Top 10 most beautiful castles in the United States
Top 10 most beautiful castles in the United States

When we think of castles, theU.S. is not a country that comes to mind as home to these grand residences. In fact, there are dozens of castles originally built as mansions across the United States.

Most people associate Europe with ancient castles — but that would be a mistake. It turns out, the United States is filled with ancient ruins and elaborate palaces too. These are some of themost beautiful and stunning buildings that you'll want to add to your bucket list.

The list of top 10 most beautiful castles in the United States

10. Loveland Castle in Ohio

9. Castle in the Clouds in New Hampshire

8. Bannerman Castle

7. Belvedere Castle in New York

6. Gillette Castle in Connecticut

5. Biltmore Estate in North Carolina

4. Thornewood Castle in Washington

3. Iolani Palace in Hawaii

2. Boldt Castle in New York

1. Hearst Castle in California

What are the most beautiful castles in the United States?

10. Loveland Castle in Ohio

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

The Historic Loveland Castle & Museum Chateau Laroche was built as an expression and reminder of the simple strength and rugged grandeur of the mighty men who lived when Knighthood was in flower. It was their knightly zeal for honor, valor, and manly purity that lifted mankind out of the moral midnight of the dark ages and started it towards the gray dawn of human hope. Present human decadence proves a need for similar action. Already the ancient organization of Knights has been re-activated to save society. Any man of high ideas who wish to help save civilization is invited to become a member of the Knights of the Golden Trail, whose only vows are the Ten Commandments. Chateau Laroche is the World headquarters and Residence of the K.O.G.T.

Imagine being on the banks of a wide gentle river. Shade trees everywhere. Or atop an arched tower overlooking the river. For more privacy maybe a bench nestled in the gardens. There are spots all around the Castle for great picnics. There are also tables of the picnicking variety.

9. Castle in the Clouds in New Hampshire

Photo: Yankee Magazine
Photo: Yankee Magazine

Castle in the Clouds (or Lucknow) is a 16-room mansion and 5,294-acre (2,142 ha) mountaintop estate in Moultonborough, New Hampshire, opened seasonally to the public by the Castle Preservation Society. It overlooks Lake Winnipesaukee and the Ossipee Mountains from a rocky outcropping of Lee Mountain formerly known as "The Crow's Nest".

The home was built in 1913–1914 in the Craftsman style by millionaire shoe manufacturer Thomas Gustave Plant (1859–1941) for his second wife, Olive Cornelia Dewey. He named the estate Lucknow, perhaps after the city of Lucknow in India. The property was assembled from the private Ossipee Mountain Park, an observation area called the Crow's Nest, and a variety of other lodges and buildings. He razed the structures and built the mansion, a stable/garage, gatehouses, a greenhouse, farm buildings, and a golf course. The property eventually extended to 6,300 acres (25 km2).

Designed by prominent Boston architect J. Williams Beal (assisted by his sons John W. Beal and Horatio Beal), the house included many innovations which were rare at the time, including a circular shower, interlocking kitchen tiles, and a central vacuum system. The interiors were designed by Irving & Casson-A.H. Davenport. Bronze and tile work were by William Jackson & Company; electric fixtures by Edward F. Caldwell & Co.; and glass by Tiffany.

After Plant lost his money in a series of bad investments in the 1930s, the house was foreclosed upon, but his creditors allowed him to stay in the mansion until his death, and the furnishings remained with the house. Plant died in 1941, and the property was purchased by Fred C. Tobey to log its hardwoods and serve as a family summer home. The estate was sold to Richard and Donald Robie in 1956, who opened it as a tourist attraction.

Castle in the Clouds is today owned and operated by the Castle Preservation Society, a private 501 non-profit corporation. The Castle, Carriage House, gift shop, art gallery and Cafe and Patio are open to the public from late May to early October. The property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2018.

8. Bannerman Castle

Photo: Flickr
Photo: Flickr

If you’ve ever taken the Metro-North along the Hudson line, you’ve likely noticed a petite and desolate land mass in the middle of the Hudson River, just a few miles north of Cold Spring. Known as Pollepel Island, it measures just 6.5 acres and isn’t home to much: There’s just one structure, a decaying building that’s hidden amid the trees and other foliage that have overtaken the island.

This is Bannerman’s Castle, a 19th-century relic that has been slowly crumbling into its surrounding environs. And while Pollepel Island and the castle itself are largely cut off from the public, they’re accessible for tours throughout summer and fall, and a fantastic reason to take a day trip upstate. (Of note: Tours are not wheelchair accessible, unfortunately.)

Though the structure may look like it was once a rich family’s enormous estate, its origins are actually a bit more humble. In the decades following the Civil War, it was the center of entrepreneur Francis Bannerman’s northeastern retail empire. Bannerman, who was born in Scotland but raised in Brooklyn, accumulated and sold surplus military goods from a young age, and began his catalog business following the war.

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7. Belvedere Castle in New York

Photo: Loving New York
Photo: Loving New York

Designed by Central Park co-designer Calvert Vaux and architect Jacob Wrey Mould, the structure and adjacent terraces and pavilions were all called the “the Belvedere,” which means “beautiful view” in Italian. The entire complex, completed in 1872, was designed as a place from which to enjoy views of the surrounding landscape; the building originally had no windows or doors, as it was intended as an open-air lookout tower. Constructed out of Manhattan schist, the building was also designed as a focal point in the landscape, drawing visitors to it. It appears as if it emerges from the dramatic Vista Rock on which it is perched.

The Belvedere still draws visitors to take in the sweeping views of Turtle Pond and Great Lawn to the north, the Ramble to the south, and the surrounding cityscape. The Castle also houses one of the Park's visitor centers and a gift shop. When the building is open, visitors can ascend to additional terraces for an even higher vantage point.

6. Gillette Castle in Connecticut

Photo: Visit CT
Photo: Visit CT

HIGH ABOVE THE CONNECTICUT RIVER, Gillette Castle, only a shell of what it once was, still commands your attention. The magnificent castle, once the private residence of William Gillette, the American actor best known for his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on the stage, was taken by the Connecticut government after Gillette’s death. He was without a wife or children.

More than 300,000 people have visited the castle and its surrounding grounds every year since it was reopened in 2002 after several years of restoration done at a cost of 11 million dollars. Thanks to that work, the park now includes a picnic area, hiking trails, and a museum.

But most of the people come to see the castle, which is filled with a number of oddities personally designed by Gillette including weird doorknobs and locks and a system of hidden mirrors for spying on public rooms from the master bedroom.

A steam engine and railroad tracks, also designed by Gillette, once stood on the grounds. The majority of the tracks were torn up during the restoration process to make room for the hiking trails, but a section still remains that is used to transport visitors around the lake.

5. Biltmore Estate in North Carolina

Photo: Bitmore.com
Photo: Bitmore.com

You can spend the entire day at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, making it the perfect day trip during your stay at Orchard Inn. The 8,000-acre property is home to the Biltmore House, a winery, many restaurants, gift shops, hiking trails, and more. No matter what time of year you go, there is always something new to see. For example, the entire mansion is decorated for Christmas in the winter and a stunning rose garden blooms in the spring and summer.

Constructed by George Vanderbilt in the late 1800s, this incredible structure is the largest home in America. This French Renaissance castle is situated on 8,000 acres of pure Western North Carolina beauty. The home itself has 250 rooms; there are 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, and 65 fireplaces. The Biltmore House has been kept up incredibly; it is still as beautiful as it was in the 1890s when it was built. George W. Vanderbilt had the estate erected as a mountain retreat for him and his friends, and you can see all the guest rooms and things the guests enjoyed when you tour!

If you still have some time left after touring the home, head out and explore the grounds! There are beautiful nature trails located all around the property that you can spend hour after hour walking and taking in the views. If you plan on heading out onto the grounds, use this handy map to choose which trails you would like to take.

4. Thornewood Castle in Washington

Photo: II Castello
Photo: II Castello

The historic Thornewood Castle in Lakewood, Washington not only has a long and rich history, it is also called home to several resident ghosts.

This magnificent three-story manor home was built by Chester Thorne, one of the founders of the Port of Tacoma. Taking almost four years to complete, the 27,000 square foot manor was finally ready in 1911. Only the very best went into the building of the manor, including 400-year-old bricks from an original English castle.

Designed by the famous architect, Kirkland Cutter, the crystal windows were made in England and the stained glass panels date as far back as 1300. The English Tudor/Gothic mansion, having 54 rooms, including 28 bedrooms and 22 baths, is one of the few genuine private castles in the United States.

Thorne was fascinated with the grandeur of old English estates and the wealthy man was determined to reinvent his own castle and dream house. Built to last through the centuries, Thornewood Castle has solid three-foot-thick foundations, 18-inch floors of concrete and cinder, 10-inch walls, and hand-hewn woodwork from ancient English oak, held together by solid wood dowels. Three ships had to be commissioned to transport the original bricks, wood, and windows around Cape Horn to the Pacific Northwest.

After the house was built Thorne hired a landscape architectural firm that turned 37 of the estate’s 100 acres into formal English gardens that required a full-time staff of 28 gardeners. Inside, the staff included 40 servants to look after the needs of Chester, his wife, Anna, and their daughter Anita.

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3. Iolani Palace in Hawaii

Photo: Best of Oahu
Photo: Best of Oahu

A national historic landmark and the only official state residence of royalty in the United States, from 1882 to 1893 Downtown Honolulu’s Iolani Palace was the official residence of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s last two monarchs: King Kalakaua and his sister and successor, Queen Liliuokalani.

The palace was a symbol of promise for the Hawaiian Kingdom built by King David Kalakaua, “The Merrie Monarch.” Influenced by European architectural styles, this royal residence included Hawaii’s first electric light system, flush toilets and intra-house telephones. The rich interior features a beautiful koa staircase, dramatic portraits of Hawaiian royalty, ornate furniture and royal gifts and ornaments from around the world.

In 1893, a provisional U.S. government was established after opposition forces overthrew the Hawaiian monarchy. The Hawaiian Islands were eventually annexed as a United States Territory in 1898. Hawaii became the 50th state in 1959 and during this time Iolani Palace was used as the capitol building until 1968. After falling into disrepair over the years, the Iolani Palace was renovated and opened to the public in 1978.

Tour through this American Florentine-style palace’s throne room, reception and dining room and envision the magnificent state dinners and balls held here. View the private living quarters of the royal family and listen to the tragic story of Liliuokalani’s imprisonment in an upstairs bedroom following the overthrow. On the basement level view the ancient regalia of Hawaiian royalty from swords and precious jewelry to the two golden crowns of the King and Queen. On the spacious grounds of the palace, see the Iolani Coronation Pavilion, where in 1883 Kalakaua was crowned king.

Also note that Iolani Palace sits in the center of a vital area that is worth a walking tour. Across South King Street you’ll find Aliiolani Hale and the King Kamehameha I statue. Right behind Iolani Palace is the State Capitol building and Washington Place, home to the governor. To the east are the historic Kawaiahao Church, Honolulu Hale (home to the City Council and offices of the Mayor) and the Hawaiian Mission Houses Historic Site and Archives. To the west you’ll discover the Hawaii State Art Museum as well as Oahu’s main financial and arts district in Downtown Honolulu and Chinatown.

2. Boldt Castle in New York

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

Boldt Castle is a major landmark and tourist attraction in the Thousand Islands region of the U.S. state of New York. Open to guests seasonally between mid May and mid October, it is located on Heart Island in the Saint Lawrence River. Heart Island is part of the Town of Alexandria, in Jefferson County. Originally a private mansion built by American millionaire George Boldt, it is now maintained by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority as a tourist attraction.

George Boldt, general manager of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City and manager of the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia, and his family enjoyed an earlier frame cottage on Hart Island (the island's original name) for several summers, which they greatly expanded. In 1900, George Boldt launched an ambitious construction campaign to build a huge masonry structure, one of the largest private homes in the United States. He engaged the architectural firm G. W. & W. D. Hewitt and hundreds of workers for a six-story "castle" as a present to his wife. In addition, four other masonry structures on the island are architecturally notable. Equally distinctive is a huge yacht house on neighboring Wellesley Island, where the Boldts had another summer home and a vast estate, incorporating farms, canals, a golf course, tennis courts, stables, and a polo field.

The construction of Boldt Castle ceased abruptly in early 1904 after the death of Boldt's wife, Louise Kehrer Boldt. Boldt never returned to Heart Island, but continued to spend summers in the 1000 Islands until his 1916 death. For 73 years, the castle and other stone structures were left exposed to the harsh winter weather and occasional vandals.

Today, Boldt Castle is accessible by ferry, private boat, or by tour boat from Alexandria Bay, New York, Clayton, New York, Gananoque, Ontario, Rockport, Ontario, and Ivy Lea, Ontario. Most of the grounds and buildings can be explored by the public for a fee. Private boaters may also dock at Heart Island for free. Boldt Castle is a Port of Entry and has a U.S. Customs and Border Protection office on Heart Island. Visitors coming from Canada require appropriate identification to check in to the country, as visiting the island is considered entering the United States.

1. Hearst Castle in California

Photo: Ventura County Star
Photo: Ventura County Star

Hearst Castle, known formally as La Cuesta Encantada (Spanish for "The Enchanted Hill"), is a historic, palatial estate in San Simeon, California, located on the Central Coast of California. Conceived by William Randolph Hearst, the publishing tycoon, and his architect Julia Morgan, the castle was built between 1919-47. Today, Hearst Castle is a museum open to the public as a California State Park and registered as a National Historic Landmark and California Historical Landmark.

George Hearst, William Randolph Hearst's father, had purchased the original 40,000 acres (162 km2) estate in 1865 and Camp Hill, the site for the future Hearst Castle, was used for family camping vacations during Hearst's youth. In 1919 Hearst inherited some $11 million (equivalent to $164,197,697 in 2020) and estates including the land at San Simeon. He used his fortune to further develop his media empire of newspapers, magazines and radio stations, the profits from which supported a lifetime of building and collecting. Within a few months of Phoebe Hearst's death, he had commissioned Morgan to build "something a little more comfortable up on the hill", the genesis of the present castle. Morgan was an architectural pioneer; "America's first truly independent female architect", she was the first woman to study architecture at the School of Beaux-Arts in Paris, the first to have her own architectural practice in California and the first female winner of the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal. Working in close collaboration with Hearst for over twenty years, the castle at San Simeon is her best-known creation.

In May 1947, Hearst's health compelled him and Marion Davies to leave the castle for the last time. He died in Los Angeles in 1951. Morgan died in 1957. In the same year, the Hearst family gave the castle and many of its contents to the State of California. It has since operated as the Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument and attracts about 750,000 visitors annually. The Hearst family retains ownership of the majority of the 82,000 acres (332 km2) wider estate and, under a land conservation agreement reached in 2005, has worked with the California State Parks Department and American Land Conservancy to preserve the undeveloped character of the area; the setting for the castle which Shaw is said to have described as "what God would have built if he had had the money"

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