Buyers on the hunt for history and drama need look no further than this selection of the finest castles on the market across the world.
In the Sherlock Holmes novel The Valley of Fear, John Douglas finds himself fleeing some of the most dangerous men in America. On arrival in England, his first move is to invest in a fortified property, complete with a moat and a drawbridge, from which to defend himself.
Back in the real world, the factors of privacy and security are still an important part of a castle’s appeal, but buyers also yearn for the romance of owning a home that has survived — or, indeed, played a role in—hundreds or even thousands of years of history.
Happily, these properties aren’t only ideal for keeping people at bay, they also lend themselves to entertaining on a grand scale. And there’s always the comfort that, should one attract the attention of an evil secret society, the perfect hideout has already been arranged.
Quinta do Marquês was originally constructed in the 17th century, but extensive renovations were carried out two centuries later under the guidance of its illustrious owners, the Counts of Foz. Architecturally, the castle is now a rare marriage of neo-Manueline and neo-Gothic features. Laid out across about 10,000sq ft of living space are 20 bedrooms and 10 bathrooms, featuring gilded woodwork, traditional Portuguese azulejos tiles, marble and bronze fireplaces and painted ceilings.
On the ground floor sits a suite of palatial reception rooms, designed for large-scale entertaining, and outside are extensive landscaped gardens, a chapel and a swimming pool.
Built in the late 1100s on the remains of a Roman castrum and substantially extended and converted in the 1500s, Castello di Pergolato is a perfect fusion of medieval and Renaissance Italian architecture.
Set in the rolling countryside of San Casciano Val di Pesa, not far from Florence, and presented in wonderful condition, it offers 12 bed-rooms and 12 bathrooms, as well as three atmospheric, wooden-roofed reception rooms and a magnificent network of cellars.
Buyers who worry that an older property might require too much upkeep may like the look of this substantial castle on the verdant Caribbean island of St Croix. Built in 1989 by the Bulgarian Contessa Nadia Farber and simply known as The Castle, the property features an eclectic mixture of architectural influences, from Moorish to Oriental.
With six generous bedrooms, six bathrooms and a range of impressive reception rooms, the castle and guest cottage together offer more than 10,700sq ft of living space. With 102 acres of private land sloping gently down to the beach, The Castle also guarantees total privacy.
Built in about 1550 by the original Chief Donagh Fógartie and sacked a century later by Cromwell, Killahara Castle in Co Tipperary has seen various restorations and vicissitudes over the centuries—including a cow briefly taking up residence in 1981.
The latest top-to-toe restoration was undertaken in 2008 and the castle now has superb accommodation, with five bedrooms and two suites of reception rooms across five floors, all accessed by a dramatic spiral staircase.
With wonderful vaulted ceilings, timber floors and a highly unusual 17th-century overmantel, Killahara is imbued with drama and romance. (00 353 87 246 3748; www.premierpropertiesireland.com)
The seaside location of the Castle of Algajola, on the north side of the island, is almost impossible to beat. Dating from the 17th century, this fortress is listed as a historic monument and it befits its classification.
With its tower, massive ramparts and a network of magnificent terraces overlooking the Mediterranean, it has the potential to offer the ultimate in waterfront grandeur. Sothebys International Realty (00 330 64 343 4445; www.sothebysrealty-france.com)
With a fantastic 120 acres of prestigious vineyards set just outside the pretty town of Nerac, the ravishing Château de Mazelières is an oenophile’s dream.
Dating back to the 17th century, the château comes in top condition, blending period and modern features with aplomb. The accommodation comprises eight bedrooms and six bathrooms and the reception rooms are a pleasing mix of snug family rooms and larger entertaining spaces: in particular, the dining room, with its vaulted ceiling, is a scene stealer.
Thoughtfully restored over the generations, Château Gennes is a charming castle sitting prettily on the banks of the Loire. With eight bedrooms and superb period features, which include open fireplaces, parquet floors and a spiral stone staircase at the centre, it ticks every box for a classic French château—with the distinct advantage of being easy to run.
Further accommodation (and even a chapel) are available in the secluded grounds; there is also a majestic arboretum with panoramic views out over the Loire. France (020–7016 3866; www.savills.com)
When it comes to spectacular views out across the Tiber Valley, this medieval castello absolutely holds its own. Flawlessly restored over many years, Procopio now hides modern comforts behind its historic walls. Reception rooms include a vast, vaulted sitting room, a restaurant-grade kitchen and a beautifully appointed dining room, with period features incorporated throughout the house.
The large master suite and seven other bed-rooms are spread across three floors and the gym, hammam and spa lie underground. Outside, a row of olive trees conceals a large pool framed by banks of lavender and broom. Knight Frank (020–7861 1098;
For sale with Knight Frank. See more pictures and details about this property.
We take a look at the finest country houses, castles and estates for sale in Scotland