In the 1100s and 1200s the Lusignan dynasty were the most powerful knights in France and Crusader Kings in the Levant: Cyprus, the Holy Land. If you’ve seen the film Kingdom of Heaven with Orlando Bloom you’ll get the idea as it depicts the Lusignans in some detail. In Cyprus they built a chain of forts sitting on top of the Besparmak Mountains from where they could easily view their extended terraces of vineyards, the sea beyond and be warned of danger from all directions. They ruled Cyprus for approximately 300 years and lived a charmed and luxurious life in considerable comfort and fashion. Apart from the wonderful Kyrenia Castle, all that remains nowadays is three ruined castles that nonetheless evoke the romance of their owners. St Hilarion, the nearest to the villa and the best preserved is well worth a visit and provides not only a spectacular outing in its own right but also some of the best views over the north Cyprus coast available. It is even rumoured that Walt Disney used it as the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the film.
To reach the castle, which is about a 15 minute drive from the villa, take the bypass towards Kyrenia and then bear right for Lefkosa. St Hilarion is signed as a turn right from the main road to Lefkosa as you climb up into the mountains. There is parking at the base of the castle and a café at the entrance and up on the terraces. If you visit, wear trainers or sensible shoes as there are steps and cobbled walkways to negotiate as you climb upwards. Bring a camera to record the amazing views. Children love the romance of the castle and will enjoy scrambling about up there. It is a very worthwhile day out for the whole family.