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Sent Hillarion Castle

St Hilarion Castle is named after a hermit and monk who escaped from persecution in Palestine, and lived on the mountain where the castle stands today. The saint resisted the cries of tempting demons who stalked the mountain in the 7th century AD with ease – because he was stone deaf and couldn’t hear them. Eventually the demons left him, and the mountain, in peace.

By the 10th century, a Byzantine chapel and monastery has been added to the site of the saint’s tomb, joined by a fort in the 12th century. Richard the Lionheart captured the castle on his way to the Third Crusade, and the later Lusignan kings fortified it further. St Hilarion is one of three Crusader castles along the Northern Cyprus coastline, and together with the castles at Buffavento and Kantara, defended the island from pirates and various invaders.

With its system of three sets of defensive walls and towers, topped with the redoubt, the castle certainly has a fairy-tale look about it. The writer Rose Macaulay called it ”a picture-book castle for elf-kings” and the rumour still persists that Walt Disney based Snow White’s castle on this North Cyprus original. At the bottom of the complex is the bailey, a courtyard inside the walls containing the stables and barracks.

You climb steadily to another gate, which leads into the royal apartments and past the Byzantine church and dining hall. Onwards and upwards, you will discover another set of apartments, another dining hall and more barracks, before finally reaching the tower at the very summit of the twin peaked mountain. From here, the view across to Kyrenia and along the coastline is simply amazing.

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