Thursday, July 25, 2024

13 castles and forts around the world where you can actually stay

These castles and forts are architectural masterpieces with some nifty extras, such as infinity swimming pools, state-of-the-art spas, and sumptuous beddings.

For those who envision heroic battles, ancient realms, abandoned fortresses, monarchs and royalties, there is still hope in the modern era. Across the globe, there exist numerous castles and forts that have been transformed into hotels, allowing you to fulfill your desire of living like a king or queen. Keep this list of exquisite castles and forts-cum-hotels on hand for your next getaway to a secluded tower in the sky.

Thornbury castle, Gloucestershire, England

Thornbury castle
Thornbury Castle/Relais & Châteaux

King Henry VIII did not take it lightly when Edward Stafford, the duke of Buckingham, wanted to display his wealth and ambition by calling Thornbury his home. Soon after Stafford was convicted of treason, the king acquired the castle to make his retreat. Built-in 1511 on a 15-acre sprawl in Gloucestershire, the Tudor castle is a Relais & Chateaux property with much remaining from the original structure. For some extra royal feeling, book yourself the suite of King Henry. Visit the Privy Garden and Labyrinth for two refined takes on classic Tudor gardens.

Fairmont Frontenac, Quebec, Canada

Fairmont Frontenac

When the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway opened the chateau in 1893 to lure the world’s crème de la crème to Quebec, he had wanted it to be an icon; well, it did! Frontenac Quebec is today the most photographed hotel in the world. From the Prohibition era, when Americans came here, to WW2, when Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt made strategies for Allied campaigns, the hotel has quite a few anecdotes attached. Now a Fairmont property, this Châteauesque hotel combines Gothic-Revival and Beaux-Arts architecture. This humongous 611-room property has a spa, several restaurants, and views of the St. Lawrence River and the city’s Old Town.

Manoir de Lebioles, Spa, Belgium

Manoir de Lebioles
Manoir de Lebioles

The fascination with the architecture of the Palace of Versailles in France transcends to Belgium in the Manoir de Lebioles. The beautiful 18th-century hotel, while not in scale but in architecture, certainly qualifies for a mini Versailles of the Ardennes. The castle is a fully authenticated masterpiece, blending classical renaissance elements such as columns, pilasters, pediments, arches, and stringcourses with modern state-of-the-art facilities. Try the hotel’s spa that fuses earth, water, air, and fire in its treatments for holistic wellness treatments.

Alila, Bishangarh, India

Alila Fort
Alila Fort Bishangarh/Hyatt

This 233-year-old pale ochre citadel rises from a single-cut granite rock from the oldest mountain range in the world – the Aravallis. It is one of those lofty places where you peer down on the little houses of the village and start to feel like a king. The larger bulbous are transformed into suites, Jarokha windows are the lounging corner, and the bastions became extravagant bathes within suites. The amenities are encountered amidst the windowless boulder-strewn corridors and terraced lookouts. You can retreat into the sleek darkness of the bar that was once used to address the army before the onset of war, or read a book in the war strategy room where coups have been quietly hatched. It is a quintessential Hyatt and Alila property.

Castello Di Vicarello, Maremma, Italy

Castello Di Vicarello
Castello Di Vicarello

This is for people who wish to be whisked away to rolling hills and olive groves without discounting modern-day luxuries. The 12th-century castle has ancient ways of Italian country architecture, such as exposed stone and brick walls, arched doors and timber roofs complemented by a tasteful mélange of antique and modern furniture and an oriental touch stemming from the owner’s Baccheschi Berti years spent in Indonesia. The wine you would drink is from grape to bottle, and the food you eat here is from the farm to the table. Learn to cook Tuscan recipes, or explore the Tuscan countryside on a private yacht.

Mihirgarh, Jodhpur, India

Mihirgarh, Jodhpur

The Fort of the Sun rises as a sand castle camouflages itself in the colour of the dunes. It wasn’t built to defend or make a statement of power but as a luxurious hideaway for tourists who love the ‘sweetness of doing nothing’. With private pool villas, an infinity pool, fountains, gardens and the freshest food, the luxury of Mihirgarh is criminally indulgent for a desert. But the art transcends and blends, be it mirror work fireplaces, cutwork drapes, embroidered tapestries, and hand-woven rugs, are all classic western Rajasthani. Thakur Siddharth Singh and his wife Rashmi ensure Mihirgarh is deeply rooted in this land. Within the fort’s stylish sprawl, in its courtyards, alcoves, terraces or the poolside, you will find your corners to doze off. Here, experience the opium ceremony in the village, learn pottery-making, or take a day trip to Jodhpur.

Burghotel auf Schönburg, Oberwesel, Germany

Burghotel auf Schonburg
Burghotel auf Schönburg

Every so often in Germany, you are bound to encounter a conical roof, a keep, or a spire soaring towards the sky. Schonburg Castle is one of them, but this one comes with a lot of tumultuous history that begins from 911AD  and some views to hold your breath for! Now Schonburg is seeing better days as a restored luxury hotel with a flavour of Romanesque and Gothic architecture in extravagant droves. Stroll through the town’s charming streets, visit the local museums, or take a river cruise on the Rhine.

Oheka Castle, New York, USA

Oheka Castle
Oheka Castle

The real-life “The Great Gatsby” mansion! Constructed with $11 million a century ago, it is still the second-largest private residence ever built in America. It hosted some of the most opulent parties for years; however, the passing decades saw the more unglamorous side of Oheka when it transformed into a retreat for New York sanitation workers, a government training school, and a military school before being abandoned to suffer the ravages of vandalism and fire. The castle is now on the Historic Hotels of America list and a popular shooting location, including the recent series Succession.

Parador de Granada, Granada, Spain

Parador de Granada
Parador de Granada

Parador is a network of historic Spanish properties the government manages due to their cultural value. The Parador de Granada is one of the most impressive properties in the network. You will have the Alhambra right next door at this white stucco structure surrounded by lush gardens. The building has evolved from a 14th-century fortress, a Moorish mansion, a Franciscan convent and now a luxury hotel. The Parador still has preserved Arab baths with star-shaped skylights, vaulted ceilings, and arches. The gardens of Parador are also a testament to ancient hydraulic engineering that uses snowmelt from nearby mountains for irrigation.

Glenapp Castle, Ayrshire Scotland

Glenapp Castle
Glenapp Castle

Scotland was the land of castle residences. High up in the eaves, the nooks and crannies of the 19th-century baronial Glenapp castle was once a residence of highly decorated earls. But this one comes with a jagged coast, scopic moors, and a quirky room; top it up with 15 hectares of magical parkland, including an Italian garden by Gertrude Jekyll, add rich fabrics and meddle some antiques; the Glenapp is as romantic and luxurious. Make sure to experience the Hebridean Sea Safari onboard the Glenapp Castle rib boat, a unique way to explore remote islands, coastal castles, and distant inns.

Thornewood castle, Washington, USA

Thornewood Castle
Thornewood Castle

This was initially a 400-year-old Elizabethan manor in England. In 1908 it was sold to an American who had the daunting task of dismantling, shipping and assembling it block by block from England on the west coast of the USA. Renowned architect Kirtland Kelsey Cutter oversaw the construction of this English Tudor/Gothic mansion. The property is dotted with 15th-17th century hand-painted glass artwork and a unique Kingsdale Hounds statuary collection. Thornewood Castle has also been a popular location for films and photo shoots. The castle’s four-acre estate boasts a circular drive and sunken gardens.

Abbay de la Bussiere, Burgundy, France

Abbay de la Bussiere
Abbay de la Bussiere

It has transformed from a plain-Jane Cistercian monastery to a luxurious hotel. The English chef-turned-hotelier who purchased the 12th-century Abbey had the arduous task of converting the minimalist former monk’s chambers into luxurious accommodations, complete with jacuzzis, high-tech fittings, and even a big teddy bear perched on a four-poster bed. The other property suites were cleverly carved into the beams and arches of the old hermitage building, maintaining stained glass, ancient frescoes, and stone vaults.

Thorngrove Manor Hotel, Adelaide, Australia

Thorngrove Manor Hotel
Thorngrove Manor Hotel

This one is not an ancient castle but an attempt to recreate the architectural history of Great Britain in 1984 in the posh neighbourhood of Adelaide, South Australia. Thorngrove is a testament to the creativity of architects and designers creating old-style buildings in the modern day by metamorphosing the baroque and gothic style practices in a house with a strong sense and character of the early 19th century. It is an archetypal European castle with a castellated roof, turreted chateaux, towered follies, spiral staircases, mullioned dormer windows, and dragon beams minus the heirloom forward and pomposity plus exclusivity and intimacy. Adelaide is famous for its year-round festivals and sporting events.


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