Bran Castle - Bran, the Nineties (Photo by Adriano Alecchi/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
Castles are intriguing besides being huge with numerous rooms, twists and turns, secret passageways, and hidden rooms. Enchanting castles are not built like ordinary houses and their history can be fascinating as you read about the owners throughout their history.
This fortress is located between Transylvania and Wallachia and is commonly known as Dracula’s Castle. This is just one of the locations connected to the legend of Dracula. There is a secret passage that connects the first and third floors. It is interesting that there are crosses in the garden area. It must be to keep Dracula away? There are two other castles, Poenari and Hunyadi Castles are also connected to the legend.
There is some question as to whether or not this was the actual castle that inspired Bram Stoker’s novel of Dracula. In May of 2009, the refurbished castle was opened as a private museum and displays art and furniture acquired by Queen Marie.
Bran Castle, Romania in winter
Dracula’s Castle in the wintertime.
In 1212, it was a wooden castle built by knights, that had an entrance to a mountain pass where traders traveled for a millennium, but this was destroyed by the Mongols in 1242. In 1377, a stone castle was built by the Saxons of Kronstadt, and later in 1438, the castle was used as a defense against the Ottoman Empire. It passed through several hands down through history, and by 1920, it became a royal residence within the Kingdom of Romania.
A favorite home and retreat of Queen Marie, she ordered extensive renovation, and later, it was passed down to her daughter, Princess Ileana. She then operated a hospital there during World War II, and in 1948, was seized by the communist regime and the family was forced to leave. But 2005 brought the castle back into the family’s hands, to Princess Ileana’s son, by a law passed by the Romanian government that allowed restitution on properties illegally seized. It is now considered a national monument and landmark in Romania.
Alhambra Castle in Spain
The name Alhambra actually means “the red,” in Arabic and, most likely, got the name from the tapia or “rammed earth” that the outer walls were made of.
The castle was a fortress as well as a castle for the Moorish monarchs of Granada. Just like the Bran Castle, it was also built between 1200 and 1300. By 1492, much of the interior was destroyed, and furniture removed or ruined, once the Moors had been kicked out. In 1812, during the Peninsular War, the War of Independence, some of the towers were blown up, and in 1821, an earthquake damaged the complex. An overhaul began in 1828, to repair and rebuild, which continued for almost four decades. The restoration process continued up through the 21st century.
Overlooking Granada’s Moorish city, is a beautiful sight of natural beauty with the mountains in the distance, and the Darro River flowing through a deep ravine. A park outside the palace is filled with roses and myrtles with English elms that were brought by the duke of Wellington. There are many beautiful sections of the palace that have meaningful names. One of the sections, in particular though, called the Sala de los Abencerrajes, was the area where, according to legend, Boabdil, who was the last sultan of Granada, would invite the Abencerraje chiefs to a banquet so he could massacre them.
Alnwick Castle in England
Alnwick, in the county of Northumberland, was built after the Norman conquest.
The first part of it was built in 1096. In 1136, it was captured by King David I of Scotland, and besieged in 1172, and again in 1174, by William the Lion, who was King of Scotland, but William was captured during the Battle of Alnwick. In 1212, Eustace de Vesci and Robert Fitzwalter were accused of plotting against King John, so he ordered the destruction of Alnwick Castle, as well as Baynard’s Castle, but his instructions were not followed.
The castle passed through many hands, as with most castles. They were consistently in battle during the Wars of the Roses, with the war usually taking place in the field. The present duke and his family live in only a part of the castle. During the summer, it is open to the public, and as of 2012, over 800,000 visitors visit there annually. It is the second largest inhabited castle in England.
Blarney Castle in Ireland
“Well that’s just blarney!”
Known as the Blarney Stone, which was half of the Stone of Scone, it was given to Cormac McCarthy, King of Munster, in gratitude, for supplying four thousand men to Robert the Bruce during the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Later, Queen Elizabeth commanded Earl of Leicester to take possession of the castle, but he was never able to do so, as McCarthy would always suggest some sort of delay like a banquet or something. When the Queen asked for a progress report and was told that it had not been taken yet, she would respond “Oh, that’s all just blarney!”
The castle changed hands many times, and at one time, members of the Jefferyes family built a mansion near it, which was destroyed by fire. A replacement mansion was built in 1874, and it was called the Blarney House. In 2008, estate owners, the Colthurst family, Sir Charles St. John Colthurst, to be exact, through a court action, had a man ejected from the property. He had lived on the place for 44 years and his great grandfather had been the first to live in the estate cottage.