In Georgian England, it was customary for members of the peerage to establish a country seat. Thus it was that Horace Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford, the English writer, man of letters, antiquarian, and Whig politician, who established a taste for Gothic castles in the countryside. He purchased “Chopp’d Straw Hall,” a villa on the Thames in Twickenham, West London, and called it Strawberry Hill House.
From 1747 to 1797, Walpole transformed the villa into Britain’s greatest example of Gothic Revival architecture. There, in the summer of 1764, after waking from a dream in the “gloomth” of his “little Gothic castle,” Walpole began his seminal work, The Castle of Otranto, the first Gothic novel.
Herewith, we proffer a collection of country seats, great and grand, in the Gothic tradition.
Consider Sangeste Castle in southern Estonia, a 19th-century neo-Gothic manor fashioned after England’s Windsor Castle, or Castle Mandl in Córdoba, Argentina, built in the 1920s by an Austrian industrialist once married to Hollywood legend Hedy Lamarr. Or go back to the source, the Middle Ages, to a moated fortress in the Netherlands or a keep in Piedmont, Italy.
Step across the drawbridge beneath the crenellated walls into the magical medieval mysteries of the Gothic—Walpole’s world.
A historic 74-acre estate dating from the 13th century, Sangaste Castle in South Estonia is an exemplar of Gothic Revival architecture with Tudor influences.
The castle was built circa-1881 for the nobleman Friedrich Georg Magnus von Berg, the “Rye Count” who developed a hardy strain of winter rye that is still cultivated worldwide today. The count had visited and admired England’s royal Windsor and Balmoral castles.
The castle’s stark Gothic central tower (with its grand, arched doorway and columned entrance hall), arched window and vaulted interiors are relieved by Tudor graces: imposing asymmetrical wings, tall chimneys, towers, balconies, covered walkways, and hardwood parquet floors.
There is an elegant courtyard, a chapel, watchtower, and glass-enclosed conservatory. Auxiliary buildings include stables, a dairy barn, and water tower. The lovely parklike grounds are composed of an arboretum, forests, and ponds.
Schaloen Castle is a magnificent, moated castle on the banks of the Geul, a meandering tributary of the River Meuse in the Dutch province of Limburg.
Built circa-1656 on the site of a medieval fortress dating from 1200, the castle’s neo-Gothic architecture remains beautifully intact, including the stately façade with its 6.5-foot-thick walls of basalt stone, four turrets, and mansard roof.
Nearby are two other historically significant castles, Castle East and Castle Genhoes. All three castles are sited within a 988-acre nature reserve in the picturesque village of Schin op Geul, less than 10 miles east of the city of Maastricht.
This Renaissance castle has a private, picturesque setting in Causses du Quercy Natural Regional Park, near Cahors in southern France.
The property offers around 16,145 square feet of living space among its dwellings, including the magnificent main château, a listed building extending to nearly 6,500 square feet.
Imposing limestone walls enclose grandly scaled rooms appointed with ornate period details, including a hand-carved stone staircase, monumental stone fireplaces, mullioned windows, flagstone floors, and 16.4-foot-high, vaulted and beamed ceilings. Stone walls and nooks provide the ideal canvas for an extensive art collection.
The grounds encompass almost 47 acres of woodland, including 10 acres of truffle oaks. The walled French formal garden is graced with a fountain, boxwood hedges, and cypress trees. Beyond is the swimming pool and three charming outbuildings, including a windmill and watchtower.
Formerly known as The Fortress, this ultra-private 24-acre estate in the Sierras de Córdoba, some 60 miles from the city of Córdoba, was built in the late 1920s by architects Emilio Maisonnave and Ernesto Mansella.
In the 1940s, the property was renamed Mandl Castle by its new owner, Friedrich “Fritz” Mandl, the Austrian-born munitions magnate and former husband of Hollywood screen siren Hedy Lamarr.
Hungarian architect Jorge Kálnay redesigned the palatial 16-bedroom main house as a European-style chalet with minimalist, avant-garde interiors inspired by French decorator Jean-Michel Frank, Swiss designer and sculptor Diego Giacometti, and furniture from the prestigious Casa Comte.
A charming guest cottage, coach house with stables, caretaker’s house, and private gardens planted with olive groves and fruit trees are further highlights.
A 13th-century Piedmontese castle complex set in parkland of about seven acres, this property offers utmost privacy just an hour from Turin and Milan.
Two independent castles function as the wings of a towering keep. One castle is the main residence, with about 9,688 square feet of living space, renovated with modern fixtures and contemporary comforts.
Its vast interior spaces are adorned with 17th-century frescoes (covering some 7,212 square feet). Its high ceilings are coffered, timbered and vaulted with detailed, artisanal finishes.
The central keep, partially restored, offers about 3,000 square feet. The second castle, with more than 16,000 square feet of space, awaits renovation with the former stables, barn and shed, and other auxiliary buildings.
Already a prestigious private residence, the property has potential for development as a luxury hotel or event hospitality site. Some aspects of the complex are of particular historical and artistic importance, and are officially protected.