Castles and Kings

History and romance, intrigue and bravery, crowns and conquests. Along the coast of Atlantic Europe you will find countless castles, palaces and tales of adventure.

Blarney Castle, Cork was under the eagle eye of Queen Elizabeth I of England for some time. Despite continuous attempts by the Earl of Leicester to acquire it for the Queen, he was always outwitted so she never managed to take possession of the 10th century castle.

The Tour de la Motte Tanguy in Brittany, built in the 14th century, also kept out of royal hands for nearly four centuries until, finally, the French royals took possession.

There are tales along the coastline of battles won and battles lost. From the Castillo de San Antón in A Coruna which protected the city from the assault by Francis Drake in 1589, to the Castle of St George in Lisbon which was captured by King Afonso Henriques in 1147 with the help of crusaders on their way to the Holy Land.

There are examples of grand construction, like the mighty Mont St Michel, to places of idosyncratic design such as the “House of Spikes” – the Casa dos Bicos in Lisbon.

Of course nothing can beat Buckingham Palace in London for sheer size and royal presence (rumour has it there are 775 rooms!) but fame can come in different forms. The beautiful baroque Mateus Palace at Vila Real near Porto, is well known to us all having been featured on the label of Mateus Rosé for many years. And the Parador Hondarribia near San Sebastian in the Basque region is known for being home to Napoleon during the wars between Spain and France.

Dover, on the other hand, is famous for its castles and queens. Leeds Castle became part of the Queen of England’s dower in 1278 and was held by six medieval queens for the next 150 years. Hever Castle was home of Anne Boleyn, the tragic second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I.

But not all our royal residences have unhappy endings. For sheer beauty and pleasure, it is worth visiting the fairytale palaces of Sintra in Portugal. Lord Byron called it a “glorious Eden” and there indeed are a number of captivating palaces to see – from the 14th century National Palace to the Pena Palace built by Queen Maria II for he “artist” husband and the Palace of the Millions.

History and romance, palaces and princes, fame and fortresses. Step off a ship in any of our ports along Atlantic Europe and walk in to another world of Castles & Kings.