from Norway. It was constructed under Alexander II of Scotland and was intended to protect the border.

Once the Norwegian threat subsided, Dumbarton would go on to become a royal castle and to play a role in the Wars of Independence. In particular, it is believed that William Wallace was imprisoned here for a short time in 1305 before being taken to his execution in England.

With its slightly more remote location, one other important function of Dumbarton Castle was as a royal escape route. In the fourteenth century, David II sailed from Dumbarton and, in 1548, this was where a young Mary Queen of Scots sought refuge before travelling to France.

Unfortunately, most of what can be seen at Dumbarton today dates back to the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries - when it was renovated as a garrisoned fort - rather than from the medieval or dark ages.

Photo by gorriti (cc)

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle is a medieval stronghold once captured by Robert the Bruce.

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Dunstaffnage Castle is a medieval stronghold built by the MacDougall clan at a time when Scotland was under constant threat from Norwegian attack. Begun in the 1220s, Dunstaffnage Castle was made of stone and its curtain wall remains a highly impressive and imposing sight.

In the Scottish Wars of Independence, Robert the Bruce laid siege to Dunstaffnage Castle, eventually taking it in 1309. As a result, it would remain in royal hands until the mid-fifteenth century, when it fell under the ownership of the aristocratic Campbell family.

One of the most famous aspects of Dunstaffnage Castle is the fact that it acted as a prison for Flora MacDonald in the eighteenth century. MacDonald was incarcerated there having tried to help the Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from the Red Coats by dressing him as a woman, although she would later be released. Visitors can see the place thought to have been where she was held.

Also visible at Dunstaffnage Castle are the remains of its 13th century chapel.

Photo by Glen Bowman (cc)

Dunstanburgh Castle

Dunstanburgh Castle was a 14th century fortress, the striking ruins of which can be found on Northumberland’s coast.

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Originally built as a symbol of baronial power and status, Dunstanburgh Castle is now a striking ruin on the coast of Northumberland.

It was Earl Thomas of Lancaster who began construction of Dunstanburgh Castle in 1313. At the time, the Earl, who was one of the Lords Ordainers, a group in favour of the establishment of a baronial oligarchy, was in the midst of a fervent dispute with King Edward II.

In a demonstration of his defiance, the Earl built a vast fortress, Dunstanburgh Castle. In fact, the Earl would not live to see the completion of Dunstanburgh Castle. His rebellion failed and, in 1322, he was executed. The castle was later expanded and renovated, with additions such as its imposing gatehouse, built by John of Gaunt.

The demise of Dunstanburgh Castle occurred after the Wars of the Roses. During the wars, the castle fell to the Yorkists twice and subsequently fell into ruin.

Today, Dunstanburgh Castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public. Guidebooks are available on site.

Photo by Nick Bramhall (cc)

Durham Castle

Formerly the home of the Bishops of Durham, Durham Castle dates back to the eleventh century.

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Durham Castle is an eleventh century building and the former home of the Bishops of Durham.

Originally commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1072, Durham Castle was intended to ensure Norman control in the North of England. Once under Church control, each bishop, on his appointment, would put his own stamp on the castle, and duly altered it to reflect his own glory.

However, despite the many changes, Durham Castle retains the layout of a Norman motte and bailey castle. It has a well preserved Norman chapel, dating from 1080, and many other features of interest.

Durham Castle is now a residential college for the University of Durham, but is open to visitors on guided tours.

Photo by Bernt Rostad (cc)

Edinburgh Castle

Near the top of any world castles list, Edinburgh Castle is a medieval fortress and royal castle turned national monument and World Heritage site.

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A royal residence, a vital stronghold and an iconic structure, Edinburgh Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world. Known by its English name since the invasion of the Angles in 638AD, the first mentions of Edinburgh Castle occurred in 600 AD during Roman Britain, when it was called “Din Eidyn” or “the fortress of Eidyn”.

Stronghold
However, even before the Angles and the Romans, Edinburgh Castle’s location had served as a vital stronghold for centuries. In fact, archaeologists have found evidence of human settlement on the rock on which the castle sits as early as 900 BC, the late Bronze Age. Over the following centuries, Edinburgh Castle continued to play its role as a crucial defensive structure as well as becoming an integral part of Scotland’s history.

Royal Castle
It initially became a royal castle in the Middle Ages and has since been the site of many significant events in royal and military history. As a royal residence, Edinburgh Castle was the site of the birth of King James VI, also James I of England from 1603, to Mary Queen of Scots in 1566. Visitors can still see the small room where this monarch was born. However, Edinburgh Castle’s main role was a military fortification.

Tug of War
From as early as the thirteenth century, Edinburgh Castle was a focal point of the war between England and Scotland. Captured by Edward I of England following a three-day siege, Edinburgh Castle was then the subject of a tug of war between the warring countries, swapping hands numerous times in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries until the Scots took it back again in 1341.

By this time, much of the original castle had been destroyed, to be rebuilt under the order of David II, who later died in Edinburgh Castle in 1371. However, the buildings of Edinburgh Castle were to suffer further destruction in battle and David’s Tower, which was built in honour of David II, was razed during the Lang Siege. The final siege at Edinburgh Castle would take place in 1745, carried out by the Jacobites.

Prison
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Edinburgh Castle found itself fulfilling a new role: as a prison. It housed prisoners from numerous wars, including the Seven Years War, the American War of Independence, the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars.

Iconic Site
Today, visitors to Edinburgh Castle can explore the castle’s history through a series of guided tours and exhibitions.

Amongst its many attractions are the Scottish National War Memorial and National War Museum, the Mons Meg, a giant cannon gifted to James II in 1457 and the Great Hall, built by James VI in 1511. Royal exhibitions include The Honours of Scotland jewels which, along with Scotland’s coronation stone, the Stone of Destiny, can be found in the castle’s Crown Room. Edinburgh Castle is also home to the oldest building in the city, the 12th-century St Margaret’s Chapel.

Photo by Nicolai Bangsgaard (cc)

Fagaras Fortress

Fagaras Fortress is an imposing 14th century stronghold in Transylvania.

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Fagaras Fortress in Transylvania in Romania is an impressive stronghold originally built in 1310 and expanded from the fifteenth to the seventeenth century to create a square castle surrounded by a further thick curtain wall with five towers. Much of this later work was carried out during the reigns of Transylvanian Princes Gabriel Bethlen and György Rákóczi I.

Fagaras Fortress also has a moat which was used in times of conflict or unrest, all of which adds up to make it the most robust defensive structure in Romania.

In the 1950’s, during the communist era, Fagaras Fortress became a prison for political dissidents. Today, it serves as the Fagaras County Museum, exhibiting an array of artifacts ranging from Roman to medieval.

Photo by Historvius

Fil’akovo Castle

Fil’akovo Castle is a medieval site on the current Slovak-Hungarian border and the former frontier of the Ottoman Empire.

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Built on volcanic rock, Fil’akovo Castle and the town beneath it are located near the border between Slovakia and Hungary.

When Fil’akovo Castle was built, which is said to have been sometime by the 12th century, the area belonged to Hungary, as did most of present-day Slovakia. It would later be expanded both in the 15th and 16th centuries, the latter improvements a futile attempt to defend it against the Ottomans.

The most interesting period of Fil’akovo’s history is from the 16th century, particularly from 1554 when it was taken by the Ottoman Empire. The town belonged to the Turks for forty years, and was made the seat of a sanjak or administrative district of the Empire--hence the palm tree on Fil’akovo’s coat of arms.

In the late 17th century, Fil’akovo Castle was burned and abandoned. The main tower, known as Bebek’s Tower, now houses a permanent exhibit on the castle’s history. It includes objects from the Ottoman and Hungarian periods. The top floor has temporary exhibits (in October 2010, the exhibit was on African dolls and masks). Tours of Bebek’s Tower are given in Slovak or Hungarian. After the tour, visitors are free to wander about the ruins.

Photo by Iain Simpson (cc)

Fotheringhay Castle

One of many castles around the world with a rich history, Fortheringhay Castle was the birthplace of Richard III and site of execution of Mary Queen of Scots.

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Birthplace of Richard III and site of the trial and execution of Mary Queen of Scots, this Norman motte and bailey castle is now a ruin - in fact very little is left of it today.

Fortheringhay Castle is easily accessable during daylight hours, and should delight those interested in medieval history, the Wars of the Roses and Elizabethan politics

Photo by offwhitehouse (cc)

Framlingham Castle

Framlingham Castle is an impressive twelth century fortified castle in Suffolk, UK.

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Framlingham Castle in Suffolk was built in the late 12th century by the Earl of Norfolk, Roger Bigod, who was an important member of the court of the Plantagenet kings. With its imposing mural towers and stone walls, Framlingham Castle served as a fortress and a status symbol.

Over the centuries, Framlingham Castle has enjoyed a diverse history, being the centre of power struggles and the home of prominent figures and even royals. In the sixteenth century, Mary Tudor used Framligham Castle as a refuge before she was crowned and, later in same century, it became a prison before a poorhouse was built there which remained until 1839.

Today, the doors of Framlingham Castle are open to the public and, under the remit of English Heritage, visitors can discover its history and those of its former residents. Audio tours are available as are children’s exhibits.

Photo by caspermoller (cc)

Frederiksborg Slot

Frederiksborg Slot is a restored 16th century royal palace in Denmark and the site of the National History Museum.

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Frederiksborg Slot or ‘Frederiksborg Castle’ in Northwest Zealand, Denmark, was originally built in 1560 by Frederik II and expanded by Christian IV.

Following a fire in 1859, which ravaged much of the castle, Frederiksborg Slot was restored and now serves in large part as Denmark’s National History Museum.

So, in addition to being able to view Frederiksborg Slot’s incredible architecture such as its Knight’s Hall (Riddersalen) and its stunning baroque gardens, visitors can tour the museum to learn about the country’s history dating back to the fifteenth century.

The museum’s collection is mostly made up of artwork relating to Denmark’s past, including portraits of former monarchs and paintings of important events throughout its history.

This palace is certainly a fitting place for such a museum as, from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, Frederiksborg Slot was the site of many of Denmark’s royal coronations, making it an integral part of the country’s history. Frederiksborg Slot also features as one of our Top Tourist Attractions in Denmark.

Photo by blue_quartz (cc)

Gediminas Tower

Gediminas Tower is an iconic fortified tower and the sole remaining part of the Upper Castle of Vilnius.

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Gediminas Tower in Vilnius is the only remaining structure of what was once the city’s Upper Castle. The Upper Castle was one of three castles in Vilnius, all of which suffered a series of attacks in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, particularly by the Teutonic Order.

Named after the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Gediminas, who first built fortifications on this site in the fourteenth century, the remaining Gediminas Tower actually dates back to the fifteenth century, when the Upper Castle was reconstructed under Vytautas.

Today, Gediminas Tower is open to the public as part of the Vilnius Castle Museum. Inside it houses models of what the castle once looked like and it has an observation deck from which you can get great views of the city’s UNESCO-listed historic quarter.

Photo by Glen Bowman (cc)

Glamis Castle

A magnificent castle in Glamis, Scotland, the French chateau styling and the historic setting provides an excellent day out.

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A stunning medieval fortification set in the beautiful Scottish countryside, Glamis Castle has a fascinating history as well as a strong connection to the British royal family.

Though the area upon which it stands has been occupied from at least the 11th century, Glamis Castle itself traces its roots back to the 14th century, when it became the residence of the Lyon family, who would later become the Earls of Strathmore. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the castle was extensively renovated, taking on the trappings of a French chateau and leaving much of what can be seen by visitors today.

The castle is steeped in history, with a number of fascinating stories, myths and legends associated with it. It is said that Glamis provided inspiration for the setting in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and it is believed that Scottish King Malcolm II did indeed die here in 1034AD. There are many other tales and stories associated with the castle, such as the legend of the monster of Glamis and the legend of Lord Beardie; these tall tales are sure to keep the children entertained.

The connection with the current royal family is more recent, with Glamis being the childhood home of Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Indeed it was here that Princess Margaret was born in 1930.

Today, Glamis Castle is still the residence of the Earls of Strathmore but it is also open to the public at certain times. With magnificent furnishings and a mixture of 14th and 17th century architecture, the beauty of the castle is hard to rival. If this alone doesn’t whet your appetite, then there are plenty of objects, paintings and furnishings within the castle itself to discover.

As well as the castle itself, visitors can wander the scenic ornamental gardens. There’s even a nature trail within the grounds, providing an opportunity to see the true beauty of the Scottish countryside.

Contributed by Victoria Haughton

Godolphin House

Godolphin House is a Cornish stately home built in the castle style by the Godolphin family, who were prominent in the reign of Queen Anne.

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Godolphin House is a Cornish Grade 1 listed stately home with Tudor and Stuart elements.

Originally dating back to the 15th century, with an historic garden now restored to its original layout, the Godolphin House that exists today was largely the work of the Godolphin family in the early 17th century after they had risen to prominence at the court of Queen Anne. The building of the house was actually funded by tin and copper mining activities which were carried out on the estate.

In 1646, Godolphin House played a role in the nation’s history as a shelter for the future King Charles II, when he was fleeing the Scilly Isles.

Although allowed to fall into disrepair, Godolphin House was bought by the Schofield family in the 1920’s, when it was restored and used as a family home. The National Trust, to whom Godolphin now belongs, when restoring the building, have reflected this use, and have not restored it to a particular era, creating a pleasant mixture of the old and the new.

In the gardens, visitors can see some evidence of a castle that preceded Godolphin House, which was built in circa 1300 by Sir Alexander Godolghan.

Photo by pmorgan67 (cc)

Goodrich Castle

Goodrich Castle is a picturesque Norman ruin in Herefordshire, UK, that was the site of a bitter siege during the English Civil War.

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Goodrich Castle in Herefordshire is one of the most picturesque medieval ruins in the UK. Standing at the peak of a scenic woodland hilltop, this Norman fortification has attracted tourists to view its ethereal remains since the 18th century.

The first recorded structure to be built on the Goodrich Castle site was constructed in the late 11th century by an Anglo-Saxon thegn who retained his lands after the Norman Conquest. However, it is believed that the site may have been used as a fortification for far longer.

The original wooden structure was replaced by a stone fort in the mid-12th century and the living quarters and fortifications of Goodrich Castle were extended over the next 100 years.

Goodrich Castle is perhaps best known for the part it played during the English Civil War, when it became the focus of a bitter siege between Royalist and Parliamentarian forces. Occupied by a Royalist garrison at the start of the war, Goodrich Castle was used as a base for attacks on Parliamentarian positions in the local area.

As the war turned however, Parliamentarian forces targeted Goodrich and a siege began in 1646. After building trenches and utilising the famous ‘Roaring Meg’ mortar, the Parliamentarians began to wreak heavy damage upon Goodrich Castle and the defending garrison was forced to surrender.

After the war, although Goodrich Castle was not destroyed, it was intentionally damaged to ensure it could no longer serve as a stronghold.

By the late 18th century, Goodrich Castle was seen as a idyllic ruin and was therefore never fully restored.

Today the Goodrich Castle site is run by English Heritage and visitors can wander through the ruins and even see the infamous ‘Roaring Meg’ mortar, which was moved to the site by Herefordshire Council. An audio tour is available and the views from the castle are a must-see.

The visitor's centre also contains information about the history of Goodrich Castle and artefacts from the site. Various special events are also held at Goodrich throughout the year, check the official website for further information.

Photo by stefanedberg (cc)

Grandmasters Palace - Rhodes

Ranking among the most famous castles in the world, the Grandmasters Palace of Rhodes was the base of the Knights Hospitaller of St John.

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The Grandmasters Palace of Rhodes was the palace of the Knights Hospitaller of St John. Dating to the fourteenth century (circa 1309), the Grandmasters Palace would be the base of this famous Christian and military order until Rhodes was captured by the Ottomans in 1522.

Under this empire the Grandmasters Palace served as a fortress, but was devastated in 1856 by an ammunitions explosion. It was the Italians who restored the Grandmaster Palace in 1912.

Today, this medieval castle operates as a museum of works mostly from the early Christian period up to the Ottoman conquest. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Medieval City of Rhodes. This site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions in Greece.

Photo by UweF (cc)

Grandmasters Palace - Valletta

The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta has been the seat of power in Malta since the 16th century.

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The Grandmasters Palace in Valletta has been the seat of power in Malta since the sixteenth century. It was in 1571 that the Knights Hospitaller of St John made the Grandmasters Palace their base, a role which it would fulfil until 1798, when this religious and military order left Malta.

At first, the site of the Grandmasters Palace only had a single house on it, owned by the nephew of the head of the Knights Hospitaller, Grandmaster Jean Parisot de la Valette. This was incorporated into the new palace.

Under British Rule in the nineteenth century, the Grandmasters Palace became the home of the British governors and, since Malta’s independence in 1964, it has served as the seat of the country’s House of Representatives.

Today, as well as being a government building, parts of the Grandmasters Palace are open to the public, particularly the State Rooms and the Armoury. The opulent and lavishly decorated State Rooms display several art collections of which many, such as The Great Siege Frescoes by Matteo Perez d’Aleccio, date back to the times of the Knights Hospitaller.

Meanwhile, the Palace Armoury contains the impressive collection of armour and weaponry of the Knights Hospitaller.

The Grandmasters Palace is part of the City of Valletta UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Photo by Olivier Bruchez (cc)

Gruyeres Castle

Gruyeres Castle is a picturesque medieval castle which was the seat of nobility for centuries.

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Gruyeres Castle (Chateau de Gruyeres) is a picturesque medieval castle which was the seat of nobility for centuries.

Indeed, built in the 13th century, Gruyeres Castle was called home by some nineteen of the counts of Gruyeres, a tradition only ended in the 16th century upon the bankruptcy of the last of these counts - Michel. At this point, Gruyeres Castle along with the rest of the Count’s lands were distributed between his creditors, these being the towns of Berne and Fribourg.

As a result, from 1555 Gruyeres Castle was used as the seat of the Fribourg bailiffs and later the prefects, all up to 1848. For around a century after that, Gruyeres Castle was the summer home of the Balland and Bovy families, finally becoming a museum in the 20th century.

Visitors to Gruyeres Castle can tour its museum, learning about its history and enjoying its pretty architecture. There are also temporary exhibitions on site.

Photo by SidewaysSarah (cc)

Hailes Castle

Hailes Castle was a medieval stronghold, the pretty ruins of which date back mostly to the 14th century.

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Hailes Castle was a medieval stronghold, the pretty ruins of which date back mostly to the fourteenth century. However, some of the stonework at Hailes Castle is thought to have been constructed as far back as the thirteenth century, making it some of the oldest of its kind in Scotland.

It is also said that Mary Queen of Scots stayed here a few times.

Free to enter at all reasonable times, it can be quite fun to explore Hailes Castle and, in particular, look out for its two vaulted pit-prisons.

Photo by Historvius

Hame Castle

Hame Castle is a medieval site which has served as everything from a royal residence to a prison and evena granary.

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Hame Castle (Hameenlinna) is a medieval site which has served as everything from a royal residence to a granary and a prison.

Whilst it is unclear as to when exactly Hame Castle was built, it is usually dated to the late 13th century. Indeed, many historians associate it with the Swedish crusade of Earl Birger, who came here sometime that century, seeing the castle as a way to help Sweden consolidate power in central Finland. Nevertheless, regardless of when it was founded, Hame Castle would undergo construction for centuries.

Today, visitors can still see the oldest part of Hame Castle, referred to as the fortified camp. This is mainly comprised of an imposing thick defensive wall dotted with towers. There’s also the ruin of an old well.

The brick sections of Hame Castle date from the 14th century, something which makes the site unique in that it was one of the earlier places in Finland to use this material. The increased grandeur f the building materials is mirrored in the importance of Hame Castle generally and, from the 14th to 16th centuries, it became had connections with many of Finland’s most prominent circles.

Hame Castle’s decline began in the late 16th century, in part expedited by the reformations of King Gustav I of Sweden. It would have a brief resurgence after the Great Northern War, but its main roles in the 19th and 20th centuries were as granary and prison. This site also features as one of our Top Ten Visitor Attractions of Finland.

Hammershus Castle

Among the larger castles of the world, Hammershus Castle was a medieval fortress, the vast ruins of which lie on the island of Bornholm.

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Hammershus Castle or Hammershus Slot was an imposing castle and fortress, the ruins of which are found on the island of Bornholm in Denmark.

The oldest of the ruins of Hammershus Castle date back to the thirteenth century and are thought to have been built under the remit of the Archbishop of Lund. Today it is the largest ruin of its kind in Northern Europe.

An important fortress throughout Bornholm’s medieval history, in the seventeenth century, Hammershus Castle served as a prison. Specifically, it was where Leonora Christine, the daughter of King Christian IV was imprisoned for treason with her husband Corfitz Ulfeldt in 1660.

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the structure of Hammershus Castle was eroded by people exploiting it for building materials.

Today, Hammershus Castle is a popular tourist attraction and visitors can see its many preserved rooms and features. At night, it is illuminated by a lightshow.

Hammershus also features as one of our Top 10 Vistor Attractions in Denmark.

Photo by A Roger Davies (cc)

Harlech Castle

One of many castles of the world that is now a popular tourist attraction, Harlech Castle is a dramatic medieval stronghold and one the castles built by Edward I in his conquest of Wales.

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Harlech Castle is a dramatic medieval stronghold and one of a ring of imposing castles built by Edward I between 1283 and 1289 in his conquest of Wales.

In 1404, Harlech Castle was subject to a siege and captured by rebel Welsh forces led by Owain Glyndwr. Glyndwr would hold Harlech Castle for four years, housing a parliament there.

The site would also play a role in the Wars of the Roses, when it was laid siege by the Yorkists and eventually taken from the Lancastrians. This event was the inspiration for the song Men of Harlech.

Today, Harlech Castle is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The castle has information boards about its history.

Photo by Stephen Fulljames (cc)

Hastings Castle

One of the oldest castles in the world, Hastings Castle was one of the first Norman castles to be built in England.

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Hastings Castle was originally built as a timber structure a short time after the Norman invader William the Conqueror landed in England in 1066. This was not far from the site where, shortly afterwards, William decisively defeated King Harold in one of the most significant battles in English history, the Battle of Hastings.

Having emerged victorious and achieved the conquest of England, William was crowned King William I on 25 December of that year. However, it was only in 1070 that the Norman king gave orders to transform Hastings Castle into a fully fledged stone fortified castle, the ruins of which can be seen there today.

Some parts of the structure were added later, notably the Church of St. Mary in the Castle, built by the Count of Eu, to whom William gave Hastings Castle. The Count of Eu would continue to hold Hastings Castle for most of the Norman period.

At one point, Hastings Castle was dismantled on the orders of King John, who feared it being taken by French Prince Dauphin Louis. Although rebuilt and refortified by Henry II in around 1220-5, Hastings Castle would not remain intact for long.

Battered by brutal winds in the thirteenth century, the area of Hastings suffered severe deterioration, with many tracts of land falling into the sea. Hastings Castle was no exception. Great segments of the castle were lost and, with the harbour having been destroyed too, it was abandoned. The only part of Hasting Castle that continued to function was its church, although this was disbanded during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries.

Today, Hastings Castle is open to the public, who can tour its ruins and enjoy a short presentation on its history.

Photo by Dave602 (cc)

Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Castle was a twelth century castle in York and the site of a dramatic siege during the English Civil War.

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Helmsley Castle was a large medieval fortress and mansion, the ruins of which are located in the town of Helmsley, Yorkshire. Initially built as a timber construction by the influential baron and military man Walter l’Espec in 1120, it was converted to stone by his nephew, Robert de Roos and further expanded over the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.

Today, the remains of Helmsley Castle rise out of Yorkshire’s dramatic landscape, seemingly on a wave of ditches and banks, which would have served to increase its defensive capabilities. In fact, Helmsley Castle managed to endure a massive attack by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. The Royalists held Helmsley for a staggering three months, and the castle only fell when their food and supplies ran dry.

Following the Parliamentarian occupation of Helmsley Castle, its new owner, Sir Thomas Fairfax, chose to give it to his daughter and thus the site was spared destruction. The only parts of the castle which were removed were its defensive structures.

Managed by English Heritage, who also renovated it, Helmsley Castle is now open to the public, who can enjoy its grandeur and learn about its history via audio guides and exhibitions. There are several Civil War displays, looking at the castles military history and featuring an original cannonball.

Photo by Anthony J (cc)

Hohensalzburg Fortress

One of the biggest castles in the world, Hohensalzburg Fortress is a vast 11th century citadel in Salzburg, Austria.

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Hohensalzburg Fortress, also known as Hohensalzburg Castle, in Salzburg, Austria, is an incredibly well preserved citadel and one of the largest remaining medieval fortresses in central Europe.

Hohensalzburg was built in 1077 by Gebhard von Helfenstein, also known as Prince Gebhard I of Helffenstein and Archbishop Gebhard, and was later expanded over the centuries, including by Archbishop Leonhard von Keutschach in the sixteenth century.

It is said that Hohensalzburg Fortress has never been captured by enemies; however attempts to take it have also been sparse and of dubious force. As denoted by its name, which literally translates to “High Salzburg Fortress”, Hohensalzburg Fortress sits high atop Salzburg and is an imposing white stone structure with large battlements and turrets.

Inside Hohensalzburg Fortress is the Fortress Museum displaying, amongst other things, a good collection of ancient weaponry, Roman coins, and historic musical instruments. You can also see several state rooms as well as torture chambers. The views from Hohensalzburg Fortress are spectacular and these alone are worth the trip.

Photo by JimTrodel (cc)

Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle is a truly impressive 19th century German castle and popular tourist destination located 40 miles south of Stuttgart.

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Hohenzollern Castle is a truly impressive 19th century castle and popular tourist destination located 40 miles south of Stuttgart.

There were in fact three castles built on the Hohenzollern site. The first was built in the early 11th century but this castle was completely destroyed in 1423 after a ten-month siege.

A larger fortress was constructed in the mid-fifteenth century, which served as an important military centre for the region at the time - changing hands repeatedly during the 30 Years War. As with many European fortresses, by the end of the 18th century Hohenzollern Castle had largely lost its strategic importance and gradually fell into disrepair, and today only the medieval chapel remains from this second incarnation.

The final castle was built between 1850 and 1867 by King Frederick William IV of Prussia. The castle was modelled on similar constructions in England and France built in the Gothic Revival style. In 1945 Hohenzollern Castle briefly became the home of the former Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany, son of the last German monarch, Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Today visitors to Hohenzollern Castle can not only enjoy the impressive fortress itself but also the museum, which contains a fascinating collection of artefacts linked to the history of Prussia and its royal family including the royal crown worn and a uniform worn by Frederick the Great.

Photo by mar.krebs (cc)

Holstentor

Holstentor is a picturesque medieval gate which houses the city museum of Lubeck. UNESCO listed.

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If Holstentor looks familiar, this might be because you’ve glimpsed it on a German 2 Euro coin. Of course, with its fairytale appearance, Holstentor, often known as Holsten Tor or Holsten Gate, looks like the very image of an ideal castle.

Built between 1464 and 1478, Holstentor was part of the medieval defences of the city of Lubeck. It is one of only two of the original four gates of the city, the other being Burgtor. In medieval times, Lubeck was one of the member-cities of the Hanseatic League, an important merchant bloc which dominated trade in the North and Baltic Seas.

Sadly, the marshy ground on which this iconic structure was built has meant that it has suffered subsidence and damage over the years, but this was finally halted in the twentieth century.

Today, Holstentor is one of a long list of buildings included as part of the UNESCO Hanseatic City of Lubeck site. Inside this medieval gem is the city museum of Lubeck.

Photo by Cernavoda (cc)

Hunedoara Castle

Hunedoara Castle in Romania was a medieval fortress turned royal palace.

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Hunedoara Castle, also known as Corvin Castle or “Corvinesti” in Hunedoara in Romania was originally a fortress, the date of origin of which is highly contested. Used as a royal stronghold until 1440, Hunedoara Castle was then expanded by the General Iancu de Hunedoara, who renovated it, turning into an impressive castle with a series of towers and turrets.

Several monarchs lived in Hunedoara Castle, including Matthew Corvin, Ioan Corvin and Gabriel Bethlen , who made numerous changes to the castle’s structure.

Today Hunedoara Castle is open to the public. One of its most impressive internal features is its Knight Hall, which now houses a weaponry exhibit. Hunedoara Castle has a number of collections, ranging in theme from the archaeological to the medieval. It also offers a fascinating insight into medieval Romanian defensive architecture.

Photo by Craigy144 (cc)

Hylton Castle

Hylton Castle was the private home of a wealthy family in Medieval England.

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Hylton Castle was built first in the eleventh century and then rebuilt in the late fourteenth century as the home of the wealthy Hylton family, a role which it fulfilled until 1746. Today, this gatehouse tower of this stone structure remains as a well-preserved ruin and contains some royal artifacts.

Hylton Castle is managed by Sunderland City Council and is an English Heritage site.

Photo by access.denied (cc)

Kalmar Castle

Kalmar Castle is a fortified castle in Sweden which dates back to the 12th century.

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Kalmar Castle or ‘Kalmar Slott’ is a medieval castle whose history dates back to the twelfth century. Originally only made up of a lone fortified tower, Kalmar Castle developed over time to become an imposing stronghold and castle.

In the sixteenth century Kalmar Castle was expanded and renovated in the hands of Kings Erik XIV and Johan III, monarchs of the House of Vasa, giving it a Renaissance feel it still has today.

Kalmar Castle played an important role in Swedish history and was the site at which the Union of Kalmar was signed in 1397. This unified of Denmark, Norway and Sweden under the rule of Erik of Pomerania and would endure until 1523.

Today, fully restored to its original glory, Kalmar Castle is a popular tourist attraction and is even a wedding venue.

Photo by Leo-seta (cc)

Kastelholm Castle

Kastelholm Castle is a medieval castle located on the Åland Islands and once home to King Gustav I, often thought of as the founder of modern Sweden.

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Kastelholm Castle, also known as Kastelholms Slott or Kastelholman Linna, is a medieval castle located on the Åland Islands.

First constructed in the 1380s, Kastelholm Castle was a military and administrative centre for the region, which then formed part of the Swedish Empire. Successive Swedish and Danish governors continued to maintain and expand Kastelholm Castle over the next two hundred years and the castle was briefly home to Swedish King Gustav I, before he became the monarch.

However, by the late 16th and early 17th centuries, Kastelholm Castle’s influence began to wane. Damaged in 1599 by the forces of Charles IX (aka Karl IX), Kastelholm Castle later lost its position as the administrative centre of the region and in 1745 a fire devastated the structure.

In the early 20th century the site was transformed into a museum and there was a restoration programme in the 1980s.

Today the ruins of Kastelholm Castle can be viewed and the site is also the home of the Jan Karlsgården Open-Air Museum, which recreates 19th century life in the region. Kastelholm also features as one of our top tourist attractions in Finland.

Photo by i_am_markh (cc)

Kenilworth Castle

An interesting entry on any list of world castles, Kenilworth Castle is a former medieval stronghold and royal palace, most famed as the home of Elizabeth’s beloved Robert Dudley.

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Kenilworth Castle is a former medieval stronghold and royal palace, most famed as the home of Elizabeth’s beloved Robert Dudley.

It was King Henry I's treasurer, Geoffrey de Clinton, who built the vast Norman keep of Kenilworth Castle in the 1120s which can still be seen there today.

Kenilworth earned the status of royal castle over the coming centuries and underwent a series of changes, both under the remit of Henry II and under King John, who put into place greater fortifications from 1210 to 1215, solidifying its role as a stronghold. In fact, so impenetrable was Kenilworth Castle by this point that when it underwent a great 6-month siege by Henry III in 1266, its resident rebels only faltered when they ran out of food.

The transformation of Kenilworth Castle from castle to palace came in 14th century, when the Duke of Lancaster, John of Gaunt, made his mark on the site. Thus, Lancastrian kings and Tudors alike both enjoyed time there.

Yet, it was under Elizabeth I that Kenilworth Castle had its heyday. The property of Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester from 1563, Kenilworth was something of a token of love in architecture. Dudley, who is renowned as the Queen’s one true love, made extensive changes to the castle to make it fit for his queen and her entourage, doing everything from refitting and remodelling to adding new buildings, all on a lavish scale.

Kenilworth Castle finally met its decline after the English Civil War. Having been under Parliamentarian rule since August 1642, it was condemned to ruin in 1649, if only to save on the costs of maintaining it. Now a magnificent ruin, Kenilworth Castle is open to the public and also offers beautifully recreated Elizabethan gardens.

Kerak Castle

An impressive 12th century Crusader castle in Jordan, the remains of the fortification of Kerak are an awesome and slightly forbidding sight even today.

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Kerak Castle is an impressive 12th century Crusader-era fortification located to the south of Amman, Jordan, on the ancient King's Highway. Today the castle operates as a visitor attraction and contains a maze of corridors and chambers within the imposing fortifications.

Described by a contemporary adventurer as "the most marvellous, most inaccessible and most celebrated of castles", the site of Kerak is mentioned in the Bible, where it was said to have been besieged by the King of Israel.

The structure which is visible today took on its current guise during the Crusades in the 12th century. Initially a Crusader stronghold, the castle is situated within the city walls of Karak and was located in an area of great strategic importance, nine-hundred metres above sea level.

The construction of Kerak began in 1142 and it took approximately twenty years to complete. There was already a fortified town of some considerable importance on the site, which served as an administrative centre during the Roman and Byzantine eras, as well as the early Islamic period. The castle soon became the most important centre of control in the Transjordan region.

One of the most notorious figures of the period, Reynald of Chatillon, ruled Kerak from the early 1170s. Reynald was infamous among contemporaries for acts of barbarism, which included breaking treaties, and looting the caravans of worshippers bound for Mecca. One of the favourite pastimes of Reynald was said to have been throwing prisoners from the castle walls onto the rocks below.

In 1177, after one particularly notorious attack made on such a caravan during peacetime, the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, Saladin, launched an attack on the crusader kingdom, which resulted in the defeat of Reynald's forces at the Battle of Hattin. Saladin, noted for his restraint shown towards his enemies during his lifetime, spared elements of the Crusader army but personally executed Reynald himself.

After the battle, Kerak Castle also fell to Saladin after a long siege, and it would remain in Muslim hands from this point on. During the period of Muslim rule, the castle would undergo further significant alteration and restoration as well as often being involved in the mainly-internal conflicts of the following centuries. Indeed, the castle held the dubious honour of being the first target of modern gunpowder artillery to be used in the Middle East.

Today, a visit to Kerak Castle affords the unique opportunity to thoroughly explore a well preserved Crusader fortification. There are seven different levels within the castle and visitors can wander through vaulted passageways and dungeons. Bringing a torch can help with navigating some of the smaller and darker passageways. The castle kitchens contain an olive press and ovens, and there is also a partially ruined chapel to be seen.

There is a museum located on a lower floor of the castle, and one route leads onto the keep, which provides spectacular views. Visitors can look across the Dead Sea and out to the Mount of Olives, bordering on Jerusalem, on clearer days.

Contributed by Chris Reid

Photo by pjo18 (cc)

Kidwelly Castle

Kidwelly Castle is a Norman masterpiece which still stands majestically in the calm Welsh countryside as a reminder of the tumultuous Anglo-Welsh past.

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Kidwelly Castle has overlooked the river Gwendraeth and the town of Kidwelly since 1106, shortly after the Norman conquest.

Originally intended to defend Norman - and therefore English - rule against the Welsh, Kidwelly Castle fell several times during revolts in the twelfth century. But it stood firm when besieged in 1403 by Owain Glyndŵr, the Welsh prince who led a powerful uprising against English rule.

Due to its place at the centre of several military engagements, Kidwelly underwent several repairs and improvements throughout the High Medieval period and was constantly adapted to deal with the various threats it faced.

The castle’s current form principally developed between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries and has remained largely constant ever since. Originally a wooden fortification, it was rebuilt in stone and continually improved over this period. It still remains today as a much-valued fixture of the Welsh countryside and a fascinating insight into the country’s medieval past.

The castle’s sophisticated defence system includes a circuit of inner walls to act as an extra buttress, following the semi-circle curve of the outer fortifications and ditch. All remain in good condition, and visitors can see most of the walls standing at their original height. Their imposing nature is best appreciated by walking around the outside of the castle. So well-maintained is the exterior that it was used as a location for the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

In the town of Kidwelly are more sites of historical interest, not least the eighteenth-century Old Malthouse and the Castle Mill of 1804. Visitors can also take in Carmarthen, which is just nine miles away.

Contributed by Siobhan Coskeran

Photo by Spixey (cc)

Kolossi Castle

Kolossi Castle was a fortification of the Knights Hospitallers built in the 13th century and rebuilt in the 15th century.

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Kolossi Castle was originally a thirteenth century Frankish fortification near Limassol in Cyprus.

Constructed by the Knights Hospitallers in 1210, Kolossi Castle almost exclusively remained in their possession until it was destroyed by Mameluke raids in 1525/6. The only interruption occurred between 1306 and 1313, when it was taken over by the Knights Templar.

The current Kolossi Castle was built in 1454 under the orders of Louis de Magnac. His coat of arms can be seen on the wall of the structure.

Photo by rs-foto (cc)

Konigstein Fortress

Konigstein Fortress in Dresden has been everything from a stronghold to a World War II prisoner of war camp.

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Konigstein Fortress or Festung Königstein is a famous fortified structure near Dresden, Germany which has never been taken. It is unclear when Konigstein Fortress was first constructed, but mentions of a castle on the site go back to 1233.

As a castle, Konigstein was used as a stronghold and a sixteenth century monastery before Elector Christian I converted it into a fortress in 1589. It then served as a prison until Napoleon’s conquest of Prussia when it became a fortress of the Confederation of the Rhine.

Konigstein Fortress continued to be used for various other purposes over the centuries, being everything from a retreat for soldiers to a hiding place for the Saxon royal family. During both World War I and World War II it was used as a prisoner of war camp.

Today, Konigstein Fortress is a museum, showing the history of the site throughout its existence. Guided tours are offered for an added fee and audio guides are also available to rent in eight languages.

Photo by archer10 (Dennis) (cc)

Kronborg Slot

Ranking among the most famous castles in the world, Kronborg Slot is a 15th century UNESCO-list castle in Denmark and the setting for Shakespeare’s 'Hamlet’.

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The first incarnation of Kronborg Slot or Kronborg Castle in Helsingør, Denmark was constructed in the 1420’s by Erik of Pomerania. Known as Krogen or “the Hook”, this was a heavily fortified structure.

Over time, Kronborg Slot was renovated by its successive royal owners, notably by Frederik II who transformed it into a Renaissance masterpiece, resplendent with towers, sculptures, columns and an imposing spire, making it a symbol of his own power.

Burned down in 1629, rebuilt by Christian IV and then ravaged by Swedish forces in 1658, Kronborg Slot has undergone a series of changes over the centuries. It served as a royal residence until around 1690 and then as an eighteenth century army barracks.

Today, Kronborg Slot is one of the most famous castles in Northern Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Restored to its original glory as it would have looked in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Kronborg Slot is now open to the public.

Inside its opulent walls, visitors can view its incredibly long sixteenth century Great Hall as well as the statue of and exhibition about Viking chief Holger Dansk. It also houses a Maritime Museum.

Kronborg Slot is also the setting for Shakespeare’s famous play, Hamlet and the castle often hosts festivals in the bard’s honour.

Free guided tours are available. For the Casemates, these take place at 11:00am and 3:00pm and for the Royal Apartments, these take place at 11:30am and 1:30pm.

This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Denmark.

Photo by DaGoaty (cc)

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and host to most of the Stuart kings.

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Linlithgow Palace was built in the fifteenth century on a site with a history dating back thousands of years. Now a dramatic ruin, its royal connection makes it an enduring tourist attraction.

It was James I who began building Linlithgow Palace in 1424. With its location between Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle, it soon became a popular place for royals to visit, including most of the Stuart kings.

In 1542, Linlithgow Palace also became the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, although the room in which she was born no longer exists.

From 1603, Linlithgow Palace’s era as a royal pit stop began to deteriorate as the royal court moved to London under James VI. The palace’s decline was confirmed when it was destroyed by a fire in 1745.

Photo by kyz (cc)

Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle was a medieval stronghold most renowned for being the prison of Mary Queen of Scots.

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Lochleven Castle was a medieval island stronghold, the dramatic ruins of which can be reached by boat. Whilst being most well known for being the prison of Mary Queen of Scots, Lochleven Castle’s role within Scottish royal history extends far further.

Many royals were guests - as opposed to prisoners - at Lochleven Castle, including King Robert Bruce and even Mary herself. What’s more, other royals were imprisoned at Lochleven Castle other than Mary Queen of Scots, particularly the (then future) Robert II. Mary was imprisoned at Lochleven Castle by Sir William Douglas from 1567 and forced to abdicate her throne in favour of James VI, her own infant son. She would escape within a year.

Today, visitors go to see the fourteenth to fifteenth century tower where Mary was held. Inside, you can still see where the kitchen and other spaces would have been.

Photo by DaveOnFlickr (cc)

Ludgershall Castle

Ludgershall Castle was a medieval royal castle and hunting lodge, of which only ruins and earthworks remain.

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Ludgershall Castle was a royal castle and hunting lodge. Today, its ruins and earthworks stand in the modern village of Ludgershall and are believed to date back to the twelfth or thirteenth century. There is also a medieval cross located in the centre of the village.

Photo by shellac (cc)

Ludlow Castle

Ludlow Castle, the finest of medieval ruined castles, set in glorious Shropshire countryside, at the heart of this superb, bustling black

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Ludlow Castle, the finest of medieval ruined castles, set in glorious Shropshire countryside. Initially a Norman stronghold it then turned royal castle, the imposing ruins of which can be seen today.

The castle’s origins can be traced back to the 11th century and to Walter de Lacy, a Norman nobleman who is said to have been given the land by a prominent supporter of William the Conqueror. The exact date on which Ludlow Castle was founded is unclear, but the earliest parts still standing today were the work of de Lacy’s sons, Roger and Hugh.

In the 15th century, Ludlow Castle became property of the Crown, to be abandoned in 1689 and fall into decay. Having been acquired by the Earls of Powis in 1811 and still under their ownership, Ludlow Castle is now open to the public.

Photo by treehouse1977 (cc)

Maiden Castle

One of the oldest castle sites in the world, Maiden Castle is vast, well preserved Iron Age hill fort in Dorchester.

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Maiden Castle is vast, well preserved Iron Age hill fort in Dorchester. Its name is believed to be derived from two Celtic words, ‘Mai’ and ‘Dun’, meaning “Great Hill”. Imposing and incredibly complex, Maiden Castle would certainly have posed a great challenge to anyone wishing to invade it.

Whilst the site was initially occupied during the Neolithic period, the structure of Maiden Castle was only built in the early Iron Age, circa 600 BC. It would have started as a small settlement, but as the society grew so did Maiden Castle. At its peak, the site would have been heavily populated, filled with houses and workshops and, at least according to the English Heritage audio guide, would have been the size of fifty football pitches. Its immense scale was both intimidating to any enemies and a symbol of the power of its inhabitants.

In 43 AD, the Romans invaded Britain and, within a few generations, the inhabitants of Maiden Hill moved to nearby Durnovaria (modern day Dorchester).

The Graveyard
Several fascinating finds have been made at Maiden Castle. For example, the archaeologist Mortimer Wheeler found an Iron Age cemetery. Wheeler originally thought that this was a war graveyard and that those interred there were casualties from when the Romans invaded the site. With little evidence that the Romans ever invaded Maiden Castle, it is now considered more likely that this was a normal cemetery.

The Roman Temple
Nevertheless, the Romans did make a mark on the site of Maiden Castle. In the fourth century AD, they built a temple there, the foundation stone of which are still in place. This was possibly to the cult of Minerva. Today, Maiden Castle is an English Heritage site and is open to the public. You can download a free audio guide from the English Heritage website.

Photo by Jeroen Fossaert (cc)

Malbork Castle

One of the largest castles in the world, Malbork Castle in northern Poland was the medieval fortified castle of the Teutonic Knights.

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Malbork Castle (Zamek w Malborku), known in German as the Marienburg, is actually more of a medieval fortified castle complex enclosed within thick walls. Including a vast palace, a monastery, three castles and hundreds of other buildings - mostly homes - Malbork Castle was built in the thirteenth century by the invading Teutonic Knights. This German Roman Catholic order, who were founded in the Middle East, went on crusades throughout the Baltic region.

In 1309, Malbork Castle became the headquarters of the Teutonic Knights, a role which it fulfilled until the demise of the order in the early fifteenth century. In 1466, Malbork Castle became one of the homes of the Polish monarchy.

Today, the restored Malbork Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a museum in northern Poland, displaying medieval works, weaponry and historic displays including exploring the history of the Teutonic Knights. Touring this beautiful redbrick building with its magnificent rooms is a great day trip from Gdansk.

Photo by Robbo-Man (cc)

Manorbier Castle

Described as the most pleasant spot in Wales, Manorbier is a well preserved medieval castle located on the Welsh coast in Pembrokeshire.

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Nestled in a tranquil spot amidst the Welsh Countryside, Manorbier Castle is a pretty, partially-ruined Norman fortification which overlooks the scenic coastline.

The notable 12th century author and one-time resident of Manorbier, Gerald of Wales, may have been biased when he described the castle as "the pleasantest spot in Wales" - it was his grandfather Odo de Barri who first built Manorbier in the 11th century - yet the well preserved and impressive ruins set amongst a beautiful landscape are well worth a visit.

Odo de Barri was a Norman knight, who was granted land in Wales, including Manorbier, as reward for his assistance in conquering Pembrokeshire. Odo initially built a structure out of earth and timber, but this was replaced by his descendants with the stone structure that remains to this day.

The castle was owned by the de Barri's until eventually ending up in the hands of the monarchy before Queen Elizabeth sold what she described as a "ruinous" castle in 1630. J.R. Cobb, who was a tenant at Manorbier in the late 19th century, was responsible for much of the restoration work. The castle has largely avoided conflict in its history, suffering just two minor assaults. Richard de Barri stormed the castle in 1327 to reclaim his property, and the Parliamentarians also seized the castle during the English Civil War.

Today, Manorbier Castle is located in a beautifully unspoilt corner of Wales and sits atop a hill overlooking the beach. The beauty of Manorbier and its surroundings provide a contrast with its past - as Manorbier under the de Barris would have played an important role in subjugating the Welsh population after the Norman conquest.

Manorbier Castle itself is a basic rectangular-shaped Norman fortress with imposing corner towers, in addition to an impressive gatehouse, attractive gardens and a huge barn. Today, visitors can explore various stairs, towers, rooms and battlements and even the dungeons and hidden passageways which lurk under the fortress. There are also a number of historical displays and life size waxwork figures on display.

Contributed by Chris Reid

Marbella Castle Walls

The Marbella Castle Walls were once part of an impressive Moorish citadel built in the 10th century.

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The Marbella Castle Walls (Murallas del Castillo) were once part of an impressive Moorish citadel built in the tenth century. Relatively little remains of this once great site.

Today, tourists are confined to viewing this fortification from the outside as it is not open to the public.

Photo by sobolevnrm (cc)

Middleham Castle

An important English castle, Middleham Castle was the childhood home of King Richard III.

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Middleham Castle was a medieval castle built in the twelfth century and expanded by the influential Neville family to become a fortress by the middle of the fifteenth century.

Amongst others, Middleham Castle was the home of the most famous of the Neville family, Richard “the Kingmaker” Neville, who was the Earl of Warwick and who played an important role in the Wars of the Roses.

In fact, Warwick's continual ability to re-invent himself during this conflict saw him both tutor Richard, Duke of Gloucester, there between 1465 and 1468 and then imprison Richard’s brother, King Edward IV, in Middleham the very next year.

In 1460, after Warwick's defeat and death, Middleham Castle became the residence of George, Duke of Clarence and his brother, Richard, the sons of the Duke of York. Richard, then the Duke of Gloucester, would later become King Richard III.

Today, the ruins of Middleham Castle, which fell into disuse in the seventeenth century, show only a glimpse of its former lavish grandeur by way of its remaining stone walls.

Managed by English Heritage, Middleham Castle is open to the public and houses exhibits telling the story of this once imposing structure and of its former residents.

Visits usually last around an hour.

Photo by subarcticmike (cc)

Montezuma Castle

Among the lesser-known castles of the world, and somewhat unconventional for the category, Montezuma Castle is a 12th century cliff dwelling in Arizona.

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Montezuma Castle in Arizona, USA is a cliff dwelling built by the Sinagua Indians in around 1100AD and occupied until approximately 1425AD.

Occupying an area of around 4,000 square feet, Montezuma Castle is an eminently impressive five storey limestone and mud structure demonstrating the ingenuity of the Sinagua people.

Unfortunately, the public cannot actually enter Montezuma Castle and have not been able to do so since 1951. Those interested in its history and excavation can visit the onsite museum.

Photo by byrdiegyrl (cc)

Mystras

Mystras is an archaeological site in Greece housing the remains of a city built around a 13th century castle.

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Mystras or “Morea” sits atop a hill overlooking the city of Sparta. In approximately 1248-1249, William II of Villehardouin, a prince of Achaea who had taken part in the Fourth Crusade, decided to build a stronghold there as a defence from the Byzantines.

Soon after the castle was completed, William was taken prisoner following his defeat at the hands of Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus. From 1262, the citizens of Sparta used the castle at Mystras as a place of shelter, but soon settled there and began building a city around it.

In 1438, Mystras reached its peak, becoming the capital of the Byzantine province of the Despotate of the Morea, a position it held until 1460 when it was captured by the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Mohammed II. The Ottomans held on to Mystras for centuries, except for a couple of brief periods when it was captured by the Venetians.

Probably abandoned in 1832, Mystras is today an important archaeological site listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. During its time as an active city, many churches, palaces, houses and other structures, including its famous fortress were considered to be some of the best architectural gems of their times, known as the so-called “wonders of Morea'.

What remains at Mystras today is a series of Byzantine churches and a monastery as well as several ruins including the castle, some roads and the fortress walls, all set amidst an incredible landscape. The entrance to the site is particularly well preserved. There is a nearby Mystras Museum housing finds from the site. This site also features as one of our Top 10 tourist attractions to visit in Greece.

Nea Pafos

Nea Pafos is an archaeological site near Paphos which contains the Castle of Forty Columns, a Byzantine fortification constructed in the seventh century AD.

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Nea Pafos is an archaeological site near Paphos Harbour in Cyprus housing the remains of what was once the capital of the island. Founded in the fourth century BC by Nikokles, the last king of nearby Palaipafos, Nea Pafos then went from strength to strength, particularly under the Ptolemaic kingdom from the third century BC.

One of the main remnants of the earliest stages of Nea Paphos – albeit with changes made to it over the centuries - is its ancient theatre, probably built around the time that the city was founded. This was in use until the fifth century AD.

However, the most famous sites at Nea Pafos are its Ancient Roman villas, mostly dating to the second century AD. Amongst them are the House of Dionysos, the House of Orpheus and the Villa of Theseus, all of which have impressive mosaics depicting mythological scenes. There are also the remaining foundations of an Agora.

The Byzantine and medieval stages of Nea Paphos are represented by other sites such as the initially fourth century AD Basilica of Chrysopolitissa, later altered and added to in the sixth, twelfth and sixteenth centuries.

Also of interest is the Castle of Forty Columns, a Byzantine fortification known locally as “Saranda Kolones”. Constructed in the seventh century AD, this castle is known – and named after - the many granite columns which still remain there today.

Photo by K.Hob (cc)

Neuschwanstein Castle

A fairy-tale castle built for an introverted and reclusive king, Neuschwanstein Castle’s idyllic mountainous setting attracts millions of tourists.

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A fairy-tale fortress built for an introverted and reclusive king, Neuschwanstein Castle was built in the 19th century for Bavaria’s notorious King Ludwig II and is now a prominent tourist attraction which draws vast numbers of visitors every year.

After Ludwig’s submission to Prussia in 1866 the king focused his attention on creating overtly extravagant palaces to which he could retreat and become an all-powerful ruler in his own alternative kingdom.

Completed in 1886, Neuschwanstein was inspired by Ludwig II’s declared desire to live somewhere designed “in the authentic style of the old German knights”.

Ironically the castle that Ludwig desired to be his own private sanctuary, built away from the public eye in a remote mountain setting, wasn’t completed until seven weeks after his death, when it was immediately opened to the public he so desperately wished to remove himself from. Today, Neuschwanstein boasts over one million visitors a year making it one of the most heavily visited castles in Europe.

Neuschwanstein dramatically upstages nearby Hohenschwangau castle, rebuilt by Ludwig’s father Maximillian II and beloved by Ludwig during his childhood. Although Neuschwanstein was inspired by Ludwig’s imagination and love of medieval legend the castle itself presents Romanesque rather than gothic architectural features, thanks to Eduard Riedal, the castle’s architect, who combined several motifs spanning hundreds of years of architectural history. It also contained very modern features for the time, such as a technologically advanced kitchen and tight-fitting windows made from steel.

The picture cycles decorating the interior walls of Neuschwanstein are in themselves reflective of Ludwig’s personality; inspired by Wagner’s operas they depict the sagas of Tristian and Isolde (on the walls in the bedroom), Lohengrin (in the Salon), and Parzifal (in the Singer’s Hall). Wagner’s influence on Ludwig is obvious; original designs for the castle were based not just on the existing Wartburg castle but also on stage sets from Wagner’s operas. The Singer’s Hall and the Festival Hall, (neither of which performed their suggested duties) were inspired by Wartburg Castle, the rest were representations of Ludwig’s own imagination.

The many rooms inside the castle reflect Ludwig’s passion for medieval kingship, such as the Throne Hall, which through its depiction of medieval poets and sagas exalts Christian kingship and absolute monarchy.

Rather than being a copy of any specific medieval castle, Neuschwanstein is an excellent example of historicism and combines many different architectural and decorative motifs, culminating in this beautiful, idealistic and extravagant monument to ‘Mad’ King Ludwig and justifying its position as one of the most photographed buildings in the world.

Guided tours take place regularly in English and German, with audio-tours available in a variety of other languages. Neuschwanstein features as one of our top ten Tourist Attractions in Germany.

Contributed by Ros Gammie

Nuremberg Castle

Ranking among the most famous castles in the world, Nuremberg Castle is a medieval castle where Holy Roman Emperors would reside.

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Nuremberg Castle (Nürnberger Burg) is a medieval castle - or rather a castle complex - made up of three parts.

Whilst it is unclear as to exactly when Nuremberg Castle was first constructed, by the mid-eleventh century, it was a prestigious residence. In fact, between 1050 and 1571, every Holy Roman Emperor stayed there at one point or another.

Visits are by guided tour, which last around ninety minutes.

Photo by andreweland (cc)

Okehampton Castle

Okehampton Castle was once Devon’s largest castle and was listed in the Doomsday Book.

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Listed in the Doomsday Book of 1086, Okehampton Castle was built during Norman times and expanded in the fourteenth century, becoming the stately home of the Earl of Devon, Hugh Courtenay.

Okehampton Castle remained in the ownership of the Courtenay family until 1538, when Henry Courtenay entered into a dispute with Henry VIII and was executed in the Tower of London. Thereafter, Okehampton Castle fell into disuse.

The remains of Okehampton Castle are now open to the public and managed by English Heritage.

Photo by Historvius

Orava Castle

Near the top of any list of world castles, Orava Castle is one of Slovakia’s most famous castles and was featured in the 1922 film "Nosferatu".

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Above the Orava River is a high spit of land, and atop the cliff is Orava Castle (Oravsky hrad). The site of fortresses over the years, the first stone building dates from 1241. The buildings are arranged in three levels; the lower, central, and upper castles, and originally were in the Romanesque and Gothic styles.

In the mid-16th century the Thurzo family gained control of the castle and began to renovate buildings into Renaissance and neo-Gothic styles. The present shape of the castle was achieved in 1611. The castle burned in 1800 and was reconstructed after World War II, and became a national cultural monument in 1953.

Several rooms in Orava Castle are furnished as they would have been in various periods of the castle's history. There is also an exhibit on the natural history of the Orava region, and an archaeological exhibit showing the phases of construction on the castle site.

The chapel is decorated in the 17th to 18th century style preferred by the Thurzos. Entrance to the chapel is not included in the price of a ticket to the castle.

Classic horror fans may recognize the castle from the film "Nosferatu." The castle was used as a location for filming. You might find a vampire (mannequin) lurking in a dark doorway, waiting for you.

Visitors must enter with a tour. Some guides speak English, and some texts are in English. The tour lasts about an hour and 45 minutes and involves climbing many steps as the tour works its way to the citadel. During the tourist season there are night tours, and in the summer there are performances on the castle grounds.

Photo by jonboy mitchell (cc)

Orford Castle

Orford Castle was a twelth century fortified castle built during the reign of King Henry II.

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Orford Castle was originally built in 1165 under the orders of King Henry II. An impressive fortified stone structure surrounded by a curtain wall and several defensive mounds, Orford Castle was intended to protect the kingdom from invasion, both from the coast on which it was located and from within, particularly from internal threats such as that posed by the Anglian Barons including Framlingham’s Hugh Bigod.

Whilst much of Orford Castle has since been destroyed or eroded, the polygonal five-storey tower which remains is extremely well-preserved and offers visitors a great insight into the history of this vital stronghold. Exploring Orford Castle is a fascinating experience, its labyrinth of halls and rooms having remained virtually entirely intact including the well and the chapel.

Orford Castle’s museum displays a series of local and historical artefacts dating back as far as Ancient Roman Britain and encompassing everything from medieval coins to maps and photographs up to the present day.

Paderne Castle

Paderne Castle was a Moorish stronghold later taken by the forces of King Afonso III.

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Paderne Castle (Castelo de Paderne) was originally built as a Moorish stronghold during the period of the Almohad dynasty. While Paderne Castle dates back to the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the site on which it was constructed has a history which may stretch as far back as Roman times.

In 1248, Paderne Castle was taken from the Moors by the forces of Dom Paio Peres Correia, a commander in the armies of Portuguese King Afonso III.

Now a picturesque reddish-brown ruin, Paderne Castle is one of the seven castles shown on the Portuguese flag.

Paphos Castle

One of many castles of the world that is now popular with tourists, Paphos Castle is a medieval fortification in Paphos Harbour.

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Paphos Castle was originally a Frankish fortification constructed in the mid-thirteenth century.

At this time, the island needed a new form of defence, its previous fortification - Saranda Kolones – having been devastated by an earthquake. The remains of Saranda Kolones can be seen in nearby Nea Paphos.

However, the Paphos Castle which can be seen today actually dates back to the sixteenth century. Having been captured and altered by the Genoese in the fourteenth century, it later came under the control of the Venetians. Yet, not wanting it to fall into enemy hands, the Venetians actually destroyed Paphos Castle in anticipation of the invasion of the Ottomans, which occurred in 1570.

The Ottomans rebuilt Paphos Castle and this is the site which can be seen at Paphos Harbour today. Visitors can see the dungeons used by the Ottomans during their occupation of the area, the battlements of Paphos Castle, the place where Ottoman soldiers lived and what was once a mosque.

When the British took over Paphos Castle in 1878, they used it as a storage facility for salt until 1935, when it became a national monument.

Peles Castle

Peles Castle was the summer home of Romania’s first king, Carol I.

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Peles Castle (Castelul Peles) in Sinaia, Romania was the summer home of the Romanian royal family until 1947.

Commissioned by Carol I (1839-1914), Romania’s first king, Peles Castle was constructed between 1873 and 1883 and built in a neo-Renaissance style with Fachwerk facades. It became the home of Carol I’s wife, Queen Marie.

Peles Castle was the first ever European palace to be powered by electricity, created in its own power plant, and to have central heating.

Carol I also built a further castle - Pelisor Castle - on the grounds of Peles Castle. This was to be a wedding gift to his heir, Ferdinand I. Other buildings within these grounds include the Hunting Lodge, the Royal Guard House, the Gardener’s House and the Royal Stables.

With a wealth of artwork in over 160 rooms, including thousands of paintings and sculptures, today, Peles Castle houses the Muzeul National Peles, exhibiting these many pieces to the public. There are guides in several languages.

Photo by Pengannel (cc)

Pevensey Castle

An interesting entry on any list of world castles, Pevensey Castle is a picturesque ruin of a medieval castle built where William the Conqueror landed in 1066.

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Pevensey Castle is a Norman castle built upon the fourth century AD Roman fort of Anderida, the substantial remains of which are still visible today. Indeed, the main outer defensive walls of the larger Roman fortification have survived very much intact, forming a wider outer ring within which the main castle now stands. These Roman walls are among the very best Roman remains to have survived in the UK.

Pevensey Castle itself, found within the south-east corner of the Roman walls, mostly dates back to the Norman invasion of 1066. In fact, Pevensey was the site where William the Conqueror landed in Britain on 28 September of that year. There the Normans found the fourth century AD Roman fort, upon which they built the first incarnation of Pevensey Castle in timber. Pevensey Castle was actually the first castle that William built.

Later under the Normans, in the twelfth century, the timber castle was replaced by a stone structure, the beginnings of the Pevensey Castle we see today. With an imposing gatehouse, bailey wall and square keep, Pevensey Castle was a mighty fortification. So much so that, despite several attempts to breach its walls - most notably in a siege carried out Simon de Montfort against the sheltering supporters of King Henry III in 1264 - Pevensey Castle survived the medieval period.

Over the centuries, Pevensey Castle would continue to be reinforced several times, including in the sixteenth century and during the Second World War. Now a picturesque ruin under the remit of English Heritage, Pevensey Castle is open to visitors. Amongst its attractions are the remaining elements of the Roman fort, which includes the majority of the original outer walls and towers, as well as the medieval dungeons.

Photo by Tim Green (cc)

Pontefract Castle

Originally a Norman structure, Pontefract castle played an increasingly important role in English Royal history for over 500 years. Today it lies in ruins but has much for visitors to enjoy, including its underground dungeons.

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Pontefract Castle was a key strategic military stronghold in Northern England which played a crucial role in many of the country’s most bitter conflicts for over five hundred years.

The land that now houses the remains of one of the most notorious castles in England was given to Ilbert de Lacy soon after the Norman Conquest of 1066AD. While not always finding themselves on the right side of the various power struggles of the period, the Lacy family by and large remained in residence at Pontefract, if sometimes as tenants of the King rather than owners.

During their tenure they continued to improve the castle, upgrading the original motte and bailey structure with a more permanent and larger military fortress which the famous king Edward I described as the “key to the north”.

One of the most infamous moments in Pontefract Castle’s history came in 1399, when Henry IV, a Lancastrian, used it to imprison and murder the deposed king Richard II. With the accession of the Lancastrians to the throne, Pontefract quickly began to hold a key position in the north of England, growing in size and importance whilst other castles nearby dwindled. Pontefract remained a Lancastrian stronghold during the Wars of the Roses.

Other notable events said to have taken place here include the surrender of the castle to the ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’ rebels – who rose up against Henry VIII – as well as being a setting for the infamous liaisons between Henry’s fifth queen, Catherine Howard, and Thomas Culpeper.

During the English Civil War it was the last Royalist fortress to surrender and underwent numerous sieges until Parliament, more specifically Oliver Cromwell, ordered its demolition following Charles I’s execution.

Pontefract has a history rife with famous prisoners – Richard II, James I of Scotland and Charles Duke of Orleans were all imprisoned at different times in one of the castle’s many dungeons. When Edward II crushed his opposition, Thomas of Lancaster was executed here, and throughout the Wars of the Roses many rebels were put to death at the site.

Today Pontefract Castle hold but a shadow of its former glory. Parts of the original motte and bailey wall can still be seen, as can remnants of the chapel. Unfortunately nothing remains of the Great Hall except the cellars underneath.

One of the most fascinating aspects for visitors are the so-called ‘Magazine Tours’ which take people underground to view the castle’s notorious cellars and dungeons, as well as the writing and names scratched onto the walls by the unfortunate prisoners.

Recent excavation at the castle has unearthed many English Civil War items, both domestic and military, from helmets and spurs to spoons and combs. They will eventually be house at the Pontefract Museum.

Contributed by Ros Gammie

Photo by jones716 (cc)

Powis Castle

Powis Castle was built by Welsh princes in the early 13th century and has maintained much of its exterior grandeur.

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Powis Castle was built by Welsh princes in the early thirteenth century and, whilst the interior has been refursbished several times, it has maintained much of its exterior grandeur.

Having been the stately home of the noble Herbert and Clive families, Powis Castle and its vast gardens are now open to the public. Within Powis Castle is the Clive Museum, which houses pieces from India.

Photo by priittammets (cc)

Prague Castle

Prague Castle dates back to the 9th century and is reportedly the largest castle in the world and a focal point of Czech history .

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Prague Castle (Prazsky hrad) is the Czech Republic’s most iconic landmark, a UNESCO World Heritage site and apparently the largest castle complex in the world.

Sprawled over an area of 70,000 m², the complex is made up of the large, Gothic Saint Vitus Cathedral, Golden Lane, Lobkowicz Palace and St. George’s Basilica as well as several other palaces, a monastery, viewing towers, museums and art galleries.

Prague Castle itself was originally built in approximately 880 AD by Prince Bořivoj of the Premyslid Dynasty and has since been the seat of Czech monarchs, religious leaders, Holy Roman emperors and heads of state, the latter function of which it still fulfils today.

Today, Prague Castle contains a wealth of information, archeological findings, artifacts and exhibits showcasing Czech history and heritage. Attractions include the beautiful gothic architecture, tower views and crown jewels at Saint Vitus Cathedral, the changing of the Castle Guard, which occurs once every hour, and the many galleries in and around the Castle.

With such an array of attractions, visitors can start their day at Prague Castle’s information centres located in the second and the third courtyards. This is where you can find information, maps and even professional tours through Prague Castle.

Qasr Amra

One of the oldest castles in the world, Qasr Amra is a UNESCO-listed 8th century desert castle in Jordan.

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Qasr Amra (Qusair Fortress) is an eighth century desert castle in the Jordanian desert. Listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, the square-shaped Qasr Amra is mostly gone, but its country house is extremely well preserved, with many of its walls and even ceilings intact.

It is not entirely clear who built the Qasr Amra. It is widely thought that it was constructed during the reign of Walid I (705-715 AD) of the Umayyad Caliphate, but some evidence points to it having been built later, perhaps between 743 and 744AD, during the reign of Walid II.

The remains of Qasr Amra’s country house include a reception room and bath house or “hammam” adorned with murals, which have been restored. Mythology, history and philosophy all play a part in these murals, with depictions of various events and figures, both real and imaginary.

With regard to Qasr Amra itself, visitors can see its foundations. Qasr Amra would have been used both as a garrisoned fortress and as a retreat for the Umayyad caliphs.

Raglan Castle

Certainly ranking high among any list of the most picturesque castles of the world, Raglan Castle is the dramatic ruin of a 15th century castle destroyed in the English Civil War.

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Raglan Castle is the dramatic ruin of a 15th century castle built by Welsh nobleman Sir William ap Thomas. His son, William Herbert, completed Raglan Castle and it met its end during the English Civil War.

Photo by Historvius

Ragnhildsholmen

Ragnhildsholmen is an early medieval castle ruin, representing all that remains of a 13th century border fortress.

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Ragnhildsholmen near Gothenburg is an early medieval castle ruin, representing all that remains of a 13th century border fortress.

The Ragnhildsholmen castle was built around 1250 AD by Norwegian king Håkon Håkonsson (aka Haakon IV of Norway) at a strategically important point on the south eastern border of Norway as it was at the time. It stood to protect the border as well as the city of Kungahälla.

It was in use for about 100 years or less until it lost much of its military importance due to the construction of the nearby Bagahus castle (Bohus castle), just a few km away. It was later largely destroyed by a devastating fire and left as a ruin until its excavation in the 19th century.

Raseborg Castle

Raseborg Castle is a ruined medieval castle in southern Finland first mentioned in writing in 1378.

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Raseborg Castle (Raaseporin Linna) is a ruined medieval castle in southern Finland first mentioned in writing in 1378. It is believed that Raseborg Castle was built by Bo Joninpoika Grip - who was the royal council leader of Magnus IV of Sweden - in 1370 and to have undergone ongoing construction up to the 16th century.

Raseborg Castle was intended to defend the then Swedish territory Southern Finland and it would go on to be the focal point of clashes with the Danes as well as pirates.

At the time of its construction, Raseborg Castle would have bordered the sea, however, dropping sea levels have rendered it land-locked and it now perches dramatically atop a set of rocks. It was also this increasing distance from the sea, together with the founding of Helsinki in 1550, which is said to have contributed to the eventual abandonment of Raseborg Castle in 1553.

Today, visitors to Raseborg Castle can see its restored outer wall as well as its other ruins, including those of a wooden barrier which once encircled the castle, stopping entrance to the harbour to foreign ships. Raseborg Castle also features as one of our Top 10 Visitor Attractions in Finland.

Photo by Darren Shilson (cc)

Restormel Castle

An interesting entry on any list of world castles, Restormel Castle was a 13th century castle in Cornwall, the pretty ruins of which are well preserved.

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Restormel Castle was a stone castle defended by a moat and located on a large mound overlooking Cornwall. Its historic ruins, which date back to the late 13th and early 14th century and may have been built by King Edmund, are made up of a dramatic circular stone keep. It is thought that an earlier castle, one originally constructed by Norman conquerors in the 11th century, once stood on the site of Restormel Castle and some aspects of this original castle still remain today.

Initially part of the Manor of Bodardle, Restormel would go on to be owned by Edward, The Black Prince, in the 14th century before it later fell into disuse. In 1644, Restormel Castle found a short reprieve from dereliction as a stronghold in the English Civil War. At this time, it was captured by the Royalist, Sir Richard Grenville.

Today, Restormel Castle is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall and is managed by English Heritage.

Photo by ParkerDigital (cc)

Rhuddlan Castle

Rhuddlan Castle was one of the iron ring of strongholds built by Edward I in his conquest of Wales.

DID YOU KNOW?

Rhuddlan Castle was one of the iron ring of strongholds built by Edward I in his conquest of Wales. Construction of Rhuddlan Castle began in 1277 and it was built in a concentric style.

Today the pretty ruins of Rhuddlan Castle are open to the public.

Photo by trenchdroid (cc)

Richborough Roman Fort

Richborough Roman Fort in Kent marks the site where the Romans successfully invaded Britain in 43 AD.

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Richborough Roman Fort, originally called “Rutupiae”, in Kent marks the site where the Romans successfully invaded Britain in 43 AD.

Known by many as the “gateway to Britain” and also Richborough Castle, Richborough Roman Fort is thought to have begun as a military stronghold for the invading Roman soldiers and developed into a civilian town and one of the country’s main ports. One reminder of the leisure facilities of this historic town can be seen around five minutes away in the form of the vague remnants of an amphitheatre.

When visiting Richborough Roman Fort, it is hard to believe that this now very much land-based site was a coastal defensive structure. However, in 2008, archaeologists discovered the location of the original Roman coast.

The impressive stone walls that still stand at Richborough Roman Fort are the remains of a wall fort built by the Romans in the late third century AD to protect against the Saxons. Visitors can also see remaining defensive ditches and the ruin of a first century triumphal arch.

Rosenborg Slot

Ranking high on any list of castles of the world, Rosenborg Slot is a 17th century royal palace in Copenhagen in Denmark.

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Rosenborg Slot (Rosenborg Castle) in North Copenhagen is a seventeenth century royal palace built by Christian IV.

Construction of Rosenborg Slot began in 1606 with the intention that it become a summer home for Danish monarchs, a purpose which it served until Fredensborg Slot was built in the eighteenth century.

Today, Rosenborg Slot is a popular tourist attraction where visitors can admire its opulent Dutch-Renaissance brickwork, a vast collection of paintings and even the Crown Jewels, contained in the incredible underground treasury.

A tour of the castle also offers an insight into the history of the Danish royal family. This picturesque site also features as one of our top visitor sights in Denmark.

Photo by dun_deagh (cc)

Rothesay Castle

Rothesay Castle is a distinctive medieval ruin with strong links to the royal Stewart dynasty.

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Rothesay Castle was originally built by Walter, 3rd High Steward and ancestor of the royal Stewart line, in the thirteenth century.

It was intended as a stronghold against the ongoing threat of Norwegian invasion and was taken by attackers from Norway in both 1230 and 1263.

In 1371, Rothesay Castle attained royal status as Robert II became the first king from the House of Stewart. It was renovated in the fifteenth century but then fell into disuse, eventually being restored in the nineteenth century.

One thing which makes Rothesay Castle so different is its distinctive - probably thirteenth century - circular curtain wall, the remains of which can be seen there today. There are also exhibits about the history of Rothesay Castle and of its successive owners.

Sagunto Castle

Sagunto Castle was a large Moorish citadel, the impressive remains of which overlook the modern town.

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Sagunto Castle (Castillo de Sagunto) is a vast ruin spread over a kilometre and overlooking the town.

The most impressive parts of Sagunto Castle date back to around the eighth century and were built by the Moors as an imposing fortress. However, the site also shows signs of previous inhabitants of Sagunto, namely the Iberians and the Romans.

In particular, the site of Sagunto Castle houses the remains of a Roman forum.

Salses Fortress

Salses Fortress is an impressive medieval fortress in Plateau de Rousillon in France.

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Salses Fortress, also known as Salses Castle or ‘Forteresse de Salses” is a medieval fortified castle in the eastern Pyrenees area of Plateau de Rousillon in France.

Constructed by the Spanish in the late-fifteenth, early-sixteenth century, Salses Castle was a vital stronghold on the then-border with France. It was the subject of numerous sieges in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries before being taken by the French in 1642. At the time, Salses Castle was within Spanish territory, a fact changed by the 1659 Treaty of the Pyrenees, which redefined the French-Spanish border, incorporating the area into France.

It is the architecture of Salses Fortress which makes it such an interesting historic site. A typical medieval fortification with round towers and a thick curtain wall, Salses Fortress has semi-subterranean features and a maze of passageways.

Today, Salses Fortress is open to the public as an historic site and as an art museum. Guided tours are available.

Photo by Historvius

Sandal Castle

One of many castles around the world with a rich history, Sandal Castle was the site of an important battle in the Wars of the Roses.

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Sandal Castle is a ruin of an historic castle believed to date back to the twelfth century and which played an important role in the Wars of the Roses.

In the latter half of 1460, Richard of York, who was making a bid for the throne, was at Sandal Castle when he was lured into an ambush by the Lancastrians. This resulted in the Battle of Wakefield.

The result was devastating for the Yorkists. Richard of York, Richard Neville, Earl of Salisbury and Edmund, York’s second son were among the many Yorkist casualties. York’s head, complete with a paper crown was sent to the city of York, there to be displayed over one of the gates "so that York could look out over York". His son Edmund’s head was displayed on the same gate. The Battle of Wakefield marked a major victory for the Lancastrians.

The battlefield itself is now covered by a housing estate, but the ruins of Sandal Castle can be seen about a quarter of a mile from the A61 Wakefield to Barnsley road.

Guided tours of Sandal Castle are available from the visitor centre on Wood Street, which also exhibits the finds from several excavations of Sandal. 

Shirvanshahs’ Palace

Shirvanshahs’ Palace is a 15th century castle complex in Baku in Azerbaijan.

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Shirvanshahs’ Palace (Palace of the Shirvanshahs) is a fifteenth century castle and complex in the old city of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.

Originally constructed by the ruler Shirvanshah Khalilulla I and his son, Faruk, Shirvanshahs’ Palace had both royal and religious significance. However, Shirvanshahs’ Palace is somewhat incomplete as construction was halted in 1501 when Faruk was killed in battle.

Shirvanshahs’ Palace was also severely damaged in the 18th century during the Russian invasion. Nevertheless, Shirvanshahs’ Palace remains one of Baku’s main sites. Its structure includes the palace mosque, the mausoleum of the Shirvanshahs and the tomb of Seyyid Yəhya Bakuvi, the court astrologer.

Upon first entering Shirvanshahs’ Palace, visitors go into a central courtyard through which they can access the residential parts of the palace. Much of the Shirvanshahs’ Palace is in ruins and other aspects were subject to thorough renovations, not all of them entirely sympathetic. However, Shirvanshahs’ Palace contains many beautiful and authentic structures and inscriptions.

Shirvanshahs’ Palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Sigiriya

Sigiriya is a vast rock used over time as a Buddhist monastery and as a 5th century royal fortress.

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Sigiriya in Sri Lanka combines a natural phenomenon with history and religion. Comprised of a vast red rock mound rising over a thousand feet, it is thought that Sigiriya (meaning “Lion Rock”) was originally inhabited during the third century BC, when a Buddhist monastery was founded there.

In the fifth century AD, it is thought that Sigiriya’s use changed from a sacred site to a royal one. It is said that, having assassinated his father King Dhatusena and taken the throne, King Kassapa I of the Anuradhapura Kingdom sought an easily defensible place to build his palace and that he chose to construct it atop Sigiriya.

The ruins of Kassapa’s castle can still be seen there today and include the remnants of a city at the foot of the rock. From these ruins, it is evident that the king’s city was a grand one with gardens, monuments and, of course, his palace.

In the late fifth century, Kassapa was defeated in battle and Sigiriya once again became a Buddhist monastery, eventually falling into decline.

One of the most notable sites at Sigiriya is its series of frescoes depicting numerous female figures. Originally, there would have been hundreds of similar frescoes. There is a debate as to whether these were created under Kassapa or whether these were the creation of the Buddhist monks as numerous representations of one of their deities.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1982, Sigiriya is now open to the public.

Photo by Historvius

Silves Castle

An interesting entry on any world castles list, Silves Castle is an imposing Moorish stronghold.

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Silves Castle (Castelo de Silves) is an imposing Moorish stronghold which defended this once thriving Moorish settlement in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Following the re-conquest by Christian forces in 1242, Silves Castle was altered and renovated, this work continuing throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.

Today, Silves Castle is a great remnant of what would have been a powerful Moorish settlement. There are some remains of the buildings which were once housed within the walls of Silves Castle and of the Roman fortification on which it was built, mostly in the form of excavated foundations which visitors can wander around. A couple of cisterns from these periods also remain. However, the highlights of Silves Castle are its well preserved defensive walls, turrets and gates.

Silves Castle also features as one of our top visitor attractions in Portugal.

Main image by graphiclunarkid (cc).

Photo by Historvius

Spis Castle

One of the biggest castles in the world, Spis Castle is Slovakia’s most famous castle ruin.

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Occupying a hill site inhabited since before 5000BC, Spis Castle (Spišský hrad) is said to be Slovakia's most famous castle ruin and is now among the largest castle complexes on the continent, covering over 4 hectares.

Whilst a first incarnation Spis Castle was begun in the 12th century, this collapsed due to tectonic shifts. It was thus in the early 13th century that the Spis Castle we see today has its roots, built in anticipation of Tatar incursions.

Over the next few hundred years, Hungarian noble families controlled the castle, converting it from a fortress into a palatial home. All of these changes have meant that Spis Castle is endowed with a wealth of architectural influences, including Romanesque and Gothic as well as structures from a variety of time periods. For example, many of the existing buildings were constructed during the 15th century.

Eventually abandoned and much of it destroyed by a fire in 1780, the remains of Spis Castle were declared a National Cultural Monument in 1961 and a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.

Photo by archangel 12 (cc)

St Fagans National History Museum

St Fagans National History Museum is a unique open-air museum of the history of Wales.

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St Fagans National History Museum, also known as the Museum of Welsh Life (Amgueddfa Werin Cymru), is a unique open-air museum of the history of Wales.

This distinctive museum tells the story of Welsh history through re-erected historic buildings. In fact, the grounds of St Fagans National History Museum are home to over forty original buildings which have been re-erected there.

Ranging from Iron Age circular Celtic houses to the medieval St Teilo's Church to ironworker houses from the nineteenth century, walking through St Fagans National History Museum is like walking through a social, historical and architectural timeline.

What’s more, it is not just buildings which hark back to past times. Tools and items within these buildings paint an authentic picture of how they would once have been used and there are often tradesmen there practicing traditional activities and selling their wares. There are also several exhibits of artefacts and historic items.

St Fagans National History Museum is also located on the grounds of an Elizabethan manor house St Fagans Castle, which was built in the sixteenth century and refurbished in the nineteenth. The rooms in this castle have been restored to reflect its history.

St George’s Castle

St George’s Castle in Lisbon is a medieval castle which once served as a royal palace.

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St George’s Castle (Castelo de Sao Jorge) in Lisbon is a medieval citadel resting high atop one of the city’s highest hills overlooking the Tagus River.

Historical research has shown that the hill on which St George’s Castle sits was inhabited as early as the sixth century BC, with the first fortifications dating back to the second century BC. This hill was of military importance to a number of peoples, including Lisbon’s indigenous Celtic and Iberian tribes as well as the Romans, the Visigoths and the Moors.

The earliest mentions of St George’s Castle date back to the eleventh century, when Arab geographers mention it defending the ‘quasabah’ or ‘fortress’. In 1147, St George’s Castle was conquered from the Moors by Portugal’s first king, Afonso Henriques helped by crusaders as part of the Seige of Lisbon.

In 1255, when Lisbon became the capital city, St George’s Castle served as the royal palace and was later renovated by King Dinis I. The castle was dedicated to Saint George by King João I in the fourteenth century. However, St George’s Castle began to lose its stature in the sixteenth century, when King Manuel I built the Ribeira Palace, particularly when St George’s Castle was damaged by earthquakes in 1531 and 1755 and never properly rebuilt.

Today, people mostly visit St George’s Castle for its beautiful views across Lisbon on Ulysses Tower. The Castle does have some exhibitions, including a multimedia presentation of the city’s history and a space for temporary exhibitions as well as a handful of courtyards and battlements to explore. Also visible are the remnants of an old Moorish wall, which was reconstructed by the King Ferdinand I in the 1370’s.

St George’s Castle also features as one of our top tourist attractions of Portugal.

Photo by Historvius

Stirling Castle

Ranking among the best castles in the world, Stirling Castle is an iconic royal palace, a medieval stronghold and a focal point for many of the most important events in Scotland’s history.

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Stirling Castle is an iconic royal palace and stronghold, seen to represent Scottish independence and a focal point for many of the most important events in Scotland’s history.

Famous Events at Stirling Castle

It was the site of royal deaths such as that of King Alexander I in 1124 and William I in 1214, the subject of a tug of war between the English and the Scottish during the Wars of Scottish Independence and even the scene of an assassination. This latter event, the murder of William the eighth Earl of Douglas, occurred when he was invited to dinner there in 1452. A skeleton found at the castle in the eighteenth century is believed to have been his.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence, Stirling Castle was fought over by some of the most famous figures in Scottish and English history, including William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.

Royal events at Stirling Castle included the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots (1543) and the baptism of her son, James VI (1566), both at the Chapel Royal.

Strategic Location

At least part of the reason for the prominence of Stirling Castle over the centuries must be attributed to its location. Situated atop the flat top of an ancient volcano, it forms an imposing sight and a formidable stronghold. Furthermore, it is located at a vital strategic point at the centre of various routes across Scotland.

Architecture

The first mention of Stirling Castle dates to 1110, when Alexander I endowed a chapel there, but many believe the site has been fortified since prehistoric times (although this is disputed).

The current grand incarnation of Stirling Castle mostly dates from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries onwards. Some of the highlights include the King’s Old Building, constructed in 1496 for James IV, the Great Hall, which was medieval Scotland’s largest banqueting hall built by James IV in the early sixteenth century and the Royal Palace, built by James V in around 1540.

One of the most well-known parts of Stirling Castle is its Forework Gate, a turreted stone fortification built by James IV in the early sixteenth century.

Visiting the castle

Today, Stirling Castle offers tours around its buildings and grounds. Visitors can tour with an audio guide or with a tour guide and there are a range of exhibitions to see. Not least of these is the Regimental Museum, a military museum dedicated to the Argyll

Photo by Historvius

Suomenlinna Fortress

Ranking among the most famous castles in the world, Suomenlinna Fortress is an impressive, UNESCO-listed 18th century maritime fortification.

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Suomenlinna Fortress is an impressive 18th century maritime fortification complex spread over eight islands in Helsinki and which has been property of the Swedish, the Russians and the Finnish. Considered an excellent example of the military architecture of the period, Suomenlinna Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Swedish Period
Begun by the Swedish in 1748, when Finland was an eastern Swedish territory, Suomenlinna Fortress was considered vital in terms of defence, especially with Sweden’s declining power and in an atmosphere of increased Russian imperialism. Named Sveaborg in 1750, Suomenlinna Fortress was also known as Viapori - the Finnish translation - until 1918.

Having avoided military engagement in the 18th century, the next century saw Suomenlinna Fortress become the subject of an enduring Russian attack in the Russo-Finnish War, also known as the ‘War of Finland’ (1808-1809). After a three-month siege, Suomenlinna Fortress fell to the Russians.

Russian Period
The Russians would go on to expand and garrison Suomenlinna Fortress, but, over time, large parts of it fell into disrepair. Renovations were undertaken as the Crimean War (1853–1856) approached, but Suomenlinna Fortress would go on to suffer significant damage during a two-day Anglo-French bombardment in this conflict, but remained in Russian hands.

In 1906, Suomenlinna Fortress was the site of the Viapori rebellion, a short-lived military revolt. Then, in World War I, it defended St Petersburg as part of the Peter the Great Fortress, but, before the war ended, on 6 December 1917, Finland declared independence from Russia.

Today
Suomenlinna Fortress has been under the control of the Finnish government since 1918 and outside military control since 1973.

Today, this is a fascinating place to visit and a popular one, with various things to see including a series of museums as well as sites such as the King’s Gate and the Great Courtyard. Military history enthusiasts will enjoy exploring its many bastions and there are guided tours. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Finland.

Syracuse Archaeological Site

The Syracuse Archaeological Site contains the impressive remains of an ancient city including a fort known as the Castle of Euryalus.

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The Syracuse Archaeological Site (Siracusa) in Sicily contains the impressive remains of the ancient city of Syracuse dating as far back as the eighth century BC. The city of Syracuse was founded by Greek colonists - heralding from Corinth - in 734 BC.

At its height, Syracuse was the most powerful city in Sicily and, according to Cicero, was the “most beautiful” of all Greek cities. By the fifth to fourth century BC, Syracuse controlled Sicily, especially during the reign of Dionysus the Elder (405BC-367BC).

In the third century BC, the Romans laid siege to Syracuse and, after three bitter years, it came under Roman rule in 212 BC as a province. One of the most famous residents of Syracuse, the mathematician Archimedes, died during this attack.

Remaining a part of the Roman Empire, the city remained stable for hundreds of years until the fall of the Western Empire. Over the following centuries, Syracuse was invaded, conquered and occupied several times, leading to it being inhabited by several peoples including the Vandals and Byzantines (5th-6th centuries) as well as the Muslims (9th-10th centuries). It also came under Norman rule for thirty years from 1061.

From 1197 to 1250, Syracuse experienced resurgence under the rule of Frederick II of the Hohenstaufen Dynasty.

Today, visitors to the Syracuse Archaeological Site can enjoy the spectacular remnants of its past, the most famous of which is its Ancient Greek theatre. There is also a Roman amphitheatre (pictured on the map), a sanctuary to Apollo, an altar to Sicilian King Hieron II (265-215BC), a set of ancient quarries and a fort known as the Castle of Euryalus (although the latter is located around 8km north of the main site).

Together with the Necropolis of Pantalica, the Syracuse Archaeological Site is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by Sandy__R (cc)

Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle was the imposing medieval stronghold of an influential Scottish family.

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Tantallon Castle was the imposing medieval stronghold of the influential Douglas Earls of Angus for around three centuries.

Built in the fourteenth century by the first such earl, William Douglas, and later updated to deal with more modern warfare, Tantallon Castle would survive numerous sieges before being utterly devastated by the army of Oliver Cromwell in 1651.

Today, the dramatic cliff-top ruins of Tantallon Castle are quite a sight, particularly its remaining curtain wall.

Photo by Historvius

Tematin Castle

Tematin Castle is a picturesque ruined medieval fortress near the modern towns of Hrádok and Lúka in Slovakia.

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The relatively isolated, picturesque ruins of the Tematin Castle are all that remains of this 13th century stronghold.

Located in the mountains to the east of the modern towns of Hrádok and Lúka, Tematin was probably built in the second half of the 13th century as part of the wider defences of the Kingdom of Hungary. However, rather than a foreign enemy, the castle was soon to see action in a Hungarian civil war between the famous Hungarian king Bela IV and his son Stephen. Bela tried to conquer the castle but Michal, who led the defence, managed to hold out against the king's forces. Once Stephen became king in 1272, the castle was given to Michal for his loyalty.

It is thought that Tematin was overhauled in the early 16th century and continued to play an important defensive role. However, during a rebellion calling for greater Hungarian independence, a devastating attack by the forces of the Habsburg rulers left the castle in ruins and it remains in this state to this day.

Today the site of Tematin contains the pretty ruins of the castle as well as offering excellent views of the area. A volunteer student group are active at the site working to shore up and restore this medieval ruin. 

Photo by Darij & Ana (cc)

Teotihuacan

Though not seen as standard for a traditional world castles list, Teotihuacan contains a number of castle fortresses.

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Teotihuacan was a holy Mesoamerican city built in around 400 BC in what is now Mexico and forms one of the country’s oldest archeological sites.

Whilst the founders of Teotihuacan have never been definitively identified, it is thought that the city was inhabited by the Toltecs and was also an important Aztec site.

Literally translated as the place “where gods are created”, Teotihuacan was clearly a city of significant religious importance to its inhabitants, as illustrated by the wealth of monuments at the site.

Characterised by looming stepped pyramids, indeed one of the most impressive aspects of Teotihuacan is the sheer size of these monuments, including the Pyramid of the Sun, which measures 225 by 222 metres at its base, rising 75 metres high.

Incredibly well-preserved, despite a fire which tore through Teotihuacan in the 7th century, Teotihuacan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

However, it is not just Teotihuacan’s religious monuments which make it such an important and popular site. In fact, it is estimated that these make up a mere 10% of the total excavated site and the rest includes castles, such as the Palace of Quetzalcoatl and the Palace of the Citadel, residential buildings and communal buildings.

Visitors to Teotihuacan can maneuver their way through the city via its original streets, such as Avenue of the Dead, which divided the city into quarters, although take note that the site is absolutely enormous.

Today, Teotihuacan is one of the most popular tourist sites in Mexico and includes numerous museums, including the Museo del Sitio, just south of the Pyramid of the Sun where visitors can see various artefacts from the site. It also features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Mexico.

Photo by Simon Pielow (cc)

Thornbury Castle

Thornbury Castle is an original Tudor manor house which once played host to King Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.

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Thornbury Castle in South Gloucestershire is an original Tudor manor house which now operates as a luxury hotel.

Built in the early 16th century by Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, Thornbury Castle soon passed into the possession of the crown after the Duke was executed for treason by King Henry VIII.

In fact, the Thornbury site itself seems to have been something of an unlucky charm for its owners. It is said that the estate was once owned by the Anglo-Saxon thegn Brictric. He fell foul of the machinations of Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror, and eventually died in prison.

After passing into King Henry VIII's estates, Thornbury Castle was then frequented by Tudor royalty on several occasions, including by the King and Anne Boleyn.

Thornbury Castle was returned to the Duke of Buckingham's family in the mid-16th century but later fell into disrepair until its renovation in the 19th century.

Today Thornbury Castle is a luxury hotel which offers guests the opportunity to stay in the very room that was once occupied by Henry VIII. Guests can also explore the scenic grounds of the castle.

Toompea Castle

Toompea Castle in Tallinn has been a military and administrative stronghold for hundreds of years and now contains the Estonian Parliament - an interesting entry on any list of world castles.

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Toompea Castle in Tallinn is the site of the Estonian Parliament and has been a central administrative and military centre for hundreds of years.

The first recorded construction on the site of Toompea Castle was established in the 9th century AD, when a wooden castle was constructed by the local Estonian rulers. However, in 1219 the castle was attacked and conquered by a Danish force under Valdemar II.

The first stone castle was built on the site in 1227 by the German Knights of the Sword.

Over the following centuries, Toompea Castle was a stronghold for the various regimes who ruled the region. A major construction phase was undertaken on the site by Catherine the Great, who built the Estonian Government Administration building in the castle.

Upon Estonian independence new developments were brought to the Toompea Castle site and the new parliament buildings were unveiled in the early 1920s.

Today, Toompea Castle reflects the numerous phases of its construction, with medieval fortifications blending into latter-period Czarist architechture and the early 20th century parliament building (the Riigikogu).

Visitors can also see the famous Pikk Hermann tower, which stands 46m high and is an Estonian national icon.

Photo by Historvius

Trencin Castle

Among the more striking of the world’s castles, Trencin Castle was the main seat of aristocrat Matus Cak, Lord of the Vah and the Tatras.

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Trencin Castle (Trenciansky hrad) is a dramatic cliff-top castle above the Vah River, not far from the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, which held royal status from the 11th century. It was also at this time that the main current castle was built.

The first buildings on the site date from the Romanesque period, although most of the buildings are Gothic. The most famous master of the castle was Matus Cak (also given as Csak, the Hungarian spelling), a nobleman with considerable holdings in western Slovakia in the late 13th and early 14th centuries, known as Lord of the Vah and the Tatras.

Trencin Castle and the town were heavily damaged by fire in the late 18th century, and in 1905 the castle was donated to the city.

The long tour takes visitors through three of the palaces of Trencin Castle and includes galleries of art collected by the castle's owners and portraits of the family members, arms and armour, and ruins of the oldest tower on the site and skeletons found there. Visitors must join a tour to see the castle, and English-speaking guides are available.

During the summer months, there may be activities on the castle grounds, such as archery and commemorative coin striking. Trencin Castle also hosts evening visits for special occasions.

On the cliff face below the castle is a Roman inscription dating from 179AD. The Hotel Tatra was built in front of the cliff, with a window allowing visitors to see the inscription. As of spring 2011, the hotel is undergoing a complete interior renovation and therefore the inscription is not able to be viewed. There is a replica in the castle, though.

Tsarevets Castle

Tsarevets Castle in Veliko Tarnovo is a medieval fortress and was the centre of the Second Bulgarian Empire. Today it is open to visitors and also hosts sound and light shows.

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Tsarevets Castle in the Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo is a medieval fortress complex and was the centre of the Second Bulgarian Empire, which ruled the region from the 12th to 14th centuries AD.

First constructed on the site of an earlier Byzantine fort, by the late 12th century Tsarevets Castle had become the headquarters of the Bulgarian forces, who overthrew Byzantine rule in the region. For the next two centuries, Tsarevets Castle housed the royal palaces and administration of the new regime.

However, by the late 14th century the continued rise of the Ottoman Empire put increasing pressure on the Bulgarian forces, and, along with the region as a whole, Tsarevets Castle was captured by the Ottoman army.

For much of the medieval period Tsarevets Castle continued to flourish as a centre of religion, trade and administration.

In the 20th century significant restoration projects were undertaken at Tsarevets Castle, including the restoration of the Patriarch’s Palace and Baldwin’s Tower.

Today, visitors can tour the castle complex and visit the restored Baldwin’s Tower from where there are great views of the locality. Sound and light shows are also held within Tsarevets Castle at certain times. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Bulgarian Tourist Attractions.

Tulum

Tulum is a cliff-top Maya castle in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region with some interesting and quite well preserved ruins.

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Tulum is a Maya site in Mexico’s Quintana Roo region dating back to between the 13th and 16th centuries. At its peak, Tulum was quite a thriving walled city.

Whilst relatively modest in comparison to, say Chichen Itza, Tulum does feature some interesting and quite well preserved ruins, including its castle, city walls and temples. One of the highlights at Tulum is its Temple of the Frescoes, with some original frescoes inside it. However, the real beauty of Tulum is its shimmering beachside location.

Tulum features as one of our Top Ten Tourist Attractions in Mexico.

Turku Castle

Turku Castle is a large medieval castle in Finland which is said to be Finland’s largest intact medieval building.

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Turku Castle (Turun Linna) is a large medieval castle in Finland which has served as a stronghold as well as a granary and a prison. In fact, it is said to be Finland’s largest intact medieval building.

Begun in approximately 1280, Turku Castle was constructed at a time when Finland, then Eastland, was part of Sweden. The castle’s role was as a centre of administration and a way to defend this territory.

Turku Castle would be expanded and further fortified over the coming centuries, eventually reaching a recognisable state in the 16th century, under Gustav Vasa and his son. In fact, whilst it has had to be repaired several times since then, its structure remains very similar to as it was then.

In terms of military action, Turku Castle often featured in local or regional battles. In 1318, it also played a more international role when it was attacked by Russian invaders. Yet, over time, Turku Castle’s military importance waned and it became a 18th and 19th century prison before coming a museum of its own history and that of the Turku region, a part it still plays today. This site also features as one of our top tourist attractions of Finland.

Photo by steve p2008 (cc)

Tutbury Castle

Tutbury Castle is an imposing medieval site in Staffordshire which had one very famous prisoner, Mary Queen of Scots.

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Tutbury Castle is an imposing medieval site in Staffordshire which had one very famous prisoner, Mary Queen of Scots.

Whilst its history is said to date back to the 11th century, most of the ruins of Tutbury Castle seen today originate from the 14th and 15th centuries, under the remit of the Lancastrian kings such as Henry IV and Henry VI. In the early 16th century, Tutbury Castle would see some royal glamour in the form of a visit from Henry VIII, but it was at around this time that this fearsome fortress saw a great decline, with records showing it required extensive repairs.

Yet, the historic heyday of Tutbury was soon to come, not as a prized royal residence but rather as a majestic prison where Elizabeth I kept Mary Queen of Scots captive. First arriving at Tutbury Castle on 4 February 1569, Mary would spend much time in her regal jail, a place she disliked both because of its function and due to its rundown state. Mary would be moved several times over the coming years, with her final sojourn there being for almost a year in 1585.

Today, Tutbury Castle is open to the public.

Van Castle

Van Castle was built in the Iron Age as part of the Urartu Kingdom and now stands as a stunning ruin in modern Turkey. Certainly ranks high among any list of picturesque castles of the world.

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Van Castle (Van Kalesi) was an Iron Age castle which now stands as a stunning ruin on the rocks to the west of the modern city of Van. It was constructed as part of the Urartu Kingdom in the ninth century BC. Upon the fall of this kingdom in the seventh century BC, Van Castle was taken by the Assyrians.

The site of Van Castle bears the marks of these two civillisations as well as others, such as the Ottoman Empire. In particular, it is home to the remains of a mosque built by the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent (1494-1566).

Photo by hanjeanwat (cc)

Velia Archaeological Site

The Velia Archaeological Site contains an eleventh/twelfth century medieval castle, which is recognisable by its rounded towers and turrets.

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The Velia Archaeological Site (Scavi di Velia) in Campania houses the remains of a Greek colony turned Roman municipality.

Velia was originally founded by a Greek community as the colony of “Elea” in 540 BC. With the help of prominent citizens and philosophers Zeno and Parmenides (the latter having founded the school of Eleatics, the former having been a member), Velia managed to overcome several attacks including from Poseidonia and the Lucanians.

During the Second Punic War, Velia provided ships to Rome for its fight against Hannibal and in 88 BC it became a municipality of the Roman Empire. The decline of Velia, which was dependent on naval commerce, coincided with the reduced need for its harbour.

Today, the Velia Archaeological Site contains an array of ancient ruins as well as medieval ones. Visitors can see a series of public buildings and monuments from the Greek and Roman eras including third century BC fortifications, a large fourth century BC arch known as the Pink Gate as well as second century AD Roman baths with mosaics and a theatre.

The Velia Archaeological Site also has medieval sites such as its eleventh/twelfth century castle, which is recognisable by its rounded towers and turrets.

Photo by channone (cc)

Vianden Castle

Vianden Castle in Luxembourg is a picturesque medieval castle which served as the home of the local counts.

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Vianden Castle (Chateau De Vianden) in Luxembourg is a picturesque medieval castle begun in the eleventh century. Only completed in the fourteenth century, Vianden Castle became the home of the local counts and countesses.

Interestingly, the site of Vianden Castle actually has a history dating back to Roman times, when it was the location of a fort or 'castellum'.

While several aspects of Vianden Castle seen today date back to the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, this magnificent site was the subject of extensive renovations in the twentieth century.

Photo by Historvius

Vranduk

Vranduk is best known for its medieval castle which once served as the residence fot the fifteenth century Bosnian King Stjepan Tomas.

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Vranduk in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a picturesque town best known for its medieval castle.

Located approximately 10km north of Zenica, numerous preserved travelogues and manuscripts describe Vranduk as one of the most interesting, the most intriguing and the most resilient parts of Bosnia.

An extensive history of Vranduk spans over two millennia. However, the history of modern Vranduk can be tracked to the beginning of the 15th century, at least according to numerous archives and views expressed in historical literature.

The medieval Vranduk Castle, or Vranduk Fortress as it is sometimes known, sits on a hill above the Bosna river and once served as the residence of King Stjepan Tomas, who ruled Bosnia in the mid-fifteenth century AD.

There are several other interesting attractions in the town including the Ottoman-period Fatih Sultan Mosque.

Photo by Peter Broster (cc)

Warwick Castle

Built by a king, the seat of a kingmaker and vital stronghold in the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War, Warwick Castle has played an important role in British history. One of many castles of the world that is now popular with tourists.

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Built by a king, the seat of a kingmaker and vital stronghold in the Wars of the Roses and the English Civil War, Warwick Castle has played an important role in British history.

Saxon Origins
Before Warwick Castle’s existence, the site on which it sits was the location of a Saxon fort built by Alfred the Great’s daughter, Ethelfleda in 914AD. Its aim was as a defence from Danish invaders.

Construction and Change
It was in 1068 that the initial visage of Warwick Castle began to take shape, when its construction was ordered by King William I, better known as William the Conqueror. At this point, it was a wooden motte and bailey construct, eventually to be turned into a stone castle in the 13th century.

In fact, Warwick Castle would undergo centuries of change, some due to altering styles, but others for military reasons or due to necessity such as after a fire in 1871. For example, while its two vast eastern towers date to the 14th and 15th century renovations and the Great Hall to the 14th century much of the interior, such as the State Dining Room, was redone or created in the 18th century.

Vital Stronghold
A major part of what makes Warwick Castle truly exceptional is its story and those of the people and dynasties for which it formed a backdrop. For example, it was owned by the Earl of Warwick Richard Neville, a central character in the Wars of the Roses who history has named the Kingmaker.

It was also at Warwick Castle that Edward IV was held prisoner in 1469 and it was later held by future King Richard III, the Duke of Gloucester in the 1480s. In 1642, Warwick Castle also played its part in the English Civil War, withstanding a Royalist siege.

Warwick Castle Today

The seat of the Earls of Warwick until 1978, Warwick Castle then opened to the public and today offers a range of things to see and do. Visitors can tour the site and its grounds, learning about its history and enjoying its architecture. There are also often children’s activities. A full visit can last around 4-5 hours.

Photo by tbertor1 (cc)

Wawel Castle

Wawel Castle is an iconic fortified castle complex in Krakow and the former seat of the Polish monarchy.

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Wawel Castle in Krakow is one of the most important historic sites in Poland. Located on Wawel Hill, which has been inhabited since the Paleolithic Age, Wawel Castle served as the seat of the Polish monarchy from the eleventh century and is now a vast museum.

It was King Bolesław Chrobry who constructed the first building of Wawel Castle at this time. Known as the Palatium, the remains of this building can still be seen today in Wawel Castle’s northern wing. Wawel Castle continued to expand over the centuries, undergoing extensive development in the fourteenth century under King Ladislas, known as Ladislas the Short and his heir, Casimir the Great.

In the fifteenth century, Ladislas Jagiello added the Danish Tower to the castle. By the mid-fifteenth century, Wawel Castle was a large Gothic complex. However, in 1499, a fire broke out, destroying most of the castle and ancillary buildings.

Kings Alexander Jagiello and Sigismund I, known as Sigmund the Old, proceeded to rebuild Wawel Castle in the sixteenth century. This time the castle would be built in a Renaissance style and created by many of the finest artists and builders of the time. Much of this splendor can still be seen today. This is despite two further fires in 1595 and 1702. However, parts of Wawel Castle were changed by war and occupation by the Swedish and Prussian armies.

In 1796, under Austrian occupation, attempts were made to change Wawel Castle into a military complex, an endeavour which resulted in the destruction of two churches. A mass restoration project was undertaken after Wawel Castle was returned to the Poles in 1905 and today it is one of the country’s main museums.

Wawel Castle is split into six permanent spaces; the State Rooms, the Royal Palace Apartments, the Crown Treasury and Armoury, the Oriental Art Collection, the Lost Wawel and the Dragon’s Den. The main exhibition at Wawel Castle is in its magnificent State Rooms, where one can appreciate the Renaissance architecture as well as tapestries and other works of art.

The Royal Palace Apartments offer visitors a chance to see the rooms of former monarchs as well as further collections of art, the remains of the Danish Tower and some of the older, Gothic architecture. For archaeological finds and a history of Wawel Castle, go to the Lost Wawel exhibition. This shows the development of the castle and displays a number of artefacts from its excavation.

Visitors can also see Wawel Cathedral as well as several other sites on Wawel Hill. This historic part of Krakow is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Photo by aurélien (cc)

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world as well as being one of the biggest castles in the world. It is the official home of the British monarchy.

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Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world. Covering an area of approximately 13 acres, it contains a wide range of interesting features. These include the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s dolls house and the beautiful St George’s Chapel. It is also the burial place of ten monarchs, including Henry VIII and his beloved wife (the one who gave him a son), Jane Seymour.

The building of Windsor Castle began in the 1070s at the behest of William the Conqueror, with the intent that it was to guard the western approach to London. Since that time, the structure of Windsor Castle has been embellished by many of the monarchs of England and the UK. Notably, in the 1170s, Henry II (the first Plantagenet) rebuilt most of the castle in stone instead of wood, including the round tower and the upper ward, where most monarchs have had their private apartments since the 14th century.

In the mid-fourteenth century, Edward III, who had recently founded the Order of the Garter, built St George’s Hall at Windsor Castle for the use of the knights of this Order. A further addition, St George’s Chapel, was started by Edward IV, but was not finished until the time of Henry VIII. It is here that the ten British monarchs lie buried.

During the English Civil War, Windsor Castle served as a prison and it was to St George’s Chapel that the body of Charles I was brought for burial after his execution. Charles II and George IV (formerly the Prince Regent) made further contributions to the architecture of Windsor Castle in the 1650s and 1820s respectively.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert loved Windsor castle, and Prince Albert died there of typhoid in 1861. Queen Victoria built a mausoleum in the grounds of the castle, Frogmore, where Albert and later Victoria herself were buried.

In the Second World War, Windsor Castle became home to our present Queen, Elizabeth II, and her family, George VI, the (future) Queen Mother and Princess Margaret. It remains a favourite home of Queen Elizabeth, and she spends most of her weekends there. There was a huge fire at the castle in November 1992 which took 15 hours and one and half a million gallons of water to extinguish. It began in the Private Chapel and soon spread to affect approximately one fifth of the area of the castle. It took five years to restore the Castle, and it was finished by the end of 1997.

There are numerous exhibitions and tours at Windsor Castle. In fact, a typical visit can take up to three hours. This site features as one of our Top Ten UK Tourist Attractions.

Photo by By Ramblurr (cc)

Yedikule Zindanlari

Near the top of any list of world castles, Yedikule Zindanlari is an impressive Byzantine and medieval fort in Istanbul.

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Yedikule Zindanlari, also known as the Yedikule Fortress or the Castle of the Seven Towers, is an impressive Byzantine and medieval fort in Istanbul.

Originally part of the Theodosian Wall, built by Theodosius II in the fifth century, Yedikule Fortress was added to over the centuries, including by Mehmet the Conqueror during the Ottoman period. The Ottomans used Yedikule Zindanlari as a stronghold, a prison (zindanlari means dungeons) and a treasury. In 1622, Yedikule Zindanlari became the site of the execution of the seventeen year old Sultan Osman II.

Today, this imposing fort is open to the public, although it’s probably not ideal for children due to a lack of safety features. As implied in the name, visitors to Yedikule Zindanlari can see its dungeons as well as walking along its well-preserved walls and battlements.