Castles are surrounded by walls with ramparts, moats and towers, symbols of wealth, and the power of foregone kings and nobles. Moreover, as with cathedrals, these legendary buildings are the source of great architectural pride. Read our selection of unforgettable destinations.
These are three castles from the Old World well worth a visit: Eilean Donan in Scotland, Germany’s Neuschwanstein, and Bran in Romania.
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle, located on and island of the western Scottish Highlands, is considered the archetypal Scottish castle and one of the most visited by locals and tourists. Built in the 13th century, it rises just at the point where three lochs converge, in an area of outstanding beauty. What remains of the castle dates from the 18th century, as it was partially destroyed in the Jacobite uprising of 1719. Two centuries later, it was restored in all its grandeur and today it remains the official residence of the Clan Macrae. The emblematic Eilean Donan Castle has appeared in several films and has its own visitor center. It can be explored almost in its entirety.
King Ludwig II of Germany, known as the “Mad King”, built this dreamy castle on a steep Bavarian hill in 1866. The work was entrusted to architects Eduard Riedel and Georg Dollmann, who erected a building in the Romanesque style of the 13th century. The paintings preserved inside depict scenes from two operas by Richard Wagner: Tannhäuser and Lohengrin, and the murals in the Singers’ Hall represent the story of Parsifal. Neuschwanstein is today one of Europe’s most beloved castles. Every year about 1.4 million people visit this piece of history that looks like something out of a classic fairy tale.
In May 2009, after 60 years of state ownership, Bran Castle was returned to the heirs of Princess Ileana of Romania, who— after much restoration —have succeeded in restoring the place to its former glory. Annually, more than half a million visitors from around the globe come to the town of Bran to enjoy the views from one of the most famous castles in Europe. This romantic location was the inspiration for Irish writer Bram Stoker to give life to the (in)famous Count Dracula, based on the Romanian Prince Vlad Tepes —who inhabited the castle in the 15th century. Also known as Vlad the Impaler, the Prince is considered a national hero for stopping the Ottoman invasions that ravaged Europe during his time. ■