From storybook tales of Sleeping Beauty to heroic legends of King Arthur, fairytale castles have captured our imaginations for centuries. And, not ebbing with the passing of time, this collective fascination with fortresses has only continued to grow. Today, transpiring in a wealth of modern-day adaptions, from Harry Potter to Snow White, the enchantment with mythical kingdoms is always ever-present. Much like the unwavering desire to visit Disney World, regardless of our age, the untainted allure of magic is clearly something that, even in adulthood, we refuse to willingly surrender.
So, renowned for being a little bit starry-eyed ourselves, and of course bowing to all our readers hearts’ desires, My Destination have compiled a list of fairytale castles (four, to be precise).
For every man who ever dreamed of becoming a knight and for every woman who still believes she’s a fairy princess (no matter what anybody else says), this one’s for you….
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Perched at the foot of the Bavarian Alps, amongst a translucent sea of alpine mist, there’s no castle dreamier than Schloss Neuschwanstein. Infamous as the inspiration behind Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castles, this striking fortress has earned its title as an enchanted palace. Originally designed in the 19th century Romanticised style, this storybook castle was first conceived as a site of permanent refuge for the ‘mad’ King Ludwig II. Never destined to live out his fairytale dream, however, the king’s rapid deterioration in health meant that the castle quickly fell into the hands of the Bavarian public. Swift to embrace this magical site of towers and turrets, since then, around 60 million people have passed through the lofty corridors of Neuschwanstein Castle. And, with opulent panoramas fit for a princess, the castle’s undulating topography make it one of the most popular tourist attractions of southwest Bavaria.
How to Discover the Hidden Magic: On a guided tour. Ambling around the castle grounds, this 30 minute tour takes you on a historic journey through the servants’ kitchen to the illustrious royal headquarters. Tickets for this tour can only be purchased at the Hohenschwangau Ticket Centre; make sure to buy them before heading up to the castle.
Image Credit: Flickr - Nite Dan
Nestled in Newbury’s leafy suburbia, amongst 1,000 acres of cedar trees, secret gardens and decorative follies, Highclere Castle is every inch a fairytale. Shooting to global attention as the onscreen set of hit drama series, Downton Abbey, the castle is currently experiencing a surge in popularity. Long overdue, however, this stunning Victorian setting has been a prestigious site and sumptuous home to the Carnarvon family for hundreds of years. Built upon the sediments of a medieval palace, Highclere’s most dramatic transformation came in 1838. Under the direction of Sir Charles Barry and the 3rd Earl of Carnavon, this date oversaw the castle evolve into the imposing mansion that we see today. Far from its final modification, however, Highclere’s warren of stately rooms were employed as an infirmary during WWI and a home for evacuated children during WWII. Cemented as a site of historical significance, the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb by the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter in 1922 was simply the icing on the fairytale cake.
How to Discover the Hidden Magic: On an Egyptology Tour. Humming in the castle cellars lies a collection of antiquities dating back 4,000 years. Displayed alongside their documented discovery by Lord Canarvon and Howard Carter, these ancient archeological treasures are the true hidden magic within Highclere.
Image Credit: Flickr - Richard Munckton
As cylindrical turrets arise from the jade folds of a verdant pine forest, there is no mistaking Burg Eltz. A fairytale castle to its very core, Wierschem’s castle has become somewhat of a storybook sensation. Famed for its supreme position overlooking the flowing Moselle River and its distinctly unique medieval façade, Eltz Castle sparkles with timeless allure. Most fascinating of all, however, is the castle’s array of surprising features. Splintered into three different familial homes (two of which are now open to the public) Eltz Castle is, in fact, comprised of a complex of palaces. Perched all under one roof, and wrapped around a central hub of the Platteltz Keep (the oldest section of the castle dating back to 1157); this fairytale castle is perhaps one of the most unique of its kind.
How to Discover the Hidden Magic: Head to the Treasure Vault.Glistening with golden medallions, ancient armour and other sacred objects, this hidden gem completes the fairytale charm.
Image Credit: Flickr - Jaeger-Meister
Lorded over by the towering Swiss Alps and the softly lapping shores of Lake Geneva is Veytaux’s prized castle, Château de Chillon. Far from being its biggest draw, however, this fairytale castle has much more than just a resplendent setting. With over 1,000 years of rich history, the majestic fortress has long been a source of inspiration for literary and artistic figures. Famed as the site of imprisonment for Francois Bonivard, a rebel who supposedly opposed the then ruling Duke of Savoy, Château de Chillon has emerged as a real-life legend. Today a regal maze of courtyards, great halls and bedroom chambers – some decorated with medieval murals dating as far back as the 13th and 14th centuries - this striking site has put mythical stories of Rapunzel and her diminutive tower firmly to shame.
How to Discover the Hidden Magic: Hire the castle’s private beach. Available from June to October, the sandy shores of Chillon’s beach can be exclusively transformed into a private party. Sat by the water’s edge and watching the sun slink behind the glistening Alps; what could be more of a real-life fairytale than that?
Image Credit: Flickr - Fawaz Al-Arbash
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