Treat yourself to a holiday in style at our pick of the world's most atmospheric castle hotels
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Once the seat of the Earl of Swinton, Swinton Park was sold in 1980 but bought back by members of the same family twenty years later and turned into a magnificent hotel that combines a warm family feel with castle grandeur. For a fairy tale atmosphere, choose the circular Turret room, which takes up three floors of the ancient turret and has a freestanding bath in the middle of the top floor. Room rates start from £195 per room per night on a B&B basis.
Bagnols has all the ingredients of the perfect French château: a moat, a drawbridge, imposing towers and magnificent gardens, all set in the gorgeous, vineyard-studded Beaujolais countryside. Doubles from £372, room only, through Mr and Mrs Smith.
Forbidding military architecture meets sophisticated interiors at Cap Rocat. Set on a private peninsula, this austere fortress was built in the late 19th century to protect the Bay of Palma from possible sea incursions, but was never used for that purpose. Instead, it was later converted into a magnificent hotel and Antonio Obrador was called upon to design the interiors. He played on the military theme with some unusual touches - think gun carriages for coffee tables - and created a peaceful, understated oasis. Don't miss the swimming pool, which is built into the ramparts. From 440 euros for a suite per night based on two sharing on a B&B basis, www.caprocat.com.
Queen Victoria herself gave Inverlochy the royal seal of approval after she spent a week there in September 1873: 'I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot,' she wrote in her diary. The views are still as enticing today - the castle's 17 lavish rooms look out towards the loch, the lush gardens or the majestic mountains - but now guests can also enjoy fine dining at the Michelin starred restaurant, where the dining rooms are furnished with gifts from the King of Norway. For prices and details see www.inverlochycastlehotel.com.
Image: Relais & Chateaux/ Inverlochy Castle Hotel
Richard Branson spotted the Kasbah Tamadot, an ancient Berber fortress set at the foothill of the Atlas Mountains, about an hour from Marrakech, during a hot balloon expedition. He bought it and turned it into a fabulous retreat with gorgeous Moroccan-style interiors, a gourmet restaurant - and a conscience. Kasbah Tamador employs members of the local community, and local animals too - 4 mules, 3 donkeys and 2 camels. Four nights at Kasbah Tamadot costs from £1,176 per person (based on two sharing a superior room) including flights from London, breakfast and transfers through Lawrence of Morocco.
As the former home to the Nizam, or king, of Hyderabad, Falaknuma Palace played host to European royalty and visiting dignitaries, including the Duke of Windsor, before becoming a hotel. Stay in the Grand Presidential Suite - once the Nizam's own chamber - for the ultimate luxury. It even has a private swimming pool! Rooms start at around £285 per night with breakfast in the low season, through Taj Hotels.
Stepping through the gate of 900-year-old Amberley Castle feels a little like entering a time warp. Thick, 60-ft high walls, ancient lancet windows and the odd suit of armour will take you back to the Middle Ages - but with 21st-century creature comforts. From £165 per night for a double room, room only, with a minimum two-night stay at the weekend, through Mr and Mrs Smith.
A turret, grand frescoes, coffered, hand-painted ceilings and windows framing perfect views of the rolling Chianti countryside. Just when you think you may not wish for more, you also find out that Castello del Nero also has a fabulous ESPA spa for the ultimate relaxation. Doubles from £320 a night including breakfast through Mr and Mrs Smith.
Dutch duo Albert Diks and Margo Vereijken bought the atmospheric ruin of this ancient Catalan castle - which had once captured the eye of painter Salvador Dali, who tried and failed to barter some of his artwork for it - and turned it into a romantic hotel full of quirky finds, including Europe's biggest scale model of the battle of Waterloo, where Albert's ancestors fought. Doubles from £140.55 per night including breakfast through Mr and Mrs Smith.
Look at the Fairmont Banff Springs and you'd think you are in Scotland. Canada's 'Castle in the Rockies' was modelled on Scottish baronial homes but stands in glorious alpine landscape of Banff National Park. Go for the Royal Suite, at the very top of the castle, for breathtaking views, unparalleled luxury - and your very own grand piano. For prices and details, see www.fairmont.com/banff-springs.