10 Beautiful Castle Hotels
You don't have to be royalty to vacation like a king (or a queen). Turreted spires, stone archways, and centuries-old charm are all within reach. You just have to know where to look.
County Mayo, Ireland
With a spectacular setting of 350 acres full of towering woods and tidy gardens along the shores of Lough Corrib, Ashford dates all the way back to 1228. The 83-room gray stone castle was once the property of the Guinness family (yes, as in the beer), so it's practically Irish royalty. Transformed into a five-star luxury hotel in 1939, Ashford has since welcomed celebrities and discriminating travelers alike who come to experience not just exemplary dining and service, but also fresh-air fun: Riding, shooting, archery, and a robust game of golf are just some of the ways to fill your time during a visit here. Double rooms from $139 per person per night, 800/346-7007, ashford.ie.
Built in 1698 by James Tillie, Pentillie Castle has had a fair share of drama—Tillie scandalously married the widow of his employer and still managed to squeeze a knighthood out of King James II. But its checkered past hardly detracts from Pentillie's enviable location on the banks of the River Tamar, not far from Plymouth. The yellow-hued castle is surrounded by gardens bursting with rhododendron, azalea, and camellia flowers, and most of the estate's 2,000 acres is still tenant-farmed, with some woodlands reserved for pheasant hunting. The hotel has nine double rooms, making Pentillie Castle a favorite location for intimate weddings. Double rooms from $75 per person per night (breakfast included), 011/44-1579-350-044, pentillie.co.uk.
>> Related: Secret Hotels of Paris
CASTLE OF THE FOUR TOWERS
This 807-year-old castle made of red brick has a commanding view of Siena from its hilltop position. Originally built as a private home in the 14th century, the castle's location turned out to be as strategic as it was picturesque, and the building served as a 15th-century fortress during the period of civil strife that the marked the region until peace was restored in the 16th century. Once again a private residence, rooms and suites can now be rented, including a spacious one-bedroom apartment that sleeps up to four people. Visitors can wander the maze in the garden or stroll in the olive groves or vineyards, or hop in the car and tour the rest of sun-kissed Tuscany. From $46.75 per person per night, sleeps up to four people, 011/39-339-497-7999; quattrotorra.it.
CHÂTEAU KRASNA LIPA
North Bohemia, Czech Republic
A nice Czech waltz is the only thing missing from the fairy-tale atmosphere at Château Krasna Lipa, located in Czech Saxon Switzerland. Built in 1886, this fanciful palace has turrets and Juliet balconies; not to mention gracious rooms with 14-foot ceilings, furnished with antiques, hand-carved furniture, and Rococo oil paintings. The surrounding area is home to lush forests that invite romantic souls to discover intricate rock formations—and crystal-clear lakes and rivers—also prime fishing areas. Now a vacation rental, the castle has eight luxury suites with private baths and flat-screen TVs—some suites have walk-out terraces with panoramic views. As with any dream trip, excellent service is a must, and Krasna Lipa delivers: Private tour-guides and interpreters are available to guests, as are pick-ups from Prague airport (80 miles away) or the nearby Decin railway station. Double rooms from $50 per person per night (breakfast included), 1/416-529-1523, romantic-chateau.com.
>> Related: Top 10 Weirdest Hotels
Any castle situated just off Germany's famed "Castle Road" has to earn its keep, and 803-year-old Schloss Sommersdorf does so by sheer longevity. The 14th-century structure endured a period of upheaval during the Thirty Years' War in the 17th century, but its graying façade, bricked turret and moat are still standing. Visitors can stay in three apartments or two rooms in the castle proper, or opt for more modern accommodations in the newly renovated Bohemian House, on the castle grounds. On the road between Niederoberbach and Grossenried, Schloss Sommersdorf is ideally located for exploring a portion of the 621-mile Castle Road—and there's a unique fleet of cars available for guests to rent, including a 1905 Cadillac, a 1913 Ford "Tin Lizzie," and a 1926 Durant Rugby R touring model. Double rooms from $56.50 per person per per night (minimum 3-night stay), 011/49-9805-91920, schloss-sommersdorf.de.