I'm going through the rules for board game called Burg Appenzell, and it says:

The player who was the last to visit a real castle goes first.

None of us have been in a real castle, and I thought it would be good if I visit one. I live in New Zealand, what would be the least expensive castle (including the travel costs) for me to visit? It does not seem to be any castles where I live or in Australia, most of them seem to be in Europe with some in Americas, India and even Japan. What I'm really hoping asking this question, is for some real castle in Australia or closer that I was not able to find, but I don't think I'll be so lucky. Does not have to be a medieval castle, just a real castle.

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    This might not be the cheapest possible entry fee, but it's certainly the cheapest for you if you include travel costs: larnachcastle.co.nz. The question is, what qualifies as a "real castle"? Do ruins count? Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 0:52
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    @mlc: Probably not. I doubt that it would qualify as a "real castle" under any but the loosest possible definition. It's basically a fancy house built in the late 19th century to look sort of like a traditional European castle. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 1:06
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    @GregHewgill, I'm not that fussy, this does satisfy me, and more importantly, my wife, so if you would like write this as an answer I will be happy to accept. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 1:16
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    Incidentally, Appenzell does not have a Burg, but at least a Schloss Appenzell, which rather suggests a residential or palatial building than a fortified one. Great mountains near it, though. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 13:09
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    The question should specify the rules for what counts as a "real castle" (minimum age, size, any particular features like battlements/moat/towers/dragon, degree of ruination, construction material, royal/noble residents, being called a castle by someone official/knowledgeable, history, etc). For instance, something 200 years old, made of stone, with battlements, towers, and a roof (preferably involved in a war).
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 15:00

6 Answers 6


If you live in New Zealand, then the nearest building claiming to be a "castle" is Larnach Castle near Dunedin. Wikipedia describes it as a "mock castle". It is essentially a fancy house built in the late 19th century with some features that resemble those of a traditional European castle.

If your definition of a "real castle" includes mock castles with nationally recognised gardens, then this might qualify.

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    Thank you very much, I was not aware of this one. If one thinks a bit more than I did before writing the question anything in New Zealand was not going to be better than "mock" simply due to shorter history. Yet, reading the Wikipedia article on mock castles, it satisfies me - that's something that people built to look and feel like a castle after historical castles stopped being built. Given that we can visit this one on a weekend, I count it as a win. I will dispense the checkmark in a few days. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 1:28
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    Kryal Castle, in Victoria, Australia, may also qualify - but isn't as close to you as Dunedin.
    – user25730
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 4:56
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    dictionary.com/browse/mock: "adjective, 11. (...) not real". A 'mock X' is by definition not a 'real X', so I don't think this is a correct answer to the question.
    – BrtH
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 11:59
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    @BrtH But this is true for many castles in Europe too. For example, Balmoral Castle in the UK was only ever a large house with mock-castle add-ons, never a fortified structure; or Schloss Neuschwanstein built by Mad King Ludwig, which was the inspiration for Disney's iconic castle. And many others such as Edinburgh Castle were originally built as defensible structures but have long since been converted/rebuilt for civilian residential use, so it's very much debatable whether they're "real".
    – Graham
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 14:36
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    While Larnach Castle looks very nice (I had to look it up since I haven't heard of it before), I'd definitely not call it a castle even by the most accommodating definition of the word.
    – xxbbcc
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 22:52

This is going to come down to what's a "real" castle. Wikipedia opines:

A castle is a type of fortified structure built during the Middle Ages predominantly by the nobility or royalty and by military orders. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble.

So it's got to be old, fortified and a residence for nobility, which means pretty much everything in New Zealand and Australia is right out, since they have neither medieval structures nor nobility. Maori were fortified settlements not limited to nobility, so they don't quite tick the box either.

enter image description here

Probably the closest is thus Japanese castles, in particular Himeji, which looks like a castle, has an unquestionable pedigree (founded 1333, home of arguably Japan's greatest shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi, etc) and is easily reached from Osaka. There are many other castles in Japan, but most are concrete reconstructions of varying degrees of fidelity (Osaka Castle itself is, sadly, at the less faithful end) and further away from major airports.

Tibet and India also have various royal castles/fortresses, some quite formidable, but these are further away from NZ.

Honorable mention goes to Indonesia, which has a series of royal palaces called kraton, some of which were fortified. However, as far as I can tell all the fortified ones are in ruins now. There are also various Dutch East Indies era fortresses in the country, but they don't really qualify as residences of the nobility.

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    If one looks at the etymology of "castle," one finds that it comes from s Latin word meaning "small fort," suggesting that pā should not be ruled out altogether (that is, the nobility criterion is secondary, or that the "manifestation of the power of the tribe as personified by the rangatira" [paraphrased from Wikipedia] satisfies the nobility criterion). One can make a similar argument from the etymology of the German word Burg.
    – phoog
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 11:49
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    Why should the fact that the castle is in ruins be a problem? Many here in the UK have very little physical structure left but are still marked on maps as being a "castle".
    – uɐɪ
    Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 12:08
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    @uɐɪ OP's game requires a "real" castle, and a pile of rocks doesn't cut it for me. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 12:16
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    @lambshaanxy "Ruined" doesn't always mean "pile of rocks". Would this be acceptable as an example? nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/dorset/corfe-castle Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 17:28
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    @lambshaanxy What’s not real about ruins? Sure, at some point ruins become just a pile of rubble that can hardly be called a castle anymore (walking past the ruins of Kalundborg Castle would probably not count as ‘visiting a castle’ to most people), but lots of castle ruins are enormous, still-standing structures. You won’t convince most who’ve visited Chepstow Castle that what they went to isn’t a ‘real’ castle. Commented Nov 28, 2022 at 17:34

Wouldn't it be much easier to open the phone book, look up people named "castle" in your area and ask them whether you could visit them?

Much cheaper, much more out of the box and you surely will have some fun discussing it with your fellow players.

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    @Community this answer is very clear. It is suggesting that "castle" be interpreted to mean "people with the name Castle". If you disagree with this suggestion, the correct action is to downvote the answer. Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 19:27
  • ROFL! Of course, it kinda depends on the wording of the game...
    – Martha
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 18:47
  • On which StackExchange can I ask “What phone book would be the least expensive to get?”
    – fregante
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 17:40

If you live in Auckland, there is another option in Birkdale, 47 Verbena Road

It would be interesting to know if your players would consider that visiting Himeji half a year ago beats visiting Lymington Castle a week ago...

Front entrance of Lymington Castle, 47 Verbena Road, Birkdale, 2008

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    Nice find, but is that open to the public? Commented Nov 29, 2022 at 2:20
  • @lambshaanxy Just buy the castle and it's open to you. It is only $3M, check here: homes.co.nz/address/auckland/birkdale/47-verbena-road/5jwX4
    – donaastor
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 7:22
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    @lambshaanxy No, it's just someone's house that has very fancy brickwork on the outside. I think they do cool Halloween's there though
    – Craig
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 20:42

I am going to disagree with lambshaanxy's answer that Māori are not castles. As quoted from Wikipedia,

A castle is a type of fortified structure built during the Middle Ages predominantly by the nobility or royalty and by military orders. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble.

Now, Wikipedia describes a pā as:

In Māori culture, a great pā represented the mana (prestige or power) and strategic ability of an iwi (tribe or tribal confederacy), as personified by a rangatira (chieftain). Māori built pā in various defensible locations around the territory (rohe) of an iwi to protect fertile plantation-sites and food supplies.

A rangatira certainly appears to be a kind of noble in the sense of someone with an elevated social and political status, so one can characterize a pā as being the fortified residence of a rangatira and his subjects living under a quasi-feudal society, which sounds pretty similar to what a European castle was except that European subjects would typically have had homes and lands on the castle grounds (a "fief") rather than within the walls of the castle proper. Other Polynesian societies have similar structures of nobility.

Wikipedia mentions that a castle does not even need royalty or nobility if it is constructed by "military orders". One might make the argument that organized citizens gathering together to construct and maintain a fortification such as a pā qualifies as a militia, which is a kind of less-formal military order but an order nonetheless.

Outside of the South Pacific, the Caribbean Castillo San Felipe del Morro ("Saint Phillip's Castle of the Headland") qualifies as a purely military castle. Originally built as a Spanish military base in the 1500's, it became a US Army base in 1898 and a US National Park in 1961. This would quite likely qualify as a candidate for the best castle to visit for US residents. I visited in 2012 and the structure certainly hit all of the "old medieval fortification" cultural buttons, with imposing brick and stone walls, winding spiral staircases, sentry booths, narrow gun ports high up in the structure, and turrets on the roof for the installation of massive firepower. The city of San Juan also hosts the oldest continuously-used church building in the US (itself a bona-fide medieval cathedral) in walking distance of the castle.

  • The main reason I have trouble aligning pā with the concept of a castle is not one of cultural use or importance, but one of building material and resulting general appearance. From a Euro-centric point of view (which in general would be shared by New Zealanders, I presume), a castle is – if not exactly by definition, then at least by very strong implication – a stone structure, with thick stone walls. I was not familiar with pā before reading this question, but the images Wikipedia and Google show me do not look like anything recognisably castle-like. Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 0:49
  • From purely visual clues, pā look more like the type of fortified villages/towns that were not uncommon in Celtic and Germanic areas in early Europe (think Asterix’s village for an example). Those too often had a chieftain’s home at the heart and used palisades and similar fortifications to protect the land, and such chieftains were definitely equivalent to (and the forebears of) later nobility – but such villages would never be considered castles either. Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 0:53
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    @JanusBahsJacquet Most Norman castles in England built after the conquest were predominantly wood structures. They have since been upgraded to use stone, but I don't think "stone" is necessary for a castle. Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 16:34
  • @Martin They may well have been called castles when built from wood 800+ years ago, but meanings change over time, and today, to me at least, castles are pretty much inherently built of stone. As you say, the Norman wooden ones have since been modified as stone structures. To me, that’s significant. If they hadn’t been, either we (well, I) wouldn’t think of them as ‘castles’ today, or our (my) mental image/definition of what constitutes a ‘castle’ would be different (and might well stretch to include pā). Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 16:57

"Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away."

But there are also games (like Burg Appenzell), and Kryal Castle, outside of Melbourne: https://kryalcastle.com.au/

(OK, what I meant is that 'reality is a flexible concept', particularly given 'Burg Appenzell', which elevates 'game' as a valued aspect of 'reality')

Kryal Castle, which is a real place, and not hard to get to, is a 'game' too, and in-game, can be as 'real' a castle as you want it to be. enter image description here

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    Games? (I assume that is not what you intended to write.)
    – Willeke
    Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 7:01
  • @Willeke "Burg Appenzell" is a game, so I suspect that "games" is what he meant to write. I think david is suggesting that "playing a game called 'Appenzell Castle' counts as 'visiting a castle'. ". Commented Nov 30, 2022 at 16:38

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