St Hilarion, the Crusader Castle

Along with Kantara and Buffavento, St. Hilarion Castle was originally built as a watch tower for approaching pirates who launched a series of raids on Cyprus and the coasts of Anatolia from the 7th to the 10th centuries. By the 10th century, a Byzantine chapel and monastery has been added to the tower’s site and joined by a fort in the 12th century. Richard the Lionheart captured the castle on his way to the Third Crusade, followed by the Lusignan kings, who called it their “Dieu d’Amour”, using it as a place of refuge and summer residence. When the Venetians captured Cyprus in 1489, they relied on the main towns for the defense of the island and St. Hilarion was neglected and fell into oblivion.

St. Hilarion Castle and Disney’s Snow White Featuring three sets of defensive walls and towers, St. Hilarion undoubtedly looks like a fairy-tale castle, with rumour still persisting that Walt Disney’s Snow White’s castle is based on this St. Hilarion original.

To reach the castle you can either venture along the narrow road to St. Hilarion that curves around rocky peaks or walk and climb the peak, best avoiding the midday heat during the summer months. Once there, you can climb through the castle’s layers from the bailey and courtyard with stables and barracks at the base to the royal apartments and past the Byzantine church and dining hall. On your journey upwards, you will discover more apartments, another dining hall and more barracks, before finally reaching the tower at the very pinnacle of the twin-peaked mountain, some 730 m above sea-level. From here, the view across the Girne coastline is simply breathtaking. On a clear day, the Five Finger Mountain Range, the Mediterranean and even the snow-capped Taurus mountains of Anatolia some 100 km north are visible.