You don’t need to travel to Europe to get your fix of fairytale castles, North Carolina is home to dozens of them. From George Washington Vanderbilt’s sprawling estates to the first permanent State Capitol, here are some of the best castles in North Carolina.
Where are the best castles in North Carolina?
Built in 1832, Castle McCulloch is probably North Carolina’s most famous castle. The picture-perfect palace features a great hall, formal gardens, a moat, bridges and towering turrets. These days it’s usually hired out for swanky events but it does host an array of public events, like New Year’s Eve parties, beer festivals and the annual Mardi Gras Masquerade too.
2. Biltmore Estate, Asheville
Biltmore Estate is America’s largest privately-owned home. George Washington Vanderbilt II built the sprawling house in the nineteenth century. It features an eye-watering 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms and 43 bathrooms and a vast library. In true fairytale fashion, the estate also offers plenty of space to hide in the form of secret passages. In the Breakfast Room, a camouflaged food leads to the Butler’s pantry, a carving in the library leads to a tiny room known as the Den and a wooden door beside the fireplace in the Billiard Room leads to a Smoking Room. There’s even an underground tunnel leading to Antler Hill Village, located some three miles away.
Some say Biltmore Estate is haunted too. Visitors have reported seeing a ‘shadowy figure’ in the Estate’s library and others have spotted a woman – likely Vanderbilt’s wife Edith – gliding down the corridor, whispering “George”.
Smithmore Castle is another classic Disney princess castle, complete with a royal dining room, turret suites and martial mountain views. As far as the castles go, it’s pretty modern but the owners have packed it full of centuries-old furniture. These days it’s a five-star hotel, offering gourmet dining, archery lessons, wine tastings and soul-stirring massages.
Another popular wedding venue, Castle Ladyhawke is, according to the website, “the only fully-functioning castle constructed from historically accurate Scottish architecture”. The 60-acre estate offers fairytale views of the Tuskasegee River Valley, set against mountains and dense forest. Inside, there’s also a range of sumptuous suites fit for a princess, a three-level spiral staircase and a Great Hall. Outside, guests can head out onto the Bear lake Reserve for regal (and not so regal) activities, like boating, kayaking and bird-watching.
This abandoned castle sits in Durham’s rolling hills, in the heart of Rougemont. Local artist Robert Mihaly began sculpting the marble and cinder block structure years ago to serve as his studio and home. Inspired by Middle-Eastern minarets and Bavarian castles, it’s a delightful hodgepodge of styles. But Mihaly abandoned the project when he divorced his wife. Graffiti artists have since covered most of the structure and the building is now too unstable to visit.
While it might not be a castle in name, Graylyn Estate is, without doubt, a castle in spirit. The 55-acre estate boasts turrets, towers and four-poster beds. R.J. Reynolds, the Tobacco Co’s first CEO, built the manor in the 1920s and filled it with furniture and antiques from across the world. It’s packed with personality, from the fifteenth-century French carved doorways and rare Louis XV panelling imported from Paris to the solid marble bathtubs and 17 head showers.
7 .Tryon Palace
Built for Royal Governor William Tryon and his family in 1770, Tryon Palace served as the first permanent capitol of North Carolina. The palace has hosted countless famous faces, including President George Washington himself. Visitors today can stroll around 14-acres of manicured gardens, take a tour of the grand interior rooms and explore an 18th-century military encampment on the palace grounds.