MEDIEVAL TIMES

The World's Most Beautiful Castles

  1. Bamburgh Castle stands on a rocky outcrop in Northumberland, England. The castle has served as a location for several movies, including Roman Polanski's 1971 version of Macbeth. (Courtesy Nick McCann)
  2. Held by King Henry II back in the 12th century, Bamburgh Castle is now owned by the descendants of a wealthy Victorian industrialist. (Courtesy Nick McCann)
  3. More than 900 years old, Leeds Castle regularly received Henry VIII as a guest. On the grounds are several mazes, a display on falconry, and a dog-collar museum. (Courtesy Leeds Castle Foundation)
  4. Leeds Castle was bought by the blueblooded Olive Wilson Filmer. She bought the castle for $873,000 in 1926, outbidding William Randolph Hearst in the process. (Adam Woolfitt/Robert Harding World Imagery/Corbis)
  5. Dating back to 1220, Scotland's most famous castle, Eilean Donan, is in the middle of a loch, near the Isle of Skye. (Gary Yeowell/Getty)
  6. One of Eilean Donan's 20th-century restorers claimed that a dream helped him decide how the castle looked when it was first built. Plans that were later found at Edinburgh Castle proved that his hunch was correct. (Matassa/Getty)
  7. Beaumaris was built as part of the English king Edward I's attempt to conquer Wales. Work began in 1295, but the castle had still not been completed when the money ran out (as so often happened with castles), and it remains unfinished to this day. In the background are the foothills of the Snowdonia region. (Anders Blomqvist/Getty)
  8. Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as Mad King Ludwig, began planning his famous Neuschwanstein Castle in the 1860s. A century later it would inspire another visionary structure: Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle is modeled extensively on it. Bayerische Schlösserverwaltung)
  9. King Ludwig didn't get much chance to enjoy the over-the-top Neuschwanstein. In 1886, as the castle was nearing completion, he died under suspicious circumstances, with his body found floating in a lake. (DEA/M. Santini/Getty)
  10. Dating back to the 1420s, the Danish Kronborg Castle in Helsingør is one of the best-preserved castles from the Renaissance, although it has undergone many alterations since then. (Marco Cristofori/Getty)
  11. Kronborg Castle played an important role in Denmark's and Sweden's struggle for dominance over the sea, but it's even more famed as the setting for Hamlet. (Courtesy Kronborg Castle)
  12. The impressively fortified Château de Castelnaud is on limestone rocks above the Dordogne River in France. It overlooks a former enemy, the Château de Beynac. During the Hundred Years' War, the English held Castelnaud and the French controlled Beynac. (Simeone Huber/Getty)
  13. France's Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle is positioned more than 2,000 feet above the Alsatian plain, a location that kept it safe for centuries. However, destruction did arrive after a siege, after which it was abandoned to become a romantic ruin. Now it's a popular tourist spot. (Jorisvo/iStockphoto.com)
  14. Bran Castle has only the most tenuous of connections with Vlad the Impaler, the real-life inspiration for Count Dracula, but there's no denying the spooky charm of its many turrets and towers. (Laski Diffusion/Wojtek Laski/Getty)
  15. It's hard to beat a location as idyllic as this. The Château de Chillon is on an island near the edge of Lake Geneva, Switzerland. It's also got a bit of celebrity cachet going for it: it got much more popular after Lord Byron published his long poem "The Prisoner of Chillon" after a visit; the work refers to the castle's "dungeons deep and old. (Jon Arnold/JAI/Corbis)

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