Thursday, September 8, 2016

10 Interesting Castle Facts

Castles safeguarded the lands of their noble owners and afforded protection to the local populace in the event of war. They served as cultural centers, places of worship, economic hubs, garrisons, locations to hold court, prisons, and more. These ancient strongholds often feature in my fiction, and I’ve come across some interesting castle facts while researching Tales of Faeraven, my medeival epic fantasy books based on 13th-Century Europe. Below, you will find some intriguing facts about these riveting structures. 

This article is brought to you by Janalyn Voigt.

10 Interesting Facts About Castles 

England's Warwick Castle in the mist.

1. Castle Etymology

While some disagreement exists as to the origin of the word ‘castle,’ most scholars believe it derived from the Latin word for ‘fortress.’ Since a castle primarily functioned to protect its inhabitants and the surrounding community, this makes perfect sense. 

Bojnice Castle - Slovakia
Image by Pudelek (Marcin Szala) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Circular Stairs 

The clockwise curve of a castle tower’s stairway forced intruders to climb with their right hands to the wall, while defenders coming down to meet them had their right hands free. Designers built many ingenious defensive architectural features like this one into castles.
Interior of well house at Carisbrooke Castle
Image by Dave Pape (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

3. Castle Well 

The source feeding water into the well represented a potential vulnerability for a castle. If left unprotected, a poisoned well could end a siege in defeat for the defenders. Since a water source might exist outside the walls of the castle, this could become a big problem.

Cardiff Castle Water Spout 
Image by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Cardiff Castle water spout  
Uploaded by tm) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

4. Running Water

Contrary to modern belief, castles carried running water through pipes from cisterns on higher floors. The inhabitants of a castle bathed in wooden tubs that could be covered with canvas in cold weather.

Garderobe, Peveril Castle
Image by Dave.Dunford [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

5. Garderobe

This early version of a toilet consisted of a wooden board cut with a hole and situated in a small chamber. Human waste traveled through chutes into the moat. The fact that moths wouldn’t go into this chamber due to the sewer gases gave this closet-like room its name. The garderobe became a place to hang clothing to keep out bugs. 

The Moat of Leeds Castle near Maidstone, England, photographed July 2005
by Tobiasvonderhaar (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

6. Moat

A deep, wide ditch filled with water diverted from a river or other body of water protected a castle in a variety of ways. A moat forced potential invaders to swim, making them easy targets. It also prevented miners from digging beneath the castle walls to gain entry, and its presence safeguarded against fires.
Chateau de Vincennes
Image by CJ DUB - Own work, Attribution, License Information

7. Keep

A castle keep acted as a fortified residence for the noble family and other inhabitants of the castle. This great tower at the heart of the castle might soar as high as 80 feet (24 metres) into the air. 
Austria's Burg Hochosterwitz in Kärnten.
Image by Johann Jaritz - Own work

8. Number of Castles in Europe

According to the Castellarium Anglicanum, Europe contains over 150,000 castle sites. While 800 or so of these contain castle ruins, just 300 castles remain at least partially intact and standing.
Windsor Castle, UK
Image by Sgt. Adrian Harlen, Ministry of Defense official photographer [OGL], via Wikimedia Commons

9. Oldest Occupied Castle

Alive and thriving at age 900 and counting, Windsor Castle holds its own as the oldest occupied castle in Europe. It started as a wooden motte-and-bailey castle built by William the Conquerer. Henry I upgraded the original castle to a stone structure and made other improvements. Windsor Castle has sheltered the families of British kings and queens for almost 1,000 years. 
Neuschwanstein Castle in Schwangau, Bavaria, built by King Ludwig II.
Image by Cezary Piwowarski - Own work, GFDL

10. Sleeping Beauty Castle

Disney modeled the sleeping beauty castle after Neuschwanstein, a 19th-century castle built by Bavaria’s Ludwig II. This shy monarch built his castle as a private retreat. Today, more than 1.4 million people a year visit the “fairytale castle” he created.

About Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt's unique blend of adventure, romance, suspense, and whimsy creates breathtaking fictional worlds for readers. This multi-faceted storyteller writes in the historical fiction, romantic mystery, and epic fantasy genres. Janalyn is a history enthusiast and romantic. These elements appear in everything she writes.

Available Books by Janalyn Voigt

Beginning with DawnSinger, the epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, carries readers into a land only imagined in dreams.

Upcoming Books by Janalyn Voigt

Hills of Nevermore, the first installment in Montana Gold, a historical romance series set during Montana's gold rush, releases in 2017.

Deceptive Tide (Islands of Intrigue: San Juans) a romantic suspense novel set in an island paradise off the coast of Washington state.


  1. This was a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

  2. I love castles. Very interesting post.

  3. This was really interesting. I've never heard the fact about the circular stairs and the right-hand issue, but it makes good sense. I shudder to think that those moats smelled like in hot weather.

    1. Since moats diverted water from a waterway, tides or currents may have washed at least some of the smell away.

  4. Those are amazing photos and amazing facts! Wow!

  5. This is just fascinating! I'm delighted with the new trivia I've leaned today.

  6. A very informative and interesting post. Thank you for sharing with the beautiful pictures of the castles.

  7. Fascinating! I'd love to visit a castle, mansion, manor home, or plantation one day!

    1. Leeds Castle is my choice for a wonderful castle visit. and I highly recommend the Rockcliffe Mansion, if you're ever in Hannibal, Missouri.