From medieval exteriors and opulent, modern interiors, to gourmet tasting menus and underground wine cellars galore – the best castle stays lavish guests with the utmost luxury. Take time to eat, sleep and drink like royalty in these 11 castles befit for reigning kings and queens.
By Chelsea Stuart
Pousada de Óbidos, Óbidos, Portugal
Tucked away behind crenelated stone walls, this seaside castle has all the trappings of a medieval fortress, down to echo-y stone corridors, traditional battlements and lofty watch towers. One glance at the secluded gardens and surrounding whitewashed village and it should come as no surprise that it was once a dowry for Portuguese queens. Today, guests can choose from cottage rooms, classic rooms, or for the authentic castle experience-seekers: tower rooms. The nearby village is a natural extension of the castle grounds, with winding cobbled streets. Slip through flower-walled corridors, in and out of book shops hidden in old churches, and don’t forget to try Ginjinha – a fruity Portuguese liquor – served in a chocolate cup.
Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland
Just 50 miles from Glasgow and 100 from Edinburgh, the Culzean Castle is a cliffside marvel on the fertile Ayrshire Coast. President Eisenhower himself was gifted the top floor of this Scottish keep during WWII as a gesture of goodwill on behalf of the National Trust for Scotland. Today, guests can stay in his revamped apartment quarters, which have Georgian-style furnishings and views of the Isle of Arran. Other highlights? The neo-classical tower library, a grand armory and a dramatic oval staircase which gives us *major* Titanic vibes.
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Chateau de la Barre, Loire Valley, France
Chateau de la Barre feels more like the intimate and lavish home of your fanciest friends than a 100-acre hotel. Twice a week, the owners, the Count and Countess de Vanssay, roll out antique family silver, embroidered linens and porcelain to host a champagne cocktail, four-course French dinner, and coffee and brandy nightcap in the Grand Salon. Upstairs, your royal room awaits (think gilded chairs and mirrors, silk, damask wallpapers and bedspreads, and covetable Hermès toiletries). JS tip: Look to the Countess for local insight – she’s known to go out of her way to help guests organize their itineraries.
Castillo de Santa Catalina, Málaga, Spain
The neo-Moorish Castillo de Santa Catalina looks out on the bay of Málaga and rests just minutes from the Picasso Museum, La Caleta beach and the city’s historic center. Check into one of the eight spacious, luxe rooms, and you’ll feel like Spanish royalty; each has its own design scheme that riffs on classical Spanish and Arabian motifs, with marble floors, bold columns and sky-high arches. Just beyond the castle windows are endless views of the Med, hillside gardens and stone terraces perfect for sipping sangria in the sun (we suggest Tinto de verano).
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Peckforton Castle, Cheshire, UK
Built in the 18th century, the 48-bedroom Peckforton Castle functioned as a single (!) family home until 1939. After brief stints as a WWII hostel, private club, and popular movie and television location (Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who), it was finally converted to a hotel in 1988. Hang up the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign and hole up in your suite, complete with four-poster bed, clawfoot tub, stone fireplace and heated floors. Should the great outdoors beckon, the surrounding 4000-acres of forest have more than enough to keep you entertained, from air rifle shooting and “off road” Land Rover experiences, to team treasure hunts and giant games in the garden (think life-size Jenga, Dominos and Connect 4).
Castello di Petroia, Gubbio, Italy
The stylishly spare rooms at Castello di Petroia take a graceful backseat to views of the Umbrian countryside, with vaulted oak ceilings, enormous whirlpool bathtubs and warm palettes that maximize natural light and wide open space. For dinner, the hotel restaurant Accomandugi Hall serves standout local dishes – try the basil pesto and burrata dumplings, honey and anise glazed duck breast and Chianina beef. JS tip: Pre-dinner, join hotel farmer Cesare, and resident dog Stella, on a black truffle hunt – you’ll bring your finds back to the castle for dinner that night.
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Çırağan Palace Kempinski, Istanbul, Turkey
Turkish baths, saunas, whirlpools, yes please. Every luxe room here – yes, every single room – has a private balcony, and most overlook the Bosphorus Strait with continental Asia right on the other side. The plush beds come with six pillows, but should you want more, just consult your pillow menu. You can also take your pick when it comes to pools – indoor, outdoor, heated, whirlpool – there’s one to fit just about any mood. Come Sunday, cancel any and all plans that don’t include brunch. The hotel’s Laledan Restaurant, in the palm garden, hosts a legendary feastathon with made-to-order risotto, Turkish meats and cheeses, freshly squeezed juices and a mobile Bloody Mary bar.
Kronovalls Vinslott, Tomelilla, Sweden
With room names like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Negroamaro, the 15-room Kronovalls Vinslott Castle is all wine (though you won’t find too many vineyards in this part of the world). Curated weekend packages at the castle include afternoon tea complemented by Italian sweets, five-course dinners revolving around seasonal delicacies, and expertly paired wine tastings. Feel free to sip away, knowing that your night will end in a plush four-poster bed, cloaked in a romantic 18th-century canopy.
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Chateau Rhianfa, Anglesey, North Wales
The history of Chateau Rhianfa reads like a real life fairytale. Enter Prince Charming, Sir John Hay Williams, the Baronet of Bodelwyddan and his wife, Lady Sarah. John gifted Sarah the castle in 1849, and she single-handedly took charge of decorating the grand interiors, putting a Welsh twist on popular French styles and architecture. 167 years later, the chateau has 22 contemporary rooms that still manage to honor the estate’s original design. Brightly patterned yet delicate wallpapers adorn bedroom walls, plush tufted headboards grace king-size beds and porcelain freestanding bathtubs (with views of the Menai Strait) take center stage.
Dornröschenschloss Sababurg, Hofgeismar, Germany
This name just rolls off the tongue, right? Dating back to 1334, the Sababurg (for short) has the distinct honor of having inspired the Brothers Grimm Sleeping Beauty castle. It’s not as decadent as other castles – there are no TVs or Wi-Fi in the rooms – but that works in its favor. You can stroll the gardens and oak forest, kick back with a home cooked meal in the main dining room and tour the neighboring property – Tier Park Sababurg, the world’s oldest animal park.
Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo, Ireland
Are you ready for the pedicure to end all pedicures? After checking into the grand 82-room Ashford Castle, the leather pedicure chairs –nay, thrones – in the estate’s mosaic-walled spa await your arrival. Couple your paint job with an indulgent lime and ginger scrub, and then partake in afternoon tea at the Inglenook Room (we’re all about those finger sandwiches, homemade scones, and macaroons). With canopied antique beds dressed in rich Egyptian cotton linens, you may never want to leave the sheets, but don’t skip the hawk walk. Ashford just so happens to be the oldest Falconry School in Ireland and instructors will help you handle your own trained bird of prey.