Want to step back in time? Then tour the rolling countryside of England in search of Edinburgh Castle or cross the drawbridge at Raglan Castle, and you will be able to feast your eyes on a regal part of history as you visit real castles around the world. Within the walls of these magnificent real castles you will discover many tales of war, peace, honor, and romance. Visit famous Medieval castles and walk in the footsteps of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table and other legendary men and women from long ago.
While touring old castles you might even cross paths with a lost soul whose apparition still roams the corridors. Ghost stories are prevalent among these old castles and ruins. Are they real or are they simply stories fabricated to entice tourists to the most amazing castles? There’s just one way to know for certain. The only question remaining is…do you dare?
Visiting Famous Medieval Castles
Some of the coolest castles are relics from Medieval times and among the oldest castles in the world, these particular palaces stand out from the rest thanks to their architecture, and more importantly their stories. When touring either the oldest castle in the world or some of the other real life castles, you’ll see many similarities along with key differences depending on where the castle is located.
Become a part of the past as you walk hallways once traveled by kings and queens. Every room holds a story, every stone tells a tale, and each artifact on display whispers its own secrets of a long-forgotten era. If you’re looking for a vacation destination like no other, then you’ve come to the right place. Here are just a few of the wondrous real life castles you will find scattered along the hillsides of England, Scotland, and Germany:
1. Neuschwanstein Castle – Germany
As one of the most beautiful real life castles, Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Germany and is home to more than 1.3 million visitors a year.
2. Edinburgh Castle – Scotland
With over 1.4 million tourists in 2013, Edinburgh remains the most popular paid tourist attraction in Scotland. Within the walls of one of the most popular real castles, you will find two restaurants, a learning center, many shops, and several historical displays.
3. Kilchurn Castle – Scotland
Originally built in 1450, many residents continued to add on to the castle until 1681. During the summer months, the ruins are open for public viewing.
4. Raglan Castle – Wales
This magnificent castle can be seen for miles around the countryside. It is surrounded by a moat and contains such attractions as a gift shop and many historical relics.
5. Alnwick Castle – England
It is rumored that many visitors to this castle have spotted the ghost of Grey Lady, a young woman who worked as a maid at Alnwick.
Touring Real Castles
There are many different castles that you can tour not just in England, Scotland, Wales, France, and Germany but throughout Europe. Understand these castles have nearly a millennia of history and they’re not as sturdy as they once were. The best tours feature guides who have a keen interest in the history of the castle along with the personal history of those who resided in these palaces.
6. Baconsthorpe Castle – England
Love a good ghost story? Guests of Baconsthorpe claim to have seen a ghost sentry standing guard atop one of the castle walls.
7. Bamburgh Castle – England
Many historians believe a Northumbrian princess climbed the highest tower and jumped to her death after her father forbade her to see her boyfriend. Her forlorn apparition has been seen gliding through the castle corridors every seven years.
8. Belvoir Castle – England
Belvoir Castle, which is located in Leicestershire, England, was built in 1816, and currently serves as home to the Duke of Rutland.
9. Bodiam Castle – England
Bodiam’s design can be found on many items ranging from postcards to puzzles. It is considered by many to be one of the last great famous medieval castles in England.
10. Clifford’s Tower – England
Clifford’s Tower is the last remnant standing of what was once York Castle, which was built in 1068.
Ruins of Old Castles
Many castles on this list no longer possess the splendor from several centuries ago. This is due in large part to conflict along with the loss of power for the family inhabiting the castle. Just as fortunes are cyclical today the same holds true for those who once called their home a castle.
11. Dunstanburgh Castle – England
Dunstanburgh was once the largest castle in Northumberland. Some believe Thomas Plantagenet, who was beheaded by his cousin King Edward II for treason, haunts it.
12. Lindisfarne Castle – England
Historians say the ghosts of St. Cuthbert and an unknown soldier haunt Lindisfarne. Some visitors also claim to have seen a phantom white dog roaming the property making this one .
13. Pickering Castle – England
Pickering Castle was one of the coolest castles built during after the Norman invasion between 1069 and 1070. Stone replaced the original wooden architecture in the early 12th century.
14. Chillingham Castle – England
Chillingham Castle is best known as the most haunted all the old castles in England and is home to several ghosts, including a child whose cries resound through the corridors at the stroke of midnight.
15. Pevensey Castle – England
This great castle has withstood the test of time and many sieges, including the most notable attack from an army of Richard II in 1399.
The Coolest Castles Have the Best Stories
If you read Shakespeare then many of the English kings sound familiar. While the Bard of Avon dramatized their lives, when you tour their castles you get a window into their lives and in turn, see them as people. Great tour guides contribute fantastic stories about their most famous residents.
16. Warwick Castle – England
This legendary castle was home to the great Earls of Warwick and, unlike many other real castles, boasts of more than 1,000 coats of arms and armor on display in the Great Hall for public viewing.
17. Warkworth Castle – England
Warkworth was built during the 12th century and, as one of England’s many real castles, was home to many famous leaders, including King Edward I.
18. Tynemouth Castle – England
Within the walls of possibly the oldest castle in the world, visitors will discover Tynemouth Priory, which is the burial place of many notable individuals, such as King Malcolm III.
19. Tower of London – England
William the Conqueror built this reigning tower, one of the most amazing castles in England, on the North bank of the River Thames in 1078, and it has since been used as several things, including a prison.
England’s Most Amazing Castles
The Tower of London is one of England’s most notorious castles however the level of fame it shares at a similar level of Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, and several others. Learn more about this history of this one time castle turned prison.
20. Spofforth Castle – England
This castle’s remains date back to the 15th century and is least visited by tourists, who claim its disturbing atmosphere is one of great sorrow and tragedy.
21. Scarborough Castle – England
Scarborough Castle has been used as a military barrack and also a prison. It dates back to the 12th century, and like several real castles around the world, can be found atop a cliff along the North Sea.
22. Richmond Castle – England
Alan the Red built Richmond Castle between 1070 and 1086. A candidate to be the oldest castle in the world, historians believe it is the burial place of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
23. Leeds Castle – England
Leeds Castle is located between London and Dover, and some of its famous residents include Henry VIII and six of England’s medieval queens.
24. Goodrich Castle – England
Goodrich Castle was home to the Earls of Shrewsbury during the 15th century and has been unoccupied since the 16th century.
25. Château de Brissac – France
Among the most majestic of the world’s old castles, this was the scene of a double murder during the 15th century, and visitors have told of seeing one of the victims, the la Dame Verte, on several occasions. Her moans are often heard through the castle corridors during the early morning hours.
Architecture Reigns in Real Castles Around the World
French castles look remarkably different than English, German, and even Spanish castles. When touring different castles you can notice several hallmarks of different architectural eras including flying buttresses, the ornateness of the Baroque era, or even in some castles an appreciation of the Classical, ancient architecture while marveling at how primitive tools created such amazing edifices.
26. Château de Chenonceau – France
One of the most beautiful real life castles, this was built during the 16th century for style and design more so than defense in battle, and six women maintained the castle and grounds. It is known as one of the most romantic and coolest castles in France.
27. Burg Frankenstein – Germany
Burg Frankenstein Castle is located in the mountains near Darmstadt, Germany and can claim to be one of the oldest castles in the world as it was constructed in 948.
28. The Marksburg – Germany
The Marksburg, which can be found near Braubach, Germany, is the only Rhine Castle not destroyed. In centuries past it was known as Burg Braubach.
29. Mauseturm Tower – Germany
Residents of Rhine, Germany now more commonly refer to Mauseturm as The Mouse Tower. It is one of the most unique real castles around the world and was destroyed in 1869 by a French army, but was later rebuilt as a signal tower.
30. Burg Rheinstein – Germany
After years of decline, Prince Frederick of Prussia bought the Burg Rheinstein Castle and had it rebuilt during the 19th century.
Appreciating the Oldest Castles in the World
These castles have stood for thousands of years, and while some may have been restored, the fact is these castles have endured sieges, neglect, and in many cases falling out of favor when a new castle was built nearby. Step back in time and just think of all the hours it took just to erect a wall or install amazing stained glass.
31. Burg Sooneck – Germany
Burg Sooneck Castle is located in Germany, between Bingen and Bacharach, near the village of Niederheimbach, and was built in 1271.
32. Rhuddlan Castle – Wales
Rhuddlan Castle was built in 1277 and can be found beside the River Clwyd in Denbighshire Wales.
33. Carlisle Castle – England
Carlisle Castle is situated in Cumbria, England. One of the oldest castles in the world, it is more than 900 years old and was used as a military barrack and prison. One of its most notable prisoners was Mary, Queen of Scots.
34. Caerphilly Castle – Wales
Caerphilly Castle is located in Mid-Glamorgan, Wales and was built in the 13th century by Gilbert de Clare. It is the largest castle in Wales.
35. Caernarfon Castle – Wales
Caernarfon Castle was built in the late 11th century. It was attacked several times by the Welsh and besieged twice by Parliamentarian armies.
Real Life Situations for Real Life Castles
Castles, like many things today, struggle to be preserved. They are amazing pieces of history. If after touring these old castles take note of the historical societies that are dedicated to preserving them. Chances are, they need assistance from private patrons. If so moved, get involved with these societies so that future generations can experience this history.
36. St. Andrews Castle – Scotland
St. Andrews Castle is located in Fife, Scotland. It was built during the 12th century and served as the main residence to bishops and archbishops of St. Andrews.
37. Crichton Castle – Scotland
Sir William Crichton, Chancellor of Scotland, and his family constructed Crichton Castle during the 14th century. In 1448, the Crichtons were banished from the castle for treason.
38. Castle Rising Castle – England
Castle Rising Castle was best known as the home of Queen Isabella from 1330 to 1358. It is rumored her apparition can still be seen throughout the one of England’s most famous medieval castles.
39. Dover Castle – England
Dover Castle is a medieval castle located in Kent, England. It was built in the 12th century.
40. Framlingham Castle – England
Framlingham Castle was besieged by King John in 1216, but later became known as a hunting lodge. It was given to Pembroke College in 1636.
41. Conisbrough Castle – England
Conisbrough Castle can be found in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, England. Hamelin Plantagenet built it in 1180.
What is the Oldest Castle in the World?
That’s a hard question to answer, many of the oldest castles are small shadows of their former glory. To stand for a thousand years is amazing, and when you have a chance to tour these castles that are older than much of Western Civilization there is an appreciation for timelessness. Find stories you’re interested in learning and visit the places where some of history’s most famous – and notorious – people have resided.