The Top 10 European Castle Drives - Page 2

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Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria, Germany  (Andrew Wakeford/PhotoDisc/Getty Images)

Teutonic Castles, Poland/Lithuania
The Teutonic Order of Knights—founded in the 12th century, originally to look after Christian pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land—created the world's largest brick-built fortress at Malbork (Marienburg) in northern Poland. It covers 52 acres (21 ha) and could house 3,000 people. Start your tour with the Teutonic fort of Bytów, then head east for Malbork and the castle at Reszel. Cross the border into Lithuania to take in the order's red-brick and stone castles at Kaunas and Trakai.
PLANNING: In summer, there can be delays at the E67 Via Baltica crossing from Poland into Lithuania. www.imperialteutonicorder.com

Island Castles, Denmark
Kronborg Castle near Helsingør on the island of Sjælland (Zealand) is the Elsinore of Shakespeare's Hamlet. Nearby are the marble halls of Frederiksborg, a former royal palace. Head west to Fyn (Funen) Island for moated Egeskov, still occupied but open to the public in summer, and Holckenhavn, a Renaissance highlight where you can freely stroll the grounds.
PLANNING: All the castles are within easy reach of Copenhagen. www.visitdenmark.com

Loire Valley, France
A fantasy of fairytale ch âteaus, pretty towns, and glowing vineyards make the valleys of the Loire and its tributaries a perfect touring ground. From east to west, visit Chambord, Chaumont, Chenonceau, Amboise (burial place of Leonardo da Vinci), Villandry, and Saumur—any one of which could be a whole day out.
PLANNING: Many ch âteaus have son-et-lumière performances in summer. www.loirevalleytourism.com

Cashel to Killarney, Ireland
You have to kiss the Blarney Stone, of course, but Blarney is just one of dozens of castles in southern Ireland. Start with the spectacular Rock of Cashel, home to the kings of Munster, in South Tipperary. Continue south to Cahir, then to Blarney and Blackrock near Cork, finishing at Ross Castle in Killarney National Park, where you can go boating on a lake.
PLANNING: Spend a night in a castle hotel to make your journey truly historic. www.discoverireland.ie

South to the Algarve, Portugal
Begin in the lovely town of évora, east of Lisbon. Head southeast to the castle towns of Valonga and Monsaraz, where bullfights are held within the battlements. Next along are the castles at Beja and Mértola before you reach Silves, once the capital of a Moorish emirate in the Algarve (al-Gharb in Arabic), with the remains of a splendid Moorish castle. Nearby is a smaller version at Paderne.
PLANNING: After Silves, head on to Sagres Point, an evocative extremity of Europe, with a 16th-century fort. www.visitportugal.com

Reproduced with permission from Drives of a Lifetime: 500 of the World's Most Spectacular Trips, 2010, National Geographic. All rights reserved.

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