There is something about castles that speaks to legends of the past, and makes us feel as though we are stepping back in time to be a small part of history. When you walk through a castle, the walls almost seem to speak to you of events long passed, battles that were fought, lives that were lost, and hearts that were broken.
This is especially noticeable in abandoned castles; those that whisper their stories of the past and make us wonder why they were left to stand alone in the landscape of busy, modern towns. Many castles fell into disrepair over the years, becoming crumbling ruins that can no longer be accessed. However, many castles are still standing strong, despite being abandoned for years. Here are 10 abandoned castles around the world and the stories behind them.
10 Criccieth Castle - Gwynedd, Wales
Criccieth castle is one of those castles that is shrouded in mystery, its story never fully told. While much of the castle remains standing today, it is an incredibly old castle, dating back to the 13th century. It is not certain, but legend has it that it was built by Llywelyn the Great, Prince of Gwynedd.
With its towering fortress, it was said to have been used as a prison until the early 1400's. According to history, Llywelyn's son Gruffydd was imprisoned in these walls by his half-brother Dafydd. The castle was burned down in the 15th century during the final rebellion of the Welsh people against the English. It is now open to the public to tour through.
9 Heidelberg Castle - Heidelberg, Germany
Perched high on its cliff, Heidelberg castle looms over the town of Heidelberg in Germany, reminding residents of the history deep within the city's walls. It was constructed in the 1300s, and it was Prince Elector Ruprecht III who completed its construction, turning the castle into a permanent residence.
It remained in use for over 400 years, until 1764, when disaster struck in the form of lightening, burning and ruining most of the castle. Stories say that the townspeople began using the castle's rocks to build their own homes, so in the 1800s, Count Charles de Graimberg began protecting and conserving the ruins.
8 Fasil Ghebbi - Gondar, Ethiopia
Fasil Ghebbi was a fortress city back in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it was completely surrounded by a 3,000-foot wall. Within the city walls, there were palaces, a library, castles, and churches. For years, it remained the home of the Ethiopian emperors until 1864.
The fortress city and many of its palaces were not maintained well in the 1900s, so they fell into disrepair. However, as of the 1990s, conservation efforts have been going well to restore and maintain this impressive structure.
7 Dunstanburgh Castle - Northumberland, England
In the rolling hills of northern England lies an impressive ruins - the remains of Dunstanburgh castle. This castle was built in 1313 by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, who was a baron of King Edward II. Legend has it that the earl was not in favor with the king at the time, and therefore he built this castle to protect himself against the king. The sheer enormity of the castle was guessed to be a snub to the king as well.
Unfortunately, despite the size and grandeur of the castle, the earl's rebellion did not last long, and he was executed in 1322. The castle then passed to John of Gaunt, however only temporarily, as it was seized again during the War of the Roses. The ruins are now protected by the National Trust, and people can tour the castle and take part in "ghost walks" throughout the grounds.
6 Pidhirtsi Castle - Lviv Oblast, Ukraine
Pidhirtsi castle is a grand estate built in the 17th century in Lviv Oblast, Ukraine. This beautiful home was built for Stanislaw Koniecpolski, who was a Polish military commander. The design, however, was done by an Italian architect, by the name of Andrea del Aqua.
The castle was used for special events, like balls and parties, and it held a large collection of art and weapons. By the 1800s, the castle had fallen into disrepair and eventually became a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients. Since 1997, restorations efforts have been working to repair and maintain what is left of the castle.
5 Castle Mont Rouge - North Carolina, US
Castle Mont Rouge is a modern-day love story, with a tragic ending. Originally designed and built by artist Robert Mihaly, the style of this castle mirrored those in Russia. Constructed of cinder block and marble, this stunning mountain retreat has several large turrets with beautiful spires at the top.
Unfortunately, just before the castle was completed, Mihaly's wife died. People say that Mihaly was too depressed to live in the castle that he had hoped to share with his beloved. Apparently he still comes to visit the castle at times, but does not stay long. He attempted to raise money to begin restoring the castle, but was unsuccessful.
4 Squire's Castle - Cleveland, Ohio
Squires castle, on its beautiful, forested grounds looks like it is straight out of a fairy tale. While it seems to belong in medieval England, this tudor-style castle is located in Cleveland Ohio. Even though it is already an impressive structure on its own, this castle was originally built in the 1890s to be used as the caretaker's house. Feargus B. Squire, the owner, was planning to build his mansion elsewhere on the same grounds.
The mansion was never built, however, because Squire's wife apparently tripped over some furniture inside the castle and died after breaking her neck. It is said that her ghost haunts the castle to this day. The castle was sold in 1922, and although the exterior of the castle is still in good shape, the interior has completely deteriorated. The outside of the castle, with its beautiful grounds, is often used as a backdrop for wedding photos.
3 Chateau Gaillard - Normandy, France
This spectacular castle towers 90m above the community of Les Andelys, which overlooks the river Seine. Originally built in the 12th century by the order of Richard the Lionheart, this castle was viewed as being completely impregnable, with its massive walls and dangerous cliff sides.
However, in 1204, Chateau Gaillard was captured by the French after a long siege. In the 14th century, it served as a home and prison for King David II of Scotland, who had been exiled there. Nowadays, the castle is preserved and maintained as an historical monument by the French Ministry of Culture, and is open to the public for viewing.
2 Rocca Calascio - Abruzzo, Italy
Rocca Calascio towers at an impressive elevation of 1,460m, the highest fortress in the Apennines. It was never meant as a residence for royals, but rather was originally built for soldiers and other military purposes. Primarily, it served as an excellent watch tower with such a high elevation.
Despite its incredible architecture, this fortress never saw a single battle. Instead, in the 1400s, it was severely damaged when an earthquake hit. While the rest of the town below was repaired, the fortress was not.
1 Crac des Chevaliers - Homs Governorate, Syria
This enormous castles is one of the most important medieval castles in the world. It was first inhabited by a group of Kurdish troops that were garrisoned there. In 1142, the castle was given to Raymond II, Count of Tripoli, to the order of the Knights Hospitaller. They held on to it until 1271 when it fell.
There was considerable history that continued with this castle throughout the years of the Crusades. In the 19th century, there was renewed interest in the Crusades castles, and people began to investigate and learn more about this immense structure. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is maintained and preserved, after undergoing significant damage during the recent Syrian war.