Destinations: Castles

Edinburgh Castle, Scotland
Built atop an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle is open year-round and teaches tourists about the rich history of the castle, dating all the way back to 340 million B.C., when the castle rock was created by volcanic activity. Home to one of the only dog cemeteries in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle is sure to captivate just about anyone with any interest, whether it is learning about the architecture, gawking at the Honours of Scotland (the second oldest Crown Jewels in Europe), exploring the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, or just wandering around and soaking in the history. Have lunch in the Prince’s Street Gardens, take pictures, and relax on the grounds—it is sure to be an afternoon to remember. Visit edinburghcastle.biz to find out about tours, programs, and prices.

Windsor Castle, England
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. While it can be visited and toured daily, it also acts as an official residence of the Queen, though she does not occupy it all the time. Come and experience the 13-acre masterpiece, filled with exquisite rooms, including the Drawing Gallery and the State Apartments, and view the dollhouse of Queen Mary, St. George’s chapel, and even treasures from the Royal Collection. Be sure to check the availability of tours in advance—its status as an occupied castle means that closures at short notice can occur. Even if the castle is closed, walk around the grounds and check out the maze and gardens.

Leeds Castle, England
Walk across a stone bridge at the River Len and soak in the spectacular view of Leeds Castle, located in the heart of the Kent countryside between two islands. Set right on the river, this spectacle offers visitors 900 years of history year-round. Come and explore the famous aviaries or venture through one of three lavish gardens: Wood Garden, English Culpeper Garden, or the Mediterranean Lady Baillie Garden. Lose yourself in the maze or wander through the Leeds Castle vineyard. Leeds Castle is even family friendly, boasting the Knights’ Realm Playground or the weekend falconry displays where buzzards, eagles, falcons, hawks, and even vultures are shown to visitors in displays that are choreographed to music. Go to leeds-castle.com to learn about tours, dining events, hot air balloon flights, and more.

Palacio Belmonte

Considered to be an authentic hideaway that takes you into old Lisbon, the Palacio Belmonte evokes the aristocratic atmosphere of its past through a mixture of historic and modern decor. Located in the heart of Lisbon, the palace is surrounded by astonishing gardens and a large marble swimming pool for guests— it is sure to provide a relaxing vacation for anyone. Take your family to explore the open library, which boasts more than 4,000 different books and publications. Be sure to wander over to the east terrace for an evening of relaxation with your family or friends. Order dinner, play games, and admire the spectacular view. Visit palaciobelmonte. com for pricing, pictures, and availability.

While you’re in Lisbon, pop over to the Castle of São Jorge. The oldest parts of this hilltop citadel date back to the sixth century, although evidence of human occupation dates back to sixth century B.C. It was home to Moorish kings until the Christians recaptured it in 1147. Today, a series of cannons just past the main gate bears testament to the fortress’s original purpose. Visitors can explore the castle, visit the restaurant (housed in Alcaçovas Palace, where the royalty lived), or experience Olissiponia, a multimedia rendering of the castle and city’s history.

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