Ashford Castle is a medieval castle located on the Mayo/Galway border in Ireland. The castle was built in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman, de Burgo family, following their military defeat of the native O’Conners of Connaught. Although the de Burgo’s built several castles throughout the province, Ashford Castle became their stronghold. After more than three and a half centuries in their family, and after a fierce military battle, Ashford Castle, by truce, fell into the hands of the English Lord Bingham, the governor of Connaught, who proceeded to add a fortified enclave to the castle. In 1715 the French style chateau was added to the castle’s architecture. By 1852 Ashford Castle was owned by Sir Benjamin Lee Guinness, who extended the estate to include 26,000 acres as well as adding two large Victorian style extensions to the castle and installing roads and planting numerous trees. John A. Mulcahy bought the castle in 1970. He renovated and expanded the castle to twice its size. Mulcahy also built a golf course on the grounds and added to the gardens. In 1985 a group of Irish America investors purchased the castle and turned it into a grand, five star hotel. In 2008 the castle was repurchased for €50 million by Galway businessman Gerry Barrett. Ashford Castle is considered to be one of Ireland’s finest luxury hotels and sits on 365 acres. Currently the castle is back on the real estate market for half the price paid for it five years ago.
Château de Chenonceau is a French chateau located in the village of Chenonceau, in the Indre-et-Loire department of the Loire Valley in France. The chateau was built on the site of an old mill on River Cher sometime before the 11th century. The original castle was torched in 1412 to punish the owner Jean Marques for the act of sedition. Marques rebuilt the castle and the mill in the 1430’s. In 1513, in the hopes of pulling himself out of debt, Marques’ heir sold the castle to Thomas Bohier (Chamberlain for King Charles VIII of France). Thomas Bohier destroyed the castle, but kept the keep standing. He built a new residence on the property between 1515 and 1521. The castle was seized from Bohier’s son by King Francis I of France for unpaid debts to the Crown. After Francis’ death in 1547, King Henry II gifted the chateau to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. In 1555 Poitiers commissioned a bridge to join the chateau to its opposite bank. After the death of King Henri II, his widow ousted Diane Poitiers, and Chenonceau became Catherine’s favorite residence. As the Regent of France, Catherine de Medici spent a fortune throwing parties at the castle, as well as adding extensive gardens and fruit trees. The castle is an architectural mix of Gothic and early Renaissance. It is the most visited chateau in France, after the Chateau de Versailles.
Caerphilly Castle is a medieval fortification in Caerphilly, South Wales. The castle, which encompasses thirty acres, was constructed in the 13th century and is surrounded by manmade lakes. Caerphilly Castle is considered the second largest castle in Britain, second to Windsor Castle. The castle is said to have introduced the concentric castle defense, which is described as a castle nestled inside another, with an outer wall protecting the inner wall. The castle is also known for its huge gatehouse. Originally, the gatehouse could only be reached by two drawbridges. Caerphilly featured a network of moats and dams that were said to be the most elaborate water defenses in Britain, and inspired by Castle Kenilworth, which I spoke of in a previous post. Caerphilly was a masterpiece of military strength and design.