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Top 10 Romantic Castles

Beautifuland Picturesque Castles around the World

At thecenter of every fairy tale is a castle with towers and parapets. The originalcastles were rustic fortresses designed for war. Centuries later, castlesbecame lavish and often fanciful expressions of power, wealth, and luxury. Forcastle enthusiasts everywhere, here's a roundup of some of the world's mostromantic castles, including medieval castles and modern-day recreations ofcastle architecture

Dunguaire_Castle1. Dunguaire Castle
A 16thcentury tower house in Kinvara, County Galway,Ireland
Castle is one of the mostoften photographed castles in Ireland.The tower is 75 feettall and has been restored.
History of Dunguaire Castle

Dunguarie Castle was built in 1520 bythe O’Hynes clan on the picturesque shores of Galway Bay.The Castle takes it name from the nearby ancient fort of Guaire, King ofConnaught who died is 662 AD. Thisrestored 16th century tower house sits on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Galway Bay, 300 yards outside thepicturesque villageof Kinvara.
In theearly 17th century the castle passed into the hands of the Martyn’s of Galway. Richard Martyn, Mayor of Galway lived here until1642 and the Martyn’s of TuliraCastle, owned the castleuntil this century.
Restorationof Dunguaire Castle

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

Subsequentlythe castle became the property of Shannon Development. Today the restoredcastle gives an insight into the lifestyle of the people who lived from 1520 tomodern times.

Alhambra Palace2. AlhambraPalace in Granada, Spain
Alhambra Palace, or Red Castle,in Granada, Spain was a finalist in thecampaign to select the New 7 Wonders of the World.
Perched ona hilly terrace on the southern edge of Granada,>Spain, Alhambra is an ancient palace and fortresscomplex with stunning frescoes and interior details. The Alhambra Palacewas first constructed in the mid-1300s and later renovated and modified in the16th century by King Charles V. As a result, European features mingle with someof the finest examples of Moorish architecture in world.

The Alhambra Commentary
"On ahill overlooking Granada, the Alhambra—a sprawling palace-citadel thatcomprised royal residential quarters, court complexes flanked by officialchambers, a bath, and a mosque - was begun in the thirteenth century by Ibnal-Ahmar, founder of the Nasrid dynasty, and was continued by his successors inthe fourteenth century. Its most celebrated portions - a series of courtyardssurrounded by rooms - present a varied repetoire of Moorish arched, columnar, anddomical forms. The romantic imagination of centuries of visitors has beencaptivated by the special combination of the slender columnar arcades,fountains, and light-reflecting water basins found in those courtyards - the LionCourt in particular; this combination is understood from inscriptions to be aphysical realization of descriptions of Paradise in Islamic poetry."

Art of the Alhambra

Thedecorations within the palaces typified the remains of Moorish dominion within Spain and ushered in the last great period ofAndalusian art in Granada.With little influence from the Islamic mainland, artistsendlessly reproduced the same forms and trends, creating a new style thatdeveloped over the course of the Nasrid Dynasty. The Nasrids used freely allthe display of stylistical resorts that had been created and developed duringeight centuries of Muslim rule in the Peninsula as the Calliphal horse-shoearch, the Almohad sebka or the Almoravid palm, and unused combinations of them,beside novelties as the stilted arches and the capitals of muqarnas, amongothers. The isolation with the rest of the Islam, and the commercial andpolitical relationship with the Christian kingdoms also influenced in the spaceconcepts. Columns, muqarnas and stalactite-like ceiling decorations, appear inseveral chambers, and the interiors of numerous palaces are decorated witharabesques and calligraphy. The arabesques of the interior are ascribed, among otherkings, to Yusef I, Mohammed V, and Ismail I.
Damageproduced in Later Era After the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, theconquerors 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 anddestroyed the greater part of the winter palace to make room for aRenaissance-style structure which has never been completed. Philip V(1700–1746) Italianised the rooms and completed his palace in the middle ofwhat had been the Moorish building; he had partitions constructed which blockedup whole apartments.

Oversubsequent centuries the Moorish art was further damaged, and, in 1812, some ofthe towers were destroyed by the French under Count Sebastiani, while the wholebuilding narrowly escaped the same fate. Napoleon had tried to blow up thewhole complex. Just before his plan was carried out, a soldier who secretly wantedthe plan of Napoleon - his commander - to fail, defused the explosives and thussaved the Alhambrafor posterity.[citation needed] In 1821, an earthquake caused further damage.The work of restoration undertaken in 1828 by the architect José Contreras wasendowed in 1830 by Ferdinand VII; and after the death of Contreras in 1847, itwas 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, flankedby 13 massive towers.

3 Biltmore Estate3 Biltmore Estate

BiltmoreEstate in Asheville, North Carolina took hundreds of workers fiveyears to complete.
Morris Hunt, architect
FrederickLaw Olmsted, landscape design
Asheville, North Carolina

BiltmoreHouse is a French Renaissance inspired chateau near Asheville, North Carolina,built by George Washington Vanderbilt between 1888 and 1895. It is the largestprivately owned home in the UnitedStates at 175,000 square feet(16,300 m2)and featuring 250 rooms. Still owned by one of Vanderbilt's descendants, itstands 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 bythe American Institute of Architects.

Constructedin the style of a French Renaissance chateau, the Biltmore has 255 rooms. At 175,000 square feet(16,300 squaremeters), the Biltmore is the largest privately ownedhome in the United States.Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted designed the gardens and groundssurrounding the mansion.
Vanderbilt'sdescendants still own Biltmore Estate, but it is now open for tours. Visitorscan spend the night at an adjacent inn.

Neuschwanstein Castle4. Neuschwanstein Castle

This isKing Ludwig's most famous castle. With its turrets and mock-medievalism, itsinterior styles ranging from Byzantine through Romanesque to Gothic its a realfairy-tale fantasy come true. It was built between 1869 and 1886. Only about athird of the building was actually completed.
The 15 rooms astonishing craftsmanship andrichness of detail.Woodcarving in Ludwig's bedroom took 14 carpenters 4 1/2years 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'sBridge (Marienbruecke), which spans a deep gorge. On the path between thebridge and the castle is a wonderful view of Hohenschwangau and the Alpsee.
King Ludwig II of Bavaria ordered to build this castle toexpress his idea of being a king. The planning was first made by the royalmaster-builder Eduard Riedel and as result a building was designed that wasdetermined as a monumental Romanesque castle. The scene-painter Christian Jankmade major contributions to the plans. The work started in 1869 with the towerhouse.

The castle reveals its splendor to thevisitors in the king's bedroom. The magnificence could be seen from thearchitecture 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 ownimagination with highest craft skill by using historical design. 
Johnstown Castle5. Johnstown Castle

The harmonybetween great Victorian revival castles and their surrounding ornamentalgrounds is rarely seen to such perfection as at Johnstown Castle.
The maturewoodlands and lakes of this demesne provide the perfect setting for thisturreted, battlemented and machicolated castle of gleaming silver-grey ashlar,built for the Grogan-Morgan family between 1810 and 1855 and incorporating partof a more ancient castle. Theproperty was presented as a gift to the IrishNation in1945 and was later occupied by the Department of Agriculture who established anagricultural institute here and undertook to maintain but not to alter theornamental grounds.
The Kilkenny architect DanielRobertson, who was responsible for some of the building work on the castle, isgenerally believed to have laid out and planted much of the grounds in the1830s. This would have included the digging of the five-acre lake opposite thecastle with Gothic towers rising from its waters and a terrace lined withstatues on the opposite bank. Many fine trees and shrubs grow in the vicinityof the castle,includingtwo lovely examples of Cryptomeriajaponica'Elegans', several very fine redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), a hugeRhododendron 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 cypressesand holm oaks, provides a very satisfying range of colour through much of theyear. In the area to the west of the castle lake, visitors will pass through awoodland garden created around the ruined medieval castle of Rathlannon.Here theexotic foliage of a Magnolia wilsonii from Chinaborders a large, elegant dogwood (Cornus kousa) from Japan and a Japanese snowball(Viburnum plicatum) with tieredspreading branches. Nearby lies atwo-acre lake dug in the 1860s, while in the area to the north is a four-acrewalled garden built between 1844 and 1851 and rehabilitated by the Departmentof Agriculture.
This isentered through the Devil's Gate, an archedgatewaywith gargoyles that leads onto a very long gravel path lined with flowerborders and backed by clipped hedges. To the tight across mowed lawns a longhothouse shelters a colourful display of plants through out the year. Stepslead to the UpperGarden, now largelydevoted to shrub propagation, and the old melon yard. Here no one will fail toadmire a tender dwarf Japanese maple planted in the 1880s and a range ofazaleas, magnolias and hibiscus.
Otherattractions at Johnstown include a cemetery withvery fine wrought-iron gates made in Italy,the site of the sunken ItalianGarden close to the carpark, 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 introducedflock of mallards - all of which help to control the waterweeds. The attractiveearly nineteenth century farm buildings to the north of the lowerlake housethe Irish Agricultural Museumwhere a variety of old horticultural implements are on display.

Abbassid Castle
6. Abbassid Castle, Baghdad, Iraq

Abbassid Palace near NorthGate, on the river. It isbelieved 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 centralcourtyard and two stories of rooms, with beautiful arches and muqarnases inbrickwork. It has a remarkable ewan with brickwork ceiling and facade.When it waspartly reconstructed in recent times another ewan was built to face it. Becauseof the palace's resemblance in plan and structure to MustansiriyahSchool, som scholars believe it isactually the SharabiyaSchool, mentioned by theold Arab historians. Parts of the building were reconstructed by the StateEstablishment of Antiquities and Heritage, whereupon a collection of historicalremains were exhibited in it representing certain stages of the country's ArabIslamic history.

7. Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is the palatial estate built bynewspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. It is located near SanSimeon, California, on a hilloverlooking the Pacific Ocean, halfway between Los Angelesand San Francisco.Donated by the Hearst Corporation to the state of Californiain 1957, it is now a StateHistorical Monumentand a National Historic Landmark, open for public tours. Hearst formally namedthe estate "LaCuesta Encantada" ("The Enchanted Hill"), buthe usually just called it "the ranch". The castle and grounds arealso sometimes referred to as "San Simeon" without distinguishingbetween 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, originallypurchased in 1865. The younger Hearst grew fond of this site over manychildhood family camping trips. He inherited the ranch, which had grown to 250,000 acres (1,000km²), from his mother, Phoebe Hearst, upon her death in 1919. Constructionbegan that same year and continued through 1947, when he stopped living at theestate due to ill health. SanFrancisco architect Julia Morgan designed most of thebuildings. Hearst was an inveterate tinkerer, and would tear down structuresand rebuild them at a whim. For example, the opulent Neptune Pool was rebuiltthree times before Hearst was satisfied. As a consequence of Hearst'spersistent design changes, the estate was never completed in his lifetime.The estateis a pastiche of historic architectural styles that Hearst admired in histravels around Europe. For example, the mainhouse is modeled after a 16th century Spanish cathedral, while the outdoorswimming pool features an ancient Roman temple front transported wholesale fromEurope and reconstructed at the site. Hearst furnished the estate withtruckloads of art, antiques, and even whole ceilings that he acquired in theirentirety from Europe and Egypt.
Hearst Castle featured 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms,19 sitting rooms, 127acres (0.51 km2) of gardens, indoor and outdoor swimmingpools, tennis courts, a movie theater, an airfield, and the world's largestprivate zoo. Zebras and other exotic animals still roam the grounds. Morgan, anaccomplished civil engineer, devised a gravity-based water delivery system froma nearby mountain. One highlight of the estate is the Neptune Pool, whichfeatures an expansive vista of the mountains, ocean and the main house.
Invitationsto Hearst Castle were highly coveted during itsheyday in the 1920s and '30s. The Hollywood andpolitical elite often visited, usually flying into the estate's airfield ortaking a private Hearst-owned train car from Los Angeles. Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant, theMarx Brothers, Charles Lindbergh, Joan Crawford, Clark Gable, James Stewart,Bob Hope, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin Roosevelt, and Winston Churchill were amongHearst's A-list guests. While guests were expected to attend the formal dinnerseach evening, they were normally left to their own devices during the day whileHearst directed his business affairs. Since "the Ranch" had so manyfacilities, guests were rarely at a loss for things to do. The estate's theaterusually screened films from Hearst's own movie studio, CosmopolitanProductions. HearstCastle became so famousthat it was caricatured in the 1941 Orson Welles film Citizen Kane as CharlesFoster Kane's "Xanadu". The estate is portrayed as a gloomy andridiculously self-indulgent barony.
Onecondition of the Hearst Corporation's donation of the estate was that theHearst family would be allowed to use it when they wished. Patty Hearst, agranddaughter of William Randolph, related that as a child, she hid behindstatues in the Neptune Pool while tours passed by. Although the main estate isnow a museum, the Hearst family continues to use an older Victorian house onthe property as a retreat — the original house built by George Hearst in thelate 19th century. The house is screened from tourist routes by a dense groveof eucalyptus, to provide maximum privacy for the guests. In 2001, Patty Hearsthosted a Travel Channel show on the estate, and Amanda Hearst modeled for afashion photo shoot at the estate for a Hearst Corporation magazine, Town andCountry, in 2006.

Boldt Castle8. Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands

A GildedAge castle built for a tragic love
An aura ofromance surrounds the five-acre Boldt Castle estate in the Thousand Islands, just offshorefrom Alexandria Bay, New York. Stone by stone, Boldt Castlewas 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 Victorianstyles pieced together by the firm of W.D. Hewitt and G.W. Hewitt - the samearchitects who designed the fanciful Druim Moir castle in Philadelphia.
Like manyhomes from America'sGilded Age, the eleven-building complex is exuberant and outrageous, as thoughits creators had taken five hundred years of architectural history and spilledit across the craggy island.
Legend hasit that multi-millionaire George Boldt ordered the castle built as atestimonial of his love for his wife, Louise. She was only fifteen when theymarried, and she had worked at his side during his climb to wealth andprominence. Boldt planned to present the castle to Louise on Valentine's Day,1905.
Of all thegrand summer homes in the Thousand Islands, Boldt Castlewas to be the most magnificent. More than 300 artisans, masons, stonecutters,landscapers, and other craftsmen were hired. The Alster Towerwould be a gigantic playhouse with a bolling alley, a billiard room, a library,bedrooms, and kitchen areas.
The PowerHouse would hold a steam-powered generator for power and lights. The YachtHouse would shelter the family houseboat and boats from visitors. But thecrowning jewel would be a 120-room home modeled after a Rhinelandcastle and furnished with paintings, sculptures, mosaics, and tapestries fromaround the world. This granddesign was never completed, however. Construction halted when a sudden tragedystruck the young family. One yearbefore Boldt castle was to be completed, Louise, aged 41, died. Brokenhearted,George Boldt stopped the construction and never returned to the island. Boldtdied in 1916 and the castle was purchased by Edward John Noble, who owned theBeechnut Fruit Company. Noble invested in the area and built the ThousandIsland Club. Over the next 50 years, the E.J. Noble Foundation ran Boldt Castleas a tourist attraction.
Visitorswere allowed to roam the island freely, and the castle became a victim ofvandals who broke windows, covered walls with graffiti, and stripped buildingsof ornamental details. Roofs leaked, timbers deteriorated, plaster peeled fromwalls. A fire destroyed all but the stone shell of the Powerhouse. There is,however, a happy ending. In 1977 the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquiredthe estate and began restorations. Windows and roofs were repaired. The PowerHouse was rebuilt and the ballroom was converted into a museum. Couples came tobe wed.
Everysummer you will see the wedding couples sail down the SaintLawrence River, glide beneath an arched water gate modeled afterRoman monuments, and say their vows on a stone bridge leading to a fancifulassembly of peaked turrets.

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

Prague Castle9. Prague Castle

For athousand years Prague Castle in the Hradcany royal complex has toweredabove the river Vltava. Industrious buildingon the castle began in the late 9th century when the royal Premyslid familytook power over the united Czech territories. Saint George Basilica, SaintVitus Cathedral, and a convent were erected within the fortress walls.
ThePremyslid family died out in the 14th century, and the castle fell intodisrepair. Under the leadership of Charles IV, the castle was transformed intoa prestigious gothic palace.
The royalcomplex was again remodeled under reign of Vladislav Jagellonský. His throneroom is praised for for its expansive vaults with intricate network of intertwinedribs. The Archbishop's Palace was rebuilt from its Renaissance foundations.
In the late1500s, during the reign of Rudolf II, Italian architects built a new palacewith two big halls. The "New World,"a district with modest homes along winding alleyways, was also constructedwithin the Hradcany compound. The Castlebecame the seat of the president of the Republic in 1918, but large sectionswere closed to the public during the years of communist domination. Vast,secret underground shelters were supposedly built to connect the President'sresidence with the rest of the complex. The paranoia of the era gave rise tofears that counter-revolutionaries might use the passageways, so the exits werehastily blocked off with concrete slabs.

Leeds Castle10. Leeds Castle in England

Home toqueens and kings of Englandas well as an American millionairess with movie-star friends, Leeds Castlehas stood for centuries in Maidstone,Kent. Today LeedsCastle is open to thepublic, who are welcome to visit its restored rooms and 500 picture-perfectacres.
Set in avalley of the River Len in the heart of the English countryside, Leeds Castleis 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 andintrigue, conflict and majesty. Although Edward I, Edward III, Richard II, andHenry V all held court at LeedsCastle, it has long beenknown as a ladies' castle.
Leedsaka the Ladies' Castle

From 1278to 1552, it was customary for the castle to be part of a queen’s dowry andretained during widowhood. Queen Isabella, Anne of Bohemia, and Joan of Navarreall once resided in LeedsCastle. The Queen’sBedroom and Bathroom at Leeds Castle are reconstructions of chambers used byCatherine de Valois [1401 – 1437], wife of Henry V, who stayed at Leeds Castleon many occasions. Brought by him from France as a young bride, she waswidowed by the age of 22. When a secret affair with the commoner Owen Tudor wasrevealed in subsequent years, scandal ensued. Nonetheless, the two had foursons, one of whom fathered King Henry VII.
Henry VIII,perhaps the most famous of all royal owners, was responsible for much of Leeds Castle’ssplendor. He spent lavishly to transform the castle from a rugged fortress intoa royal palace. The Henry VIII Banqueting Hall bears testament to thisreconstruction, and retains features dating from 1517.
Lady BaillieBuys LeedsCastle
The lastowner of Leeds Castle, Lady Baillie was anAmerican-born heiress to the Whitney fortune. She purchased the castle in 1926for $873,000, beating out Randolph Hearst, the newspaper tycoon, as highbidder. LadyBaillie devoted the rest of her life to restoring the Norman castle and rollingparkland that surrounds it. And she brought Hollywoodglamour to the surroundings. A society hostess, Lady Baillie's guests includedJimmy Stewart, Errol Flynn, and Charlie Chaplin. When LadyBaillie died in 1974, she left LeedsCastle to a charitabletrust which ensures its enjoyment by the public and also promotes the castlefor weddings and national and international seminars.
Exploring Leeds Castle
In additionto the castle itself, visitors to Leeds canalso experience:
The Maze -Planted with 2,400 yew trees in 1988, the maze at Leeds Castlechallenges visitors to reach the panoramic central viewing point. (No need tofear getting lost; staffers perched high in the center help to guide thedirection-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 CollarMuseum - Certainly one ofthe world's most unusual collections, the Dog Collar Museum displays nearly 100antique dog collars spanning five centuries. Collars dating from the 15th,16th, and 17th centuries were designed to protect a dog during a time whenwolves, bears, and wild boar roamed the forests of Europeand the vulnerable throats of hunting dogs needed protection with broad ironcollars bristling with fearsome spikes. The Dog Collar Museum also houses Leeds Castle'ssmall gift shop.
Culpeper Garden - This quintessential Englishgarden features neat box hedges enclosing traditional colorful perennials andfragrant annuals such as roses, pinks, lupins, and poppies.
Restaurant- More than 8,000 bottles of wine are produced each year from the castlevineyard. Award-winningLeedsCastlewines are sold exclusively in the castle restaurant and shops.
Weddings atLeeds Castle

Leeds Castle offers couples four stunning andhistoric settings for a fairytale wedding: The Library, Dining Room, GateHouse, and Terrace. In addition to a choice of venues for wedding receptionssuitable for banquets as well as smaller gatherings, the castle has 37 roomsavailable 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 fromthe castle’s extensive Norman cellars.