Kyrenia district

Kyrenia district is a region in Northern Cyprus.

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Saint Hilarion Castle

The Lower Ward as seen from the castle itself

Saint Hilarion Castle is a large castle complex halfway between Kyrenia and Nicosia and is the best preserved of North Cyprus' three castles. This fairytale castle (said by some to have inspired the one in Disneyland) is perched on a steep hilltop (732m) with commanding views over Kyrenia and the coast. Most of the castle is still in ruins.

The castle is named not after Saint Hilarion the Great, the founder of monasticism in Palestine who died near Paphos about 371AD, but after a later saint, of whom little is known. He is counted among the three hundred saints who according to local tradition, sought refuge in Cyprus when the Arabs overran the Holy Land. His relics were preserved in the castle and "kept right worshipfully" according to an English visitor in the 14th century. It may be presumed that he retired to this hill-top to live the life of a hermit and that as the hermitage of Saint Neophytos near Paphos, a monastery was established to shelter those who should follow his example, as well pilgrims to his tomb. The first certain reference to the castle dates from 1191, when Richard the Lionheart successfully besieged it after conquering Kyrenia.

Saint Hilarion is well signposted and just off the main highway connecting Kyrenia and Nicosia. There is no public transport, so car hire or chartering a taxi/dolmus is recommended. According to the tourist office, in April 2012 the only option was a taxi (TRY55 with one hour waiting). The road to the castle from the main road crosses military terrain, and walking is prohibited.

The car park lies at the foot of the castle, and from here the only way to get around (and up) is on foot. It is a bit of a steep climb all the way to the top, but the castle is quite large and there is plenty to see along the way. Some of the views going up are spectacular but nothing compared with the vista from the top. The climb should not be attempted unless you are fairly fit and, on a hot day, carry plenty of water with you.

The Access road from the main road between Kyrenia (Girne) and Nicosia (Lefkosa) passes through a Military Area. You should not try to walk or cycle to the castle.

The castle has three parts draped over the mountain.

The Queen's Window

There is a refreshment room (basically a café) selling mildly overpriced drinks and snacks in a restored gate house right next to the entrance. There is no accommodation in Saint Hilarion and most visitors daytrip from Nicosia or Kyrenia.

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