Most were built fit for a king. Many acted as fortresses to keep the royal party safe from enemy attackers. Others were designed and constructed just for the fun of it. Some haven’t survived the ravages of time and are little more than ruins while other castles stand as tall as ever. But practically all of them are tourist attractions. Here’s the Holiday Lettings guide to 10 of the world’s most unique castles.
So like a fairytale that Walt Disney used it as a model for the castle in Sleeping Beauty, Schloss Neuschwanstein has all the happily-ever-after trimmings – turrets, towers and sweeping views of the Alps. Except this castle, built by Bavarian King Louis II (known as Mad King Ludwig) in 1869, came with all mod cons including hot water, heating and flushing toilets.
Visitable? Yes, it’s open daily. You buy tickets in the village so allow time to get up to the castle for the guided tours.
Potala Palace, also known as the Red Palace and White Palace, dominates the Lhasa skyline and is considered the finest monument in Tibet. The original structure dates from 637, although the current building was completed in 1645. It’s one of the few Tibetan places of worship left untouched by the Chinese Red Guards in the Tibetan uprising.
Visitable? Yes, it’s open every day but you’ll need to be quick because you only get an hour to look round.
Predjamski Castle, near Postojna in Slovenia, has to be one of the world’s most inaccessible and unusual castles. Built in the 16th century, the brilliant white construction perches on top of a lofty cliff and sits in a cave. Its most famous inhabitant was Erazem, Slovakia’s answer to Robin Hood, who met his death while on the toilet.
Visitable? Yes, all year round. If you go between May and September you can visit the cave below the castle as well.
You might recognise Calahorra Castle, situated east of Granada in southern Spain, as its magnificent structure makes a regular appearance in films. Built in the early 16th century on top of a Moorish fortress, the stone castle has four corner turrets topped with rounded domes and looks out to the snow-topped Sierra Nevada mountains.
Visitable? The castle is privately owned and the interior can only be seen on Wednesday mornings.
A monument to a lost love, Coral Castle near Miami is an extraordinary sculpture of 1,100 tons of coral rock created by Latvian Ed Leedskalnin in honour of the woman who stood him up at the altar. Ed used only hand tools and no one knows (or saw) how he managed to move and craft the giant rock.
Visitable? Yes, year round. To get yourself in mood before you go, listen to Billy Idol’s ‘Sweet Sixteen’, written as a tribute to Ed’s castle.
Mont St Michel sits on a tiny peninsula joined to the Normandy coast by a narrow causeway. Unusually for a European castle, this magnificent building wasn’t built as a fortress but as a monastery. It’s easy to see why – the building’s isolation, ocean position and views of the coast make it a great place for quiet contemplation.
Visitable? Yes, Mont St Michel is open all year round. Watch out for the fast rising tide if you cross on foot.
Castle Stalker, sitting in Loch Laich near Oban and completely surrounded by water, is perhaps the quintessential Scottish scene and one you’ll often see on postcards. Built in 1446, the four-storey tower changed names several times during clan battles. Barely accessible at low tide, boat is the easiest way to reach this Scottish fortress.
Visitable? Yes, but only on pre-booked guided tours available during 5 weeks a year.
Prague Castle is so big it almost dwarfs the Czech capital and dominates any visit to this fascinating city. It’s classed as the world’s largest ancient castle and takes up the best part of 70,000 square metres. Started in 880, its palaces, defences and religious buildings include a range of architectural styles.
Visitable? It’s open all year. Time your visit to see the Changing of the Guard at noon with fanfare and flag raising.
The pride of Delhi, the Red Fort ranks among India’s largest and finest fortresses, and dominates the city skyline. It was built in characteristic red sandstone in 1638 by the Mughal emperor as defence and a status symbol. The Fort includes a military area, the Pearl Mosque, royal baths and white marble Audience Chamber.
Visitable? It’s open every day except Monday. Don’t miss the evening light and sound show.
San Felipe Castle in Cartagena de Indias on the Caribbean coast was built by the Spanish in 1536 to defend the area from French and English pirates. Its strategic hilltop position together with a triangular-shaped fortress and a system of mines ready to blow the castle up in case of invasion made this fortress practically impregnable. Its appearance is deceptively small because the interior includes over 600 metres of tunnels.
Visitable? Open daily. As well as admiring the castle itself, take in the lovely ocean views from the top.