For kids and grownups alike castles are fairy tales come to life. Great turmoil, local legends and impressive locations they evoke strong emotions and leave no one unaffected. On all our travels the castles are always a place we eagerly explore. From mere imagination evoking ruins in Scotland to imposing strongholds in the Czech Republic, these are the keeps that made our top ten.
Though mostly in ruins, the castle sits on the banks of the most famous lake in Scotland, Loch Ness. As if the legend of Nessie wasn’t enough to get ones imagination overflowing, this former royal castles, adds to the excitement with its rich history and a significant role it played in the Wars of Scottish Independence.
A little trivia for you: in 1977 from a place close to the castle Anthony Shields saw Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.
The castle is more famous for its image than its name. Its photos, depicting a fortress on an island at the meeting point of three great sea lochs, with some pensive Scottish scenery in the backdrop is a synonym for Scotland. Though we caught it in the true Scottissh weather it was still a sight to behold. It is rightfully one of the most visited and important attractions in the Scottish highlands.
If you’ve heard of the Blarney Castle then you must’ve heard of the Blarney Stone as well. The legend says that if you kiss the stone of eloquence, you will never be lost for words. But the whole property built by one of Ireland’s greatest chieftains, Cormac MacCarthy, is much more than just a stone, it is worth taking time to explore it. Walk through the surroundings like the Gardens and observe interesting, some what mystical rock formations.
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One of my favorite parts of exploring both parts of Ireland is stumbling upon ruins of once upon a time impressive fortresses. Dunluce Castle situated on a steep cliff was home to the MacDonnell Clan and was used till around 1639, when one day the kitchen fell into the sea. Archaeologists also found evidence of a village surrounding the castle, which was destroyed by fire in 1641.
Chillon Castle, Switzerland
Another castle set on an island. Due to its stunning location on the shores of lake Geneva with soaring Alps in the distance, this medieval fortress is one of the most visited historic monuments not just in Switzerland but in the whole of Europe. Built somewhere around the 12th century it played an important part in the region’s past. Besides being a temporary residence of the Dukes of Savoy, it also served as an arsenal and prison, with the most famous prisoner, Bonivard. Fans of Lord Byron might remember him from his poem “The Prisoner of Chillon”.
Residence of the unfortunate Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg who fell in love with this untamed region. On the outskirts of Trieste, with the incredible views of the sea he created an architecturally diverse and eclectic palace, including Gothic, Medieval and Renaissance styles. It is only too bad he didn’t have a chance to enjoy it long, since the castle was completed in 1860 and he left it for Mexico in 1864.
Rightfully considered as one of the most beautiful castles in Czech Republic. The building looks almost as if cut out of a fairytale and completing the image are the enchanting castle grounds. It was erected in the 13th century, as a Gothic castle. But during the history it was altered and expanded several times. Finally, in the 19th century the reconstruction shaped it into what can be seen today – a castle in the romantic style reflecting the Windsor Castle.
Just a few kilometers from Klagenfurt, on a 150 meters high limestone rock, this castle overlooks the whole region, affording visitors the most amazing views. You can either walk all the way to the top of the castle first mentioned in 860 or ride the elevator. The walk will give you a chance to pass 14 gates. The local legend says that since the gates all had various methods of guarding the path, the castle has never been conquered. Supposedly none of the attacks managed to get beyond the fourth gate.
The castle meant to be a sanctuary for one man, is with more than 1.4 million visitors each year, one of the most popular ones in Europe. Commissioned by the so called Fairy Tale King, Ludwig II of Bavaria, a man responsible for several impressive project, this romantic castle is set atop a hill above the village Hohenschwangau. His goal was to create a building to resemble the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles. If you haven’t visited it, but it still looks familiar, the reason might be that the castle served as an inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
While Slovenia has many great castles, I have chose the one in Ljubljana as our favorite one. Certainly because we have the pleasure of visiting it any time we want. It is a familiar figure overlooking the whole city and well Ljubljana wouldn’t be the same without it. For more info on the castle, click on the photo.
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