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Fairy-tale road trip: Explore 4 real-life castles in North Carolina

Many people have no idea there are several castles in North Carolina - some right here in the Triangle area.
Posted 2021-06-06T17:05:41+00:00 - Updated 2023-04-08T14:35:55+00:00

Castles are a majestic sight pulled right from a history book – or a fairy tale – but you have to travel to the shores of England, Ireland or Scotland to see one, right?

Many people have no idea there are several castles in North Carolina – some right here in the Triangle area.

Some of our state's castles are privately-owned and closed to the public, but there are a few that allow tours and rentals. So let's take an enchanting peek at the history of the castles of North Carolina.

Castle McCulloch in Jamestown.

Castle McCulloch: A nearly 200-year-old structure in Jamestown, NC

It's hard to believe we have a 200-year-old castle right here in the Piedmont.

Well, almost.

Castle McCulloch began its life as a gold refinery. Built in 1832 by Charles McCulloch, it operated as a gold refinery. Locals from all over the area could bring their gold, which was known to be plentiful in the land and mines surrounding Jamestown.

Castle McCulloch in Jamestown.

For decades after the refinery closed, however, the old stone structure with its gothic archway remained standing. Photos from the 1970s show how it looked after being abandoned in the woods for decades.

Castle McCulloch before it was a castle -- back when it was a gold refinery. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

It's easy to see how the current owner could envision an old, rustic castle from the remaining stone ruins. It was restored and rebuilt in the 1980s, bringing a bit of enchantment to Jamestown.

Castle McCulloch in Jamestown, NC allows tours and weddings.

Today, Castle McCulloch is like a vision from a storybook, with stone walls, a wooden bridge over a circular moat, a cobblestone tower, cathedral ceiling, glass windows and tapestries. At night, torches flicker, and the entire landscape feels like magic.

Castle McCulloch allows people to call and set up time to tour the castle and grounds. They also serve as a wedding venue, and host public events and costume parties.

Castle Mont Rouge is in Rougemont near the top of a mountain. It's on private property.

2. Castle Mont Rouge: Castle atop a mountain in Rougemont, NC

Plucked straight from a fairy tale, with a gleaming metal roof, tall turrets, watchful stone gargoyles, Castle Mont Rouge is a much-discussed wonder of North Carolina.

Castle Mont Rouge is in Rougemont near the top of a mountain. It's on private property.

Located less than half an hour from Durham, the castle sits atop a mountain, nestled into the trees.

Castle Mont Rouge history.

Created by sculptor Robert Mihaly, it was originally meant to be his "Thoreau's cabin," a magical place where he could escape from the world to contemplate and make art. He and his wife lived there for several years.

The castle is on private property, though the creator says he sees cars drive past regularly hoping to catch a roadside glimpse.

Castle Mont Rouge is in Rougemont near the top of a mountain. It's on private property.

According to an interview back in 2019, he hopes to repair and complete the castle in 2021. Many are hoping he will make it a rental space or event space – as so many locals still dream of seeing inside the iconic walls.

Gimghoul Castle in Chapel Hill.

Gimghoul Castle: A mysterious castle with ghostly legends in Chapel Hill

Built in the 1920s, legends of the mysterious Gimghoul Castle circulate every Halloween. It's difficult to imagine a castle sitting in the middle of Chapel Hill – but this old castle has been here for decades, just east of UNC campus.

So much of the castle's real history is blurred together with the legends, ghost stories and secret society that meets inside – it can be difficult to tell which parts of the castle's history are real and which are myth.

Carolina students tell the tale of Peter Dromgoole, a school legend about a student who enrolled in 1833. According to the old story, he fell in love with a woman called Miss Fanny, and was forced to duel for her affections.

Gimghoul Castle in Chapel Hill legend and history.

Sadly, according to the tragic tale, he lost the duel, and died on a rock, permanently staining it with his blood. His body was hidden beneath the rock in a shallow grave.

It's not certain exactly how much of the story is myth, and how much is based on real information. However, the popular story inspired UNC students to create a secret society called the Order of Gimghoul.

It's rare to get an invitation to see inside the castle; however, you can catch a glimpse of it off Gimghoul Road in Chapel Hill.

Barclay Villa in Angier.

Barclay Villa: Castle in an old tobacco field transforms into a fairytale

This majestic fairytale castle started out as a humble 2-bedroom house in the rural area of Harnett County. It stands in the family's old tobacco field – but you'd never know it.

Teresa and Dee Langdon, the owners, built the castle with their own hands over the course of two years. Today, the village is a 10,000 square-foot castle, perfect for medieval weddings and bridal photos.

The Langdon family said the idea of creating a castle came to them in a dream, and the rooms are named after family members.

For their humble castle to be a place where new families begin – that's their fairytale come true.

Podcast: Hear how to visit some of NC's most beautiful castles

Listen as WRAL's Amanda Lamb and Heather Leah discuss the history, hauntings and origins of some of the state's most interesting and beautiful castles – including which ones you can visit and even go inside!