Why Should Belle Have All the Fun? Anyone Can Stay in a Castle

Take heart, 'Beauty and the Beast' fans: There's a fairy-tale experience waiting for you, too. 

The "tale as old as time" might not be quite that ancient — a recent scholarly article found that the origins of "Beauty and the Beast" could date back a mere 2,500-6,000 years — but there’s no denying how enduring it is. Disney’s live-action version of the love story debuted to $170 million in ticket sales last weekend.

Want in on that magic? We can't bring your household items to life, a la the Beast’s servants — the filmmakers spent $160 million doing that — but we can point you in the direction of HomeAway’s Castle Collection, where hosts around the globe invite you to be their guest for as little as $20 per night per person (that is, less than a pair of movie tickets). Quite a few travelers are taking them up on it: HomeAway reports that castle bookings for the first quarter of this year are up nearly 300% from 2014. Steam the wrinkles out of your favorite ball gown — or grab an armload of books, or both — and consider a few of our favorites.

Duns Castle, Scotland

This 12,000-acre, 14th-century estate situated an hour south of Edinburgh can accommodate 23 people in 12 bedrooms, which makes its $3,108-per-night starting price a bit more manageable. Holiday cottages on the property can tuck in 27 more guests—destination wedding in the Scottish Borders, anyone?

Stuhlingen Castle, Germany

The locals call this charming, 453-year-old retreat a castle, but it’s actually the former rectory of a church. A newly-renovated apartment in this stunner is perfect for two, and it’s about $59 per night. Rustic good looks and modern amenities are a fairly poetic pair, from where we’re sitting.

La Bijoire, Vendée, France

You and up to 35 fellow guests can go swimming in the Atlantic when you visit this oceanfront chateau in western France — or, if you’re feeling more reclusive, take a dip in the private pool.

Arquenay, France 

This 19th-century Loire Valley confection was recently named one of the top 20 chateaux in France (because that’s the kind of thing our European friends think about as we Americans go head to head over stuff like hamburgers). It earned that distinction thanks to its private lake, swimming pool, and cinema. "Your senses will be dazzled with stunning views, gentle sounds of birds and rippling water, and the rich scents of roses and lavender," the hosts promise. Stop showing off, France.

Chateau de Servigny, Yvetot-Bocage, France

History buffs will love this 16th-century retreat: the Treaty of Cherbourg between the U.S. and Germany was signed there in 1944 (and historical tours are available, naturally). The chateau is furnished with antique period pieces — but if those don’t pass muster,  Valognes, one of the most beautiful towns in Normandy, is just five minutes away.

Lisheen, Munster, Ireland

Tired of reuniting at the same old upstate cabin with your college pals? Located in the County of Tipperary, this diminutive 19th-century castle welcomes private parties of up to 16 for $1,075 per night. If you don’t feel like cooking, your hosts will even organize a catering team on request. (We assume it’s a team of people rather than anthropomorphic furniture and utensils, but you can ask about that as well if you like.)

Castle Sédaiges, Cantal, France

Castle Sédaiges sleeps 25, but its proprietors encourage renters to think big — very big (the listing reports that a nearby space holds up to 160 banquet guests). "Who has not dreamed of a castle to receive his family and friends in privacy?" Who indeed?

Photo by: Pascal

Pascal

Chateau Le Petit Verdus, Entre-deux-Mers, France

Set among rolling vineyards, this 19th-century castle exudes Romance with a capital R: The staircase spirals with a flourish, delicate toile dances across the bedroom walls, and a craggy stone face gazes from the massive fireplace in the kitchen. Seriously, France. We’ve already conceded that you’re really, really good at this fairy-tale stuff.

Saint Polten, Austria

This Austrian property is a series of nested treasures: Painterly jewel-toned rooms sit inside a baroque moated(!) castle, surrounded by an historic park populated with grazing horses. Bonus: "I have never seen such an amazing pool," one former guest reports. Take that, all-inclusive tropical resorts.

Castello Claves, Acireale, Italy

Not to be denied a piece of the rental-castle action, Italy has its own offering: For an average of $270 per night, up to 10 guests at Castello Claves can enjoy views of the sea, use of a huge pool and panoramic terrace, and proximity to the local marina and town square. La bella vita, indeed.

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