World's Best Castles

They're grand, historic fortresses, and to see the best of them you have to go to Europe -- or check out these photos.

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Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle

On the banks of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands, Urquhart Castle has been a silent witness to the country’s most famous folktale, dating back hundreds of years. But the rumors of the Loch Ness Monster reached a crescendo in the mid-1930s when an amazing photograph seemed to confirm the existence of the beast. 960 1280

  

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle

Regularly raided between the 13th and 16th centuries, it’s no surprise that Urquhart Castle is in ruins. But these iconic ruins, now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, are a must-see for visitors. 960 1280

  

Upton House

Upton House

The beautiful country estate of Upton House outside of Poole, England, was the subject of one of the strangest inheritance disputes in history. When the heir to the Tichborne fortune disappeared in a shipwreck, an Australian butcher claimed to be the Tichbornes’ lost son. 960 1280

  

Upton House

Upton House

Modest as far as English estates go, Upton House was home to the Prince of Romania in the 1960s. But today, the mansion is available for weddings, events and tours. 960 1280

  

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon, George Washington’s historic home on the banks of the Potomac River in Virginia, may have been the setting for a strange medical experiment following the first American president’s death in 1799, when a doctor attempted to convince Martha Washington to allow him to resurrect the legendary statesman. 960 1280

  

Mount Vernon

Mount Vernon

This front parlor at Mount Vernon is said to have been one of George Washington’s favorite rooms and was used for entertaining guests, reading and drinking tea. Throughout the 1700s, the Washingtons continually updated this room, adding all the fashionable accoutrements of the time. 960 1280

  

Villa dei Mulini

Villa dei Mulini

The Villa dei Mulini was Napoleon Bonaparte’s seat of power during his exile on the Island of Elba off the coast of Italy. It was from this villa, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, that Napoleon plotted his unlikely escape from the island and return to power in France. 960 1280

  

Villa dei Mulini

Villa dei Mulini

The Villa dei Mulini is now open to visitors from all around the world. The estate now has a restaurant featuring local cuisine, rooms and apartments for rent and bike trails through the grounds. 960 1280

  

The Mount Airy Mansion

The Mount Airy Mansion

The Mount Airy Mansion, sitting on 1,000 acres inside what is now Rosaryville State Park in Upper Marlboro, MD, keeps with its history as a place for presidential parties with its new life as an event and wedding space. 960 1280

  

The Mount Airy Mansion

The Mount Airy Mansion

The Mount Airy Mansion was the final home of the heiress Cissy Paterson, the daughter of a wealthy American family who became trapped in an abusive marriage to a Ukrainian count. 960 1280

  

The Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo

The Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo

The Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo in Italy was the beautiful setting of the tragic tale of Bianca Maria Aloisia, the daughter of the powerful Malaspina family. The young woman, kept isolated from the world because she was an albino, decided to defy her cruel parents and pursue a love affair with a humble stable boy – which may have caused her demise. 960 1280

  

The Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo

The Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo

Today, the Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo is a museum, an artists’ residence and a bed and breakfast. Painters, writers and travelers alike can soak in the Tuscan views of the Apuan Alps and cozy accommodations. 960 1280

  

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

In 15th-century Scotland, the 10-year-old King James ruled an unstable kingdom plagued by political tensions and rivalries, and a dinner party held at Edinburgh Castle was the legendary setting for an act so shocking and brutal that it still resonates in Scotland to this day. 960 1280

  

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Head to Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, for a tour of the ancient castle full of Scottish history. The stained glass windows seen here can be found in the Great Hall, which was completed in 1511 and is renowned for its beautiful Hammerbeam roof. 960 1280

  

Seward House

Seward House

The stately Seward House in Auburn, NY, was the home of Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of State and one of his closest advisors, William Seward. At the close of the Civil War in 1865, William Seward survived a grisly attack that may have been part of the same conspiracy that took President Lincoln’s life. 960 1280

  

Seward House

Seward House

The Seward House is now home to the Seward House Museum, which documents the life of the Secretary of State. The house is preserved with the original furnishings, belongings and artwork that belonged to the Seward family. 960 1280

  

Mondragone Villa

Mondragone Villa

When the Polish antiquarian Wilfred Voynich discovers a strange manuscript filled with cryptic words and images in the Villa Mondragone in Italy, he is convinced he has discovered a rare and valuable artifact. 960 1280

  

Mondragone Villa

Mondragone Villa

Villa Mondragone is located about 12 miles southeast of Rome, and served as a temporary home for a few popes in the 16th and 17th centuries. It’s currently owned by the University of Rome Tor Vergata. 960 1280

  

Searles Castle

Searles Castle

In the Western Massachusetts town of Great Barrington, the blue dolomite mansion known as Searles Castle was commissioned by the wealthy widow Mary Hopkins. The man she hired to create it was Edward Searles, a charming interior designer, who the widow Mary would eventually marry. 960 1280

  

Searles Castle

Searles Castle

Searles Castle has 40 rooms, 36 fireplaces, 7 stories and even a dungeon-style basement. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it has changed hands several times since Searles’ death in 1920. 960 1280

  

Danesfield House

Danesfield House

About 35 miles from London, a country estate known as Danesfield House was a haven for British intelligence agents during World War II. It was here in 1943, that a young female analyst named Constance Babington Smith made a crucial discovery about the Nazi war machine, which would change the course of the conflict in Europe. 960 1280

  

Danesfield House

Danesfield House

Once a country house and wartime military base, Danesfield House has found another life as a luxury hotel and spa, complete with a pool, first-class dining and an unparalleled garden. 960 1280

  

Gradara Castle

Gradara Castle

Along the picturesque shoreline of Northeast Italy, Gradara Castle was the setting for a legendary episode from the 13th century, in which the beautiful Francesca Da Polenta was promised in marriage to the eldest son of the Malatesta clan. But when Francesca began a love affair with the brother of her new husband, the result was a tragedy immortalized in Dante’s Divine Comedy. 960 1280

  

Gradara Castle

Gradara Castle

A fortress on a hill, Gradara Castle and the town surrounding it are enclosed by 2 city walls. But despite its imposing appearance, the castle and its grounds are open for guided tours and cultural events. 960 1280

  

Karlsruche Castle
Karlsruche Castle

Karlsruche Castle

Built in 1715 in Karlsruche, Germany, this ancient castle sits at the center of the city with 32 streets radiating out from it, like spokes on a wheel, and was the seat of power for the Grand Dukes of Baden. 960 1280

  

Karlsruhe Castle

Karlsruhe Castle

But just 150 miles from Karlsruhe Castle, a young boy was found claiming to have spent his life there, locked in a windowless cell. Just who was this boy, named Kaspar Hauser, and how was he connected to the Grand Dukes of Baden? 960 1280

  

Chateau de Moilans

Chateau de Moilans

The Chateau de Moilans, in the South of France, seems to be impenetrable with its double moat, thick walls, and dungeon sitting at more than 75 feet high with 3 turrets. 960 1280

  

Chateau de Moilans

Chateau de Moilans

In the 16th century, the chateau passed from its original owners, the Miolans family, to the powerful house of Savoy, who converted the fortress into a prison. And the jail's most famous inmate was a controversial literary giant. 960 1280

  

Chateau de Moilans

Chateau de Moilans

It was in this prison that the notorious Marquis de Sade found himself after a party in 1772 that got a little too out of control ... and landed him an accusation of attempted murder. 960 1280

  

Morris-Jumel Mansion

Morris-Jumel Mansion

In Manhattan sits a Palladian-style manor inspired by ancient Greek temples: the Morris-Jumel Mansion. Today, the mansion is preserved as a museum, but in its heyday, it served as George Washington's headquarters during the Revolutionary War. 960 1280

  

Morris-Jumel Mansion

Morris-Jumel Mansion

Many of the home's original details remain, including 18th century stained glass, an octagonal sitting room, and a bed said to have been a gift from Napoleon. And when a séance is held inside the mansion, the owner appears from the beyond. 960 1280

  

Vanderbilt Mansion

Vanderbilt Mansion

This 24-room, Spanish-style villa in Centerport, NY, was designed by the same architectural firm that built Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal. And it was once home to one of the most famous and powerful families in American history, the Vanderbilts. 960 1280

  

Vanderbilt Mansion

Vanderbilt Mansion

The Vanderbilt Museum, which sits on the family’s 43-acre estate named the Eagle’s Nest, houses William K. Vanderbilt II’s marine, natural history and ethnographic collections. Visit the museum for a “living tour” where guides bring the home to life with a performance taking visitors back in time. 960 1280

  

Thrumpton Hall

Thrumpton Hall

Dating back to the 16th century, this 300-acre sprawling estate in the rolling hills of Nottinghamshire in central England is the red-brick English manor house known as Thrumpton Hall. 960 1280

  

Thrumpton Hall

Thrumpton Hall

Inside, the home boasts a magnificent library, and the windows display the coats of arms of the families who once inhabited these halls. But over 4 centuries ago, Thrumpton's occupants became entwined in a secret plot to strike a fatal blow to the English monarchy. 960 1280

  

Tower of London

Tower of London

Standing proudly on the north bank of the River Thames is an iconic fortress -- the Tower of London. Built in 1066 as a royal residence, it's where the crown jewels are held securely for the monarch. 960 1280

  


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