Castles – Nice to Visit, But I Wouldn’t Want to Own One

Isabel Palace in Segovia, Spain

Like most little girls I dreamed about princesses, castles and palaces.  I watched a girl, Lady Diana, become a real princess on TV and go on to live in a palace.  Then I traveled to Europe for the first time and got to visit the castles of my dreams in person.  They were as stunning, majestic and regal as I imagined.   However, on one trip a guide was talking about the family who still lived in a wing of the castle, but had opened the rest to visitors to pay for the upkeep.

As I got older and my own life became the stuff of reality and not dreams – heating and electric bills, lawn maintenance, a mortgage, etc. – I started to wonder about my childhood fantasies of living in a castle.    Is it possible to live in a castle today?  Is it comfortable?  What are the costs like?  How many people are needed to maintain such a building?  So I did a little research and I am afraid the news isn’t good for all those little girls who are twirling around their rooms with glitter crowns pretending to be princesses.

Comfort –  A lot of castles were originally military fortresses focused on defense rather than comfort, in fact the word castle come from a Latin word, castrum, meaning a fortified place.  Castles were often cold and drafty due to their size and the materials that were used to build them.  Also, since glass was expensive, often the windows did not have glass panes, and f course there also wasn’t any central heating.  There was a reason tapestries were created and it wasn’t just for decoration!   Four-poster beds were invented as another measure to protect the occupants against the cold.  Other than natural light, the light in castles came from candles which meant a smoky environment and because castles contained so many servants and members of household, it was usually very noisy and hectic.

Sanitation – The floors were usually dirt or stone originally, carpet was not used until the 14th century.  Toilets were often holes in the castle towers with waste dropping below into the bailey or moat.  Eventually chamber pots became popular, but they still had to be emptied somewhere.

Maintenance – Apparently not much is needed to maintain moats if they contain fish or ducks which aerate the moat and keep the weeds down. If you don’t have these animals in your moat, then the cost can be up 31,000 dollars to clear it, depending on the size.   However, just about everything else needs maintenance including the interior and exterior walls and roof.

Staff – To use Windsor Castle as an example, the castle employs approximately 160 people with 85 on duty daily.   Why were so many needed?  Someone had to run the kitchens, the pantry, the buttery, the stables and offices, polish the silver, do the laundry, maintain supplies, care for the animals, etc.  Also, with all those servants around, privacy would be in very short supply.

If despite the evidence you still dream about living in a castle, they do sometimes come up for sale.    Peruse the castle of your dreams at:   If buying your own castle is out of your budget,  go-today has several trips available that include stays in charming castles where you can imagine being a princess or prince, at least for a night or so.

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