The earliest castles were crude affairs at best. Their builders began by excavating a ditch as deep and wide as they could dig, overlooked by the palisade, a tall fence of sharpened wooden stakes.
These palings enclosed the stout, walled courtyard, or bailey, for the business of daily life which in turn surrounded the inmost stone tower, or keep—a final refuge built on raised ground that looked to look out over all.
They were unsightly, too, but strategically formidable, defending wealthy trade routes, rivers, ports, and borderlands while villages, towns and cities grew up around them. Fast forward a few centuries and the design evolved into the towering castles of legend, lore, Sir Walter Scott, and the Disney logo.
We of the 21st century have relentlessly preserved and adapted these great structures for our own times and needs: to dwell in light, space and creature comfort, privacy and security amid ancient architectural splendor.
Grand or intimate in pattern and scale, the castles of today exhibit exquisite craftsmanship, where every stone and tile, every pane or pattern, every inch of woodwork is selected, shaped, and placed by hand. These are artisanal homes, masterfully crafted with the finest materials and finishes, combined in exuberant, elegant detail.
Timeless yet of their time, perhaps these homes are simply castles in the air—brought to earth.
Chateau Žinkovy is the largest privately owned castle in the Czech Republic. This magnificent property encompasses 47 acres of formal gardens, parkland, and farmland surrounded by an idyllic landscape of lakes and ancient forests in the beautiful Pilsen Mesto region of West Bohemia.
The château was built as a fortress in the 12th century. Ownership went eventually to the knights of Wessely, who commissioned Viennese theatrical architects Fellner and Helmer to build the striking neo-Renaissance façade.
The Škoda car-manufacturing family owned the property until the end of WWII when it was taken over by the government. The château is defined by its towers, balconies, covered walkways, and statuary.
The complex extends to 123,709 square feet and includes offices, a restaurant, conference rooms, four apartments, and extensive parking (ideal for weddings and corporate retreats).
A mill, granary, outbuildings, a partially renovated farm with 12 bungalows (six of which are refurbished), a well with a spring, and a wastewater treatment plant complete the amenities.
This Renaissance palazzo in the historic heart of Florence is just steps from many of the city’s most famous monuments, including Santa Maria del Fiore Cathedral, Basilica di San Lorenzo, Palazzo Vecchio, and the Uffizi Gallery.
The 26,910-square-foot palazzo currently operates as a boutique hotel with 15 rooms and guest apartments on the upper floors and retail units at street level.
All seven floors are accessed via elevator and ornate staircases, from the basement to the roof terrace, with its view of the Duomo and the Tuscan hills beyond.
The centerpiece of the palazzo is a magnificent courtyard with two covered loggias adorned with rib vaults and Corinthian columns. There are several terraces and loggias throughout, all connected via staircases and hallways with 16th-century frescoes, murals, and Florentine pietra serena stone reliefs.
The common spaces and guest rooms are beautifully appointed and sumptuously furnished. The hotel reception and two guest apartments are on the second level. Above is a mezzanine-level technical room. The upper floors offer seven additional apartments, including a lavish owner’s residence.
The Castle presides over Claremont Road in the prestigious Dublin 18 suburb of Foxrock.
This most impressive castellated residence was built in 1816 in the Tudor Gothic style, complete with parapets and battlements.
An extensive restoration from 2004 to 2005 brought the Castle into the 21st century while preserving the original Gothic Revival details: ornate ceiling coving and roses, and stained-glass windows. The grandly proportioned interiors have been reconfigured to provide extensive accommodations for entertaining and family living.
There are five bedrooms, four bathrooms, and several reception rooms, including a large dining room and breakfast room that open to the rear patio garden.
The Castle’s grounds are equally enchanting. Electric wrought-iron gates lead to a sweeping gravel driveway and forecourt. A row of pleached Cypress trees provides privacy.
A gazing ball water feature adds interest to the front lawn (large enough for a marquee to host a garden party or wedding). At the rear is a cascading water sculpture. Adding to the charm is a red brick potting shed.