Castles, Fortresses, and Palaces - Selected Photos

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Dunguaire Castle

Dungaire Castle, County Galway, Ireland
Dungaire Castle, County Galway, Ireland. Photo by Tim Graham / Getty Images News / Getty Images

From the cliffs of Ireland to the mountains of Japan, nearly every part of the world has some form of castle or palace. In this photo gallery you will find pictures of some of the world's most remarkable royal manor houses plus links to indexes, directories, and resources for learning more.

Dunguaire Castle is one of the most often photographed castles in Ireland. The tower is 75 feet tall and has been restored.

Learn more about the O'Hynes clan and Galway Bay by spending an evening at Dunguaire Castle >>

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Johnstown Castle

Johnstown Castle sits alongside a river in County Wexford, Ireland
A Victorian Home Built Like a Castle in County Wexford, Ireland Johnstown Castle sits alongside a river in County Wexford, Ireland. Photo © Medioimages/Photodisc - Getty Images

Johnstown Castle is a Victorian recreation of medieval architecture. The turreted home was built between 1810 and 1855.

Johnstown Castle itself is closed to the public. However, the Irish Agricultural Museum located on the property, as well as the Johnstown Castle Gardens designed by architect Daniel Robertson, are open to visitors.

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Tully Castle

Tully Castle in Northern Ireland, a 17th Century fortified estate or plantation castle
15th Century Stronghouse in County Fermanagh, Ireland Tully Castle in Northern Ireland, a 17th Century fortified estate or plantation castle. Photo by IIC/Axiom/Axiom Photographic Agency Collection/Getty Images

In the 1600s, inhabitants of Tully Castle were imprisioned in its vaults, and the stronghouse was turned to ruins.

You may have heard of "Scotch-Irish" Americans, but Ulster-Scots have a much longer history. It all began with James I, King of England and Scotland from 1603 to 1625. Yes, that King James, famous for the King James Version Bible, patron of Shakespeare's acting company, and namesake of the first settlement in the New World, Jamestown, Virginia.

It's a short boat ride from northern England and Scotland to northern Ireland, and in 1609 King James I encouraged the emigration of his people, largely Protestants, to colonize and "civilize" the Gaelic Ulster. This movement was called the Plantation of Ulster or the King James Plantation.

Tully Castle in Northern Ireland is a plantation castle, built by Irish workers as a fortified farmhouse for Sir John Hume and his family. Two dozen other families lived on the surrounding acreage called Carrynroe. By 1641, the native Irish Catholics had had enough of the "planters" invasion of Protestant Scots and Brits, and rebels began to organize in what is known as the 1641 Rebellion. Tully Castle was attacked on Christmas Eve 1641 and its inhabitants eventually massacred. Today it stands much as it did on Christmas Day in 1641, empty and in ruins.

Archaeologic research has revealed that Tully Castle was originally up to three stories high, probably with a thatched roof. A bawn, a type of fortification wall of mud and stone, still surrounds much of the property. The bawn had corner towers, creating a castle-like image. A small English Renaissance garden within the bawn area has been the only restoration.

Learn More:

Sources: King James I (1603 - 1625), Royal Family History; Tully Castle 1641 by Nick Brannon, BBC [accessed March 9, 2015]

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Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Germany

Schloss Neuschwanstein, fanciful Victorian palace of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria
Fanciful Victorian Palace of Mad King Ludwig Schloss Neuschwanstein, fanciful Victorian palace of Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria. Photo of Neuschwanstein by Jeff Wilcox, CC-BY-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The eccentric King Ludwig II of Bavaria built his German palace to resemble a medieval castle. With towering white turrets, Neuschwanstein Castle looks medieval, but it is not.

Neuschwanstein Castle was built with a kitchen, running water, flush toilets, hot air central heating, and energy-efficient industrial steel windows. Its interior design was decorated around the same mythical German legends used by composer Richard Wagner in his operas. The modern fairy tale architecture became the inspiration for both Sleeping Beauty Castle and Cinderella Castle in Walt Disney's theme parks.

About Neuschwanstein Castle:

Location: Schwangau, Germany, near the Pöllat Gorge and the mountains of Tyrol (about 2 hours southwest of Munich)
Other Names: New Hohenschwangau Castle; Schloss Neuschwanstein; New Swanstone Castle
Built: 1868-1892
Style: Romanesque (Revival), with a five-story Palas
Commissioned By: Ludwig II (1845-1886), King of Bavaria
Architect: Eduard Riedel from drawings by Christian Jank
Interiors:: Julius Hofmann and Peter Herwegen
Construction Materials: Cement foundations; brick walls; limestone cladding; steel framing in Palas
Preservation Challenges: monitoring unstable foundation; continual securing of rock upon which it's built; climate-related deterioration of limestone facade
World Icon: In 2007, Neuschwanstein Castle was a finalist in the campaign to choose the New 7 Wonders of the World. Learn more.

Wagnerian Influences:

Richard Wagner was a composer of dramatic and romantic operas, including Tannhäuser, Tristan und Isolde, and Lohengrin. Since childhood, King Ludwig II (famously known as Mad King Ludwig) had connected with Wagner's music, especially the character of the Swan Knight, Lohengrin. Ludwig's romantic and graceful palace in Schwangau, Germany became known as Neuschwanstein, which means new swan stone.

Murals of the medieval tales that had inspired Wagner's operas are found throughout Neuschwanstein Castle, which Ludwig dedicated Wagner. Mad King Ludwing's extreme passion for Wagner and lavish architectural projects became legendary, and also controversial. In 1886, amid a movement to dispose the king, Ludwig died mysteriously, perhaps by murder, perhaps by suicide.

Learn More About Neuschwanstein Castle:

Sources: Idea and History, Building History, Interior and modern technology, and Neuschwanstein today, Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen [accessed August 20, 2013].

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Rock of Cashel

Rock of Cashel in Ireland
Fortress of Ancient Celtic Kings The majestic Rock of Cashel, ancient seat of Celtic Kings. Photo © Simon Russell/Getty Images

Ancient Celtic Kings ruled from the Rock of Cashel in County Tipperary, Ireland.

According to legend, St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, converted King Munster to Christianity at the Rock of Cashel. Located in County Tipperary in Ireland's province of Munster, the Rock of Cashel (Carraig Phadraig in Irish), was the site of ancient Celtic kings of Munster for several hundred years.

Most of the original fortress is gone. The buildings still standing at Cashel date from the 12th and 13th centuries.

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Buckingham Palace, London, UK

Buckingham Palace, London, an open cube, with four sides surrounding an open square, a quadrangle
A House Becomes a Palace, Fit for a King and Queen Buckingham Palace quadrangle in Westminster, London, UK. Aerial view of Buckingham Palace in Westminster ©Jason Hawkes, Getty Images

Why is the House of Windsor, the British Monarchy's most famous home, called Buckingham Palace? Buckingham wasn't always a palace. Just like any homeowner, British royalty bought a "fixer-upper." Then they renovated, remodeled, and built additions for the extended family.

About Buckingham Palace:

Original Name: Buckingham House, built in 1702
Original Owner: John Sheffield, First Duke of Buckingham
Other Names: Queen's House, so named after King George III bought Buckingham House for his wife in 1761
First Royal Resident: Queen Victoria in July 1837, whose reign lasted until 1901
Current Residents: Home office of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh
Size: 108 meters wide (front), 120 meters long (including the central quadrangle), and 24 meters high
Number of rooms: 775
Largest room: Ballroom (36.6 meters long, 18 meters wide, 13.5 meters high) added by Queen Victoria in 1856

Architects of Buckingham House and Palace:

  • William Wynde with William Talman: 1702, built Buckingham House
  • Sir William Chambers: 1762, Scottish architect for George III
  • John Nash:, 1826, King George IV remodeled the house into a palace, incorporating a Marble Arch into the courtyard design
  • Edward Blore: finished palace remodeling in the 1830s for King William IV; continued expanding the palace for Queen Victoria, moving the Marble Arch out to Hyde Park and adding another wing to form the well-known quadrangle around 1850
  • Sir Aston Webb: 1913, refaced deteriorating French stone with Portland Stone

Sources: Buckingham Palace and History, The Official Website of the British Monarchy; Buckingham House at dukesofbuckingham.org.uk/places/london/pall_mall/buckingham_house.htm; and Wotton House at dukesofbuckingham.org.uk/places/wotton/wotton.htm [accessed November 9, 2013]

07
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War and Peace in a Hall of Mirrors

Large, Baroque marble hallway with statues and mirrors in the Palace of Versailles
La Grande Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), Chateau de Versailles, France. Photo by Sami Sarkis / Photographer's Choice / Getty Images

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace at Versaille defined an ornate architecture that became known as French Baroque.

Buildings can be important not only for their architecture but for the events that happen within the architecture. Such is the case with the French Castle at Versailles. The Baroque Palace of Versaille is as important in world history as it is in architectural history.

About the Versaille Estate:

A château is a French castle, and the 670 meter long Chateau of Versailles is no exception. The estate began more humbly in the early 1600s when King Louis XIII enlisted Philibert Le Roy to rebuild a country hunting lodge into a small castle of brick and stone. From 1661 to 1715 Louis XIV, the Sun King, created the grand estate we know today. The expansion began with architects Louis Le Vau and François d'Orbay designing the regal structures to fit within the gardens of André Le Nôtre. By 1682, the estate had become the royal residence for the Sun King and the French government.

The central gallery walkway of the palace, La Grande Galerie, was a major piece of Versailles' expansion and new architecture. UNESCO has called the room "a masterpiece of the classicizing and typically French style, called the style of Louis the XIV."

About the Grand Hall of Mirrors (La Grande Galerie des Glaces):

Completed: 1682; restored in 2007
Architect: Jules Hardouin-Mansart (well-known for inventing the Mansard roof)
Length: 240 feet (73 meters or 80% of a football field)
Rooms on Each End: War Room (salon de la guerre) and Peace Room (salon de la paix)
Number of Mirrors: 357, opposite a row of windows
Number of Arches: 17
Ceiling Paintings: Scenes from the Life of The Sun King painted by Charles Le Brun

Why is the Chateau de Versailles important?

  • Architecture: Versailles set the standard for 17th century royal residences, ornate ostentation, and the excessive design that became known as French Baroque. This type of architecture emphasized the divide between the rich royalty and the poor common folk.
  • History: Versailles was the center of French government from May 6, 1682 until the 1789 French Revolution. During that time, in February 1778, Benjamin Franklin signed two treaties with France, which put France on the side of the U.S. during the American Revolutionary War against the British. In the 20th century Versaille remained a venue for global summits and treaty-signings, most notably the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, signed in the Hall of Mirrors on June 28, 1919.

Architects and Artists of Louis XIV (1661-1715):

  • André Le Nôtre, Landscape Architect
  • Louis Le Vau, Chief Architect
  • Jules Hardouin-Mansart, Chief Architect and Superintendent of Buildings
  • Charles Le Brun, Chief Painter
  • François Girardon, Chief Sculptor
  • Antoine Coysevox, Sculptor
  • André-Charles Boulle, Chief Cabinet-Maker

Learn More About:

  • The Versailles Treaty
  • Finding Romance in Versailles
  • Top Ten Chateaux in the Loire Valley
  • The Palace of Versailles - Pictures and Visitor Information
  • Hall of Mirrors in the Versailles Photo Gallery

Sources: The hall of Mirrors, The Palace, 1682 Versailles, capital of the kingdom, and "La Construction du Château de Versailles" (PDF), The Public Establishment at en.chateauversailles.fr website; World Heritage Site ICOMOS documentation (PDF), UNESCO [accessed November 10, 2013]

08
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The Castle of Hamlet's Ghost

Kronborg Castle, Helsingoer, Denmark
Shakespeare's Location for Hamlet, Prince of Denmark Kronborg Castle, Helsingoer, Denmark. Photo by Danita Delimont/Gallo Images Collection/Getty Images

This Danish castle may have fallen into obscurity if it weren't for William Shakespeare (1564-1616). The Royal Castle of Kronborg at Helsingør, Denmark has long been considered Hamlet's Elsinore Castle.

Kronborg Castle Timeline:

  • 1420s: Originally built by Erik of Pomerania
  • 1574-1585: Fortified and rebuilt with red brick and sandstone in the Renaissance style by Frederik II, under the direction of architect Hans van Paeschen
  • 1629: Destroyed by fire
  • 1631-1637: Rebuilt in the Baroque style by Christian IV, under the direction of master builder Hans van Steenwinckel the Younger
  • 1658-1660: Occupied by Sweden until the Treaty of Copenhagen ended hostilities
  • 1690: Crownwork fortification added by Christian V
  • 1785-1923: Occupied by the Danish military
  • 1924-present: Restored to the time of Frederik II and Christian IV
  • 2000: Named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

Kronborg Castle is an outstanding example of the Renaissance castle, and one which played a highly significant role in the history of this region of northern Europe.UNESCO

It's said that Christian IV convinced the national council to fund the rebuilding of the fire-destroyed Kronborg Castle by using this argument:

Once a country no longer appreciates its own architectural treasures it is really impoverished.

Learn More at About.com:

Sources: History and The Renaissance Castle of Kronborg and Christian IV's Kronborg and Hamlet, pages from the Kronborg Castle official website [accessed March 9, 2015]