There is something undeniably fantastic about staying at a castle. No matter if it’s located on a pristine South African beach or on acres of greener-than-green Irish countryside, these expansive, often grand, always fascinating structures hint at robust histories or reflect rich cultural traditions that are as eye-opening as they are impressive.
Boutique hotels these are not. And where else can you wander acre upon acre of grounds and gardens, luxuriate in commodious rooms and suites for hours at a time and revel in finding unexpected details and charming surprises? Many offer long lists of activities that take full advantage of their surroundings. It’s not unusual to find pursuits such as golf, tennis, hiking and fishing—as well as clay target shooting and falconry (an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed)—which serve to give a well-rounded slice of castle life.
The architecture alone is inspiring. Amberley Castle, a 900-year-old structure in West Sussex, England, stands behind a massive stone wall originally built to keep pirates at bay (things can’t get much more authentic than that). It also touts 12 acres of gardens, a tree house reachable by a rope bridge and a resident peacock named Bob.
Sometimes a royal background sets the scene. Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur, India, was constructed as a pleasure palace on an island in the middle of Lake Pichola 250 years ago by the 62nd successor to the Royal Dynasty of Mewar. The hotel’s suites reflect the state of Rajasthan’s lavish style (carved moldings, ornate glasswork, frescoes), furthering the majestic feel. And The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle in Dornach, Scotland, is also affiliated with a brand of royalty: The castle is the former summer home of steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.
These towering structures can also allow you to escape from the everyday and drink in something new. Morocco’s stunning Kasbah du Toubkal, which is nestled at the foot of Jbel Toubkal, the tallest mountain in North Africa, in Toubkal National Park, gives its guests not only a glimpse into Berber culture—with an ecological, community-oriented conscience, to boot—but some of the most memorable rooftop views in all of the region.
These castles are anything but ordinary. Prepare for an experience you won’t soon forget.