Sleep like royalty: Best Castles you can stay in

Everyone deserves a little luxury now and then, and it's good to know that in these times of greater equality it's not just the queen who's entitled to lay her head down under four posters in a room where blue bloods have slept for generations. Some of these ancient and historic castles have been refurbished into hotels, while some are still family seats you can rent for your own family, either way staying overnight in one of these castles is the ultimate way to satisfy the princess inside.

Amberley Castle must appear near the top of the list because it's hosted some of the better known royals; it used to belong to Queen Elizabeth I, Charles II visited often and Cromwell had a jolly good go at breaking though its defences in the Civil War – which is a telling thing when it comes to evaluating how royal a residence is. It has two tonnes worth of oak portcullis, a moat, 60 foot curtain walls and crenelated battlements that look just the medieval part. Thornbury Castle has laid down its hospitality for Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, and you now can sleep in their bedchamber for around £300 a night. 500 year old Thornbury is the only Tudor castle to be made into a hotel, and though the fixtures and fittings are in the style of, the gardens are original, and that makes this a relatively affordable royal experience.

The only way to top historic royal residents or visitors is with modern day royal owners. Unloading your bags at the Chateau de la Bourdaisière is about as close as you can get to moving into Versailles, and you might even get help with your bags from one of the friendly Broglies brothers, who own the chateau, and just happen to be princes. Future princesses take note, they're also both single? The 16th Century chateau was built by Francois I, for his mistress, and has 11 rooms and three apartments within the castle and 125 acres of park. Though not all chateaux have the accoutrements of a castle, Chateau de Mercues, for seven centuries the summer home of the Counts and Bishops of Cahors, certainly does. Its rounded towers with pointed roofs, and graceful battlements, all mounted on a rocky outcrop overlooking the river Lot and acres of vineyards, look like something a little princess would choose as her future home. Chateau de Mercues has 30 unique rooms and a restaurant serving home grown foie gras and rich truffles, accompanied by home grown vin – but like the Cahors you should expect to pay for your privileges.

Most British castles were built with defence in mind, so may lack the grace of a French chateau, but lack none of the history. Langley Castle looks like a it was built by a sensible Lego practitioner. Squat and square with few garnishes and arranged in an 'H' shape with four corner towers, it went up in about 1350, built by Sir Thomas de Lucy for the Barons of Tynedale. The basic design hasn't been changed much since then – though the Tynedale family left it in ruins after Henry IV had a good go at destroying it around 1400. There are only nine rooms in the hotel – proving how similar the layout is to the original – and they're decked out in olde worlde style and luxury, several with four poster beds, but with added opulent feature bathrooms. Guests can tell Saddell Castle meant business by the trapdoor next to the front door which slides unwanted visitors into a prison pit with no other means of escape. This 16th Century castle suffered a lot of attempted sackings, mostly by marauding Campbells and English raiders, but in the last few decades it's been far more welcoming, as a holiday rental sleeping up to eight – complete with dishwasher as well as cracking fireplace - and was used in Paul McCartney's 'Mull of Kintyre' music video.

If the idea of having a family seat for your own family for the week or the weekend appeals, Balfour Castle, a Scottish seat and Europe's most northern castle, has room for only 12 guests. The owners, sadly no longer the Balfours - the last Balfour died in 1960 with no heirs - share with you their gallery, library, conservatory, chapel, drawing and dining rooms, all packaged into a pale grey Gothic style building of rounded turrets and towers. This castle is in a really remote spot a 20 minute ferry ride from the nearest town. Ballyportry Castle is an Irish seat and testament to a time when an Irishman's home really was his castle. Ballyporty has stood solitary and unchanged on this Mullaghmore cliff top for the last 500 years, huge fireplaces on the inside keeping the family, flagstones and thick friendly beams warm. The addition of modern lighting and central heating has made it that bit more comfortable for the eight people it can now sleep.
The Sergeant Major's House in Dover Castle, isn't a castle per-say, it's an elegant Georgian house sleeping six, but it's within the castle walls so has views of the moat on one side and across the battlements to France on the other.

The rest of Europe has its castle hotels as well. Castello di Pavone has been guarding the road between France and Italy since the 9th Century. Its architecture is a mixture of military function and aesthetic appeal – not added at the same time, but over hundreds of years. The hotel's highest room is at the top of the highest tower, and has amazing views of the snow sprinkled Alps, but at the cost of having to mount 143 stairs. Pavone has 27 rooms, more four star than five, and the military standards have been relaxed into friendly, rather than exceptional, service. Burg Bernstein has been under attack for much of the past thousand years; the Hungarians. Turks and Tartars have all tried to take it but no one had much luck because of its position and solid defences, and invaders that were caught suffered a fairly nasty fate - they were into torture in these dungeons. Bernstein's horrible history will appeal to some, but more gentle souls need not worry, these days this sturdy hilltop fort is more like a fairytale castle with pointed orange roofs, creamy walls and a lush courtyard. Inside there are ten rooms, each with different features, some with the original fireplaces, floors and exposed beams and some have been modernised for guests looking for greater comfort. A couple of residents remain from the bad old days: ghosts, including a White Lady and the Count Ladislaus Almásy, the desert explorer in 'The English Patient', and the owners are proud to keep their ghosts, thank you very much.

And what if one has aspirations of royalty, but one doesn't quite yet have the budget for it? One need not despair, Camp Fernsteinsee is a campsite on the grounds of Schloss Fernsteinsee, built by none other than the Bavarian King and famed fairytale castle builder, Ludwig II. Fernsteinsee is now a four star hotel, but on its grounds are 125 sheltered and secluded camping pitches. Ludwig might have slept out here to admire his precious mirrored lake in the evening...

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