North Cyprus
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North Cyprus Kyrenia

St. Hilarion Castle

Located west of the main Kyrenia-Nicosia highway, in the Kyrenia Mountain range, St Hilarion castle is the westernmost and best preserved of the three redoubts built by the Byzantines and Crusaders.

The legend of St Hilarion  

Although there is not adequately evidence, the castle is said to be called after the saint of the name. St Hilarion, a little-known hermit and monk fled persecution from Palestine during the 7 th century to dwell and die up in the castle. According to legend he was extremely deaf and resilient to the shrieks of pagan demons that had been lurking and wandering about in the mountain peak. Disgusted at their inability to make him go, they left mountain in peace. During the 10 th century a Byzantine chapel, monastery and later a fort grew around his tomb.

St Hilarion Castle, North Cyprus

It is known that the Byzantine fort was called Didymos , the Greek name for the twin peaks overhead. The Lusignans corrupted this to Dieu d'Amour , maybe confusing a mixture of legends and believing that this was the castle of Aphrodite .

With walls and towers that appear to sprout out of the rocks almost randomly, it is a fairly-tale sight living up to Rose Macaulay's much-quoted description ”a picture-book castle for elf-kings” and the rumour that Walt Disney used it as a model for the castle in Snow White and Seven Dwarfs. The legend that was spread locally says that St Hilarion housed 101 rooms, of which 100 could easily be found; the last, an enchanted garden with a magnificent treasure belonging to an elusive “queen” of Cypriot folklore, most probably a holdover of Aphrodite worship.

St Hilarion Castle, North Cyprus

How to get there  

If you are going from Kyrenia, take the main road out of town, directed south for Nicosia (Lefkosia). The dual carriageway leading off the roundabout climbs the Kyrenia mountain range, passing the silhouette of Atatürk high on the right. At the top of this climb, about 50 yards (45 m) before the mountain pass turn right at the sign saying St Hilarion Castle. After turning right follow the route as directed by the army signs. This is a controlled road and stopping and taking photographs are signed as forbidden. The road is narrow and twisty that is why careful driving is essential. On the right you will pass the Turkish military camp and the route continues to wind up. You can view Kyrenia harbour to the right and the route reaches its highest point with the vista towards the twin peaks of Didymos ahead. The road continues to the base of the castle walls where a car park is located with a small snack bar.

Practical info  

During summer, come early or later in the day if you can, as climbing to the top of 730 m is tiring and can be quite a difficult work on a hot day. Make sure you wear stout shoes because the ground is often uneven. For climbing St Hilarion a walking stick, camera, binoculars and a bottle of water are recommended accessories. Be aware of many long drops everywhere, especially when taking children. After scaling the castle you can have refreshment at the café by the car park.

Tel.: 0533 161 276

Opening hours:

Summer 9.00 – 18.00, last entry: 17.00

Winter 9.00 – 16.30, last entry: 15.30

Admission: app. YTL 5.00

St Hilarion Castle, North Cyprus St Hilarion Castle, North Cyprus

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