Castles first appeared in Britain sometime after 1066, when William the Conqueror won the battle of Hastings. The early castles were made of wood. Norman invaders invented the moat and bailey. A moat is a ring of water surrounding a castle. If someone wanted to get over the moat, someone inside the castle would have to let down the drawbridge, a kind of door. Drawbridges had to be cranked down by someone inside the castle.
A bailey is the enclosed area around a castle. Baileys helped protect a castle. If someone wanted to attack a castle, he would have to get passed the bailey.
Castles were dark and cold, but everyone wanted to live in them. Castles offered protection from enemies. But castles were too expensive for everyone to live in. It could cost thousands of dollars to build just part of a castle. The workers might have had to destroy whole forests to build part of a castle. During the 10th century, lords began to build castles out of stone.
There were many different kinds of castles. Castles were in lots of different countries. There were castles in Spain, Germany, Britain, Japan, and many more countries. They all had different styles.
The word castle comes from a Latin word meaning "fortress," which is smart, because that is what a castle is. European castles developed from fortified camps built by the ancient Romans and from fenced villages of prehistoric Europeans.
Castles became important in western Europe in the late A. D. 900's and 1000's. They played a great role in the military system called feudalism. In the Middle Ages, Europe was divided into many small states, and local conflicts were common. A castle helped a king or a vassal defend the land around where the castle stood. It also provided a home for the nobles and their families and servants.
The walls surrounding a castle could be up to 33 feet thick! Nobles were really serious about defense. Why were there spiral stairs in a tower? If a castle was under attack, the knights defending the towers would have more space to move their swords.
By 1500, castles became much less important in Europe. Cannons were invented, so it was easy to knock a castle down. Also, many nobles wanted more comfy housing.
So you see, people didn't always go to a hotel when they wanted to stay somewhere. They might have stayed in a castle!