British comedian Eddie Izzard once joked that all Americans think British people live in castles. That's not an unfair assessment. With its stately manors, foggy moors, and the fact that its royal family owns more than 1.4% of the country, England seems like a storybook land from a long distant era. Is it that much of a leap to imagine British folks are still practicing chivalry and luxuriating in fortified keeps?
The funny thing is, there are a surprising number of historic castles still in use today. These medieval castles are not only still standing, they remain private residences (at least in part) to families that can trace their lineage back through the centuries. One of them even ranks among the most beautiful castles in Europe.
If you ever wondered, "Are castles still used today? Like, as a house?" - check out the fantastic estates below.
Alnwick Castle, England
Located in the English county of Northumberland, Alnwick Castle is the second-largest inhabited castle in England. It is owned by the 12th Duke of Northumberland, the current head of the House of Percy. His family has lived in the castle for more than 700 years.
The first parts of Alnwick castle were built in the late 9th century. In modern times, it's been used as filming locations for both the Harry Potter films and Downton Abbey.Dream home?
Belvoir Castle, England
The Rutland family has lived on the grounds of Leicestershire's Belvoir Castle for nearly 1,000 years. The land was first gifted to the family's ancestor, Robert de Todeni, by William the Conqueror in the 11th century.
Following the Wars of the Roses, the first version of the castle was reduced to ruins by 1464. The second was destroyed in 1649, during the English Civil War. The third castle was completed in 1668, and the fourth and current castle was completed in 1832.Dream home?
Burg Eltz, Germany
Located in what is today Wierschem, Germany, Eltz Castle has belonged to the Eltz family for more than 860 years. The land was first deeded to Rudolf von Eltz in 1157 by the Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa.
Now a popular tourist destination, the castle remains a private residence for three branches of the Eltz family: the Rodendorfs, the Rubenachs, and the Kempeniches.Dream home?
Killyleagh Castle, Ireland
Located in North Ireland on the shore of Strangford Lough, Killyleagh Castle is built on the site of a much older fortification that dates back to the 12th century. Today, it is considered the "oldest inhabited castle in Ireland." The stone portions of the castle were built in the 1600s.
Killyleagh is jointly owned by two families, the Hamiltons and the Blackwoods, with the main building still used by the Hamiltons today.Dream home?