For most people, having their very own castle is the stuff of fairytales – however, for a few proud investors and history lovers, the dream of owning and living in a castle can become reality.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to inherit or be royalty to own a castle. Especially in Europe, castles are bought and sold like any other property. Of course they come in various states, from bold renovation projects to modernised chateaux that are ready to live in.
Castles in the Engel & Völkers portfolio have recently included a 15-bedroom French castle dating from 1780, a grand historic palace in Lisbon brought into the 21st century with an outdoor pool, a glorious neo-Renaissance hunting castle in Hungary and a modernised 16th-century palazzo in Malta.
A surprising number of people purchase castles. They come from all walks of life, from wealthy buyers looking for an ultra-luxurious holiday home to people investing in a dream or a restoration project. For example, Barholm Castle near Dumfries in Scotland was bought by a retired couple, who spent the next several years restoring the exterior and rebuilding the interior. For many people, therefore, castles are as much a labour of love as a realisation of a long-held dream.
If the castle you’ve chosen isn’t already on the market and you’ve just spotted a future dream home in need of renovation or restoration, you’ll need to be aware of the peculiarities of a castle you might encounter before you can make the property your home.
Many castles are listed or protected, so renovations or extensions may be tricky to get authorised. They might also raise practical difficulties, as many old castle walls are several metres thick, which can complicate building work. That said, as most castles are expansive and have a lot of room, extensions might not be a key factor in making your castle a home.
When planning your renovation, you’ll also need to carefully consider how you’ll go about adapting a historical space to suit a modern lifestyle. As well as potentially needing to arrange basic mains connections (water, gas, electric), you’ll also need to contend with tricky castle layouts that were designed for a different way of life. However, with careful planning and costing – and especially with an experienced architect on board – all of these hurdles are surmountable, and even the most forlorn of castles can become a comfortable, modern home.
In most castles of a modest size you can use and live in all the rooms, with plenty of room for guests too. However, some larger estates might open up parts of the castle to day visitors or tours, either to help with finances or for the sheer love of sharing history. A local or national historical organisation may be delighted to help open parts of the castle or the grounds to the public, and they may also help with the maintenance and restoration costs as a result. Another possibility, especially with multiple self-contained castle apartments, is to rent some of the rooms as holiday apartments, which certainly make an impressive listing on holiday rental sites.