Top 10 Things To Do in a Fictional Castle
For those of us who like a touch of the magical and the medieval, nothing quite beats a visit to a fictional castle. But with all those trap doors, winding passageways, and changeable stairs, it’s hard to know where to start and how to make the most of your time.
Yes, you may already have Diana Wynne Jones’s The Tough Guide to Fantasyland to help you tour the fantasy realm, but fictional castles are an experience all their own, and are deserving of some closer attention. Plus, let’s face it, the internet really needed another “Top Ten” list. So here are ten must-see sights and experiences to ensure a memorable, action-packed, and relatively peril-free stay.
Making your way to the castle is not always straightforward: Fictional castles have been known to change locations spontaneously and without warning. Sometimes elements of the structure will change, making finding the right entrance or stairway something of a challenge. Unless you want to spend your holiday wrestling through tangled forests asking untrustworthy fair folk for directions, you should enlist the help of a guide, or at the very least invest in a magical map that’s responsive to the castle’s changeable ways.
1. Have a Drink in the Dramatic Dining Hall
This should be the first stop on any castle-goer’s list. Order yourself some wine or mead and grab a front row seat, because this is where most of the daily drama, gossip and back-stabbing of the castle takes place. Poisonings, assassinations and surprise coups have been known to occur here, but as long as you keep abreast of the current political situation and take care not to make your allegiances known, this is a safe place to begin your tour.
2. Go Omen Hunting at the Solitary Tree
A favourite among castle tourists and inhabitants alike, the Solitary Tree provides a chance to reflect on the state of the kingdom. Older than all of the local inhabitants, this relic marks a site of historical or magical significance. More importantly, it’s a good gauge of the general mood – see signs of withering or dying, and you’ve spotted yourself an omen. Most of the time, however, the tree will just impress you with its age and majesty, and provide a perch for the resident ravens.
3. Read a Book in the Surprisingly Dangerous Library
While fascinating and educational, the Surprisingly Dangerous Library is one of the most perilous locations you’ll encounter on your tour, and is not recommended for the faint-hearted or weak-willed traveller. Even if you evade the shady, aggressive and not-always-human librarians, there will be a dark section full of dangerous magical books, and that’s always where the book you want to read will be.
4. Enjoy the View from the Occasionally Interesting Battlements
What better place to enjoy the view than from the Occasionally Interesting Battlements? Frequented only by a few inattentive guards and gambling soldiers, you’ll usually have the high walls and towers to yourself to gaze at the stunning elf-managed forests beyond. On Siege Days these spaces can become crowded and marred with hails of arrows – but if you’re willing to brave the crowds, you may just spot a hero or two assessing how well the castle’s defences are holding up.
5. Have a Conversation with a No-Longer-Inanimate Object
One of the truly unique features of the Fictional Castle is the sheer number of enchanted objects that are willing to interact with you. Be it a doorknocker, a candelabra, a fireplace, a painting, or a suit of armour, you’re sure to find a local piece of furniture or a wall decoration that’s up for a chat, and if you’re lucky you’ll glean some insider tips.
6. Escape the Not-So-Secure Dungeons
You might think dungeons are dangerous places – all rattling chains and doom and gloom – but no hero or heroine ever spends too long in them, and chances are someone will have already drugged the guards by the time you get there. Still, this is a great opportunity to soak in the grim atmosphere, try out a torture-implement or three, and escape whenever it takes your fancy.
7. Climb the Temptingly Out-of-Bounds Tower
If you don’t mind stairs, it’s worth ignoring the rules and heading up the Temptingly Out-of-Bounds Tower. There’s no knowing what secret conversations you might overhear or grim surprises you might discover once you reach those locked rooms at the top.
8. Go Star-Spotting in the Throne Room
If you’re keen to catch a glimpse of local celebrities being dragged in front of kings and queens, squeeze into the throne room when a monarch is holding court. Or if you’re into the majesty and architecture, soak up the regal atmosphere when the room is empty – just resist the temptation to sit on the throne. The locals will not be amused.
9. Grab a Bite to Eat in the Plentiful Kitchens
If you’re ever hungry during your visit, simply descend to the plentiful kitchens and take whatever you like off the shelves. Payment or permission is never required, and if a fat cook shouts or shakes a pot at you, merely compliment their cooking and you’ll soon be on your way. This is also an ideal place to hear local gossip, and maybe even encounter the future saviour of the kingdom.
10. Top It Off with a Trip Through a “Secret” Escape Tunnel
Why leave through the front gate when you can end your stay scrambling through a Not-So-Secret Escape Tunnel? Despite being used by generations of castle inhabitants, castle authorities remain miraculously oblivious to the existence of these hidden passageways, so this is an especially good choice if you’ve offended any monarchs or guards during your stay. Any good magical map will show you where to find the entrances, but failing that, just move a few tapestries or statues and you’ll come across one.
On your way out be sure to admire the cryptic messages and clues etched into the tunnel walls: ancient prophecies, dire warnings, and dark secrets abound. Who knows, you might even be skilled enough to decipher one, and if you do, there’s every chance it’ll lead somewhere interesting. Maybe even to your next adventure.