I'm never one to turn down a castle visit. From England's Windsor Castle to Namhansanseong in South Korea, if a travel destination has a royal residence -- currently inhabited or long abandoned -- I'll add it to my to-tour list.
But after spending time in Scotland earlier this fall, I think I've found the most beautiful castle in the world: Eilean Donan.
Located near the village of Dornie on Scotland's northwest coast, Eilean Donan sits on an island along a popular route for travelers heading to the picturesque Isle of Skye and the other Hebrides islands.
Today one of Scotland's most photographed sites, Eilean Donan sat abandoned for nearly 200 years after a 1719 Jacobite uprising left the castle in ruins; it wasn't until 1911 that work began to restore the building to its former glory.
Visitors can pay £6.50 to tour the castle, the official residence of the Clan MacRae, which features Scottish hunting lodge-meets-Grandmother's bedroom decor, plus a kitchen straight out of Downton Abbey.
For the most extraordinary views of Eilean Donan, take a short stroll to Ardelve Point where you're guaranteed to get a good shot in sun,
Is Eilean Donan the most beautiful castle in the world? Check out some of its competition in this slideshow and let us know what you think in the comments below:
Located in the town of Vincennes, France, the fortress is situated just outside Paris. It was built between 1340 and 1410 for Louis VII and was meant to serve as a hunting lodge. Most of the original castle was destroyed and what remains is from reconstruction that took place during the 14th century. It was abandoned by the royal family and later became the site of the Vincennes porcelain factory. The castle is surrounded by a stone-lined moat and three large gates.
Located about a half mile off France's northwestern coast at the mouth of the Couesonon River, Le Mont Saint Michel was first built to serve as a church at the request of Bishop Avranches on October 16th 709. During the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries Romanesque monastery buildings were built upon the existing chapel. The 14th century Hundred Year's War made it necessary to protect the abbey with military constructions and so the castle began to grow. During the French Revolution the abbey became a prison and finally saw restoration during the end of the 19th century.
Consisting of three towers, this magnificent castle overlooks the Italian city of San Marino. Though it has gone through many changes throughout history, parts of the castle date back to the 11th century. Its grounds includes both a watch tower and a bell tower, St. Barbara’s Chapel, and a fortress which served as a prison.
This castle, located in Schwangu, Germany can be found on a furrowed hill in Germany’s Bavarian region. It was built and paid for by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a personal retreat and honorary tribute to Richard Wagner, a German composer and conductor. It was not until the reclusive King Ludwig died in 1886 that it became open for public visitation. More than a million people visit this breathtaking architectural wonder every year and it served as the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Often referred to as “The Russian Versaille,” Perterhof Palace is one St. Petersburg’s most famous and popular attractions. Peter the Great is said to have taken inspiration from Versaille’s architecture when he had Peterhof built. The translation of the palace’s title literally means “Peter’s Court.” On the Grand Palace grounds are numerous gardens, pools, fountains, and smaller, royal buildings.
The largest and most visited castle in Japan, its construction dates back to 1333 by ruler Akamatsu Norimura. It is comprised of 83 buildings which were built to serve as defensive forts during the feudal period. The castle is frequently called Hakuro-jo which means “White Heron Castle;” it refers to the white exterior and shape of the architecture, resembling a bird taking flight.
Built as Louis XIII’s hunting lodge, his son Louis XIV expanded it greatly and eventually moved his entire court into the building by 1682. The Palace of Versailles is located in a suburb of Paris in the Ile-de-France region of the country. Versailles contains over 2,000 rooms and windows and boasts a collection of 6,123 paintings and 2,102 sculptures. Versailles became a symbol of absolute monarchy in France.
Built on a hill above the town of Bojnice in Slovakia, the Bojnice Castle was declared a national and cultural monument in 1970. Originally, the fortress was built from wood, but was rebuilt in stone during the 13th century. Several films have been shot at the castle, including Italian fantasy film Fantaghiro. Many modern fairy-tale palaces have also taken inspiration from its architecture.
Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland was the home of the Lyon family since the 14th century. Although much of the original architecture has been reconstructed, it’s foundation was first built in 1376. Legends about “The Monster of Glamis” include tales about vampires that were born into each generation of the Lyon family and “The Grey Lady,” a resident, castle ghost. Currently it serves as the home of Earl and Countess Strathmore and Kinghorne.
Constructed by King Francois I during the 16th century, Chateau de Chambord blends Medieval French and Renaissance architecture. It was originally built by King Francois in the Loire Valley of France to serve as a hunting lodge; however, it eventually grew to represent less humble aims. King Francois I used the majestic dwelling as symbol of his incredible wealth and power, often hosting gatherings at the castle which included rivals and archenemies.
This incredible national treasure was built in 1782 and was the home to Thai kings for nearly 150 years. While the current monarch of Thailand, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, lives at the Chitralada Palace, the Grand Palace is still used for special events. The Grand Palace consists of many pavilions and buildings that open to numerous gardens, lawns, and courtyards.
Hohenzollern Castle can be found about 30 miles south of Stuttgart, located in Southern Germany. The castle was home to the Hohenzollern family who became German emperors during the Middle Ages. During a siege in 1423 the castle was completely destroyed and a second castle was built in its place, which housed Catholic refugees during the Thirty Years’ War. The third and final version of the castle which is standing today was constructed by Frederick William IV of Prussia between 1846 and 1867.
One of the many beautiful castles that can be found in the Loire Valley, France, this chateau had several owners before it was purchased by Henry II. He presented the home as a gift to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. Today, the residence pays hommage to a few powerful female figures with a wax museum that portrays a likeness to some of the chateau's leading ladies.
One of the most visited and romantic sites in Prague, The Charles Bridge was the only means of crossing the Vltava River until 1841. Today it serves as a main thoroughfare for pedestrians and connects Old Town with Mala Strana and the Prague Castle. According to the Guinness Book of World Records , the Prague Castle is the largest royal complex in the world, covering about 18 acres and containing a multitude of buildings with a variety of architectural styles.
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