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What can I expect at a British castle hotel?

British castle hotels are finally springing to life! Very few existed just a mere 20 years ago, and now you can find a range of accommodations from over-the-top luxury to more modest B&B arrangements. Those hotels that have been open for years continue to operate as top-level hotels, while some of the newer castle hotels are still finding their way. Often the chores of inn-keeping become overwhelming for the family, and they eventually lower the portcullis to guests.

Generally, British castle hotels try to replicate a cozy country house atmosphere in style. You usually don’t see suits of armor or heavy medieval touches. Four-poster beds, family portraits, and well-chosen antiques are the norm.

Castle hotels are not located in cities but just outside or not far away. This works out well if you have a car and don’t mind taking a bus or train into town. Normally, you aren’t charged for parking. Often the castles are surrounded by extensive grounds, assuring a quieter atmosphere.

Policies on children vary. Some castle hotels don’t accept children below a certain age. Always check with the hotel before booking if you’re traveling with young family members.

Always ask if breakfast is included. Breakfast used to be standard with the room price, but that’s not necessarily true anymore. Fortunately, the “full-fry” breakfast of years ago has moved to healthier choices. However, if your toast comes in a toast-rack to help it cool, scream loudly. Please.

Rooms always vary in size and configuration, as the castle’s architectural quirks dictate. Guest rooms always have en suite bathrooms, but sometimes the plumbing varies. If you have a special request—say a tub over a shower, or prefer a view—always ask at the time of booking. Get a written confirmation. Always ask if there are steps if you have mobility difficulties.

Castle hotels can offer a number of rooms inside the castle, while additional rooms—although just as comfortable—are located in a separate building. Rooms inside the castle are generally more expensive, but, in my opinion, that’s the whole point of staying there. If possible, spend the extra money and get a real castle room.

It is rare to find a castle hotel with air conditioning, a point you might consider if you’re visiting during a heat wave, a not all uncommon event during the last few summers.

Many castle hotels also specialize in weddings, a good source of revenue to help offset the cost of maintaining a historical or architecturally significant property. If you’re counting on a quiet, peaceful retreat, you might want to check at the time of reservation if any large events are planned for your particular dates.

An extraordinary number of British castles are offered on a self-catering and/or an exclusive-use basis. In other words, don’t expect the services of a proper hotel. You do your own cooking. Or you can rent the entire castle if there are a lot of you. Hundreds of privately and publicly owned castles may be hired out for private events or weddings.