Saint Hilarion Castle, Kyrenia, Northern Cyprus
Perched high in the Kyrenia mountain range, overlooking the Mediterranean and the surrounding areas of North Cyprus, stands the castle of St Hilarion. Reputedly the inspiration for Walt Disney's 'Sleeping Beauty', the castle remains one of the best preserved of all the Crusader Castles, thanks mainly to the work of the North Cyprus Antiquities Department.
The castle offers many opportunities for both those with an interest in history and those seeking spectacular views - on a clear day you can see all the way to the Turkish mainland!. Stout shoes are essential and especially in the hotter months, visitors should carry plenty of refreshments with them!
The castle is named after St. Hilarion, a hermit monk who fled from persecution in the Holy Land and lived and died in a cave on the mountains. Later in the 10th century the Byzantines built a church and monastery here. Along with Kantara and Buffavento castles, St. Hilarion was originally built as a watch tower to give warning of approaching pirates who launched a continuous series of raids on Cyprus and the coasts of Anatolia. Although the monastery and a church were built here originally, the first references to the castle are found in 1191 records. For some time it remained of strategic importance, but later it became the summer resort of the Lusignan nobility.
The castle has three parts. The parapets for the defense of the main entrance were fortified by the Byzantines in the 11th century with the lower section of the castle being used for billeting soldiers and their horses. The middle section contained the royal palace, the kitchen, the church and a big cistern. At the entrance to the castle in the upper section there is a Lusignan Gate with a courtyard in the middle. The panoramic view of Northern Cyprus from the Queen’s window (a window carved in the Gothic style) on the second floor of the royal apartments is superb and well worth the climb!
Access to the castle by car is straightforward (though the road is quite winding!) and there is a good-sized car park at the base of the castle. As part of your Northern Cyprus holiday, this is a fascinating historical site and well-worth a visit.