You’ve likely been on a road trip before, but have you been on one that includes stops at some of the most beautiful castles in America? It may come as a surprise that the Carolinas are known for several famous castles that are lovely enough to rival historic ones located around the globe.
We’ve designed a castle-themed road trip that starts in North Carolina (close to the Virginia border) and meanders westward through the state towards Asheville. If you follow this route, you’ll then travel down through South Carolina until you end your trip with a few castles in the Charleston region. Even if you don’t have enough time to visit all of the castles, you can always choose a couple of your favorites to spend the weekend exploring!
Castle Mont Rouge
While this Rougemont castle in North Carolina has recently become private property, you can always appreciate views from the road (just be respectful of the castle’s owners, of course). Castle Mont Rouge isn’t one you’ll find associated with a long history like the structures that grace European landscapes, however. Its history is surprisingly short!
In fact, the castle was only built about 20 years ago and remains half-finished, although the outside is completed and perfectly charming. Designed by sculptor Robert Mihaly, an artist whose work has adorned the Duke University campus, the castle combines elements of both European and Middle Eastern architecture. The inside of the castle was never completed, and various urban legends have emerged to explain why it was never finished.
Location: 957 Mountain Brook Rd., Rougemont, NC 27572
Castle McCulloch was built in the early 1800s and is currently used as a venue for formal events. The castle is complete with a moat and bridge! From weddings, baby showers, to quinceañeras, just about any major life event will be memorable against the backdrop of this North Carolina castle. Fitting in with the royal design, there are a pair of King and Queen throne chairs visitors can take pictures at and play royals for a day.
Corporate events are even held here on occasion. Of course, you don’t have to be headed to prom (or work) to enjoy the beauty of the castle. Just stop by on your road trip to snap a few pictures and daydream about one day planning your own special event in Castle McCulloch.
Location: 3925 Kivett Dr., Jamestown, NC 27282
If you want to spend the day strolling through over 100 acres of lush landscape, add a pitstop at Smithmore Castle in Spruce Pine. You can be extra fancy and make reservations for a private, romantic meal at a Victorian-era dining table. The Crown Hall is a popular site for weddings and other extra fancy events.
Feeling a little more adventurous? An abandoned mine referred to as “Cave Bruce” is on the castle’s premises, and visitors can solve riddles to find their way to the mine. Seven beds are available for booking, so why not take a break from the road and hole up in this cozy castle for a night?
Location: 638 Castle Way, Spruce Pine, NC 28777
The Biltmore Estate in Asheville is one of the most easily recognizable architectural feats in the state. George Vanderbilt began construction of the site in the late 1800s, and in the 1930s, the estate became available to the public. The house itself is an impressive 175,000 square feet, and the entire property is 8,000 acres large.
Today, visitors can stop by Biltmore and take a tour of the expansive grounds. Whether you’re a nature lover that wants to spend a couple of hours perusing the gardens, or if you’re a wine aficionado that wants to sample varieties at the Biltmore Winery, it’s not difficult to see why the Biltmore Estate is often considered one of the coolest “castles” in America. In fact, springtime is one of the best times of year to visit as the grounds are resplendent with beautiful new blooms.
Location: 1 Lodge St., Asheville, NC 28803
Castle Ladyhawke was built in 2005 and spans over 10,000 square feet. According to the property’s official website, the design was chosen to reflect Scottish Border architecture, but even if you aren’t up to speed on architectural history, you’ll clearly see this building was influenced by European styles.
Visitors can reserve areas of the castle for their wedding celebrations, anniversary trips, and other formal events. For more casual visits, consider spending an evening listening to live music and eating carefully crafted meals by famous chefs.
Location: 1698 Shook Cove Rd., Tuckasegee, NC 28783
Once you’ve had your fill of music at Castle Ladyhawke, cross the border into South Carolina and make a stop at the gorgeous Gassaway Mansion in Greenville. This estate is recognized as a historic location, even holding an official spot on the National Register of Historic Places.
Visitors can register to tour the assortment of religious art pieces that are housed on-site. Over 1,000 pieces are known to be kept on-site, so you’ll have plenty of opportunities to while away the hours. Be sure to check the website’s calendar for information about holiday events.
While you’re in the area, your kids will enjoy a stop at the Greenville Zoo!
Location: 106 Dupont Dr., Greenville, SC 29607
For travelers that enjoy more of a medieval atmosphere than castle structures themselves, EastWind Castle is the perfect way to get into the royal spirit. While the “castle” itself is simply one tower at the moment (the cost of construction was crowdsourced approximately a decade ago), the site is host to 25 acres.
Here, community members teach dueling classes and organize several role-playing opportunities (or “LARP-ing,” as the activity is commonly called). Keep an eye out for seasonal events, such as Halloween festivals and more.
Location: 527 Johnston Hwy., Trenton, SC 29847
Atalaya Castle in South Carolina will be celebrating its hundred-year anniversary in 2033. Constructed by Archer Huntington and his wife, this property boasts an impressive 30 rooms. In the 1960s, the castle was officially transferred to the South Carolina State Parks Service and is now part of the Huntington Beach State Park.
Visitors can take pictures of the Spanish/Moorish-influenced architecture. For hours of operation, check the state park’s website. This castle isn’t too far from Myrtle Beach, so you can even work in a quick dip in the ocean during your visit.
Location: Atalaya Rd., Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
While Castle Pinckney is not open to the public, you can still catch a glimpse from a tour boat. Over 200 years old, this castle was built less with aesthetics in mind and more for defense purposes. While the castle didn’t come into play during the War of 1812, it did have some historical significance during the Civil War, when it was taken over by the Confederate Army.
Today, visitors interested in sneaking a peek of the castle’s remains must schedule a tour with one of the boats for hire in the Charleston Harbor. You won’t be able to step inside the property, but you can take pictures from a distance.
Location: Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464
What better way to end your castle road trip than at the historic Mugdock Castle, a beautifully renovated property? It was initially constructed as a church near the end of the 19th century, but in the early 2000s, a man by the name of Vince Graham bought the property and funded an addition.
At this time, he officially named the property “Mugdock Castle.” The castle’s architectural style combines Gothic and Romanesque features. Visitors can rent rooms for the night and can even request hunting charters to hunt game like quail and dove.
Location: 1401 Middle St., Sullivan’s Island, SC 29482
Be Chivalrous During Your Visit
Before visiting any of these castles, be aware that many of them are on private property. Always check each castle’s official website for the most up-to-date information about their hours of operation. As with any road trip, be sure to allot yourself plenty of time to squeeze in all your desired stops.
Bringing the kids along? Don’t forget to pack snacks and drinks to keep their hunger at bay. Be mindful of the season you visit, too. Many of the castles mentioned above carry out winter festivities, such as the acclaimed Christmas at the Biltmore celebrations, which features over 100 Christmas trees! Crowds may have an impact on your enjoyment of the site, so bear that fact in mind before visiting during popular times.