They began as practical buildings meant to defend the property of landed families from invasion, and later entered the popular imagination as the sites of romantic tales of chivalric knights and courtly love. But castles aren’t just the atmospheric backdrops for fairy tales, period dramas, and Hollywood films: Some of these historic fortresses have been converted into luxuriously appointed private homes. Lavish amenities like swimming pools, spas, and chef’s kitchens are designed to satisfy contemporary tastes, especially when they’re set among the medieval grandeur of a castle, alongside centuries-old mosaic floors, stone fireplaces, and stained-glass windows. Whether the castle of your dreams is gothic, baroque, or neoclassical, these magnificent residences are exemplars of master craftsmanship that inspire with their grand proportions and timeless charm.
Château in Brittany, France
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.
12th-Century Castle in Bucine, Tuscany
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.
Börstorsps Castle in Västergötland, Sweden
Börstorsps Castle is surrounded by 296.5 acres of arable land, pastures, and forests on the shores of Lake Vänern in Sweden’s picturesque Västergötland region. The castle dates to the 1400s, then under the name of Bergestorp, and was first built in 1646. It was rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style in the 1850s by Baron Carl Leuhusen and Baroness Wilhelmina von Knorring, to a design by architect Hjalmar Wijnblad. The castle, ancillary dwellings, farm buildings, and an impressive three-arched bridge were built of Kinnekulle stone. The entrance to the castle is a four-story tower. Beyond are grandly appointed living spaces with stone floors and beamed ceilings. The property includes a farming estate with a dairy and Europe’s ﬁrst climate-certiﬁed beef production facility; hunting grounds; and a harbor with access to fishing. The landscape has a rich biodiversity of ﬂora and fauna. Bordering the estate are native forests and open farmland. Börstorps Castle is located two hours from Gothenburg, three hours from Stockholm, and 15 minutes from Mariestad.
Louis XIII-style Château in the Loire Valley, France
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.
The Castle in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands
Enchanted by its dramatic hilltop setting overlooking the sea, the Contessa Nadia Farber of Bulgaria and her husband purchased this prominent property on the coast of St. Croix to build her fairy-tale Caribbean castle. After completing the Castle in 1989, she continued to acquire land and eventually assembled the 102-acre estate that stands today in magnificent solitude. Encompassing 10,000 square feet, the castle and gatekeeper’s lodge were inspired by the Moorish and oriental architecture of the contessa’s homeland and travels. The area once housed the Fairleigh Dickinson University’s West Indies Marine Lab and is complete with roads and infrastructure, partially zoned for commerce. Considered St. Croix’s most desirable location, adjacent to the yacht club, its sheltered lagoon is just opposite the spectacular Buck Island Reef National Monument.
Cottens Castle in Begnins, Vaud, Switzerland
Cottens Castle in the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland, dates from the 16th century. The magnificent structure that stands today was built in 1727 by Swiss nobleman Jean Stürler, Lord of Serraux. The property was purchased in 1936 and has been in the same family ever since. A majestic driveway leads up to the castle. The 7,416-square-foot interior is richly appointed with ornate 18th-century finishes, including wooden floors, fireplaces, and decorative moldings. Currently configured as five separate apartments and offices, the castle’s 29 rooms, which include 10 bedrooms, could easily be converted into a single-family residence. Castle Cottens is set within a scenic private park with centuries-old trees and a lake. The property has a highly sought-after location just 20 minutes from Geneva.
Fairwinds Castle in Landrum, South Carolina
Fairwinds Castle in Landrum, South Carolina, has all the hallmarks of an English country estate. The grandeur begins at the wrought-iron entrance gates, which open to a stamped concrete drive past picturesque pastures to arrive at the three-story main residence. At the heart of the house is a crenellated stone tower. Arched front doors lead into a foyer with a gothic-inspired spiral staircase. Beyond is the great room, with coffered ceiling, travertine marble floors, antique chandeliers, bookcases, antique hand-carved mantel, and two sets of French doors. The gourmet kitchen features a dining area with a floor-to-ceiling stained glass door to the garden. Above the great room is a beautiful wood-panelled library on the mezzanine level. A yoga/fitness room and palatial master suite are on the second floor. The third floor houses a theater. The grounds include a saltwater pool, terrace with firepit; a private pond with gazebo; a charming, self-contained guest house; and a three-car garage. Fairwinds Castle is also a dream for equestrians: There are several paddocks and a two-stall barn, and the property is just 20 minutes’ drive from Tryon International Equestrian Center.