We have provided information about North Cyprus Castles including St. Hilarion Castle, Buffavento Castle and Kantara Castle below.
St. Hilarion Castle
The finest and best preserved of three Byzantine/Crusader castles in North Cyprus. Its towers, walls and gateways spiral and melt into the peaks of the Kyrenia mountain presenting a fairy-tale sight. Rose Macauley described it as ‘a picture book castle for elf-kings’ and legend persuades us to believe that it was the inspiration for Disney’s castle in Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs.
The modern visitor will not have to endure the same difficulties which faced the Crusaders when they finally stormed the castle in 1191, they can drive up and enter through the imposing gate for a small fee. A challenge still awaits inside since the castle is built on three levels ascending to the very top the mountain. Plenty of interest on the way slows the ascent, the Byzantine chapel, the banqueting hall which is now a balconied café, Prince John’s tower and, for those with energy left, the royal apartments on the upper level with the beautiful Gothic-tracery windows.
Perched on an impregnable mountain top at an elevation of 940m (3,100ft) this is the highest of the trio of Crusader castles. Although a surfaced road leads to the foot of the mountain below the castle, the actual ascent is on foot. There is no admittance fee but plenty of steps to climb on a well-constructed path. It takes an ordinarily fit person about 30 minutes to reach the castle which is in a fair state of ruin.
The reward for all the climbing this stepped path, flanked in parts by a handrail, is an approach through the gatehouse to an upper tower. Blustery winds might greet you around the peaks, as the name Buffavento might suggest, but the atmosphere, the isolation and the views are quite incredible.
To reach the castle, follow the road over the Buffavento pass and, at the very top, look out for the turning on the right (coming from Kyrenia) signposted to the castle.
Kantara lies well to the east of Kyrenia and has the best access of all to the three Crusader castles. This is believed to be where Isaac Komnenos surrendered to Richard the Lionheart in 1191. Later it was involved in a number of battles, first involving the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II in 1229 and again during the Genoese invasion. With the arrival of the Venetians in the 16th century, all three castles were regarded as no longer vital to defence and were partly demolished. In spite of this Kantara castle is possibly the best preserved.
The first sight is of some fiercely imposing walls but there is easy access along a gravel path leading to the fortified entrance. There is a small entrance charge at times when the warden is present. The south east tower catches the eye for inspection as does the trio of rooms making up the barracks but beyond here the interior is less well preserved.