Dreaming of a retreat from the heat and an escape from the hustle bustle of city life? Forget the beach or the mountains and get thee to a castle.
Whether you envision a romantic step back in time or a secluded hide-out with gourmet dining, there is probably a castle for you. We discovered castle hotels all over Europe that have been completely renovated into luxury accommodations. We prefer the castles that maintain the most original character through architecture, artwork and antiques. Of course, running water is a welcome improvement.
(pictured on previous page)
1. England: Augill Castle, in the Upper Eden Valley, was built in 1841 as a Victorian gentleman's country residence. Now it is the residence of a family who welcomes all to their comfortable country house where they insist formality is strictly forbidden. (about $270 per night)
2. Ireland:<a href="http://www.castleleslie.com/home.html"> Castle Leslie in County Monaghan is one of the last great Irish Castle estates still in the hands of its founding family since the 1660's. All we can say is that this castle is gorgeous and somehow chic and historic. If we could teleport to Ireland, we would be in this hotel right now. (about $270 per night)
3. Ireland: This is a can't miss view of the Boom Boom Bathroom at Castle Leslie. Yes, it has a disco ball. The castle also boasts the oldest plumbed bath in Ireland, a throne toilet and a complete bathroom hidden away in a doll's house.
4. Scotland: Glenapp Castle, built in 1870 in the Scottish Baronial style of architecture, has been completely restored and refurbished to become a five star luxury hotel. Located on the beautiful Ayrshire coast, rooms enjoy views across the Irish Sea or the 36 acres of idyllic gardens and grounds. (about $920 for two people, including breakfast and gourmet dinner)
5. Italy: Castello di Gargonza in Tuscany is a fortified village dating back to the 1200's. The buildings have been carefully restored and provide guests the choice of a bed and breakfast arrangement or vacation apartments. The castle that Dante once stayed in now has Wi-Fi. (from $150 to $200 per night)
Wales: The scenic Craig-y-Nos Castle is hidden away in the Brecon Beacons National Park. Once the home of a famous opera singer who entertained royalty, the castle was also a much less glamorous TB sanitorium and a geriatric hospital. Now it's not only an acclaimed hotel but a notorious spot for ghost hunting. (about $265 per night)
Spain: The Parador de Alarcón occupies the medieval castle of the Marqueses de Villena. Founded by the Muslims in the 8th Century, the castle has a rich history and impressive art collection. It was recently remodeled to incorporate both modern and classical elements to become a unique contemporary castle. (about $280 per night)
So pack up the cheesy romance novels or books of poetry and abscond to a far away castle . . . be it in Europe or only in your dreams.