Destination Hotels: Clayshire Castle

English romance in rural Indiana

Where: Bowling Green, Indiana; 317-797-3822,

Rate: $200 per night

We recommend: the Medieval Faire, September 29 and 30

As you turn down another half-rock, half-paved road that seems barely wide enough for two cars, skirting a farm field in west-central Indiana indistinguishable from the one you just passed, doubt may start to creep in: Are you really in the right place? Trust your GPS. It will indeed steer you to a wrought-iron gate featuring two Old English C’s and on to the five-room medieval-themed bed-and-breakfast built in 2012 by Douglas and Mary Jo Smock as a way to fill their time in retirement.

Though Lord Douglas and Lady Josephine are Middle Ages enthusiasts and longtime fans of Renaissance faires, they smartly realized no one enjoys authentic features from the 13th century. So Clayshire has running water, electricity, heated tile floors in the en suite bathrooms, and an outdoor hot tub. What the castle doesn’t offer is Wi-Fi or in-room cable, which means filling your days tackling a puzzle, board game, or novel from the library, or playing the giant Jenga by pushing the blocks with full-sized, rubber-tipped swords. Outside, 120 acres of peaceful seclusion beckon—to a hedge maze, lawn chess, butterfly garden, and walking trails through the woods. In lieu of a moat, anglers can fish a stocked pond.

Notice the intricately carved thrones in one corner of the Great Hall? They were built by hand, weigh more than 80 pounds each, and are just begging for photo ops after you visit the basement’s walk-in costume closet, teeming with more than 100 outfits and accessories such as glittering tiaras, jeweled crowns, and even chain mail. Guests frequently dress up for breakfast. As you dig into quiche, yogurt parfaits, and currant scones with jam made from raspberries grown on site, outfitted like King Richard or Elizabeth of York and sitting under the suit of armor perched above, you can’t help but feel a little like royalty.


Book this: The lower-level Wine Cellar suite has a barrel-enclosed bathtub and the most privacy.

Side trip: About 200 big cats live at the Exotic Feline Rescue Center, 10 miles away.

FYI: Reservations are taken only for weekends and some holidays.