The best castles you can stay in across Europe and the UK
Ever dreamed of being the lord or lady of the manor? Here's your chance
Viksberg Castle, Turinge, Sweden
This Swedish hideaway is perhaps the one most like a dolls house on this list. Originally constructed in the 1650s, the house has been significantly renovated, both in the 1880s and 2012. Just half an hour's drive from Stockholm, you can enjoy everything the stylish Swedish capital has to offer while staying in this beautiful waterside escape: lush and green in the Nordic summer, or a snowy playground in winter. Viksberg has nine bedrooms that sleep 13 in total, as well as five bathrooms, original fireplaces, a sauna, games room, library and projector room. With restored traditional shutters, paneling and terraces mixing with modern bathrooms and a zealous use of white paint throughout, this 17th-century house has been outfitted in true Scandi-cool style.
Viksberg can host up to 13 people; €3,400 (£2,966) for one week; castlerentals.net
Castle Wasserburg, Wachau, Austria
This beautiful baroque castle was first built in 1185 and since then has only been owned by six families. Legend has it that in 1827 the owners, the Zinzendorfs, were the first to introduce the Christmas tree to Austria in their celebrations at Wasserburg. Today, the spacious accommodation at the castle is fitting for any family or group occasion, with beautiful textiles, antique furniture and views across the pond, which was once the moat. In the Baroque hall and gardens, there are regular yoga classes and retreats and the 40-hectare estate offers a perfect venue for picnics, after-dinner strolls and dips in the outdoor pool. A little further from the house is the Danube valley, with many vineyards, pretty villages and historic monasteries.
Wasserburg can host up to 30 people; €13,200 (£11,500) for one week for 20 guests, which includes a maid for six days; schloss-wasserburg.com
Warmatowice Sienkiewiczowskie Palace, Poland
An hour from Wroclaw – last year's European city of culture – in western Poland lies this 18th-century baroque mansion with its surrounding hamlet. Originally built in 1602, the house was reconstructed in 1748 and was lived in by Polish noble families until World War Two when the building was almost entirely destroyed. Bought from the Polish state in 1995 by its current owner, the house has been lovingly restored to its former glory. The pink palace sits atop a slight elevation, above a surrounding moat, and looks out over its lush estate as well as the nearby village. Inside the palace, there are five exquisitely decorated bedrooms with printed wallpapers and antique furniture. Warmatowice will appeal to history buffs. A battle of the Napoleonic wars took place in the surrounding fields, with the house acting as command centre for the Russo-Prussian army.
Warmatowice can host up to 12 people. Prices from €2,900 (£2,500) for one week; castlerentals.net
Pentillie Castle, Saltash, Cornwall
A stone's throw across the River Tamar from Plymouth is Pentillie Castle, a charming estate dating from the 17th century. The original house on the site was built by Sir John Coryton. When he died in mysterious circumstances aged 48, his land agent Sir James Tillie married his widow and built Pentillie in 1698. Tillie was an unusual character, asking in his will to be dressed in his best clothes when he died and placed in a 'stout chair' overlooking his estate. His servants followed his instructions and brought his corpse food and wine for two years until they could bear it no more and had him interred. Today, Pentillie is a far more sedate place – the house is light and airy and beautifully decorated. It operates as a hotel, as well as being available for exclusive use, so all rooms are appointed as such and are en-suite. Guests can enjoy riverside walks and Tamar swims from the house's bathing hut. Or if the Cornish waters are a little too brisk for you, Pentillie has a heated outdoor pool, surrounded by ornate gardens.
Pentillie can host up to 20 guests; prices from £8,025 for a week's exclusive use; pentillie.co.uk
Chateau d'Agel, Agel, France
Within an hour's drive of Carcassonne and the French Riviera sits Chateau d'Agel, a 12th-century medieval castle with four towers and a dovecote. The facilities are right up to date, but still retain a south-of-France charm. There's an outdoor pool that's perfect for soaking up the French sun, a lovely al fresco dining area under the shade of tall trees and a wonderful orangerie, with floor-to-ceiling windows and a long table, ideal for large family groups. Chateau d'Agel is self-catering, making it the perfect big-family getaway spot. The bedrooms and sitting rooms are decorated with printed wallpapers, hangings and canopies, the bathrooms have freestanding baths and there's a library, billiard rooms and two drawing rooms. The 26-hectare grounds feature a vineyard, ornate hedging and a large pond.
Chateau d'Agel can host up to 16 guests; prices from £650 per night for exclusive use of the castle, with weekly rates from £4,150. There is also a separate gite, which sleeps three, from £595 per week; chateaudagel.fr
Lismore Castle, County Waterford, Ireland
The Irish seat of the Devonshires, Lismore is three hours south of Dublin and within an hour of Cork. The castle was built by King John in 1185, soon after the initial Norman conquest of Ireland, and was owned by Walter Raleigh before the Cavendishes inherited it in 1753. Branches of the family have lived in it ever since including Lord Charles Cavendish and his wife Adele Astaire – the sister of Fred Astaire, who visited many times. The castle has been developed over the past 900 years and now offers extensive luxury accommodation, including a magnificent banqueting room with an engraved fireplace, 15 bedrooms, a games room and 17th-century grounds that are believed to be the oldest formal gardens in Ireland. Designed in the Gothic style, the castle boasts some of the finest examples of domestic Pugin furniture. Guests can go salmon fishing along the River Blackwater, which flows through the castle's grounds.
Lismore can host up to 27 guests; prices from £64,400 for a week's exclusive use for 16 people, with an extra fee for further guests; lismorecastle.com
Dunstan Hall, Craster, Northumberland, UK
On the dramatic Northumberland coast lies this Grade II-listed country hall near the charming and historic seaside village of Craster. Dunstan's history spans 1,000 years. It's believed that part of the pele tower – a medieval defensive structure – dates back to the 11th century. The rest of the house was built between the 14th and 18th centuries and details remain throughout from the many eras of interior styling it has witnessed. The entrance hall has a 15th-century fireplace while the living room's is Jacobean. There is Queen Anne paneling in the drawing room and the staircase is originally Tudor. Dunstan Hall is a wonderful option for a big family staycation; there's plenty of space for everyone but it still has a cosy, homely feel. There's a reading room, games room, large dining room, breakfast room and kitchen with a four-oven Aga. Bedrooms look out over the hall's attractive, rambling gardens and beyond to the nearby seashore.
Dunstan Hall can host up to 18, or 22 with the adjacent Stable Cottage. Prices from £2,260 for one week for 18 guests; english-country-cottages.co.uk
Borthwick Castle, Midlothian, Scotland
This 15th-century keep is a history buff's dream getaway. Borthwick consists of a large double tower and an embattled wall and was built in 1453 by Sir William de Borthwick at the behest of James I. The keep's most famous occupant was Mary, Queen of Scots. Having fled Hollyrood after the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, in 1567, Mary sought brief refuge at Borthwick before fleeing again, disguised as a page. Almost 100 years later, the keep was attacked by Cromwell after Lord Borthwick refused to give up his home; the crater in its walls caused by the cannon launched at it can still be seen. Today the keep is a peaceful retreat within easy reach of everything Edinburgh has to offer, as well as the Lothian landscape. Thanks to extensive renovations, the 15th-century interior has been superbly preserved. Beautiful hangings, handsome fireplaces and thick walls provide an elegant setting for family gatherings and small parties. The 40ft-long Great Hall still has its original balcony for performers, while the State Room is a sumptuous but cosy space to enjoy a whisky in front of a roaring fire before bed.
Borthwick can host up to 26 guests; prices from £7,500 per night for exclusive use; borthwickcastle.com