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Ashford Castle by Larry Koester, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Ashford Castle by Larry Koester, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

15 Castles You Can Stay In

Ashford Castle by Larry Koester, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Ashford Castle by Larry Koester, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

These castles are the perfect places to visit when you're looking to get the royal treatment.

1. ASHFORD CASTLE // COUNTY GALWAY, IRELAND

Ashford Castle was built in 1228 on an early Monastic site. While it's changed hands several times over its long history, it was originally constructed and owned by the House of Burke (originally de Burgos), an early Anglo-Norman family, and was purchased by Sir Benjamin Guinness of the Guinness brewing company in 1852. After several hundred years of additions and renovations, the castle was converted into a hotel in 1939. It served as home base and a backdrop for 1951's The Quiet Man, starring John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara and directed by John Ford, and was named the world's best luxury hotel in 2015 by Virtuoso.

Book it: Ashford Castle

2. AYRSHIRE CASTLE // WEST KILBRIDE, SCOTLAND

Also known as Castle Law, this Scottish castle was built in the 15th century as a wedding present for Princess Mary, the daughter of James II of Scotland, following her marriage to Thomas Boyd, the Earl of Arran. On a slightly less romantic note, among the structure’s many authentic medieval touches are a trapdoor-accessed pit prison and a “murder hole” that was once used to pour scalding oil onto unsuspecting enemies below. Today, visitors can enjoy fresh linens, a fireplace, stunning views, and a secret staircase during their stay.

Book it: Airbnb

3. TALABGAON CASTLE // DAUSA, INDIA

Located in the western Indian state of Rajasthan (which translates to “Land of Kings”), Talabgaon Castle was originally built as a fort in 1818, during a dispute between two warring states over the nearby Sambhur Lake—and its salt deposits. It was later converted into a castle in 1900 by Thakur Vijay Singh ji Rathore, and is still owned by the Singh Rathore family today.

Book it: Talabgaon Castle.

4. SCHLOSS KAPFENSTEIN // KAPFENSTEIN, AUSTRIA

Schloss Kapfenstein is built atop an extinct volcano in southeastern Styria, a region of Austria near the borders of Hungary and Slovenia. It was originally built as a fortress in the 11th century to guard against invading Huns and Turks. Nowadays, Schloss Kapfenstein hosts travelers and wine connoisseurs from around the world, who come to tour the surrounding vineyards that are owned by the same family who own the castle.

Book it: Schloss Hotels

5. CHATEAU AUBEPINE // FOURNEAUX, RHONE-ALPES, FRANCE

Chateau Aubepine is classified as a “classé Monument Historique,” the highest honor bestowed by the French government in recognition of historical significance. The private chateau, built in 1621, sits among gardens created by Le Nôtre, Louis XIV's gardener. It's nestled among 247 acres of private woodland, and the grounds contain tennis courts, a swimming pool, and a private fishing lake.

Book it: Oliver's Travels

6. CASTLE PERGINE // TRENTINO, ITALY

Originally constructed around 1000 CE and converted into a medieval fortress in the 13th century, Castle Pergine was owned by Austrian dukes for a time, then became property of the Prince-Bishop of Trent in 1531. In 1900, renovations began to convert the building and today, the castle is an exclusive luxury hotel with 20 rooms and three towers, all located within what is called the “Ala Clesiana” wing, which was added in the mid-1500s.

Book it: Castelpergine

7. PARADOR DE OROPESA // OROPESA, SPAIN

Restored in 1402 after almost being destroyed, Parador de Oropesa is one of Spain’s oldest paradors: historically significant structures converted into hotels by the government in order to pay for their upkeep and restoration. The castle was once the home of the Toledo family of nobles, and the castle’s legacy has given birth to a yearly celebration in the town of Oropesa called “Jornadas Medievales,” or “Medieval Days”.

Book it: Parador

8. DALHOUSIE CASTLE // MIDLOTHIAN, SCOTLAND

Roger W Haworth, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.5

Eight miles outside of Edinburgh and overlooking the River Esk, the main structure of Dalhousie Castle was originally built in the mid-1400s. The castle has had a role in several important moments in Scottish history: King Edward I stayed there en route to meeting Sir William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk, which was a pivotal battle in the Scottish War for Independence. Later, Oliver Cromwell used Dalhousie Castle as his base while invading Scotland. For those wishing to get a taste of historic Scotland today, the castle-turned-hotel offers a formal restaurant located in the castle’s old dungeons, as well as a recreational “falconry experience.”

Book it: Dalhousie Castle

9. POUSADA DE CASTELO // OBIDOS, PORTUGAL

Obidos, Portugal is a small coastal town—once an early Roman settlement—whose name is said to derive from the Latin oppidum, or “fortified city.” The town’s namesake fortifications are still around today, as is its centerpiece castle, now a luxury hotel. Because the castle and surrounding property were gifted by King Denis of Portugal to his bride Queen Isabel in 1282, Obidos is also sometimes known as the “wedding present town.” The luxury hotel Pousada de Castelo is housed in the 12th century castle in the heart of the town.

Book it: Pousadas

10. CHATEAU DE LA CAZE // SAINTE-ENIMIE, FRANCE

This 15th century castle was originally constructed as a honeymoon getaway for French noblewoman Soubeyrane Alamand. Built into the cliffs overlooking the Tarn River, this fairytale castle-turned-hotel features interiors decorated with tapestries and antiques, as well as exteriors dotted with authentic arrow slits, both recalling its medieval past.

Book it: Chateau De LaCaze

11. SCHLOSS SOMMERSDORF // BURGOBERBACH, GERMANY

This castle, located in the heart of Bavaria, was built in the 14th century under one Ludvig von Eyb. In 1550, the castle came into the ownership of the prominent Crailsheim family, who brought the Protestant reformation to the surrounding town of Sommersdorf. After barely surviving the Thirty Years War, the castle underwent renovations that replaced its drawbridge with a permanent bridge. Today, the castle is still owned by the Crailsheim family—rather than a hotel, the castle is actually the home of Dr. Manfred Baron von Crailsheim, who enjoys hosting guests. Fun Fact: Graf Crailsheim, of the Crailsheim family, was one of several officials who in the early 19th century attempted to have then-king Ludwig II deposed and certified as insane. Ludwig II was later found dead, mysteriously drowned in waist-high water.

Book it: Schloss sommersdorf

12. HEVER CASTLE // HEVER, ENGLAND

This 13th century double-moated castle—now a luxury bed and breakfast—is located in Hever, a small village in Kent, England. The castle once served as the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, the doomed second wife of King Henry VIII. The castle passed through several hands and eventually fell into disrepair until the early 1900s, when it was revived through the restoration efforts of American mogul William Waldorf Astor. Today, visitors from all over the world come to see 125 acres of formal gardens and collections of Tudor-era artifacts, including a prayer book said to be the one Anne Boleyn took with her to her execution.

Book it: Hever Castle

13. THE SABABURG (OR DORNRÖSCHENSCHLOSS SABABURG) // SABABURG, GERMANY

The small town of Sababurg is located in the heart of the Reinhardswald, an enchanting forest straight out of a fairytale—literally. The forest is said to have inspired the tales of the Brothers Grimm, and the nearby castle of Sababurg (also known as Dornröschenschloss or “Sleeping Beauty Castle”) served as the setting for the tale of Sleeping Beauty. Today, the restored 650-year-old castle houses a luxury hotel as well as a theater.

Book it: Sababurg

14. RUTHIN CASTLE // RUTHIN, WALES

Jim Linwood, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

First constructed in the late 1200s, Ruthin Castle was originally known as Castell Coch yn yr Gwernfor, or The Red Castle in the Great Marsh, because of its red sandstone walls. The castle was the residence of the prominent de Grey family up until the 1500s, when it was sold to Henry VII, who then handed it to King Henry VIII. The estate continued to pass through royal hands, and was eventually sold by King Charles I before being partially dismantled during the English Civil War as part of a process of organized defortification called slighting, an effort to prevent castles from being militarily viable in the future. After centuries withstanding war and sieges, the castle was given new life by the wealthy Myddleton family, who repaired and rebuilt upon the medieval ruins. Ruthin Castle was converted into Britain's first private hospital in 1923, and finally into a hotel in the 1960s. Today, the castle retains touches of its violent past, like its whipping pit, drowning pool, and dungeon, but visitors wishing for a tamer medieval experience can attend one of the hotel’s themed Medieval Feasts, complete with period-appropriate costumes and a toast of mead. It also may or may not be haunted.

Book it: RuthinCastle.co.uk

15. BALFOUR CASTLE // SHAPINSAY, SCOTLAND

Located in the Orkney Islands off the northeastern coast of Scotland, Balfour Castle promotes itself as “the world’s most northerly castle.” Located on the island of Shapinsay, which is said to have once served as a mooring for fleets of Viking longships, the surrounding bay now plays host to seal colonies and the occasional pod of orca whales. The castle itself is a rare example of a “Calendar House,” with architectural elements that correspond to the number of days in a year, months in a year, weeks in a year, and days in a week; Balfour Castle’s design features 365 window panes, 12 external doors, 52 rooms, and 7 turrets. The castle was commissioned by Colonel David Balfour, and constructed in 1847. It was designed by architect David Bryce, and built around an older structure built in the 18th century. If you're not able to afford the luxurious island castle, you can still ogle it here.

Book it: Balfour Castle

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Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
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The POW Olympics of World War II
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism
Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism

With the outbreak of World War II prompting a somber and divisive mood across the globe, it seemed impossible civility could be introduced in time for the 1940 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan to be held.

So they weren’t. Neither were the 1944 Games, which were scheduled for London. But one Polish Prisoner of War camp was determined to keep the tradition alive. The Woldenberg Olympics were made up entirely of war captives who wanted—and needed—to feel a sense of camaraderie and normalcy in their most desperate hours.

In a 2004 NBC mini-documentary that aired during their broadcast of the Games, it was reported that Polish officers under German control in the Oflag II-C camp wanted to maintain their physical conditioning as a tribute to Polish athlete Janusz Kusocinski. Unlike another Polish POW camp that held unofficial Games under a veil of secrecy in 1940, the guards of Woldenberg allowed the ’44 event to proceed with the provision that no fencing, archery, javelin, or pole-vaulting competitions took place. (Perhaps the temptation to impale their captors would have proven too much for the men.)

Music, art, and sculptures were put on display. Detainees were also granted permission to make their own program and even commemorative postage stamps of the event courtesy of the camp’s homegrown “post office.” An Olympic flag was crafted out of spare bed sheets, which the German officers, in a show of contagious sportsman’s spirit, actually saluted.

The hand-made Olympic flag from Woldenberg.

Roughly 369 of the 7000 prisoners participated. Most of the men competed in multiple contests, which ranged from handball and basketball to chess. Boxing was included—but owing to the fragile state of prisoners, broken bones resulted in a premature end to the combat.

Almost simultaneously, another Polish POW camp in Gross Born (pop: 3000) was holding their own ceremony. Winners received medals made of cardboard. Both were Oflag sites, which were primarily for officers; it’s been speculated the Games were allowed because German forces had respect for prisoners who held military titles.

A gymnastics demonstration in the camp.

The grass-roots Olympics in both camps took place in July and August 1944. By January 1945, prisoners from each were evacuated. An unknown number perished during these “death marches,” but one of the flags remained in the possession of survivor Antoni Grzesik. The Lieutenant donated it to the Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism in 1974, where it joined a flag recovered from the 1940 Games. Both remain there today—symbols of a sporting life that kept hope alive for thousands of men who, for a brief time, could celebrate life instead of lamenting its loss.

Additional Sources: “The Olympic Idea Transcending War [PDF],” Olympic Review, 1996; “The Olympic Movement Remembered in the Polish Prisoner of War Camps in 1944 [PDF],” Journal of Olympic History, Spring 1995; "Olympics Behind Barbed Wire," Journal of Olympic History, March 2014.

 All images courtesy of Warsaw Museum of Sport and Tourism. 

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Getty Images
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President John Tyler's Grandsons Are Still Alive
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Getty Images

Here's the most amazing thing you'll ever read about our 10th president:

John Tyler was born in 1790. He took office in 1841, after William Henry Harrison died. And he has two living grandchildren.

Not great-great-great-grandchildren. Their dad was Tyler’s son.

How is this possible?

The Tyler men have a habit of having kids very late in life. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of President Tyler’s 15 kids, was born in 1853. He fathered Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1924, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928.

We placed a somewhat awkward call to the Charles City County History Center in Virginia to check in on the Tylers.

After we shared this fact on Twitter in 2012, Dan Amira interviewed Harrison Tyler for New York Magazine. Lyon Tyler spoke to the Daughters of the American Revolution a while back. They were profiled by The Times of London. And Snopes is also in on the fact.

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