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.
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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.
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This story was originally published by Departures.
For a truly exclusive castle experience, The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle is a stand-out choice. The members-only club is tucked away in the Scottish Highlands on 7,500 acres; Skibo was formerly steel magnate Andrew Carnegie's summer home.
Golfers will appreciate the chance to play the 18-hole Scottish links course, where tee times aren't required and the holes can be played in any order. There is a relaxing luxury spa and swimming pool--based on Carnegie's original design from the early 1900s--as well as a host of activities, including cycling, archery, hiking and fishing, all in the fresh Highlands air.
One-time joining fee, $37,784; annual dues, $12,106; rooms, $1,550; 44-1862-894600; carnegieclub.co.uk.
Buttressed by a 60-foot-high curtain wall originally built to keep pirates out, 900-year-old Amberley Castle is as authentic as it gets. The structure, which dates back to 1103, sits amid 12 acres of lush gardens, ponds and greenery--and the effect is utterly special. (The resident peacock, Bob, is a popular sight.)
Nineteen rooms feature lavish furnishings and decor, and charming architectural touches abound, like the 12th-century barrel-vaulted ceiling in the Queen's Room restaurant. Guests can take to the 18-hole golf course, tennis courts and croquet lawn, or reserve a dinner or lunch spot at Mistletoe Lodge, a tree house nestled in the poplars that is reachable by a rope bridge. Needless to say, romance runs high here.
Rooms, from $377; Amberley Nr. Arundel, West Sussex; 44-1798-831-992;amberleycastle.co.uk.
Arguably the most photographed hotel in the world, this UNESCOWorld Heritage Site is an iconic presence in Quebec City and holds a vital spot in the city's history. Inside, the hotel tucks away more than seven miles of corridors (enough to get anyone turned around for a while) and nearly 2,000 windows, including ones that overlook the Saint-Lawrence River, the cityscape or Château Frontenac's interior gardens.
Food is approached with thoughtful care, and chef Jean Soulard's private garden (herbs, too) has a secret: Four beehives produce 650 pounds of honey a year. Take a seat at Bar St-Laurent for views and jazz.
Rooms, from $194; 1 Rue des Carrières; 418-692-3861; fairmont.com.
Breathtaking views of mountain and sea characterise Pezula Private Castle, situated on the southern coast of Africa and a mere 40-minute flight from Cape Town. Bespoke comfort is the name of the game here, where accommodations look out onto Noetzie Beach. Guests get a private chef and an executive butler, and the hotel does its best to cater to every need.
The spa at Pezula Resort Hotel & Spa is available, as is golf at Pezula Championship Course, tennis, horseback riding, hiking, canoeing, archery and trips into the nearby town of Knysna. Zachary's restaurant at the hotel is a perfect venue for drinks at sunset overlooking Knysna lagoon.
Rooms, from $4,080; Lagoon View Dr., Eastern Head, Knysna; 27-44/302-3333;pezula.com.
For travellers looking for a fairy tale setting, Salzburg's Schloss Fuschl is it. Lake Fuschl is stunning no matter the season--there are six lakeside cottages in addition to the rooms and suites--and the hotel features an impressive collection of artworks by Old Masters, as well as a popular spa.
It also offers guests the opportunity to drive one of its vintage cars, the only hotel in Europe to do so.
Schloss Strasse 19; 43-1-6229-2253-0;schlossfuschlsalzburg.com/en.
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