Castles of Europe

by blackspanielgallery

Europe has a great number of castles, and their appearances vary significantly.

Castles of Europe

Castles dot the landscape of Europe, and many of those castles have a unique appearance. It would be strange to find two identical. This comes from many factors. Each region had its own ideas of design. Each period had its own needs that dictated design elements. And, each topography had its own advantages and its own disadvantages compared to other locations.

One thing castles had in common, if they were to be used for defense it would be best to see the an approaching enemy as early and at as great a distance as possible. And, if the line of sight from the castle to a point a great distance away worked for the sentries within the castle, so too that same line of sight makes a castle visible at a great distance. Hence, castles are picturesque, and can be captured as an image from afar.

INTRO IMAGE: This image is from Allposters, used with permission from affiliate status.
Hyrule Retro Travel Poster

Castles Made People Secure from Attack

Defend Against the Weaponry of the Day

What worked in the sixth century might be inadequate in the fourteenth century.  Weapons evolved.  What might withstand an attack in an early time period might be no match for the weapons of a later time.  Castles evolved in response to the weapons of the day.

Some war machines had to be brought right up to the walls, and could be stymied by a moat.  Others could act at a distance.  A wall being pounded might crumble, if it were but one stone thick, but if it were wide, well it might be damaged, but not fall.  A wide wall all also gave a place for defenders to repel an enemy scaling the wall.

The weakest point was the door.  It had to be impossible to burn, and be secured from battering.

As weapons changed, so the design had to change.  Defending against a flung rock by a catapult would have different requirements than defending against a cannon.  


Some Castles Were Built Atop Steep Hills

A Commanding Presence

Not every castle was able to have a moat.  If the ground was too rocky, there was no construction equipment and explosives to remove that rock.  And, even if it could be removed, where would the water come from to fill the moat?  True, a moat could keep an enemy from bringing a tower filled with a fighting force right up to the walls, but some regions did not lend themselves to a moat.

Another way of solving the wall scaling problem was to build atop a steep hill.  Even if only three sides had a steep drop, it made defending one wall easier than defending four. 


These high perched castles are among those photographed the most.  They can be seen at a great distance.


Some Had a Design that Does Not Fit

Not Your Typical European Design

The Moors captured much of Spain, and remained there long enough to build some castles that looks out of place in Europe.  They are built with an eastern style, resembling buildings in the Arabian homeland.  One such castle is  Alcázar of Segovia, which has a unique shape.  It clearly shows the Moorish influence in Spain.  Another is the Alhambra of Granada.



Top Ten Most Beautiful


Rick Steves

Castle on an Island

A Natural Moat

Schwerin Castle is located on an island in the Schweriner See, a lake in Germany.  Imagine trying to force entry into a castle on an island.   Bygone days had war machines that needed to be assembled to be useful, and this location gives very little chance of assembling anything before a counterattack could be launched.

There is even a castle that is on an island at high tide, and not at low tide.  

Personal Favorites

Bavarian Castles

Perhaps it is the settings, a crowning jewel set in a majestic mountain, but the appearances of the Bavarian castles are especially beautiful, with their towering spires.  Certainly, the Black Forest of Bavaria, and its mountainous terrain give a backdrop worthy of such great beauty.  Perhaps it is that I have ancestors from Bavaria, but these are my personal favorites.  You probably will prefer others, and that is fine.  Let’s just say there are a lot of real eye pleasing castles left to visit and photograph.

Why So Many?

So Few Monarchs

Well, you did not have to be a king or queen to have a castle.  Certainly, a king or queen should have one, and with current countries having been once divided, there were many monarchs in Europe.  But, lesser nobles might also have a castle, such as a duke or baron.  These served a military purpose, and also served as a residence, including the seat of government.

Edinburgh Castle

A historic castle Edinburgh Castle, is one of great importance in the history of Scotland.  Many important people, among them Robert the Bruce, have been associated with this castle, and the it has seen much battle action.

Edinburgh Castle was the royal residence beginning with David I, and lasting until the Union of the Crowns in 1603.  It still offers spectacular views, and produces beautiful images.



The word chateau refers to several different types of buildings, but one is the residence of nobility.  Many lack the ramparts atop thick walls that other castles had, but they were home to nobility.  The most significant chateau is Chateau de Versailles, once occupied by King Louis XIV, the Sun King, and remained the royal residence until King Louis XVI was forced to leave during the French Revolution.

French Castles

Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle

British Pride

Buckingham Palace is the main residence of the British Royal Family.  It is huge, but looks more like a residence than a fortress.  It is the focus of British pride, a point of reference for an entire nation.  Here the United Kingdom gives a face to the world, and what an impressive face it is.

In addition to Buckingham Palace one has to consider Windsor Castle as highly significant to the United Kingdom.  Here is the longest occupied castle in the world, having been occupied since Henry I.  It stands on a site where none other than William the Conqueror first built a castle, making this site of great historical significance.  I is still often visited by the Royal Family.

Castle Chillon


When finding beautiful castles, do not omit Switzerland.

When one thinks of Switzerland, two images come forth, the Alps and beautiful lakes.  Imagine adding a castle as the focal point, using the Alps as a backdrop, and view the scene across a lovely lake.  Such is the case with Castle Chillon, and, in fact, some other castles of Switzerland.


Here is a castle not only of historical significance, but used by Byron in his literary work.  

Irish Castles

Ross Castle and Blarney Castle

One of the Irish castles involved in the Irish Confederate Wars, and one of the last to surrender.  It is remarkably preserved, which is far from universally so among Irish castles.  Many Irish castles show significant damage.  It is unfortunate that the Irish Confederate Wars were fought after gunpowder allowed cannons to be used, which inflicted greater damage than many older weapons.

The timing of the Irish Confederate Wars has taken a toll on Irish castles.  Dunluce Castle is one that time and war have been unkind to.


Perhaps the most widely known castle in Ireland is Blarney Castle, the home of the well known Blarney Stone.  

Great Castles of Europe

Great Castles Of Europe

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Updated: 06/23/2017, blackspanielgallery
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blackspanielgallery on 06/18/2015

Thanks for the comments to both of you. Yes, each country could be done as a different article.

frankbeswick on 06/18/2015

The castles of each country are worth an article in themselves. Ireland, as Veronica says, has some interesting castles, including the ones that she mentioned, and Blarney Castle, where you can kiss the Blarney stone. Wales has some spectacular castles, including Conway and Caernarvon. Conway is well integrated with the town of Conwy. One castle that I enjoyed was Bamburgh, a castle in the north eastern English county of Northumberland, which stands majestically on a high, rocky sill on the coast. It has a great museum.

A castle that I really liked was Eileann Donnan [pronounced Illan Donnan] up on the west coast of Scotland, which is on a coastal island accessed by a bridge, and what a windy place! It was the ancestral seat of Clan Macrae. It is small, but full of character.

There are some grimly remote castles. Castle Stalker, the seat of Clan Campbell, was on the inaccessible shores of Loch Awe, and when the Campbells were being threatened they would scornfully state, "It's a far cry to Loch Awe" meaning that the attackers would face quite a journey. The Castle of Mey on the tip of mainland Britain used to be the home of the Queen Mother. It was left to the nation when she died and you can sometimes visit its walled and well-sheltered garden where she grew plants under cover from the ferocious salt laden winds that scour the coast.

Veronica on 06/18/2015

What a delightful article, factual and interesting, well divided into topics.

Of course an article or even an entire book could never include them all but you have included some examples which show a variation in location and style and age.

Neuschwanstein Castle is the stuff of dreams and that it was why chosen for the Chitty Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film. It is on my "to visit " list. Imagine filming there! Slovenia in Eastern Europe has a castle on a beautiful lake.

But may I please respectfully include, Limerick Castle, Bunratty Castle and Ashford Castle in Ireland?

blackspanielgallery on 06/17/2015

If I tried to add them all, well this would be books in volumes. I looked at the lists by country on Wikipedia, and it would be far too many to show. Thanks.

jptanabe on 06/17/2015

Nice selection of castles - of course there are so many more! Glad to see Edinburgh Castle made it on your list.

blackspanielgallery on 06/15/2015

Yes, it could easily be argued to be the most beautiful.

ologsinquito on 06/15/2015

I love that Bavarian castle, which is a commonly photographed one, probably because the setting is so spectacular.

blackspanielgallery on 06/13/2015

Thank you both for visiting and commenting.

Maritravel on 06/13/2015

Not castles in the air, then. Castles very much rooted in the landscape and all the lovlier or that. Nice illustrations for the article.

candy47 on 06/11/2015

Thank you for taking me on a lovely tour of castles of Europe!

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