Castles. Castilles. Châteaux. Whatever you call them, February is the month we celebrate the formidable fortresses. Say the word “castle” and some people are instantly transported to Cinderella’s fairytale Châteaux at Disneyland, while others instinctively think of the hulking ruins dotting the English countryside or sprawling along the Rhine River. During National Castle Month, Wanderlust Tours takes a look at a few of our favorite forts, many of which you can visit on our tours. This month’s Wanderlust Wednesday photos feature awe-inspiring castles from Wales, France, England and Scotland, while our upcoming posts take you off the beaten track to lesser known castles perched in the Pyrenees and sprawling along the Mediterranean Sea.
QUICK CASTLE TUTORIAL
- The word ‘castle’ is derived from the Latin castellum meaning a fortified residence of a lord or noble
- Castles were built en masse during the middle ages throughout Europe and the Middle East as a symbol of power
- A castle’s function was often as much military as it was residential and administrative
- Early castles exploited geological defenses, such a rocky outcrops, cliffs, and waterfront locations and were made of earth and wood
- Castle architecture evolved over the centuries in response to the development of siege weapons and by the 12th century were built in stone
- The central fortified tower known as the keep served as the main living quarters and the last place of refuge during an attack
- The Keep was originally referred to in French as the donjon (‘master’s’ home)- and from which the concept of a dungeon was formed
- A castle is not the same as a palace: which is a non-fortified residence and did not always house nobility
- Main architectural features: gatehouse, moat, curtain walls, battlements, keep, arrow slits and concentric walls,
- Castle architecture culminated in the 16th century with bastion and star-shaped forts
- In the late 19th century an architectural Gothic Revival popularized building in the medieval style as seen at Neuschwanstein Castle
Want to learn more or travel vicariously through beautiful pictures? Here some of our favorite castle resources:
Castles of the World – Extensive collection of castles, palaces, fortresses. Organized with search engine, maps, descriptions, photos and directory.
A Serious Case of Wanderlust’s Castles, Chateaux, Castlles Pinterest Board.
Visit Scotland‘s List of Castles – The country’s tourism bureau’s list of castles and travel resources.
Wikipedia’s LIst of Crusader & Knights Templar Castles
Castles of Wales – Maps, photos and information on over 400 castles and some abbeys and holy wells. Essays by experts on various aspects of the subject.
Travel Channel‘s Top Ten Castles of England: Our tours visit all of them!