Conwy Castle, Wales
It was built in just four years between 1283 and 1287 by the English King Edward I, this castle in Wales was originally ‘limed,’ so it would appear shining white from a distance. Surrounded by a stone wall and strengthened with huge round towers, Conwy Castle was actually meant to act as a defence against the local Welsh people, who weren’t too happy about their occupation by the English. They were so unhappy, in fact, that they rebelled, and during the uprising, poor Edward was trapped in the castle with only one barrel of wine; he never stayed there again. But the castle’s setting is also picturesque; it overlooks a quaint harbour and is framed by the romantically named Snowdonia Mountains in the background.
Guaita Castle, San Marino
The microstate of San Marino is its own country, but it’s completely surrounded by Italy. Keeping watch over its capital, also called San Marino, is Guaita Castle, one of the ‘three towers of San Marino,’ the oldest and arguably the most famous. Guaita is also called the ‘First Tower,’ and it dates back to the 11th century, although it was rebuilt in the 15th. The trio of citadels and a series of walls were used to protect the tiny city on Mount Titano – and it worked, as San Marino is one of the world’s oldest republics and the last remaining Italian city-state that was not incorporated into Italy itself. Guaita was also later used as a prison – and still contains some recently uncovered, 200-year-old prison graffiti.
Kasbah of the Udayas, Morocco
Situated in the city of Rabat at the mouth of the Bou Regreg River leading to the Atlantic Ocean, this 12th-century Moroccan castle, or ‘kasbah,’ was home to the sultans who ruled the area. Perfectly situated to defend against invaders or pirates, it commands a gorgeous view over the ocean beyond. The Kasbah of the Udayas also contains the intricately carved medieval gateway called Bab Oudaia and a 12th-century mosque. Several centuries later, the kasbah became a refuge for Muslims fleeing Spain, as well as a hideout for pirates. Today, the kasbah contains a museum and the lovely Andalusian gardens.