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8 Castles That Blend the Medieval with the Modern

Luxury Defined presents a collection of castles and châteaux with timeless charm and contemporary comforts

The castle entered the popular imagination as the locale for swashbuckling romances of chivalric knights and courtly love. In truth, castles began as fortresses to guard trade routes, river crossings, and other strategic waypoints. Towns sprung up around them, and the nobility built castles to protect their own private domains from contentious rivals. Today’s castles bear little resemblance to their cramped, draughty ancestors. This edition of Luxury Defined presents historic structures converted into luxuriously appointed private homes. Lavish amenities like spas, elevators, underfloor heating, and chef’s kitchens are designed to satisfy modern tastes, especially when they’re set against the medieval grandeur of a castle with centuries-old mosaic floors, stone fireplaces, and stained-glass windows. Whether the castle of your dreams is gothic, baroque, or neoclassical, these residences exemplify master craftsmanship on a grand scale with timeless order and contemporary appeal.

19th-Century Castle in Poitou-Charentes, France

Located 30 minutes from Angoulême in the Poitou-Charentes region of western France, this enchanting 410-acre estate includes a 19th-century castle with a 14th-century tower and moat, two listed barns, an orangery, several dwellings, landscaped gardens, woodland, agricultural land, and pastures.

This historic estate resides on 410 wooded acres in the Charente region of France, 30 minutes from Angoulême. Its centerpiece is a fairy-tale castle surrounded by a moat and flanked by a 14th-century Gothic tower. The castle was built in the 19th-century and is classified as a Monument Historique. Encompassing nearly 14,000 square feet, the stately interiors include a dramatic entrance hall, beautiful reception rooms, and 14 bedrooms. It is currently a four-star hotel and includes an acclaimed restaurant (with two dining rooms, a bar, and a professional kitchen) housed in one of two listed barns on the property. There are several additional dwellings: Among them is the orangery (a charming three-bedroom residence), a guest cottage, caretaker’s house, and farmhouse with several substantial outbuildings. A second barn, with three reception rooms, staff quarters, and a linen room, and two residences in need of a complete renovation all offer scope for development. The rest of the estate is composed of landscaped gardens, woodland, agricultural and grazing land, and a 16-acre pond.

Darlington is a 58-room, 50,000-square-foot mansion surrounded by more than 12 acres framed by New Jersey’s Ramapo Mountains. This magnificent Jacobean-style “castle” was conceived over a century ago by railroad scion George Crocker, who enlisted the services of architect James Brite and Henry Bacon to bring his vision to life. Finished in 1907, the Harvard brick and Indiana limestone mansion was modeled on Bramshill House in Hampshire, one of England’s greatest “prodigy houses. Over the course of seven years, Darlington was completely renovated, retaining all of its original architectural splendor, including the great hall’s two-story inglenook and Aeolian Player Pipe Organ, and a library roof painted by Tiffany Studios’ James Wall Finn. A century after the original construction, the renovation project again employed the world’s most talented wood carvers and designers to bring the mansion into the 21st century. All mechanical systems were replaced, all bathrooms were rebuilt, and a new living area of 12,000 square feet was added. Darlington’s glorious grounds have gained a tennis court, fountains and pergolas, a gazebo, and an outdoor pool with cabana. There is also an eight-car garage, a gate house, and staff quarters with five suites and a lounge.

Château Borelli in Saint-Tropez, France

This apartment has a fairy-tale setting in Château Borelli, an enchanting 19th-century castle in the exclusive private community of Les Parcs de Saint-Tropez.

This regal residence is situated in Saint-Tropez’s legendary Château Borelli, an opulent 19th-century castle on the Bay of Canoubiers. Château Borelli’s two minaret-like towers rise from its paradisal setting in Les Parcs de Saint-Tropez, a luxury gated community between the Bay of Canoubiers, Massif des Maures, and the Mediterranean Sea. The design is evocative of Egyptian Neo-Mamluk architecture. Of particular note is the ornate domed tower, accessed via a turreted, covered walkway. Other notable features of the 2,368-square-foot, four-bedroom home are palatial reception rooms with frescoed ceilings. Furthering the allure is a private park with verdant, palm-lined lawns and a swimming pool.

Henderson Castle and Vineyard in Kalamazoo, Michigan

The Jewel of Kalamazoo, Henderson Castle is an ivy-clad brick Queen Anne mansion built in 1895.

Henderson Castle has been a Michigan landmark since 1895. The ivy-clad brick Queen Anne, a quintessential Victorian mansion, takes pride of place atop West Main Hill, overlooking downtown Kalamazoo. It was built by architect C. A. Gombert for Kalamazoo businessman Frank Henderson at a cost of $72,000, a fortune in its day. The exterior was constructed of Lake Superior sandstone and brick. Inside, beautiful wood finishes of mahogany, bird’s eye maple, quartered oak, birch, and American sycamore grace the castle’s 25 grandly appointed rooms. Among them, seven bathrooms (one with a 13-head shower) and a grand, third-floor ballroom. Today, Henderson Castle Boutique Inn is owned by French chef Francois Moyet and is ranked as the top historical inn in Michigan by AAA. It’s been completely renovated throughout, retaining its splendid antique details, including the ballroom, with its marble floors, crystal chandeliers, and leaded and stained glass windows. Modern updates include fiber optic accents, a sauna, steam room, and a rooftop hot tub. The property is secluded within three acres of private grounds with a vineyard and wine tasting room.

The ancient embraces the ultramodern at this restored medieval castle close to Brittany's historic ports and Atlantic Ocean beaches.

The magnificent castle sits on 98.8 acres of wooded parkland along the River Aven in southern Brittany. Built and developed from the 15th to the 18th centuries, the limestone structure fell into disrepair until extensive restoration and renovation over the last 20 years brought it into the 21st century. The restoration took roughly seven years to dismantle the structure stone by stone, with a crew of seven stonemasons permanently on-site. They created a granite quarry on the property to acquire new stone. The artisans’ contemporary touches nevertheless respect the structure’s antiquity. The castle’s innovatively updated interiors extend to nearly 25,000 square feet. Among the medieval features are the original solid-stone spiral staircase and a great room with a monumental limestone fireplace and beamed ceiling. There are several original buildings, including the chapel, monk’s tower, honey shed, and flax drying shed. The property also includes a boathouse on the river, a workshop, garage, caretaker’s house, employee’s lodge, large detached guest house, a natural granite swimming pool and several themed gardens, which seamlessly blend into the medieval environs.

Schaloen Castle in Oud-Valkenburg, Limburg, Netherlands

Schaloen Castle is a magnificent, moated castle built on the site of a medieval fortress. The property is surrounded by formal gardens bordered by a nature reserve in the Dutch province of Limburg.

This moated, 17th century castle is surrounded by 2.5 acres of formal gardens on the banks of the Geul, a meandering tributary of the River Meuse. Castle Schaloen was built in 1656 on the site of a medieval fortress dating to 1200 and restored in 1894 and 1985. The castle remains fully intact, including the stately neo-Gothic façade with its thick marlstone walls and four turrets. This fairy-tale estate is entered via a private bridge across a moat. Beyond the great hall, with its stone staircase and marble mosaic-tiled floor, is a reception room with stucco ceiling, wood-panelled walls, white marble fireplace, and stone balcony. The dining vault, with its ornate frescoed walls, is served by a gourmet kitchen with a beautiful pink marble fireplace. The knight’s hall is now an elegant living room with a monumental fireplace and oak herringbone floors. Directly adjacent is the tower room, now a wood-panelled office. An oak staircase rises to the private quarters. The castle grounds contain several outbuildings built in the early 18th century. Among them is the gatehouse, forge, and carriage house. The access bridge and garden walls were also restored during this period. Schaloen Castle stands between two other historically significant castles, Castle East and Castle Genhoes; all three are situated within a 988-acre nature reserve.

12th-Century Castle in Bucine, Tuscany

This 12th-century castle in the Chianti hills was one of several defensive fortresses built by the First Florentine Republic during the conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines.

A small hamlet in Tuscany’s Chianti hills is the breathtaking setting for this medieval castle. Built in the 12th century, the castle was one of many defensive fortresses guarding this strategically important valley between Siena and Arezzo. The old stone walls include perfectly maintained Guelph crenellation and brackets with coats of arms, Florentine mullioned windows, and an arched loggia, which leads to an Italian garden with terra-cotta and stone statues. Measuring more than 8,600 square feet, the interior is configured as nine luxurious apartments. The original details include terra-cotta tile floors, exposed stone walls, beamed ceilings, stained glass windows, frescoes, bronzes, and decorative marble fireplaces. The castle is one of several structures surrounding a central courtyard. Among them are three separate guest apartments, a fitness center, and garage. This unique property also includes a resort-inspired pool and beautiful parkland with an olive grove.

Louis XIII-style Château in the Loire Valley, France

Built in 1636, this restored Louis XIII-style château is surrounded by 98.8 acres of private parkland in the Loire Valley.

This exceptional, listed Louis XIII-style château was built in 1636 and remodeled and extended in the mid-18th century, with the addition of two entrance pavilions and outbuildings. The estate underwent further renovation in 2010 and 2013, preserving its period details while bringing it into the 21st century. The château is hidden from view amid nearly 100 acres of forest, meadows, and pastures. A long driveway leads through verdant parkland to the grand main residence. Beyond are the splendid French formal gardens, graced with a water mirror, moats, a walled orchard and vegetable garden, and centuries-old plane and lime trees.