Think only Europe has the lock on castles, coats-of-arm and other royal trappings? Pish-posh – the United States has its castles, too. And visitors may tour the grounds, enjoy a sumptuous repast and, in some cases, overnight in guest rooms that will make you feel like royalty.
The Kentucky Castle, Versailles, KY
Kentucky is well-known for its equine nobility; it is the Horse Capital of the World, after all. Joining these four-legged champions with a pedigree all its own is The Kentucky Castle, a royal residence cutting a commanding presence on 50-plus acres and boasting a boutique hotel with sumptuous suites, a farm-to-table restaurant and a hidden dungeon.
Bringing the horses and castle together on a newly developed tour is Central Kentucky Tours (CKT). Based in Harrodsburg, the family-owned touring company already offers a variety of outings to some of the very best of the Bluegrass – moonshine, craft breweries and lots of bourbon, including a “Bourbon to Birdies” package for golfers staying at Harrodsburg’s Bright Leaf Resort.
The “American Pharoah Tour” takes horse and history buffs to Ashford Stud to visit the 2015 Triple Crown winner and winner of the 2015 Breeder’s Cup Classic, along with many other great stallions like American Champion Uncle Mo. Also on the tour is a stop at Taylor Made Farm to see California Chrome, 2014 Derby and Preakness winner, and newborn foals. In between the horse farms is a stop at the beautiful and iconic stone fortress, The Kentucky Castle, for a tour of the grounds.
Visitors wanting the full castle experience may book a room at 859-256-0322 or www.thekentuckycastle.com. A number of packages are available, including the Bourbon Education Hotel package and the Murder Mystery Hotel package.
CKT’s coaches seat 14 and offer scheduled pick-ups at two of Kentucky’s most historic inns: the nearly century-old Beaumont Inn, Kentucky’s oldest family-operated Country Inn and a James Beard America’s Classic award recipient, and the Inn at Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill,
the country’s largest private collection of original 19th century buildings with guestrooms, suites and private cottages located in 13 restored Shaker buildings. Tour takers need not be overnight guests, but both inns are so inviting, it would be a shame to miss the royal treatment at either.
The dates for CKT’s new tour are April 6, April 20 and May 11. Tour time is 9:30 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Tickets are $120 per person, plus lunch. Space is limited. For reservations contact 859-492-3413 or www.CentralKentuckyTours.com.
Loveland Castle, Loveland Ohio
This is the house that Sir Harry built. Except that it is actually a castle. And Harry D. Andrews was an American who happened to love everything medieval. A medic during World War I, Andrews was declared dead in 1918. Except that he wasn’t. By the time the declaration was reversed, a very much alive Andrews learned he had lost his sweetheart. He decided to remain in Europe to do what he loved: Explore castles.
When this can-do innovator returned to the home-front, he managed in 1927 to acquire a piece of land, by way of a newspaper subscription incentive, on the Little Miami River. Two years later, he began building what would become Chateau LaRoche (“rock castle”), combining the architectural styles of the English, German and French castles he had seen in order to create his own masterpiece – a replica of a 16th-century medieval castle.
The footprint includes a kitchen, living room, dining room, bedroom and office as well as a balcony, dungeon, fighting deck and much more. Among its features are four types of towers, domed ceiling, dry moat, stoop doors, even murder holes – those slits or spaces through which the keepers of the castle could fire or throw weapons arrows, rocks, scalding water or tar. The castle was dedicated in 1930.
Today, visitors can take a self-guided tour of the castle, its grounds and gardens, enjoy a picnic and the views, play a game of chess or checkers – even try to pick up on spectral activity as the castle is supposedly haunted. A collection of period weaponry is on display throughout the castle and souvenirs are available for purchase.
The castle is open weekends between October and March and then daily, April through September. Admission is $5/person and free for children under age five. Admission varies for special events. This year the Loveland Castle marks its 11th Annual Castle Days on the third Saturdays of April, May, June, July and August. Visit www.lovelandcastle.com for more details and tickets.
Bishop’s Palace, Galveston, Texas
A castle, a palace – call it what you will, you know that Someone Important lived here in the midst of unbridled Gilded-Age extravagance. In the case of the stone fortress that is Bishop’s Palace, it was railroad royalty – Col. Walter Gresham, a Civil War vet, Texas legislator, lawyer and a founder of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railroad.
The home was built from 1887 to 1892 for Gresham, his wife, Josephine, and their large brood of nine children. A hulking 3-story Victorian and one of Galveston’s “Broadway Beauties,” the home has intricate architectural appointments including cast iron galleries, sculptural chimneys and highly detailed carvings of people, vegetation, animals – even fantasy creatures – in its round Romanesque and depressed Tudor arches.
The exuberant architectural detailing is matched by its robust stone and steel construction: Bishop’s Palace was one of the few survivors of the Great Storm of 1900, the Category 4 hurricane that wiped out much of Galveston. Considered to be among the most significant Victorian residences in the United States, the privately owned home is a National Historic Landmark and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Visitors can take a “Basement to Attic Tour” of Bishop’s Palace for a rare peek of parts of the home that are generally off-limits, including Mrs. Gresham’s studio and an exclusive third-floor view of the Gulf of Mexico. Tour admission is $30. Tour dates are posted online. Self-Guided Audio Tours are offered 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $12/adults; $9/ages six-18; free for children five and under.
Two tour bonuses: Photographs are permitted and the gift shop is extremely enticing, with Victorian-themed items, locally-made jewelry and candles and a vast selection of books about Galveston and Texas history.
Tickets may be purchased at www.galvestonhistory.org/attractions/architectural-heritage/bishops-palace. For more information, contact the Galveston Historical Foundation at 409-765-7834, firstname.lastname@example.org or www.galvestonhistory.org.