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Keys to the Kingdom

12 Converted Castle Hotels
  • Bovey Castle

    Bovey Castle, England

  • Castle on the Hudson

    Castle on the Hudson, New York

  • Isle Of Eriska

    Isle of Eriska, Scotland

  • Inverlochy Castle

    Inverlochy Castle, Scotland

  • Castell d'Emporda

    Castell d’Empordà, Spain

  • Solar Do Castelo

    Solar do Castelo, Lisbon

  • Castello Banfi Il Borgo

    Castello Banfi il Borgo, Tuscany

  • Castello di Vicarello

    Castello di Vicarello, Tuscany

  • Castello di Casole

    Castello di Casole, Tuscany

  • Château de Bagnols

    Château de Bagnols, France

  • Château de Mercuès

    Château de Mercuès, France

  • Château de Mirambeau

    Château de Mirambeau, France

March, 2013

For pure fantasy appeal, there’s nothing that can match the idea of staying in an actual castle. First-timers, don’t fret — details like plumbing and heating have indeed come a long way since medieval times. Here are twelve castle hotels where the reality lives up to the fairy tale.

1.

Bovey Castle
Devon, England — Its full name is Bovey Castle Luxury Hotel & Sporting Estate, and indeed this lovingly restored Art Deco revival is as luxurious as any purpose-built hotel. The experience is rounded out by a good, sporting dose of aristocratic leisure, whether in the hotel’s innumerable salons and drawing rooms or on the classic JF Abercrombie–designed golf course.
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2.

Castle on the Hudson
Tarrytown, New York — Upstate New York may not be the first place you’d think to go looking for a castle, but the imposing stone façade of the hilltop Castle on the Hudson, just a half hour’s drive from the city, isn’t hard to spot. The surprise is what waits inside — thirty-one thoroughly modernized, perfectly inviting rooms, plus a restaurant that’s well worth the trip.
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3.

Isle of Eriska
Argyll, Scotland — Isle of Eriska takes two worthy concepts — the castle hotel and the private island hotel — and combines them into something even better than the sum of their parts, resulting in an experience that’s quintessential Scottish countryside. The sixteen-room hotel, just off the main road from Oban, is set amidst some of the most unspoiled land- and seascapes in the British Isles.
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4.

Inverlochy Castle
Inverness, Scotland — It’s not the only Inverlochy Castle in the neighborhood; the ruins of a historic 13th-century castle of the same name are just up the road. The 1860 upstart, however, is definitely the place to stay, as opulently historic (and just plain opulent) as virtually any hotel in Scotland.
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5.

Castell d’Empordà
Catalonia, Spain — This long-abandoned medieval castle in the mountains outside Girona underwent a thorough reconstruction at the hands of a team of Dutch architects, and the result is the best of both worlds — plenty of original details and historic charm, combined with all the pleasures of a thoughtfully designed contemporary hotel.
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6.

Solar do Castelo
Lisbon, Portugal — The castelo itself was reduced to ruins long ago, but the site of St. George’s Castle is now one of Lisbon’s hippest areas, its pedestrians-only streets surrounded by the original fortress walls. It’s also home to this 18th-century mansion turned elegant boutique hotel, built on the site of the original castle’s kitchens.
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7.

Castello Banfi il Borgo
Tuscany, Italy — Set atop a hill at the center of a 7,000-acre working wine estate, Banfi il Borgo is pretty much the Platonic form of a castle hotel in the Tuscan wine country. History buffs will appreciate the ancient Roman artifacts housed in the building’s 13th-century wing, while everyone else will have to content themselves with the not-so-ancient pleasures of a dip in that gorgeous pool at the edge of the vineyards.
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8.

Castello di Vicarello
Tuscany, Italy — From the outside it looks like another castle on a hill in the Tuscan countryside — a perfectly inviting proposition to begin with — but inside, Castello di Vicarello turns out to be a top-flight modern design hotel, its five rooms (and two pools) thoroughly refurbished by a couple of tuned-in fashion types from Milan.
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9.

Castello di Casole
Tuscany, Italy — Just when we thought there was nothing new under the Tuscan sun, the stunning Castello di Casole opened in 2012, turning a thousand-year-old aristocratic estate into one of our favorite new hotels. It’s the fruit of years of meticulous restoration by American owners and an army of Italian architects and designers, rigorously historical where it could afford to be, yet unafraid to flex its modern design muscles.
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10.

Château de Bagnols
Bagnols, France — If anyone might (just might) have a leg up on the Italians when it comes to castle hotels, it’s the French. This 13th-century château in the heart of the Beaujolais countryside was disused and nearly forgotten until a British couple discovered and spent four years meticulously renovating it, preserving medieval mainstays like the moat and fortified towers, and furnishing the rooms with precious antiques, silks and centuries-old paintings.
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11.

Château de Mercuès
Mercuès, France — Château de Mercuès has existed in one form or another since about 650 AD, home for centuries to the Bishops of Cahors. Today it’s like a fairytale rendition of the castle hotel, its turrets and towers converted into sumptuous guest rooms, its defenses used for peacefully surveying the countryside north of Toulouse.
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12.

Château de Mirambeau
Bordeaux, France — Château de Mirambeau, a Renaissance-style castle full of dizzyingly opulent guest rooms, makes its home in the Charentes-Maritimes, a wonderfully strange district of canals, rivers, salt marshes and an overriding tinge of green. It all adds to the lost-in-time feel of the place, as does a collection of wines that includes century-old vintages from Bordeaux and Cognac.
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