CHAMBORD Loire Valley, France
Chambord...the pleasure palace of King Francis I, a man who sought empire and women with equal passion. Inspired by the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Chambord took more than fifty years to build. In the heart of a great forest, lye the magical remains of Chambord, home to a medieval knight and Renaissance philosopher.
RHINE CASTLES Rhine Valley, Germany
The most romantic river in the world: the Rhine, ancient myths and stories abound. Castles pop up like toadstools behind each twist and bend, most of which were built primarily to extract toll from the flourishing river trade. This episode covers four of the best conserved examples, including the beautiful ship-like Pfalzgrafenstein and the imposing Marksburg.
FORCHTENSTEIN Eisenstadt, Austria
Forchtenstein, the castle of fear. Situated on Austria's present Eastern border with Hungary. Its massive walls have for centuries stood at the blood border of East against West - silent witness to the struggle of Christianity and Islam. Steeped in legends, it now guards Europe's most impressive antique arsenal and untold treasures.
NEUSCHWANSTEIN Füssen, Germany
It's been called a madman's folly, and the fairy tale palace of a king. It was a lonely prince's obsession - and may have brought about his doom. Built by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Neuschwanstein is everybody's romantic idea of a fairy tale castle. Perhaps best known as the inspiration for Walt Disney's Cinderella castle.
CHENONCEAU Loire Valley, France
Chenonceau floating in a timeless trance, suspended between water and sky. Fashioned by the imagination and passion of seven remarkable women, it is known as the ladies castle - its story is a stirring drama of French romance, money and intrigue.
THE ALCAZAR OF SEGOVIA Segovia, Spain
Rising from the rocky heart of the Spanish peninsular, an ancient fortress guards within its walls a thousand tales of war, grandeur, treachery and madness. Weak kings cowered behind its walls, warlords wove plots in its forbidding towers and one remarkable woman broke from its imprisonment to create a new nation, seek out a new world and unleash a scourge of inquisition in her own land.
GLAMIS CASTLE Glamis, Scotland
In a Scottish valley of sloping meadows and wild woods, where pagan magic met Christian canon, there stands a royal castle filled with ghostly secrets and tragic tales. Here are legends to inspire Shakespeare, where medieval and victorian worlds collide in a dazzling display of history.
HOHENSALZBURG Salzburg, Austria
In the land of Mozart stands a mighty castle, one thousand years old. As one of the largest medieval castles in Europe, it is an example of the immense power, wealth and ambition of the Austrian archbishops. Protecting the secrets of these holy men and their worldly ways, their stories spoke of arrogance, impudence, secret marriages and children, broken hearts and broken lives
WARWICK CASTLE Warwickshire, England
Born in the storm of the Norman Invasion, its history is etched in steel and blood. This magnificent citadel was home to three chivalrous knights - two would battle their way to England's throne. Today visitors are immersed in over one thousand years of rich and varied history which is celebrated each year with spectacular tournaments which help them to relive, for a moment, its grand medieval fighting past.
HIGHLAND CASTLES Hebrides, Scotland
The Hebrides Isles of Scotland. Here, a millennia ago, Celt magic and the Vikings' warrior spirit combined to form a new race ... the mighty Highland Clans. Today, two mighty clan castles survive to remind us of the rough-hewn splendour of the Highland Clans Golden Age - castles Duart and Dunvegan.
LEEDS Kent, England
For six English queens, Leeds Castle offered the promise of romance and the privilege of England's throne. But it brought only heartbreak and tragedy to the star crossed wives of King Henry VIII - history's most notorious husband. For the six medieval queens who would receive the island fortress in their wedding dower, Leeds became known as the 'lady's castle'. But the stronghold famous for its ladies also has the countenance of a warrior.
DRACULA'S CASTLES Romania
In a place called Transylvania, a creature of consummate evil has survived half a millennia and shows no signs of declining. He began as a medieval prince and the castles from which he reigned tell tales of unspeakable horror. The infamous Vlad Tepes, is today better known as the real life inspiration for Bram Stoker's Count Dracula.
BUNRATTY CASTLE Shannon, Ireland
Ireland - land of a thousand kings. Here, Celt monarchs presided over a golden age of culture ... only to fall victim to England's mightiest weapon - the castle. Surviving inumerable efforts to destroy it, Bunratty Castle emerged as a towering symbol of colonial power. Bunratty is a potent reminder of that bygone era of clan chiefs and kings ... empires conquered and lost again.
THE ALHAMBRA Granada, Spain
Built by the last Moorish kings high in the snow fields of the Sierra Nevada mountains, overlooking the ancient city of Granada, the Alhambra's dark magic cast a spell over writer Washington Irving. Surrounded by 'the Red Castle's' splendours and refinements of Asiatic luxury, the Moors held dominion over what they viewed as a terrestial paradise.
GUIMARAES Guimaraes, Portugal
From this fortress, a hero emerged to carve a nation out of a lawless frontier - Afonso Enriques, the first King of Portugal. At the noble battle-scarred Guimaraes, he stood alone against legions of Moorish invaders and earned the castle's region the name of 'the cradle of Portugal'. The Dukes of Bragansa added a magnificent palace to the complex to pay tribute to Portugal's struggle for independence and celebrate its new Age of Discovery.
CARCASSONNE Carcassonne, France
In the South of France, amid the chaos of the dark ages, one fortress grew mightier than any the world had seen. Carcassonne - was no mere castle as it boasted two miles of ramparts, it was a citadel, the last relic of an age of giants. It is a symbol of the last crusade in Europe against Cathar religion. Despite severe attacks, Carcassonne survived and is now the best preserved fighting fortress of medieval Europe.
MONTREUIL BELLAY Saumur, France
More than any other Loire Valley chateau, Montreuil Bellay has the duel personality of a fortress transformed into a country residence for French nobility The harsh creation of one of the most feared nobles in France, Foulques the Black, suffered a devastating attack but still, no fortress in the region is feared or coveted like Montreuil Bellay. A minor actor in the castle's story, the Duchess of Longeville came to embody Montreuil-Bellay -a Renaissance beauty, with a dangerous past.
CASTLE HOWARD York , England
Charles Howard, the 3rd Earl, stands to lose his fortune ... or win a place in history with Castle Howard, a gamble of imagination like nothing England has ever seen. John Vanbrugh, the flamboyant playwright infamous for outraging London, designs a castle which is host to Queen Victoria and entertainer of thousands. As one of England's most visited homes with an unparalleled art collection, Castle Howard is a reminder of its founders' vanished age.
EDINBURGH CASTLE Edinburgh, Scotland
Standing atop the core of an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle remains the symbol of enduring and proud Scotland. The Reformation launched by King Henry the Eighth sends monks and nuns to the gallows. Its most famous guardian is Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, whose career at Edinburgh Castle will change the fortunes of Europe. Although she spent her happiest days in the nearby Palace of Holyrood House, murder, deception and intruigues would make Mary the most tragic monarch Scotland had ever known.
FREDERIKSBORG Hillerød, Denmark
Centuries after Viking long ships prowled the northern seas, a Renaissance king rekindles the Danish lust for conquest. After the example of Kronborg castle, Christian IV erects a monument to his own boundless ambition: Frederiksborg Castle. Here he would lay the groundwork for Danish glory ... and defeat. A glow in the forest of North Sealand, the noblest spirit of the indomitable king lives on, in brick and mortar - in the Renaissance masterpiece, Frederiksborg.
WARTBURG Eisenach, Germany
At the heart of Germany, Wartburg Castle has offered sanctuary to rebels, dreamers - even a saint. From its humble roots as the castle of a vain Thuringian noble, Wartburg had become the spiritual centre of German history and a source of national pride. In a lonely room in the castle, a rebel-priest labors in deadly earnest. His name is Martin Luther...and his pen will unleash a greater revolution than the mightiest sword.
KARLSTEJN Karlstejn, Czech Republic
In the kingdom of Bohemia, King Charles IV, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, erects Karlstejn Castle, a tribute to his divine power. To this day Karlstejn remains unconquered and unbowed. Its six feet thick walls protect the crown jewels and the emperor's precious collection of holy relics. Karlstejn was the striking symbol of the ambition and religious fervor of Charles IV, who tamed this rugged region centuries ago and contributed more to the grandeur of its capital, Prague, than any monarch since. Never again would medieval Europe see a shrine such as Karlstejn, that so grandly celebrates the god-like status of a mortal king.
ODESCALCHI Bracciano, Italy
During the political tempest of Renaissance Italy, one family rules over life and death in Rome. Their castle wields power in its rawest cruelty and most opulent beauty. The Orsini warlords storm their way from obscurity to challenge kings and popes. They carve their story in a mighty tribute to their passion and folly - a fortress built on the shores of the Bracciano Lake. Castle Odescalchi, where rooms still evoke an age of creation and beauty, but haunted by the echoes of dark deeds long past when it witnessed the lavish weddings as well as the brutal murders of its noble owners.
MALBORK Gdansk, Poland
Beside the Nogat River looms a menacing reminder that the Teutonic Knights ruled the land-Malbork Castle. On the frontier of medieval Europe, this holy brotherhood of warriors grew legendary for inspiring loyalty and terror. A union of faith and bloodlust, the Order claimed the allegiance of Europe's grandest monarchs. The fortress was a combination of opposites - both arsenal and sanctuary. Its Grand Refectories hosted knights attending lavish parties as well as taking sacred vows. Malbork Castle still symbolises the wealth of the once so mighty Teutonic Order in a strange land.
WAWEL Krakow, Poland
Wawel, a magnificent embodiment of the Polish nation, is an ancient witness to the country's stormy past. King Sigismund brought in Italian artisans to re-design the castle and ushered in the golden age of Wawel. By the 15thC, it had grown into the centre of a powerful new dynasty, spanning Poland, Lithuania, Bohemia and Hungary. On a steep rock, in the centre of the country's former capital, Krakow, rose the first Baroque castle in Poland. Wawel still remains a symbol of Poland's rich history and culture.
RIEGERSBURG Riegersburg, Austria
In Riegersburg castle...high atop an ancient volcano...Lady Elizabeth Gallatin unleashes a firestorm of fear and accusations across her land. For centuries, this massive castle high on a pinnacle, served as a haven, an outpost on the border between the Hapsburg Empire and the powerful Ottoman Empire. A fortress under the command of a renowned Lady, known as 'The Gallerin', the castle became even more famous when its new owner presides the largest witch trial Austria had ever known. Riegersburg remains intact to this day: one of central Europe's grandest castles and a symbol of the good and evil that reigns over the souls of humankind.