Incredible Castles

With Game of Thrones coming to an end, most of us are about to be in for a serious lack of castles in our lives. Luckily, the real world is still chock full of incredible castles, fortresses, palaces, follies, and keeps for all of us to explore. Now lets talk about all of the greatest castles you’ve ever discovered.

There are enough incredible castles in the Atlas Obscura database to make a thousand royal families happy for a thousand years. But among them all, one of my favorites has always been Portugal’s Pena National Palace. This castle is special because it not only employs such a mish-mash of styles that it looks like particularly lovely pile of castle bits, but it also eschews the stone gray of many other historic castles, for bright yellows and reds. It’s a gorgeous and strange structure that looks like it could have come straight from a vibrant fairy tale.

(Image: Michaela Loheit/CC BY-ND 2.0)

In the comments below, tell us about the greatest castle you’ve ever seen or heard of, where it’s located, and why you find it so incredible. If you have any great original pictures of your favorite stronghold, let’s see those too! Your submission might be included in an upcoming round-up article on Atlas Obscura! Valar morghulis.

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I think for me it would definitely have to be a castle in Spain, the Alcazar of Segovia. A couple of years ago I lived in Spain for a couple of months and was able to make a day trip by rail to Segovia and fell in love with the city. I have no idea if this is true , but its said that the Alcazar actually inspired Walt Disney to include similar looking castles in his animation films and eventually the ones at the various Disneyland parks.

The Alcazar is such a strange looking castle , it looks fragile and ornate , especially if you’re eyes are more familiar with the Northern European Norman and Medieval castles which are huge bulky monolithic constructions built with defense foremost in mind. But in the case of the Alcazar looks are deceptive , because the design is based on a very successful concept of Moorish defensive architecture and it would have been a very difficult place to try to beseige during a battle.

There are lots of interesting rooms which the monarchs of Castille lived in and that are now a converted museum but for me the highlight was climbing the winding staircase up to the top of the tower where there is an incredible view of the surrounding city and landscape.

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My favorite castle is Stirling Castle, in Scotland. Historic Scotland has their headquarters there, as they believe is the best castle in Scotland. They have just completed a renovation of the royal suites, which involved hand weaving new tapestries, which took something like 20 person years to accomplish. I used to walk by it on my way to work, and the castle was a friendly companion, marking my way.

However, there are a handful of castles in my photo collection, whose pictures I could be persuaded to share. Please have a look. Collection: Castles

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Lived on Skye for a while. Lots of little castles for local lords. Most were built on the cliff edges, jutting out into sea. Two or three stories, single room castles with a ditch dug in front and wooden drawbridge. There was one at bottom of garden, almost totally ruined but rich with primroses, bluebells and heather. The best preserved was at Tarskavig. Dunscaith castle - nothing fancy but very envocative of how hard and vulnerable life was then. https://images.app.goo.gl/DaJQohXnUzpwSZ5w6

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I’m a big fan of the fortress of Nimrod in Israel. Nimrod Fortress.
Also in Israel, and even weirder–as much UFO as castle, is Herodium. https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/herodium

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Not to split hairs but there can be a big difference between castles and palaces. Since one is designed to be a military structure and the other where nobility /royalty lives. A lot of times these are the same buildings but a castle is first and foremost a military structure.

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You make a fair point, @sontaron. I was just trying to cast as wide a net as possible to get people thinking about structures they would define as “castles.”

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As I live in Edinburgh, I have to give a shout out to Craigmillar Castle, the bastard child of Scottish castles. It would seem a vast amount of ink & blood has been spilt over fawning over the “Capital’s Jewel”. Poor wee Craigmillar barely gets a mention & nary a footnote when it comes to recognising its place in the country’s history. Hopefully, the filming of “Mary, Queen of Scots” & “the Outlaw King” on its premises will change that. If you want to avoid the hordes of tourists & throngs of gift shops selling tatt, then head oot 20 minutes from the city centre to amble freely to this fine structure with majestic views & hidden places to explore!

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Perfectly said.

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Stirling Castle is definitely up there for me, as well! Though I have to say I love Dunrobin Castle too (also Scotland).

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Some of my favorites castles are:
Quinta da Regaleira, also in Sintra, Portugal
Chambord, in the Loire region, France
Linlithgow in Scotland
But I could not comment here and not mention a castle in my own country, so I choose Palácio de Cristal, in Petrópolis, Brazil to represent us!

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Ok, maybe not the greatest, but certainly unique and unexpected with a quirky story is the Loveland Castle. Also know as Chateau Laroche, it is located in the US in Loveland, Ohio (a burb of Cincinnati)

http://www.lovelandcastle.com/

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Not sure this counts as a “castle” exactly, but the amazing Sans Souci Palace in northern Haiti, with its spectacular setting and unparalleled and important history, is truly a sight to behold.

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One castle Id add is from WW2 movie Where Eagles Dare, set in Austria.
Classic, on DVD.

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The Templar castle in Tomar, Portugal in incredible.

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I think it would definitely count as a castle , and I totally agree , lots of very gruesome history in that place , have you read “In the Kingdom of this World” by Alejo Carpentier by any chance ? The castle features heavily in parts of that book

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My impression is that you mean intact regal structures, is there room for ruins? I’ve explored dozens of ruins over the years, of all of those my hands down favorite has been Carrigogunnell in Ireland. Set out in a farmers field it has seen no modern renovation or attempts at commercialization but is still rich with spooky hallways, rooms and stairways. One tower has a single remaining step from its original spiral staircase 10 or 12 feet up. Well beyond that the stairs resume, in between there are openings to chambers that can no longer be accessed. With this the ruin both satisfies and teases the imagination. My wife and I spent 2 hours exploring its cavernous interior, which over the centuries nature has eroded into something between a man made structure and a cave.

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This is beautiful, and totally qualifies!

Arundel Castle
Photo by druss101 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0 at Creative Commons and Flickr.

Arundel castle can be found on the South coast of England in between Brighton and the Isle of Wight. When I was there, I felt the knights could come galloping around the corner any minute. I felt I was stepping back in time. Magical!

And, to not leave my own country out, I also like De Haar at Haarzuylens in the province of Utrecht in the center of the Netherlands:


Photo by by LearningTour is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 at Creative Commons and Flickr.

The image is a bit dark, but the castle is still lived in and it seems to be right out of a fairy tale. Images of princesses and knights easily come to mind walking around the building and visiting inside.

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No one has mentioned the most famous castle in the world, Neuschwanstein Castle, in Bavaria, Germany. It was used as the model for the first Disney Castle in California.

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