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Top 10 Romantic Castles

Beautiful and Picturesque Castles around the World

At the center of every fairy tale is a castle with towers and parapets. The original castles were rustic fortresses designed for war. Centuries later, castles became lavish and often fanciful expressions of power, wealth, and luxury. For castle enthusiasts everywhere, here's a roundup of some of the world's most romantic castles, including medieval castles and modern-day recreations of castle architecture

Dunguaire_Castle1. Dunguaire Castle
A 16th century tower house in Kinvara, County Galway, Ireland
Castle is one of the most often photographed castles in Ireland. The tower is 75 feet tall and has been restored.
History of Dunguaire Castle

Dunguarie Castle was built in 1520 by the O’Hynes clan on the picturesque shores of Galway Bay. The Castle takes it name from the nearby ancient fort of Guaire, King of Connaught who died is 662 AD. This restored 16th century tower house sits on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Galway Bay, 300 yards outside the picturesque village of Kinvara.
In the early 17th century the castle passed into the hands of the Martyn’s of Galway. Richard Martyn, Mayor of Galway lived here until 1642 and the Martyn’s of Tulira Castle, owned the castle until this century.
Restoration of Dunguaire Castle

In 1924 Dunguaire was bought and repaired by Oliver St. John Gogarty, the famous surgeon and literary figure. This was the time of the great Celtic revival in Irish literature exemplified by the works of writers such as Synge, Yeats Shaw and O'Casey. It became the venue for meetings of the literary revivalists such as W.B. Yeats, his patron Lady Gregory, George Bernard Shaw, Edward Martin and J.M. Synge. Yeats in particular believed strongly in the Celtic Cardic Tradition and set about reviving the ancient oral customs incorporating them into his plays and poetry. In 1954 the castle was acquired by Christobel Lady Amptill who completed the restoration started by Olive St Gogarty.

Subsequently the castle became the property of Shannon Development. Today the restored castle gives an insight into the lifestyle of the people who lived from 1520 to modern times.

Alhambra Palace2. Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain
Alhambra Palace, or Red Castle, in Granada, Spain was a finalist in the campaign to select the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Perched on a hilly terrace on the southern edge of Granada, >Spain, Alhambra is an ancient palace and fortress complex with stunning frescoes and interior details. The Alhambra Palace was first constructed in the mid-1300s and later renovated and modified in the 16th century by King Charles V. As a result, European features mingle with some of the finest examples of Moorish architecture in world.

The Alhambra Commentary
"On a hill overlooking Granada, the Alhambra—a sprawling palace-citadel that comprised royal residential quarters, court complexes flanked by official chambers, a bath, and a mosque - was begun in the thirteenth century by Ibn al-Ahmar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty, and was continued by his successors in the fourteenth century. Its most celebrated portions - a series of courtyards surrounded by rooms - present a varied repetoire of Moorish arched, columnar, and domical forms. The romantic imagination of centuries of visitors has been captivated by the special combination of the slender columnar arcades, fountains, and light-reflecting water basins found in those courtyards - the Lion Court in particular; this combination is understood from inscriptions to be a physical realization of descriptions of Paradise in Islamic poetry."

Art of the Alhambra

The decorations within the palaces typified the remains of Moorish dominion within Spain and ushered in the last great period of Andalusian art in Granada. With little influence from the Islamic mainland, artists endlessly reproduced the same forms and trends, creating a new style that developed over the course of the Nasrid Dynasty. The Nasrids used freely all the display of stylistical resorts that had been created and developed during eight centuries of Muslim rule in the Peninsula as the Calliphal horse-shoe arch, the Almohad sebka or the Almoravid palm, and unused combinations of them, beside novelties as the stilted arches and the capitals of muqarnas, among others. The isolation with the rest of the Islam, and the commercial and political relationship with the Christian kingdoms also influenced in the space concepts. Columns, muqarnas and stalactite-like ceiling decorations, appear in several chambers, and the interiors of numerous palaces are decorated with arabesques and calligraphy. The arabesques of the interior are ascribed, among other kings, to Yusef I, Mohammed V, and Ismail I.
Damage produced in Later Era After the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, the conquerors began to alter the Alhambra. The open work was filled up with whitewash, the painting and gilding effaced, and the furniture soiled[citation needed], torn, or removed. Charles V (1516–1556) rebuilt portions in the Renaissance style of the period and destroyed the greater part of the winter palace to make room for a Renaissance-style structure which has never been completed. Philip V (1700–1746) Italianised the rooms and completed his palace in the middle of what had been the Moorish building; he had partitions constructed which blocked up whole apartments.

Over subsequent centuries the Moorish art was further damaged, and, in 1812, some of the towers were destroyed by the French under Count Sebastiani, while the whole building narrowly escaped the same fate. Napoleon had tried to blow up the whole complex. Just before his plan was carried out, a soldier who secretly wanted the plan of Napoleon - his commander - to fail, defused the explosives and thus saved the Alhambra for posterity.[citation needed] In 1821, an earthquake caused further damage. The work of restoration undertaken in 1828 by the architect José Contreras was endowed in 1830 by Ferdinand VII; and after the death of Contreras in 1847, it was continued with fair success by his son Rafael (d. 1890) and his grandson. Designed to reflect the very beauty of Paradise itself, the Alhambra is made up of gardens, fountains, streams, a palace, and a mosque, all within an imposing fortress wall, flanked by 13 massive towers.

3 Biltmore Estate3 Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina took hundreds of workers five years to complete.
Morris Hunt, architect
Frederick Law Olmsted, landscape design
Asheville, North Carolina

Biltmore House is a French Renaissance inspired chateau near Asheville, North Carolina, built by George Washington Vanderbilt between 1888 and 1895. It is the largest privately owned home in the United States at 175,000 square feet (16,300 m2) and featuring 250 rooms. Still owned by one of Vanderbilt's descendants, it stands today as one of the most prominent remaining examples of the Gilded Age. In 2007, it was ranked eighth on the List of America's Favorite Architecture by the American Institute of Architects.

Constructed in the style of a French Renaissance chateau, the Biltmore has 255 rooms. At 175,000 square feet (16,300 square meters), the Biltmore is the largest privately owned home in the United States. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the gardens and grounds surrounding the mansion.
Vanderbilt's descendants still own Biltmore Estate, but it is now open for tours. Visitors can spend the night at an adjacent inn.

Neuschwanstein Castle4. Neuschwanstein Castle

This is King Ludwig's most famous castle. With its turrets and mock-medievalism, its interior styles ranging from Byzantine through Romanesque to Gothic its a real fairy-tale fantasy come true. It was built between 1869 and 1886. Only about a third of the building was actually completed.
The 15 rooms astonishing craftsmanship and richness of detail.Woodcarving in Ludwig's bedroom took 14 carpenters 4 1/2 years to complete. Wagner's operas feature everywhere in the form of murals. The best view of the castle and a 45m waterfall is from the nearby Mary's Bridge (Marienbruecke), which spans a deep gorge. On the path between the bridge and the castle is a wonderful view of Hohenschwangau and the Alpsee.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria ordered to build this castle to express his idea of being a king. The planning was first made by the royal master-builder Eduard Riedel and as result a building was designed that was determined as a monumental Romanesque castle. The scene-painter Christian Jank made major contributions to the plans. The work started in 1869 with the tower house.

The castle reveals its splendor to the visitors in the king's bedroom. The magnificence could be seen from the architecture to the frescos, paintings, carved works, mosaics and ornaments, furniture and decorations. Innumerable artists worked there: painters, sculptors, carvers, joiners, glass painters, art smiths, locksmiths, decorators, seamstresses and embroiderers. They created works from their own imagination with highest craft skill by using historical design. 
Johnstown Castle5. Johnstown Castle

The harmony between great Victorian revival castles and their surrounding ornamental grounds is rarely seen to such perfection as at Johnstown Castle.
The mature woodlands and lakes of this demesne provide the perfect setting for this turreted, battlemented and machicolated castle of gleaming silver-grey ashlar, built for the Grogan-Morgan family between 1810 and 1855 and incorporating part of a more ancient castle. The property was presented as a gift to the Irish Nation in 1945 and was later occupied by the Department of Agriculture who established an agricultural institute here and undertook to maintain but not to alter the ornamental grounds.
The Kilkenny architect Daniel Robertson, who was responsible for some of the building work on the castle, is generally believed to have laid out and planted much of the grounds in the 1830s. This would have included the digging of the five-acre lake opposite the castle with Gothic towers rising from its waters and a terrace lined with statues on the opposite bank. Many fine trees and shrubs grow in the vicinity of the castle, including two lovely examples of Cryptomeria japonica 'Elegans', several very fine redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), a huge Rhododendron arboreum and some of the oldest and largest specimens of Monterey cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) in Ireland. The variety of mixed planting around the lake, which includes noble firs, Japanese cedars, Atlantic blue cedars, copper beeches, golden Lawson cypresses and holm oaks, provides a very satisfying range of colour through much of the year. In the area to the west of the castle lake, visitors will pass through a woodland garden created around the ruined medieval castle of Rathlannon. Here the exotic foliage of a Magnolia wilsonii from China borders a large, elegant dogwood (Cornus kousa) from Japan and a Japanese snowball (Viburnum plicatum) with tiered spreading branches. Nearby lies a two-acre lake dug in the 1860s, while in the area to the north is a four-acre walled garden built between 1844 and 1851 and rehabilitated by the Department of Agriculture.
This is entered through the Devil's Gate, an arched gateway with gargoyles that leads onto a very long gravel path lined with flower borders and backed by clipped hedges. To the tight across mowed lawns a long hothouse shelters a colourful display of plants through out the year. Steps lead to the Upper Garden, now largely devoted to shrub propagation, and the old melon yard. Here no one will fail to admire a tender dwarf Japanese maple planted in the 1880s and a range of azaleas, magnolias and hibiscus.
Other attractions at Johnstown include a cemetery with very fine wrought-iron gates made in Italy, the site of the sunken Italian Garden close to the car park, and the lower lake, dug in the 1850s and covering some fourteen acres. All three lakes in the demesne provide a home for a wide range of waterfowl - mute swans, moorhens, coots, little grebes, herons and a recently introduced flock of mallards - all of which help to control the waterweeds. The attractive early nineteenth century farm buildings to the north of the lower lake house the Irish Agricultural Museum where a variety of old horticultural implements are on display.

Abbassid Castle
6. Abbassid Castle, Baghdad, Iraq

Abbassid Palace near North Gate, on the river. It is believed to have been built by the Caliph Al-Nasser li Dinallah (A.D. 1179 - 1225), in whose reigen other notable institutions were built. It has a central courtyard and two stories of rooms, with beautiful arches and muqarnases in brickwork. It has a remarkable ewan with brickwork ceiling and facade. When it was partly reconstructed in recent times another ewan was built to face it. Because of the palace's resemblance in plan and structure to Mustansiriyah School, som scholars believe it is actually the Sharabiya School, mentioned by the old Arab historians. Parts of the building were reconstructed by the State Establishment of Antiquities and Heritage, whereupon a collection of historical remains were exhibited in it representing certain stages of the country's Arab Islamic history.

7. Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is the palatial estate built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. It is located near San Simeon, California, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Donated by the Hearst Corporation to the state of California in 1957, it is now a State Historical Monument and a National Historic Landmark, open for public tours. Hearst formally named the estate "La Cuesta Encantada" ("The Enchanted Hill"), but he usually just called it "the ranch". The castle and grounds are also sometimes referred to as "San Simeon" without distinguishing between the Hearst property and the unincorporated town of the same name.

Hearst Hearst CastleCastle was built on a 40,000 acre (160 km²) ranch that William Randolph Hearst's father, George Hearst, originally purchased in 1865. The younger Hearst grew fond of this site over many childhood family camping trips. He inherited the ranch, which had grown to 250,000 acres (1,000 km²), from his mother, Phoebe Hearst, upon her death in 1919. Construction began that same year and continued through 1947, when he stopped living at the estate due to ill health. San Francisco architect Julia Morgan designed most of the buildings. Hearst was an inveterate tinkerer, and would tear down structures and rebuild them at a whim. For example, the opulent Neptune Pool was rebuilt three times before Hearst was satisfied. As a consequence of Hearst's persistent design changes, the estate was never completed in his lifetime.The estate is a pastiche of historic architectural styles that Hearst admired in his travels around Europe. For example, the main house is modeled after a 16th century Spanish cathedral, while the outdoor swimming pool features an ancient Roman temple front transported wholesale from Europe and reconstructed at the site. Hearst furnished the estate with truckloads of art, antiques, and even whole ceilings that he acquired in their entirety from Europe and Egypt.
Hearst Castle featured 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres (0.51 km2) of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo. Zebras and other exotic animals still roam the grounds. Morgan, an accomplished civil engineer, devised a gravity-based water delivery system from a nearby mountain. One highlight of the estate is the Neptune Pool, which features an expansive vista of the mountains, ocean and the main house.
Invitations to Hearst Castle were highly coveted during its heyday in the 1920s and '30s. The Hollywood and political elite often visited, usually flying into the estate's airfield or taking a private Hearst-owned train car from Los Angeles. Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, the Marx Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, James Stewart, Bob Hope, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill were among Hearst's A-list guests. While guests were expected to attend the formal dinners each evening, they were normally left to their own devices during the day while Hearst directed his business affairs. Since "the Ranch" had so many facilities, guests were rarely at a loss for things to do. The estate's theater usually screened films from Hearst's own movie studio, Cosmopolitan Productions. Hearst Castle became so famous that it was caricatured in the 1941 Orson Welles film Citizen Kane as Charles Foster Kane's "Xanadu". The estate is portrayed as a gloomy and ridiculously self-indulgent barony.
One condition of the Hearst Corporation's donation of the estate was that the Hearst family would be allowed to use it when they wished. Patty Hearst, a granddaughter of William Randolph, related that as a child, she hid behind statues in the Neptune Pool while tours passed by. Although the main estate is now a museum, the Hearst family continues to use an older Victorian house on the property as a retreat — the original house built by George Hearst in the late 19th century. The house is screened from tourist routes by a dense grove of eucalyptus, to provide maximum privacy for the guests. In 2001, Patty Hearst hosted a Travel Channel show on the estate, and Amanda Hearst modeled for a fashion photo shoot at the estate for a Hearst Corporation magazine, Town and Country, in 2006.

Boldt Castle8. Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands

A Gilded Age castle built for a tragic love
An aura of romance surrounds the five-acre Boldt Castle estate in the Thousand Islands, just offshore from Alexandria Bay, New York. Stone by stone, Boldt Castle was built for love, but it was a love that ended tragically.
Boldt Castle is not a real castle, of course, but a fairy tale version of one. It's a jigsaw puzzle of medieval and Victorian styles pieced together by the firm of W.D. Hewitt and G.W. Hewitt - the same architects who designed the fanciful Druim Moir castle in Philadelphia.
Like many homes from America's Gilded Age, the eleven-building complex is exuberant and outrageous, as though its creators had taken five hundred years of architectural history and spilled it across the craggy island.
Legend has it that multi-millionaire George Boldt ordered the castle built as a testimonial of his love for his wife, Louise. She was only fifteen when they married, and she had worked at his side during his climb to wealth and prominence. Boldt planned to present the castle to Louise on Valentine's Day, 1905.
Of all the grand summer homes in the Thousand Islands, Boldt Castle was to be the most magnificent. More than 300 artisans, masons, stonecutters, landscapers, and other craftsmen were hired. The Alster Tower would be a gigantic playhouse with a bolling alley, a billiard room, a library, bedrooms, and kitchen areas.
The Power House would hold a steam-powered generator for power and lights. The Yacht House would shelter the family houseboat and boats from visitors. But the crowning jewel would be a 120-room home modeled after a Rhineland castle and furnished with paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and tapestries from around the world. This grand design was never completed, however. Construction halted when a sudden tragedy struck the young family. One year before Boldt castle was to be completed, Louise, aged 41, died. Brokenhearted, George Boldt stopped the construction and never returned to the island. Boldt died in 1916 and the castle was purchased by Edward John Noble, who owned the Beechnut Fruit Company. Noble invested in the area and built the Thousand Island Club. Over the next 50 years, the E.J. Noble Foundation ran Boldt Castle as a tourist attraction.
Visitors were allowed to roam the island freely, and the castle became a victim of vandals who broke windows, covered walls with graffiti, and stripped buildings of ornamental details. Roofs leaked, timbers deteriorated, plaster peeled from walls. A fire destroyed all but the stone shell of the Powerhouse. There is, however, a happy ending. In 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the estate and began restorations. Windows and roofs were repaired. The Power House was rebuilt and the ballroom was converted into a museum. Couples came to be wed.
Every summer you will see the wedding couples sail down the Saint Lawrence River, glide beneath an arched water gate modeled after Roman monuments, and say their vows on a stone bridge leading to a fanciful assembly of peaked turrets.

Perhaps the couples are drawn by the romantic story surrounding the castle. Or, perhaps, they sense that the mismatched towers and quirky ornaments say something important about love.

Prague Castle9. Prague Castle

For a thousand years Prague Castle in the Hradcany royal complex has towered above the river Vltava. Industrious building on the castle began in the late 9th century when the royal Premyslid family took power over the united Czech territories. Saint George Basilica, Saint Vitus Cathedral, and a convent were erected within the fortress walls.
The Premyslid family died out in the 14th century, and the castle fell into disrepair. Under the leadership of Charles IV, the castle was transformed into a prestigious gothic palace.
The royal complex was again remodeled under reign of Vladislav Jagellonský. His throne room is praised for for its expansive vaults with intricate network of intertwined ribs. The Archbishop's Palace was rebuilt from its Renaissance foundations.
In the late 1500s, during the reign of Rudolf II, Italian architects built a new palace with two big halls. The "New World," a district with modest homes along winding alleyways, was also constructed within the Hradcany compound. The Castle became the seat of the president of the Republic in 1918, but large sections were closed to the public during the years of communist domination. Vast, secret underground shelters were supposedly built to connect the President's residence with the rest of the complex. The paranoia of the era gave rise to fears that counter-revolutionaries might use the passageways, so the exits were hastily blocked off with concrete slabs.

Leeds Castle10. Leeds Castle in England

Home to queens and kings of England as well as an American millionairess with movie-star friends, Leeds Castle has stood for centuries in Maidstone, Kent. Today Leeds Castle is open to the public, who are welcome to visit its restored rooms and 500 picture-perfect acres.
Set in a valley of the River Len in the heart of the English countryside, Leeds Castle is a thoroughly romantic location. The castle itself, surrounded by the lake, is a treasure trove of art, antiques, and history. Leeds Castle's history includes romance and intrigue, conflict and majesty. Although Edward I, Edward III, Richard II, and Henry V all held court at Leeds Castle, it has long been known as a ladies' castle.
Leeds aka the Ladies' Castle

From 1278 to 1552, it was customary for the castle to be part of a queen’s dowry and retained during widowhood. Queen Isabella, Anne of Bohemia, and Joan of Navarre all once resided in Leeds Castle. The Queen’s Bedroom and Bathroom at Leeds Castle are reconstructions of chambers used by Catherine de Valois [1401 – 1437], wife of Henry V, who stayed at Leeds Castle on many occasions. Brought by him from France as a young bride, she was widowed by the age of 22. When a secret affair with the commoner Owen Tudor was revealed in subsequent years, scandal ensued. Nonetheless, the two had four sons, one of whom fathered King Henry VII.
Henry VIII, perhaps the most famous of all royal owners, was responsible for much of Leeds Castle’s splendor. He spent lavishly to transform the castle from a rugged fortress into a royal palace. The Henry VIII Banqueting Hall bears testament to this reconstruction, and retains features dating from 1517.
Lady Baillie Buys Leeds Castle
The last owner of Leeds Castle, Lady Baillie was an American-born heiress to the Whitney fortune. She purchased the castle in 1926 for $873,000, beating out Randolph Hearst, the newspaper tycoon, as high bidder. Lady Baillie devoted the rest of her life to restoring the Norman castle and rolling parkland that surrounds it. And she brought Hollywood glamour to the surroundings. A society hostess, Lady Baillie's guests included Jimmy Stewart, Errol Flynn, and Charlie Chaplin. When Lady Baillie died in 1974, she left Leeds Castle to a charitable trust which ensures its enjoyment by the public and also promotes the castle for weddings and national and international seminars.
Exploring Leeds Castle
In addition to the castle itself, visitors to Leeds can also experience:
The Maze - Planted with 2,400 yew trees in 1988, the maze at Leeds Castle challenges visitors to reach the panoramic central viewing point. (No need to fear getting lost; staffers perched high in the center help to guide the direction-impaired through this topiary castle.)
The Aviary - More than 100 species of rare and colorful birds including macaws, cockatoos, and toucans are housed in the outdoor aviary.
The Dog Collar Museum - Certainly one of the world's most unusual collections, the Dog Collar Museum displays nearly 100 antique dog collars spanning five centuries. Collars dating from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries were designed to protect a dog during a time when wolves, bears, and wild boar roamed the forests of Europe and the vulnerable throats of hunting dogs needed protection with broad iron collars bristling with fearsome spikes. The Dog Collar Museum also houses Leeds Castle's small gift shop.
Culpeper Garden - This quintessential English garden features neat box hedges enclosing traditional colorful perennials and fragrant annuals such as roses, pinks, lupins, and poppies.
Restaurant - More than 8,000 bottles of wine are produced each year from the castle vineyard. Award-winning LeedsCastle wines are sold exclusively in the castle restaurant and shops.
Weddings at Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle offers couples four stunning and historic settings for a fairytale wedding: The Library, Dining Room, Gate House, and Terrace. In addition to a choice of venues for wedding receptions suitable for banquets as well as smaller gatherings, the castle has 37 rooms available for newlyweds and their guests to stay over. Leeds Castle wedding services include a butler, flower arrangements by the castle’s own florist, and wines and champagnes from the castle’s extensive Norman cellars.