The Castle theme is one of the LEGO Group’s oldest themes. Exploring both fantastical play scenes and more grounded ones, Castle sets have allowed fans of all ages to embrace medieval environments.
While castles remain popular amongst older LEGO fans, castles are now relatively rare in the LEGO lineup. That said, frequent nods to older sets suggest the LEGO Group is still proud of this era of its history.
LEGO Castle history
The LEGO Castle theme launched in 1978, in an era when the LEGO Group was introducing distinct play themes to its product collection. Early minifigure-scale sets fell into three broad categories, covering a broad chunk of history. While Town sets recreated the contemporary present, Space looked ahead to a utopian vision of space travel.
Castle, conversely, looked towards the past – or at least a simplified, romanticised version of it. Early releases across the late ‘70s and early ‘80s were rather basic; bespoke elements like horses hadn’t been introduced yet, demanding a cruder approach to their construction. That said, certain elements of that theme – like swords, shields and medieval headgear – persist in modern-day LEGO sets.
The first minifigure-scale LEGO castle was bright yellow – a notable break with historical norms. However, early castles quickly adopted more realistic colours. Several different castles were released throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s, with factions like the Lion Knights, Black Falcons and Forestmen appearing. Various other buildings and vehicles appeared at this time too, allowing LEGO fans to expand their kingdoms beyond the fortresses.
The ‘90s also introduced an overt fantasy element to Castle sets. Ghosts, witches, wizards and even dragons all made an appearance; the Fright Knights subtheme – which ran between 1997 and 1998 – included multiple dragons and a darker atmosphere than usual. Returning to more realistic fare, the Ninja theme recreated various Japanese fortresses and other buildings. This would go on to inspire the NINJAGO theme, if only indirectly.
As we entered the 21st century, Castle sets started to move in a slightly different direction. Knights’ Kingdom was a name applied to two different Castle subthemes; while each one featured different settings, they both included a stronger narrative element and multiple named characters. Each of these downplayed the fantasy, although a new Castle theme – launched in 2007 – dialled it back up, introducing trolls, dwarves and evil skeletons to battle.
The ‘10s swung the pendulum back to more grounded Castle sets (although 70403 Dragon Mountain, released in 2013, did include a new pre-moulded dragon to play with). This 2013 collection was the last dedicated range for LEGO Castle. The continued absence of such a theme suggests castles aren’t as popular with today’s young LEGO fans.
LEGO castles did endure, but in a different form than before. In 2016, the LEGO Group introduced the NEXO KNIGHTS theme. This added a hi-tech makeover to classic Castle subject matter, such as knights, horses and the castles themselves.
A number of unusual vehicles were introduced in this theme. 70312 Lance’s Mecha Horse featured an equine robot that could transform into a motorcycle. Another interesting model was 70317 The Fortrex – a castle that could roll around on caterpillar tracks.
Despite running for three years, NEXO KNIGHTS hasn’t been followed by a formal Castle theme. However, medieval LEGO sets have popped up elsewhere. In 2021, 31120 Medieval Castle appeared in the Creator 3-in-1 line; this lavish set featured an enclosed structure, three inhabitants and even a small brick-built dragon. In the same year, 21325 Medieval Blacksmith appeared via the Ideas theme. Both of these sets referenced the Black Falcons, a faction of LEGO knights that appeared in 1984.
More recently, two new LEGO Castle sets appeared as part of the LEGO Group’s 90th-anniversary celebrations. 40567 Forest Hideout reimagines a small set from the Forestmen theme with a range of small updates. 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle, meanwhile, offers a massive upgrade to the LEGO Castle concept. It also references some of the earliest Castle models, offering something for young and old LEGO fans alike.
These kinds of one-off releases seem to be the direction of LEGO Castle sets going forward. While they’re broadly a relic of the past, we hope we can count on them appearing (however sporadically) in the future.
LEGO Castle sets
Don’t let the name fool you; the Castle theme is a little broader than medieval strongholds. Almost 300 sets were released under the Castle umbrella, allowing for forays into a broader medieval world.
383 Knight’s Joust and 677 Knight’s Procession were early examples of this idea. The former recreated a thrilling rivalry on horseback, while the latter featured a collection of knights and a small cart. By the mid-‘80s, LEGO Castle sets were growing more ambitious. 6040 Blacksmith Shop featured a small building complete with a furnace and wagon wheel, while 6067 Guarded Inn offered LEGO knights a place to rest.
In addition to civilian vehicles like 1877 Crusader’s Cart, the Castle theme included various siege engines. 6061 Siege Tower was an early example; more ambitious models like 6096 Bull’s Attack followed soon after. LEGO knights (and their enemies) also needed to transport prisoners from time to time. 7092 Skeletons’ Prison Carriage was a particularly ghoulish example, featuring a trio of bony horses to pull it.
The fantasy era allowed us to explore many other interesting ideas. The 2007 set 7036 Dwarves’ Mine featured a large fantasy-era mine, complete with mine carts and – you guessed it – several dwarves. A trio of trolls was also included, presumably seeking to steal the minerals from the mine itself. Two years later, 7097 Trolls’ Mountain Fortress was released. This massive set featured hinged walls and several troll inhabitants, as well as an intrepid knight on horseback.
As LEGO building techniques improved, Castle sets became increasingly rich in detail and subject matter. 10193 Medieval Market Village (released in 2009) featured a slice of a medieval village square; its two buildings featured an inn with a guest room, stables for horses, and a blacksmith’s shop with a working water wheel.
Two years later, 7189 Mill Village Raid further expanded this medieval world. It featured a barn, a windmill and various animals, as well as a trio of villainous dragon knights. The wider subject matter of these sets has often gone unexplored in LEGO form. As such, both of these sets are very desirable even now.
21325 Medieval Blacksmith benefits from the expanded parts selection and colour palette of modern LEGO releases. The exterior features an apple tree and vibrant tiled roof, as well as a horse-drawn cart and two Black Falcon knights. The interior is divided into three levels – the shop itself, a dining area and a bedroom, complete with bearskin rug.
In 2022, the LEGO Group celebrated its 90th anniversary with a variety of new LEGO releases. 40567 Forest Hideout is an impressive recreation of 6054 Forestmen’s Hideout, a set released back in 1988. The new version faithfully replicates the original’s shaping and colour scheme but updated them with more sophisticated elements and construction methods.
The hideout in the set is built around a hollow tree and can hinge apart for better access to the interior. Inside is a barrel and a ladder to the upper level, although ironically it’s hard for minifigures to see out of the windows. New curved elements allow for more organic tree branches to be constructed.
A pair of Forestmen are included in this set – one male, one female. They’re equipped with a longbow and a sword respectively, although they can also use a spear and a pair of shields to defend themselves. A small target allows the duo to practise their archery skills.
With its retro styling and new Forestmen minifigures, 40567 Forest Hideout is a great option for LEGO Castle fans. However, it was only available for a brief time as a promotional item, which may make finding it today a little tricky.
The centrepiece of the Castle theme is, of course, the castles themselves. Large fortresses and similar structures appear throughout the theme; they are very popular amongst collectors, and older ones command high prices on the secondary market.
375 Castle (released in 1978) featured bright yellow elements, complete with purple flags and emblems. The set also featured a working drawbridge, and the walls could hinge outwards during play – a feature that would be re-used in many future LEGO castles. Naturally, the set also came with almost a dozen knights, although the castle lacked interior detail.
The set’s distinctive appearance means it remains something of an icon amongst LEGO sets. A smaller version of it was recreated in 40290 60 Years of the LEGO Brick. This version recreated certain key features of the original, including a working drawbridge and even its hinged walls.
This basic structure was repeated across castles throughout the ‘80s. By the ‘90s, the introduction of moulded baseplates inspired a bold new approach to castle construction. 6086 Black Knight’s Castle and 6090 Royal Knight’s Castle (released in 1992 and 1995 respectively) featured elaborate new designs. The latter came with many exciting play features including a trapdoor in the throne room, a catapult, and a portcullis that could be raised and lowered.
6097 Night Lord’s Castle (a 1997 release) forwent the moulded baseplates but was still very impressive. This Gothic structure came with spooky features like a vaulted ceiling, a resident skeleton and a ridiculously tall tower. It also featured a dragon to keep unwanted visitors at bay.
The use of baseplates for castles persisted a little way into the ‘00s, although an older castle – 6074 Black Falcon’s Fortress – was also rereleased in this period. As we neared the ‘10s, the original style of castle returned: an enclosed structure with a drawbridge to keep enemies at bay. 7094 King’s Castle Siege was (and is) a particularly grand example of this idea. The 2007 set featured a detailed front entrance and a particularly large footprint.
A number of castle-adjacent sets also appeared in this range. The 1989 set 6077 Forestmen’s River Fortress featured a stone tower in the middle of a body of water. It featured a small raft, a drawbridge and an intrepid Crusader Lion Knight seeking entrance. In 2004, 8780 Citadel of Orlan included several traps and obstacles including a giant serpent. Many smaller outposts were also released; a late example was 70402 The Gatehouse Raid, released in 2013.
31120 Medieval Castle was a new release for 2021. It shares several characteristics with older LEGO Castle sets; a drawbridge, hinged walls and even a water wheel. It’s also rather colourful, blending its grey walls with red, yellow, brown and white elements.
In addition to a watchtower and arrow slits on its battlements, the castle features a dungeon, a market stall, a smithy and a small throne room. As befitting a castle owned by the Black Falcons, a trio of chickens and an eagle are also included. If castles aren’t quite your thing the set can be rebuilt into a windmill or a tower instead.
LEGO 90th anniversary castle
While all of these castles are impressive, a 2022 release has blown them out of the water. 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle is a hugely ambitious model, using just over 4,500 pieces in its construction.
This allows the castle to have an unparalleled level of detail. Unfortunately, the price is unparalleled as well; expect to pay £344.99 / $399.99 / €399.99 for the privilege of owning it.
In addition to a large footprint and an asymmetrical design, the castle comes with various real-life features like a drawbridge, a portcullis and thatched roofing on interior buildings. There are also several interior rooms to place minifigures in.
These include a bedroom, a kitchen, a dungeon, an armoury and a playroom. There’s even a secret hideout for a trio of Forestmen to occupy.
The castle’s knights draw inspiration from the early days of the Castle theme, using vibrant red and blue outfits. While Lion Knights (and their queen) dominate the set, several Black Falcon knights can also be found here. Other highlights include a handful of civilians (including a cow-drawn wagon) and a new version of the wizard Majisto. A total of 22 minifigures can be found in this set.
With many hidden delights (and a general lack of modern-day Castle products) 10305 Lion Knights’ Castle could be the ultimate LEGO castle. Fans of the theme shouldn’t hesitate in picking it up – assuming they can stomach such a high price tag, of course.