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9 Storybook Castles in North Carolina Hiding in Plain Sight

9 Storybook Castles in North Carolina Hiding in Plain Sight

From King Arthur and Camelot to Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Snow White, who hasn’t been inspired by storybook castles? Authors like Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Andrew Lang, and Charles Perrault have lulled us to sleep with tales of towers, turrets, keeps, and drawbridges, along with the princesses, knights, and enchanted creatures who inhabit them!

If you can’t get to castles in the Netherlands, castles in Austria, or any other fairytale castles in a faraway land, pack the carriage and steer toward storybook castles in North Carolina! We’ve compiled a collection of castles across the Tar Heel State to get started.

Whether you’re royalty or not, you can visit, stay, or even hold court over your own fairytale wedding at these beautiful castles. We can’t guarantee the singing mice, talking frogs, and fairy godmothers, but each of these North Carolina castles is straight from the pages of fiction!

Three of these castles even invite you to spend the night. You can book a stay at Graylyn, Smithmore, and Murphy Castles

Storybook Castles in North Carolina

1. Biltmore

Aerial view of Biltmore Estate
Konstantin L /

Address: 1 Lodge Street, Ashville, North Carolina 28803

Modeled after Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, England, the Biltmore Estate is known as America’s Castle. The property features French Renaissance architecture and Victorian-era design elements like turrets, gargoyles, and carved statues of Joan of Arc and St. Louis.

Built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt, the Gilded Age mansion is the largest (178,926 square feet, in case you were wondering) privately-owned home in the U.S. Richard Morris Hunt designed it. Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead (of NYC’s Central Park fame) designed the lavish gardens.

Explore rooms filled with antique furnishings, art, and ornate accents. Located nearby, Vanderbilt Village offers shops, restaurants, and the Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate.

Combine your Biltmore visit with a self-guided driving tour along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a French Broad River kayak tour, a culinary tour of the best restaurants in Asheville, or other things to do in Asheville. Asheville is also within an hour-and-a-half drive to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and resorts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

See Related: Most Scenic Trains in North Carolina

2. Castle McCulloch

Castle McCulloch in North Carolina
Castle McCulloch / Facebook

Address: 3925 Kivett Drive, Jamestown, North Carolina 27282

Castle McCulloch’s history gives us the Rumpelstiltskin vibes. While gold wasn’t spun from straw there, it was refined on the property. Stone walls, cathedral ceilings, exposed oak beams, and wrought iron architecture keep the fairytale ambiance alive.

Originally built in 1832 by Cornish engineer Charles McCulloch, it was modeled after the medieval castles that he grew up around. It was restored in the 1980s and now sits on the National Register of Historic Places.

With a moat, a drawbridge, stunning wooden doors, and a 70-foot tower, it’s a storybook site for weddings, corporate events, beer festivals, New Year’s Eve parties, and an annual Mardi Gras masquerade. The original gold refinery operated for thirty years and now offers tours, rock quarry visits, and gem and gold panning.

See Related: Most Beautiful Fairy Tale Towns Around the World

3. Castle Ladyhawke at Bear Lake Reserve

Castle Ladyhawke in North Carolina
Castle Ladyhawke / Facebook

Address: 1698 Shook Cove Road, Tuckasegee, North Carolina 28783

A more modern castle on our list, Castle Ladyhawke was built in 2005. There’s a bit of the Scottish Highlands in the Appalachians – hence the reason they used Scotland rather than England for exterior scenes in The Descent. Inspired by Scottish castles, this place is named after the 1985 film Ladyhawke, starring Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer – there’s another piece of movie trivia for you!

It features a striking stone exterior, pitched roofs, and a tower in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The interior boasts exposed beams, a spiral staircase, woven tapestries, stained glass, and Medieval-inspired furniture.

Castle Ladyhawke is available for weddings, receptions, and private events. You can also schedule a tour of the castle and grounds.

4. Graylyn Estate

Exterior of Graylyn Estate, North Carolina
Selleg17 / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Address: 1900 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27106

Graylyn Estate was built in the 1920s by the original CEO of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, Bowman Gray, and his wife Nathalie. The Norman Revival-style manor house sits on 55 acres and operates as a luxury hotel.

It has 85 rooms and space for weddings, receptions, and corporate events. Fairytale features include a stone exterior with a tower, a spiral staircase, and antique furniture.

While visiting Graylyn, head a few down the road and check out another Reynolds property. The 34,000-square-foot Reynolda House sits upon a 1,067-acre estate. It’s the former home of founder R.J. Reynolds and his wife Katherine.

The restored 1917 American Country House includes gardens and a museum with an impressive collection of American art. Known as the Reynolda House Museum of American Art, it features art by Georgia O’Keefe, John Singer Sargent, Andy Warhol, and many more.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Asheville

5. Smithmore Castle

Aerial view of Smithmore Castle in North Carolina
Smithmore Castle / Facebook

Address: 638 Castle Way, Spruce Pine, North Carolina 28777

Sitting high atop English Knob (my British editor tells me this is a hilarious name), the 15,000-square-foot Smithmore Castle overlooks more than 100 acres. The gleaming white stone, concrete, and steel exterior is a beautiful example of British-Victorian architecture. It’s a picture-perfect spot for weddings, photo shoots, and luxury getaways.

Originally built in the 1950s, it’s America’s only 5-star castle hotel. Scottish politician Lord Robert Smith bought the property in 2008 and, appropriately enough, named it after himself (Wouldn’t you?).

Open since 2021, you can book a stay at this private castle that welcomes guests inside with antique furniture, Swarovski crystal chandeliers, suits of armor, marble floors, and gilded headboards. Activities include on-site cave tours, cooking classes, and archery lessons.

For a budget-friendly way to live like royalty, check out the nearby Biergarten Luxe @ the Heart of Blowing Rock in the Blue Ridge Mountains, fit for a duchess or duke!

Read Also: Secret Caves in North Carolina to Visit

6. Murphy Castle Vacation Rental

Front of Murphy Castle in  North Carolina
Murphy Castle /

Address: Murphy, North Carolina

A gated entrance and gargoyles greet visitors to this castle-like vacation rental. The rentable Murphy Castle has a charming stone exterior, a tower, a heart-shaped pond, and a terrace with mountain views.

This 3,500-square-foot vacation rental offers three bedrooms with fairytale four-poster beds, located near the Nantahala National Forest and the Hiwassee River.

See Related: Things to Do in Fayetteville, North Carolina

7. Gimghoul Castle

Gimghoul Castle exterior in North Carolina
THE evil fluffyface / Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Address: 742 Gimghoul Road, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27514

Gimghoul Castle, originally known as Hippol Castle, is a Medieval-style castle located off-campus at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The castle was built in the 1920s and boasts a ghostly history of duels and disappearances.

Let’s discuss the 1833 legend of Virginian Peter Dromgoole and a local girl, Miss Fanny. Dromgoole was in love with Miss Fanny. But, as love often goes, there was another suitor, and a duel ensued.

Whether he passed the duel or returned to Virginia or sailed for Europe after failing entrance exams to UNC (the most likely scenario), we don’t know. But it makes for an interesting story. His blood is supposedly still stained on Dromgoole Rock.

It’s allegedly home to the secretive Order of Gimghoul, a college society started in 1889 by a group of students from UNC. This castle is not open to the public but on a public road. Can’t you see Little Red Riding Hood skipping down that path?

8. Seely Castle

Seely Castle in North Carolina
Architectural Record, 1920 / Wikimedia Commons, Public domain

Address: 379 Town Mountain Road, Asheville, North Carolina 28804

Sitting atop Sunset Mountain, Seely Castle holds stones from Blarney Castle and the Tower of London among its towers and parapets. The grounds offer a deer park, manicured lawns, lavish rose gardens, fountains, and a fishpond.

The 20,000-square-foot English Gothic-style castle was built by Fred Seely, an architect, hotelier, chemist, and newspaper editor. A London monastery inspired it, and it took nearly a decade to complete. Seely and his family moved into the castle in 1916.

Thomas Edison designed the electrical work. Famous visitors include Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, and presidents Coolidge, Hoover, Harding, Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt.

In 1949, the castle was sold to Asheville-Biltmore College (now UNC). In the ‘60s, it was purchased by a local businessman who moved in with his family.

By 1976, it was donated to a local ministry. In 1983, it was purchased by the CEO of a local apparel company. Fences were put up to keep out vandals.

See Related: Things to Do in Burlington, North Carolina

9. Tryon Palace

Aerial view of Tryon Palace, New Bern, North Carolina
Kyle J Little /

Address: 529 S. Front Street, New Bern, North Carolina 28562

Formerly known as Governor’s Palace, Tryon Palace was built between 1767 and 1770 by English architect John Hawks, who came to the colony (or province, if you will) with Governor William Tryon, who served from 1764 to 1771 and was in great need of a stately home worthy of a provincial governor.

Georgian in architectural aesthetics, the palace was designed after London country homes, for which it’s a dead ringer.

Several governors called the palace home after Tryon and his family moved on to New York. The palace was, of course, visited by George Washington. We don’t know if he slept there, but he danced there.

At one point in history, most of the structure was destroyed by a fire. The palace was restored after years of campaigning, planning, and petitioning. It opened to the public in 1959. Visitors can tour the palace, formal gardens, and the North Carolina History Center.

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