Once symbols of power and architectural ingenuity, castles today are nothing more than fascinating relics of a bygone time. While the ruins of these stone marvels are wildely familiar, less known are those restored and, in some cases, still inhabited by families.
Bouzov Castle in the Czech Republic is a perfect example of a fortress that has managed to survive some 700 years of wars and neglect. Captured here by aerial photographer Zbyšek Podhrázský, the castle was built in the 14th century to monitor an important trade route. Since 1999, Bouzov has been listed as a national monument and is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the Czech Republic.
Podhrázský's photo is one of hundreds by drone enthusiasts of castles submitted to SkyPixel, a community for aerial photographers and filmmakers. Below are a few of our favorites to stoke the dreams of anyone who has ever imagined living in a real-life "once upon a time..."
Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany
Neuschwanstein Castle, captured here in all its icy glory by aerial photographer Yves, was commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria and constructed from 1869-1883. The king only managed to live in the palace for 172 days before dying at the age of 40 under mysterious circumstances. The castle is reportedly the inspiration for the design of Sleeping Beauty's iconic palace at Disneyland.
Ooidonk Castle, Belgium
Originally built in the early 13th century as a fortress to protect the city of Ghent, Ooidonk Castle has been destroyed three times –– with the present-day structure dating back to 1579. The current owner, the Earl Juan t’Kint de Roodenbeke, still lives in the castle, but allows public access on the weekends. This beautiful photo was captured by aerial photographer Steven Dhaeyere in March 2015.
Wernigerode Castle, Germany
Wernigerode Castle, located in the Harz mountains of Germany, has its origins as a settlement in the 12th century. The current structure was renovated in 1893. The castle is highly regarded for its stunning panoramic view of the surrounding hills and city of Wernigerode. This photo was shot was drone pilot CanD in the Sky using a DJI Inspire I.
Wijnendale Castle, Belgium
Wijnendale Castle, located in Belgium, is a moated fortress composed of two wings. The north wing was built in the 15th century and is open to the public as a museum. The other was largely constructed in the 19th century and is the current residence of the Matthieu family. It was photographed by Maxim Termote using a DJI Phantom Vision drone.
Fatlips Castle, Scotland
The smallest "castle" on our list, Fatlips is actually a fortified tower in Scotland dating back to the 16th century. According to the BBC, the castle's name comes from "the habit of men kissing women as they entered the building, which was considered indiscreet." The castle was in use all the way up to the 1960s, before falling into disrepair. In 2013, major renovations were started to preserve the building and open it to the public as a historical monument. According to aerial photographer Ali Graham, Ruber's Law, an old exctint volcano, can be seen in the far distance.
Hohenzollern Castle, Germany
Hohenzollern Castle, located in the foothills of the Swabian Alps of Germany, dates back to the early 11th century. Three castles have actually occupied the site, with the most recent incarnation completed in 1867. With over 300,000 visitors annually, it is one of the most toured castles in all of Germany. It's also worth nothing that the structure is still largely privately owned, with two-thirds of the fortress belonging to 39-year-old Georg Friedrich, Prince of Prussia.
This shot was captured by aerial photographer Darko Pelikan in October 2015.
Bobolice Castle, Poland
Situated in Poland, Bobolice Castle dates back to the 14th century and was originally part of a defense system of royal strongholds protecting the western border of the country. The castle has a rich history of political and familial intrigue, with numerous ghosts said to haunt the structure and even a mysterious treasure hidden somewhere in its subterranean tunnels. Since 1999, the privately-owned castle has been under restoration by the Lasecki family.
Aerial photographer Mateusz Wizor captured this shot of Bobolice Castle in July 2015 using a DJI Phantom 3 drone.
Glücksburg Castle, Germany
Glücksburg Castle was built in the 16th century on the site of a former monastery, with the grounds surrounding the castle flooded to create a small lake. The structure today is maintained by a foundation and used for art expositions, concerts and weddings. Aerial photographer Uwe Schomburg captured this photo of Glücksburg in March 2016.
Cochem Castle, Germany
Cochem Castle, located high above the banks of the Moselle River in Germany, was built in 1868 upon ruins of a previous fortress dating back to 1130. Instead of its original Romanesque architecture, Berlin businessman Louis Ravené decided to rebuild the castle in a Neo-Gothic style. Some original elements, however, were retained –– including the notorious "Witches Tower," so-named for its reported use to try women for witchcraft by throwing them out of an upper window.
Aerial photographer Stevie Brouwers captured this photo of Cochem in October 2015.