Be the King (or Queen) of your own castle
Conjuring up whimsical images of splendidly adorned chambers, lavish candlelit dining and verdant countryside as far as the eye can see, what better way to satisfy your wish for a fairy tale holiday than a stay in one of Europe’s most breathtaking castles?
Around the world, grand estates, historic manors and defensive citadels have been transformed into some of the planet’s most lavish accommodation venues. Whether you’re basking in the heart of sun-drenched Tuscany, surrounded by soaring Spanish peaks, lounging at a lakeside getaway in Austria or suitably settled within the hushed confines of a quaint English garden, prepare for a holiday of the most enchanting kind.
Amberley Castle, England
Set on almost five hectares and surrounded by stunning formal gardens, this 900-year-old castle began life as a manor house for the Bishop of Chichester. With an original twin-tower gatehouse, it is completly enclosed by an 18-metre-high wall, and the entire structure is sealed off every night by the lowering of a rare working portcullis.
Visitors are spoilt with nineteen elegant suites, complete with a Jacuzzi for relaxing soaks, and the castle is adorned throughout with antique furniture, historically preserved artworks and the odd suit of armour.
Facilities include tennis courts, an 18-hole putting green and a magical tree house offering unparalleled lake views, and by night you can enjoy fine modern dining in a domed room dotted with throne-like steel-studded chairs.
Dalhousie Castle, Scotland
Despite a turbulent history dating back to the 13th century, the Ramsay family of Dalhousie has retained possession of Scotland’s oldest inhabited castle longer than any family in the country.
Set on the picturesque banks of the River Esk, its thirty-five historically themed rooms are outfitted in period furnishings and Scottish fabrics, and barrel-vaulted ceilings and exposed stone walls give this location a distinctly old-world ambiance.
Those looking for relaxation can lounge around the hydro-spa, or if you’re up for more energetic pursuits, tackle one of three view-filled walking tracks.
Adding to the castle’s medieval flair, the candle-filled basement level is the venue for fine dining, where you can enjoy iconic Scottish dishes prepared in a classic French cooking style.
Dromoland Castle, Ireland
Dating back to the 16th century, this castle was formally the royal home of the O’Brien clan, who were direct descendants of Irish King, Brian Boru. Renowned as one of the country’s most beautiful castles, it is surrounded by rolling green hills and edged by the sparkling River Rhine.
Rooms are luxuriously furnished in specially commissioned fabrics and marbled bathrooms, and many overlook the trout-filled lake and lush country gardens.
Guests can enjoy archery, fishing, golf or horse riding, spend some time at the award-winning falconry school, or simply bliss-out with a session in the rejuvenating health spa.
Love fine cuisine? Then you’ll be in history-soaked heaven here, with a range of five-star dining options including gastronomic, à la carte and daily table d’hôte menus on offer.
Óbidos Pousada, Portugal
One of the best preserved walled cities in the world, the construction of Óbidos’ fortifications began way back in 718AD, when the Moors controlled the entire Peninsula.
Constructed in 1951, the Pousada Hotel sits within the town’s gorgeously antiquitous centre and contains seventeen spacious royalty-themed rooms which feature four-poster canopied beds, whitewashed walls and Gothic touches like arrow-slit windows that offer views of the surrounding windmills and vineyards.
Those seeking a bit of majestic leisure can enjoy some time rowing on the lake or take a carriage tour of the ‘lost in time’ cobblestone streets, and at the day’s end dine on earthy Portuguese cuisine beneath the soaring wooden ceilings of the on-site restaurant.
Castelletto di Montebenichi, Italy
Set within the heart of Tuscany, this glorious estate dates back to the 1100’s and is perched upon a hilltop surrounded by woods, vineyards and olive groves. The castle itself faces a miniature plaza enclosed by a circle of homes built into the old tower walls, and its ceilings, furnishings and Renaissance artworks have been carefully restored to reflect the rich patina of age.
Housing only nine rooms furnished with rich fabrics and fine antiques, the castle’s amenities include a swimming pool, indoor Jacuzzi, decadent library and a charming, sun-dappled breakfast room.
Adventurers can enjoy horse riding, hiking or a stimulating game of polo, venture further to the hot springs of Rapolano Terme, or tour the heavenly Castello di Barone Ricasoli, home to one of the world’s best Chianti producers.
Parador de Oropesa, Spain
One of Spain’s oldest paradores, this 14th-century castle is located in the sublime Castillian countryside at the foothills of the towering Sierra de Gredos Mountains.
Forty-eight rooms are scattered with Peruvian folk art and hand-painted canopy beds, and its swimming pool and loggia-style terrace command amazing views of the whitewashed medieval village of Oropesa and endless expanses of vineyards and olive groves.
Guests can relax on the chic outdoor lounges or enjoy a glass of Rioja on the cozy terrace, before feasting on a range of seasonal regional dishes in the columned courtyard of the on-site restaurant.
Hotel de la Cite, France
Experiencing the fairytale city of Carcassonne is best achieved with a stay at Hotel de la Cite, which was built into the imposing fortifications of the city’s medieval wall in 1909.
Outfitted with stained glass, beamed ceilings and mosaic floors, this is the only hotel set inside the ramparts of this UNESCO World Heritage site. Rooms feature elegant furnishings and marbled bathrooms and offer spectacular views of Saint-Michel cathedral and the narrow cobblestoned lanes of the medieval citadel.
Listen to the dulcet tones of the piano in the library bar and enjoy an aperitif on the terrace as the sun sets over the postcard-perfect countryside, before you dine on an inventive, Michelin-starred menu in the venue’s Neo-Gothic-style dining room.
Hotel Schloss Fuschl Resort and Spa, Austria
Originally built as a hunting lodge, Schloss Fuschl has played host to film stars, royalty and archbishops since the early 1450’s. A lakeside getaway surrounded by the natural splendor of Austria’s Salzburg region, its 2006 renovation made way for a range of contemporary amenities, however it still retains its former glory, including housing original paintings from the 17
Offering a range of suites and lakeside cottages, interiors are warmly appointed with fluted woods and lush silks, and those after a bucket-list castle experience should consider a stay in the Mozart Suite which comes complete with an oval bathtub, grand piano and private elevator.
Guests can enjoy some of Austria’s finest wine by the banks of lovely Lake Fuschl, sample epicurean dining in the gourmet restaurant, or get active with a hike, ski or round of golf surrounded by the area’s invigorating mountain air.
You don’t need to be of royal blood to enjoy a stay in a castle. Orbit World Travel can carefully fine-tune your regal holiday needs with advice on a variety of accommodation and captivating tours to suit the most refined of tastes.
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