Loarre Castle: A medieval fairytale castle in Spain

Loarre Castle: A Medieval Fairytale Castle in Spain

What could be more romantic than a Spanish castle perched on its rock overlooking beautiful countryside? A castle with turrets and towers, secret passageways and dungeons to explore? As a family, we love exploring castles from the candy-coloured fantasy of Pena Palace in Sintra to the moat, mazes and lake at Hever Castle in Kent.

Loarre Castle in Aragon is one of the oldest castles in Spain and also one of its most spectacular. It’s the best preserved example of a Romanesque castle in Europe and its marvellous setting has been inspiring people since medieval times. Film director, Ridley Scott, was impressed enough to use it as the location for his film, Kingdom of Heaven starring Orlando Bloom and Liam Neeson.

The castle was built upon Roman walls in 1020 onto a crag, 1,070 metres above sea level, in the foothills of the Pyrenees. Aragon, in north-eastern Spain, was the most powerful empire in the Mediterranean during the Middle Ages. At the beginning of the 11th century, Loarre Castle stood on the border between lands belonging to the Christians and those of the Moorish invaders (Muslims from North Africa) so it needed to be impregnable. And indeed it was – Loarre was never conquered.

You can see the castle from miles around and when you first walk up to it, it appears to be surrounded by a wood which looks very much like the forest which grew up around Sleeping Beauty’s castle. Turn around the corner and you’ll see the outer walls, studded with circular towers. All around you is the spectacular countryside of the Zaragoza plains, patchworks of green and yellow fields interspersed with dense forests.

Children will find lots to entertain them both inside and outside the castle. They can use a treasure map to find their way and it’s fun to see if they can spot the dogs carved into the stones and the monkeys carved at the top of the columns at the gateway. These monkeys hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil because one of the rules of the castle was that everything inside had to be kept a secret from outsiders.

It’s easy to let your imagination run wild in a semi ruined castle with towers to climb and ruins to clamber over but here you can also step inside one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in Aragon. A monastery was added to the castle in 1071 for the Order of St Augustine and the impressive Church of St Peter was used as the Royal Chapel.

Swallows swoop and soar up into the domed roof and scenes from the Bible are carved on top of the fourteen columns. Look a little closer and you’ll find a wooden trap door in the floor. This opens up to reveal a set of steep stairs leading to a secret passage.

There are dungeons to explore too. Used as pantries by the friars they became prisons by the time medieval nobles were living in the castle.

Climbing into the towers will be another highlight for children dreaming of fairytale knights and princesses. The three-storey Tower of the Queen is especially impressive, with its three sets of ornate gothic windows.

A fairytale castle indeed.

Loarre Castle is open every day from 10am until 7pm. In the winter months, it is closed on Mondays and open from 11am until 5.30pm. Adults, €4.50; children, €3; under 6s, free.

The nearest airport to Loarre Castle is at Zaragoza, where the multi-domed Basilica and Roman ruins are also worth a visit. Loarre is in the Huesca region of Aragon, near the extraordinary Mallos de Riglos, the dramatic red rock formations near the Pyrenees. Close by, you’ll find the Gallégo River where children as young as eight can go whitewater rafting down the rapids. Take a look at How to Explore Aragon for more ideas when visiting the area.

For more information about visiting Aragon, take a look at the websites for Aragon and Spain.

For more castle inspiration, take a look at The Best European Castles for Family Sleepovers and the Best UK Castles for Kids.

This post was picked as one of Lonely Planet’s best blog posts of the month. Read the post on Lonely Planet Kids here.

Disclosure: I was a guest of BritMums and the Spanish tourist office. All opinions are honest and my own. 

Loarre Castle: A medieval fairytale castle in Spain

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66 Comments

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd October 2017 / 4:50 pm

      Hi Lyn, no connection with Catherine of Aragon at Loarre Castle but Catherine’s ancestors were of course all from Aragon. She herself was born nearer Madrid.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd October 2017 / 4:50 pm

      Thanks Tanja. We really enjoyed exploring this one. Xx

  1. 28th September 2017 / 7:29 am

    It looks magical Clare. I love those big round towers that give all that strength some gracefulness. The landscape around the castle and Aragon also looks like it offers the perfect balance of culture and nature – something I always seek out on a holiday. Cheers from Copenhagen, Erin #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd October 2017 / 4:51 pm

      It’s a stunning castle, Erin, and the whole area had that perfect balance of culture and nature which makes it such a great choice for good family holidays.

  2. 28th September 2017 / 8:20 am

    I’ve never heard of this castle nor the movie Kingdom of Heaven! I need to go watch this now! I love both Orlando and Liam! Pinnnnned & stumbled! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd October 2017 / 4:51 pm

      I’ll watch most things with Liam Neeson in them!

  3. 28th September 2017 / 9:04 am

    This looks stunning! Love it. I’ve wanted to visit Zaragoza for quite a while, I had no idea this castle was so nearby!
    #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd October 2017 / 4:52 pm

      It’s such a fascinating area of Spain to explore, Esther. And not very well known as a tourist destination either.

  4. 28th September 2017 / 9:11 am

    Loarre Castle looks like a proper castle with all the requisite castley things. Ruins make your imagination run wild and this one is a beauty. Definitely one for our castles list.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd October 2017 / 4:53 pm

      A good ruined castle is hard to beat particularly when it’s not all in ruins so you can easily imagine what it would have looked like. The location of Loarre makes it even more special.

  5. 28th September 2017 / 9:19 am

    It does like a fairytale. I’m a sucker for castles but haven’t done any Spanish ones #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd October 2017 / 4:54 pm

      I hadn’t realised how fabulous the castles in Spain really were. There are lots more I’d like to discover.

  6. 28th September 2017 / 10:34 am

    The castle looks amazing and, oh my goodness, the views! Is it very popular? It looks like you were the only ones there. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd October 2017 / 4:55 pm

      It is an amazing castle, Tara. The whole area of Aragon is relatively undiscovered compared with the more well known parts of Spain. It’s a wonderful place to explore. There were only a couple of other people wandering around while we were there.

  7. 28th September 2017 / 10:48 am

    What an epic castle! With amazing views. Definitely looks like it’s worth a day trip. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      2nd October 2017 / 4:55 pm

      It’s really worth a day trip, Amanda. Those views make it even more special.

  8. 28th September 2017 / 12:27 pm

    Looks like the perfect place to let your imagination run wild. I know my daughter would love this since she is definitely in the princess stage. She really wants to see some real castles. #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:12 pm

      It’s such a great castle for kids to explore, Allison.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:12 pm

      Thanks so much, Maria. We had a guide which was such a useful way of finding out all those interesting stories.

  9. 28th September 2017 / 3:17 pm

    My boys love a good castle to charge around pretending to be knights and fighting off invaders! This one looks beautiful too #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:13 pm

      This is such a fantastic castle, Nicky. I’d really recommend it. Great part of the world too.

  10. 28th September 2017 / 4:45 pm

    I was gonna say, this castle should be in a movie! And it was lol. It totally looks like it came out of Game of Thrones! Love how it’s perched on the hill overlooking everything!

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:14 pm

      It’s a great castle for a film location, isn’t it? And the stunning location really sold it to me.

  11. 28th September 2017 / 4:48 pm

    Absolutely beautiful! I just love visiting old and historic places, it really takes me back!

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:16 pm

      It’s a gorgeous castle, isn’t it. We loved this one!

  12. 28th September 2017 / 5:15 pm

    Looks lovely, I always enjoyed exploring castles as a kid and it’s something I never grew out of! #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:16 pm

      I’ve not grown out of it either, Keri. Thank goodness really as both my kids are obsessed with them.

  13. 28th September 2017 / 7:14 pm

    That landscape is killer!! Such beautiful scenery. I love reading about the history in your posts Clare, it sparks such an interest to go and learn more!

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:17 pm

      Thanks so much, Chiera. It’s a lovely thing to hear 🙂 The scenery in this part of Spain is really beautiful.

  14. 28th September 2017 / 7:21 pm

    I was having a conversation with a friend recently about castles. We were wondering who started building the fabulous turreted, crenelated structure that we are so used to seeing all over Europe? Also trying to figure out why my husband has never bought me a castle, a small one would be fine,

    Total Princess

    (I suspect in Scotland or France you could probably but a castle easily enough, then spend all your money trying to renovate/heat the place)

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:22 pm

      Good question, Carolyn. I think the turrets and crenellations are from Medieval times but I’m not an expert. It’s positively shocking that your husband hasn’t bought you a castle yet. I keep seeing lovely looking castles for sale in Scotland!

  15. 28th September 2017 / 8:31 pm

    What a stunning location! I’ve explored parts of the Pyrenees but would love to visit more of northern Spain, it looks and sounds like there’s so much to see there. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:22 pm

      It really is a beautiful part of Spain, Annabel, and well worth exploring.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:23 pm

      Carcassone is really lovely, isn’t it? I haven’t been in years. Must take the kids one day.

  16. 28th September 2017 / 10:21 pm

    I think the view from the castle is my favorite! Beautiful.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:25 pm

      Thanks Ashley. The views were so beautiful. I loved the location of this castle.

  17. 29th September 2017 / 12:50 am

    Love the photos. I’m a sucker for old castles.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:23 pm

      Thanks Eddie. We just love castles too 🙂

  18. 29th September 2017 / 5:07 am

    GORGEOUS. I love castles and we fell in love with them exploring Ireland. I would love to see this in person! Thanks for sharing. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:33 pm

      It really is such a beauty, isn’t it, Danielle? I’d really like to spend some time exploring the wonderful castles in Ireland too.

  19. 29th September 2017 / 5:10 am

    Very cool! Both the castle and the beautiful red rocks of Mallos de Riglos! You are so right about the woods surrounding the castle, it looks very Sleeping Beauty-esque!

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:34 pm

      Thanks so much, Bryna. Those red rocks were really impressive too. I’ve never seen anything like that. It looked more like the sort of thing you find in the American west!

  20. 29th September 2017 / 10:13 am

    This looks very similar to a castle outside of Parma, Italy called Torrechiara. It too was perched atop a hill. I would love to add this castle to my list of those visited, One day . . .

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:34 pm

      That Italian castle sounds like somewhere I need to visit, Shelley, especially if I can fit in a trip to try some Parma ham at the same time!

  21. 29th September 2017 / 9:10 pm

    What a wonderful place to visit! This is a part of Spain I’d love to visit someday. Did you by any chance get to go into any of the secret passageways? #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:35 pm

      It really is a wonderful part of Spain, Hilary, and not one I was familiar with at all. We were very lucky – we did get to go into one of the secret passageways. We went down the stairs from the trap door in the church. It was very thrilling! No ghosts though…

  22. 1st October 2017 / 12:05 am

    I love that exploring castles with your boys is just an every day thing where you live. I know this is in Spain, but in general you have access to so many castles as day trips. I would go every weekend if I could. #farawayfiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:38 pm

      We really are so lucky, Corey. Castles really are part of our everyday experience here. Where we live, there are four I can think of within ten miles, but it’s probably more than that to be honest.

  23. 1st October 2017 / 5:56 pm

    What a fabulous castle. Like you I love to let my imagination lead me when visiting castles or other historic buildings. Imagining what has gone before and who has walked along the same paths I am walking along always fascinates me. I’m really enjoying learning more about Aragon from your posts. Its a part of Spain I would be very keen to visit #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:44 pm

      Thanks so much, Angela. Aragon is a part of Spain I’d really recommend. It seems to be much lesser known than other parts of Spain and has so much going for it, not least this fabulous castle.

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:38 pm

      Thanks so much 🙂

  24. 2nd October 2017 / 3:03 pm

    Castles are great places to spark the imagination and bring the past within touching distance. #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      3rd October 2017 / 7:39 pm

      They really are, Helena. We do love our castles!

  25. 4th October 2017 / 8:56 pm

    Castles can be really interesting to write about. I’ve blogged on Dunluce and Cardiff castles this year, and really enjoyed reading your piece. The surrounding countryside looks lovely

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      6th October 2017 / 7:13 pm

      We just love castles, Tim. Thanks so much for commenting on my post. We’ve been meaning to visit Cardiff Castle. I do love castles with great surroundings.

      • 8th October 2017 / 12:15 pm

        I agree. I have to say, Dunluce is probably the most dramatically located castle I have visited, on a cliff edge above an allegedly haunted cave. You should try and visit there too! Meanwhile, I clearly need to explore Aragon!

        • Clare Thomson
          Author
          11th October 2017 / 7:32 pm

          I’ve put Dunluce on my wishlist, Tim!

  26. 4th October 2017 / 9:03 pm

    Love a castle and this one looks pretty special. I’d never really thought about where Aragon was but maybe it is time for this Catherine to visit Aragon #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      6th October 2017 / 7:15 pm

      It IS really special, Catherine. I hadn’t thought much about where Aragon is really either before I went. It’s a bit daft really as I studied the Tudors for A-Level!

  27. What a stunning site! I have a soft spots for fairy tale castles and old stones in general, and my kids love letting their imagination run wild in such historic buildings. Beautiful photos as always. x
    #FarawayFiles

    • Clare Thomson
      Author
      6th October 2017 / 8:08 pm

      Thanks so much, Annette. It’s really wonderful watching children’s imaginations go wild in a special place like this.

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