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9 Different Types of Castles Built Throughout History

Photo collage of different history castles.

I find castle design and layout fascinating. Over the hundreds of years they were built, design and purpose evolved. These days, while some people built homes that look like and/or are called castles, they aren’t castles in the historic sense.

Historically castles were built for defense and ultimately survival. Below we set out the 9 main different types of castles. Be sure to check out hundreds of castles from around the world here.

1. Medieval Castle

Satzvey castle in Germany

Medieval Castle diagram layout

The medieval time period was from the 5th century to 15th century. During that time many castles were built throughout Europe. While there are many layout and design variations, many were built with a somewhat similar layout as shown above.

2. Motte-and-Bailey

Motte bailey castle

Motte and Bailey castle diagram

The Motte-and-Bailey style of castles is a bit different from what you would normally think of as a castle. Even still, you can see the roots of traditional castles if you examine the ideas behind the Motte-and-Bailey castles. These castles were very commonly seen between the 10th and 12th centuries.

There were hundreds of them located in Great Britain during this time period. The main feature of these castles is that they have a keep that is kept up on a hill. The hill is really just a mound of dirt that is known as a Motte.

The keep would be placed on top of the Motte, and it would look down upon a courtyard that is surrounded by a circular fence. The courtyard is referred to as the Bailey. This is a very simple design for a castle, and it definitely isn’t as grand as the architectural achievements that would come down the line.

Regardless, these Motte-and-Bailey style castles are an interesting part of history. Many ideas that are closely associated with medieval castles are represented here. For example, on the other side of the fence, there were deep ditches, and a bridge would need to be lowered to grant entry into the Bailey.

The idea of the ruler of the keep looking down at the courtyard from above seems appropriate. The Motte-and-Bailey style castles were built with protection in mind. They’re an interesting type of castle, despite not being as grandiose as the castles in the future.

Anyone who wishes to learn about the history of castles will want to study the ideas behind the Motte-and-Bailey castles of the past.

3. Stone Keep

Stone keep castle with iron gate on a sloping grassland.

Stone Keep Castle Diagram and Layout

Stone keeps are the type of castle that you would traditionally think of when someone brings up the topic of castles. These impressive stone structures are designed to stand the test of time. There are many castles that were built in medieval times that are still standing to this day.

This is a testament to how impressive the designs of these castles were for the time. Typically, a stone keep would feature four towers that are connected by tall stone walls. The stone used to create these castles was very heavy and couldn’t be placed on top of a Motte because of the weight.

The designers of these castles made these keeps in order to fend off attacks from potential invaders. Everything was meticulously planned out, and even the entrance to the castle was made to be tough for invaders to get to. Castle walls were high, and the stone used to build the walls was very thick.

The entrance to the castle was often located on at least the second floor, making it tough for enemies to get inside of it. Some type of bridge or ladder would be used to access the doors, and these keeps would be very defensible when they came under siege because of this. There are many interesting ideas present here.

You can find many examples of stone keep style castles still standing today. One of the most famous is the Tower of London. This is a common tourist attraction these days, and it is interesting to know that buildings from so long ago have this type of longevity.

The designs of these keeps have certainly captured the imagination of many for years.

4. Square Stone Keep

Square stone keep castle in downtown with a geometric roof.

A square stone keep was probably the most common type of stone keep that you will see. Some of these keeps are more rectangular in nature, but they are generally lumped together when they are classified. The idea behind a square stone keep is pretty easy to understand.

It is a stone keep with square walls and square or rectangular towers. Many square stone keeps were quite lavish on the inside. These were castles that were meant to house rulers and their armies.

They would typically be quite spacious and were large enough to store an ample amount of food as well. This was important because when a keep was under siege, the enemies might have the idea of trying to starve the people inside. Throughout Western Europe, you will find many square stone keeps that are still standing today.

They were built to last, and people are still impressed when gazing upon these structures. They have very impressive profiles and definitely served their purposes well during their day. This is the type of castle that most people copy in fictional adaptations of the medieval period.

5. Round Stone Keep

Round stone castle with high fortified walls and flag pole on top.

Round stone keeps are actually preferable to square stone keeps for one important reason. You see, people eventually figured out that you could undermine the structural integrity of a square stone keep by damaging the corners of the structure. This wasn’t a simple thing to do, but it was possible to collapse a square stone keep if you managed to damage the corners enough.

It would collapse on itself, and all of the people inside would be killed. The problem of the square stone keep having this flaw led to the creation of round stone keeps. The rounded design of the tower took away the weakness of the corners.

These were safer to use than square stone keeps and still retained all of the other desirable features of a stone keep. It was a solid upgrade that helped many rulers survive attacks from invading forces during medieval times. The round stone keeps had an influence on architecture, as well.

Many tower designs and building ideas came from the creation of round stone keeps. The evolution of human architecture is interesting, and a lot of the advances came about as a result of a need to protect the population from invading forces. Advances in human technology and thinking are often achieved through conflict.

6. Shell Keep

Shell keep castle on an elevated hill with flag.

A shell keep differs from a round stone keep in a couple of key ways. The idea behind a shell keep is similar to the round stone keep except that it is simpler in some ways. There are actually examples of Motte-and-Bailey style castles being upgraded into a shell keep design.

This made it easier for people to defend against invaders. The shell keep is really just a circular wall of stone that is surrounding a structure. When Motte-and-Bailey castles are upgraded to this style, it means simply replacing the fence with tall and round stone walls.

All of the living quarters and other essential rooms are housed within the safety of the walls. There would be a large gate that can only be opened from the inside as another method to keep intruders at bay. There are still examples of shell keeps that are standing to this very day.

The tall stone walls lend themselves well to longevity. Although these shell keeps aren’t the most impressive castles to look at, they are very interesting for history buffs. It is very enlightening to see how the rulers of the time upgraded their facilities and adapted in the name of survival.

7. Concentric Castle

Concentric castle in an isolated isolation with the snowy mountains on the background.

Concentric Castle layout diagram

This castle type is actually incredibly interesting because it offers a new type of strategy. You have seen how these castles were built in order to defend the ruler and armies from invading forces. The concentric castle takes things a step further by providing several layers of defenses for the castle.

Square stone keeps are essentially a combination of a square stone keep and the shell keep that are mentioned above. As you enter the castle area, you will enter into the shell keep area. The shell keep still has its high stone walls in order to protect the city.

Often there would be moats surrounding the outside of the shell keep area, and you would need to enter it via a lowered drawbridge. This made entry into the castle something that could be controlled. Inside of the shell keep, there would be different facilities, and eventually you would come across the square keep.

Sometimes there would even be more sets of stone walls inside of the shell keep. These layers of protection were made to keep people as safe as possible when an invasion occurred. It would theoretically be possible to close off access to the gates and wait out an attack.

Setting up complex defenses in this way is a very interesting development. It shows that the people of the time were constantly thinking of new ways to defend themselves in the face of conflict. It was a bloody era where people took land and riches based on the strength of their armies.

A bit of cunning and strategy would often be the difference between a prosperous kingdom and one that would be doomed to failure.

8. Victorian Castle

Victorian castle on grassland with triangular roofing.

The Victorian-era saw the rise of many lavish castle environments. When you think of posh castles owned by the royal families of the world, these Victorian castles will be what springs to mind. These castles are made to be very indulgent and beautiful.

Their aesthetic appeal is undeniable, and you can see the upgrades to the design philosophies in these castles when compared to their more antiquated cousins. During the Victorian-era, things were very prosperous from an economic perspective. Industry was changing and this made it simpler to get the needed materials to make these opulent castles a reality.

Many wealthy landowners made castles for themselves. This wasn’t something that was strictly limited to royals during this period of time. These castles also differ from those that are mentioned above because they weren’t created with defense or war in mind.

For the most part, these Victorian castles were made as fancy living spaces. People weren’t concerned about invaders and other crazy problems like that during this time period. It was simply a castle where the wealthy and influential members of society could live.

The design of these Victorian-era castles is absolutely stunning. They were made very well, and you will see many castles from this period peppered throughout different parts of Europe. The influence of Victorian-era design can be seen in modern architecture.

There are even people who copy these Victorian-era castles today when they are designing lavish mansions for the rich and famous.

9. Royal Palace

Royal palace castle with huge central area, colonnade passageway, and iron gates

Royal palaces are a bit different from traditional castles, but people do closely associate the two. People often colloquially refer to royal palaces as castles. Even when this isn’t entirely an accurate comparison, royal palaces are still thought of as castles.

Much like the Victorian era castles mentioned above, royal castles are made to be impressive living quarters for the royals of the world. Once the era of gunpowder-based weapons came into being, the idea of building castles as defensive measure fell by the wayside. Building large structures for the purpose of defense was no longer practical because it was possible for gunpowder weapons to destroy the buildings in a short amount of time.

Cannons, in particular, could completely decimate a square keep and level the structure within days. Due to this fact, people started thinking of castles as living quarters rather than defensive bases. When large and lavish structures were built during this time period, it was simply a status symbol.

A royal or another type of important person would want some sort of impressive home that was befitting to their status. This lead to the creation of many of the most recognizable royal palaces in history. Sometimes these royal living spaces would be meant for pleasure.

Other times the royal palaces would be the centers of government in a particular area. Either way, they would be impressive structures that would be used by important figures in history. These castles are definitely an important part of architectural history and are something that many people draw inspiration from today.

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Other Types of Castles

Toy Castles

Toy castle made out of building blocks.

Castles are certainly very popular, and the idea of the era of kings and knights has continued to excite children to this very day. For this reason, it is common to find toy castles that are meant for children to play with. These toy castles can come in many different forms.

Typically, this is something that children will play with using action figures or certain types of dolls. Children can use their castles to play make-believe games and will be able to have fun with the medieval setting. Some of the toy castles may allow the children to customize things to their liking and build up their own structures.

Other times, it will be a solid playset that is already specifically defined. Children have been playing with toys like this for many decades, and it is likely that this trend will continue into the future. The toy castle being shown here is great for children who are interested in knights and kings.

It comes with several small medieval knight figurines that stand at three-inches tall. There are some fun accessories for the children to play with as well, such as a catapult toy. This allows children to come up with many fun castle scenarios during their playtime.

The door to the castle is like a drawbridge. You can open and close it to allow the knights to go inside of the playset. It is really an elaborate castle toy that your children will enjoy.

If your children have shown an interest in the fantasy setting, then you will want to consider picking them up something fun like this.


Sand castle on a beach.

Sandcastles are another type of castle that children like to play with in the modern era. This is actually something that adults tend to love doing as well. For many decades, people have been enjoying crafting elaborate castles out of sand.

Some people are so skilled at doing this that they are able to create works of art in their own right. If you have ever seen someone who is truly talented at building sand castles, then you were likely blown away by what is possible. Sometimes people can make sand castles that are scaled replicas of real-world castles.

This takes a lot of time and is difficult to do when you’re working with such a delicate material as sand. The knowledge that all of this work will get washed away or blown over at some point makes the sand castle even more interesting in some ways. Children love to build sand castles, as well.

A day on the beach is never complete for a child unless they have had a chance to build their best sand castle. Using tools such as small shovels and buckets to help them form towers, children will build up their sand castles to the best of their abilities. This is a fun and wholesome activity that helps children to bring out their creativity.

You can buy sand castle kits that will help your children to get started. This kit being shown here includes castle molds and small shovels. It is perfect for even young children who want to get in on the fun.

It will be easy to use on the beach and can also be great for the sandbox.

Inflatable Bouncy Castles

Multi-colored inflatable bouncy castle.

Inflatable castles are another type of castle that people enjoy in modern times. This is another play item that children like to fool around with. Inflatable castles make it possible for kids to pretend that they are interacting in a castle environment.

It can be the perfect companion for a child who likes to use their imagination and comes up with scenarios for playing with his or her friends. Some inflatable castles are made for children to go inside and bounce around in. Others are made to be able to look like a castle and simply give children a play area to crawl inside.

Either way, it is a fun tool that will aid your child’s imagination. They will be able to play different castle-themed games with their friends and will generally have a great time. This castle here is a mermaid-themed castle for children.

You can also find castles that are more traditional and realistic for your children to play with. This inflatable castle is impressively durable and your children should be able to make great use of it. It will be a toy that they can enjoy for many years potentially.

Inflating this castle is a nice and simple process. You can have it inflating in around two minutes, allowing your kids to have their fun without them getting too impatient. The castle deflates very quickly when you need to put it away too.

You’ll be able to deflate it in just about the same amount of time that it took to blow it up.

Castle Play Tent

Two kids playing inside a castle play tent.

There are tents that look like castles too. Children love having little tents to play with because it gives them a space of their own for fun and games. A castle tent is going to be perfect for kids who like to play medieval-themed games with their friends.

It will make it easy for them to come up with many imaginative situations. Most of these castle play tents aren’t particularly accurate when compared to actual castles that exist in the world. Many of them are actually shaped more similarly to towers, but they still have the castle feeling to them.

Your children will be able to have a lot of fun, and that is what truly matters. Playsets are a good way to promote activity for your children, and it should work nicely to keep them occupied. This castle play tent here has two entrances for your children to enjoy.

There is a little front door that the kids can crawl into, and there is a small tunnel entrance as well. This will allow your kids to come up with many fun games. People like to use these castle play tents outside to keep their kids occupied during family functions.

A play tent like this would work well indoors as well. It really just depends on what your child wants and whether or not you have room for it inside. This is a lightweight tent that is perfect for children who are ages three and up.

Although it is advertised as being for boys, it will certainly be a toy that can appeal to young girls, as well.