A Guide to the Scottish Castles

For travellers from near and far, Scotland presents a wealth of historical experiences, and its castles feature significantly in those experiences. Whether the traveller is on a short break or an extended tour, on a family trip or a romantic getaway, the castles of Scotland will be highlights of any holiday experience.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh CastleThe first city experience for many travellers who visit Scotland is Edinburgh. There, built atop a rocky hill, and reached by a walk on the cobbled street known as The Royal Mile, lined with quaint shops, in the centre of the city, is Edinburgh Castle.

The fortress has stood for over 1000 years, towering over the city around it. Visitors can relive the history of Scotland during a visit to this unique castle, and enjoy the panoramic views from the ramparts. Regular exhibitions and displays, including the annual Military Tattoo, are staged within the castle.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan CastleEilean Donan Castle is an ancient fortress located in an area of spectacular natural beauty, on an island, between sealochs,  joined to the shore by a stone bridge. Near the town of Dornie, it can be visited easily by travellers on the way to the Isle of Skye.

Its location and imposing structure mean that it is a precious gem amongst the jewels that are the Scottish castles. Since the sixth century people have lived on the site, with the building of the fortifications being commenced in the thirteenth century. History shows that the castle was ruined as a result of a civil uprising in 1719, and was not restored until the early 20th Century.

Travellers have the opportunity to thoroughly explore the castle and the beautiful surroundings, with the benefits of a comprehensive Visitor Centre, café and amenities to make a visit to Eilean Donan Castle a highlight of any holiday.

Stirling Castle

Stirling CastleStirling Castle is easily accessible from Glasgow and Edinburgh, situated in the town which bears its name in the picturesque Central Highlands of Scotland.

The first date on the timeline of Stirling Castle is 1107 but building is believed to have commenced in 1538  Over the years to 1881 it was controlled and occupied from time to time by both Scottish and English Royalty, including Mary Queen of Scots. Members of the Danish Royal Family also spent time there. As with most fortified buildings, the fortunes of Stirling Castle waxed and waned. It was besieged and burned on various occasions, and extended and restored.  Archaeological excavation works have exposed ancient parts of the buildings. Between 1881 and 1964 the Castle served as a military depot.

Following extensive planning and restoration works by Historic Scotland, the public have been able to enjoy an excellent historical adventure experience since 2011, with live re-enactments of life in times past. Travellers on holiday in Scotland can take advantage of the modern amenities and facilities, and visit The Great Hall, Stirling Heads Gallery, Palace Vaults, Royal Chapel, Great Kitchens, Stirling Tapestries, Regimental Museum, Castle Exhibition and Queen Anne Garden.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar CastleDunnottar Castle is one of the best of all places to visit in Scotland. Located in Aberdeenshire, the Castle is reached by most visitors by making the scenic walk from Stonehaven. The North Sea coast at Stonehaven is beautiful and the ruined castle sits above the sea.

The Castle site is known to have been inhabited by the Picts over 2000 years ago. A  Christian Church was established there around 400AD, only to be seized and plundered, like so many Christian sites, by invading Vikings. Catholicism came to Dunnnottar when a church was built in 1276, and after 1300 the castle became the home of an important Scottish family and was host to members of the Royal Family on occasions. This historical past can be felt by visitors to Scotland when they enter the spectacular Dunnottar Castle site and explore the ruins.

Glamis Castle

Glamis CastleGlamis Castle is over 600 years old and it is steeped in the history of Scotland. It lies in a beautiful setting near Dundee.

The history of Glamis Castle as the ancestral home Earls of Strathmore includes its connection with the British Royal family. The mother of Queen Elizabeth II, the late Queen Mother, grew up at the castle and spent many happy times there. Her younger daughter, the Princess Margaret, was born there. Enclosed within a fortified courtyard, the castle has, like so many similar buildings, been adapted and extended over time, and today’s travellers can enjoy the extensive parklands and formal gardens that have been established to complement the architecture of the castle.

Glamis is a castle imbued with mystery as well as history.  Is there a secret room?  Is there a ghost? These questions arise from, firstly, the fact that a count of the number of rooms does not match with the number calculated when the castle is viewed from the outside, and the windows are counted. In addition, accounts of unusual events given members of the Strathmore family and their servants over the centuries suggest the presence of the supernatural at Glamis.

Inveraray Castle

Inveraray CastleThe heritage of Scotland could be said to be embodied in the history of  Inveraray Castle. As the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, it has historical links for members of the Campbell Clan. It is located near Oban, on Loch Fyne, on the west coast of Scotland, in an area where there are many points of interest for the traveller.

There has been a castle at the location since the 15th Century. The present building was architecturally designed and built in the 18th Century, and rebuilt after a fire in 1877. The delightful old gardens are very well maintained. Visitors can enjoy the usual amenities and can even stay in holiday houses close by that are managed by the Castle staff.

Culzean Castle

Culzean CastleCulzean Castle is near Ayr, and is one of the most popular castles for visitors from all around the world. The beautiful country park covers 600 acres, making a weekend break or a longer visit to Culzean Castle an unforgettable time for the traveller.

The history of Culzean Castle dates from at least the 15th Century. Since then the original Tower House has been extended and transformed, with input from the renowned designer Robert Adam, into the grand mansion that it is today.

Blair Castle

Blair CastleBlair Castle is an essential stop on any touring holiday in Scotland.  Located between Perth and Inverness, the castle gates are in the village of Blair Atholl. This castle has evolved since Mediaeval times, and was developed into the fine building the traveller can enjoy today by extensive building works in the Victorian era. It has a history of involvement in the political ups and downs of the life and times of Scotland.

The beauty of the hills of the highlands is the backdrop for the castle, and it is possible to explore the area, and experience the prolific flora and fauna, on horseback. The 145,000-acre estate is actively farmed and commercially managed, offering accommodation facilities and a variety of activities for tourists, including country sporting activities such as salmon fishing and shooting.

Visitors to the castle, which is a private home, can see the interior of the castle and the extensive collections on display with the benefit of modern services and amenities installed in recent years, and information from experienced guides.

Cawdor Castle

Cawdor CastleTravellers looking for a castle break in the region of Inverness cannot go past Cawdor, a fine Castle with a wealth of history.

The castle is a private home, but visitors are able to enjoy the experience of history that it has to offer.

With a mediaeval tower and more recent building in the stone found in the area, Cawdor Castle is a very attractive tourist destination, complemented by lovely gardens and the paintings and objets d’art on display inside the walls.

Visitors can also try out their golfing or fishing skills and attempt to negotiate the maze.

 

Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin CastleDunrobin Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Sutherland, is also in the region of Inverness, near Golspie.

It features formal gardens and has elegant towers, with superb vistas over the unique landscape of the region to be seen on the journey to the Castle.

A special activity during a visit to Dunrobin Castle takes place on the Castle lawn – an interactive demonstration of falconry.  Inside, the traveller can experience the best of the castles of Scotland in the fine displays of furniture, paintings and ornaments.

 
 

Caerlaverock  Castle

Caerlaverock CastleAnother of the best places to see in Scotland is the mediaeval Caerlaverock Castle, known as ‘the castle of the lark’, located in a pristine coastal location south of Dumfries. It is a sandstone fortress, uniquely triangular in shape, with a double moat, and dates to the 13th century. Its strategic position was formerly the site of a Roman fort, and it dominates the route into Scotland by potential invaders from the South over Solway Firth, and it has been a part of many significant events in the history of Scotland.

The visitor’s experience at Caerlaverock gives a palpable sense of ancient history, enhanced by the amenities and activities provided, and by the exploration of the estate and the area of scenic beauty around the castle, with its abundance of flora and fauna.

Dunvegan Castle

On the Isle of Skye, Dunvegan Castle is an ideal destination for travellers, particularly those looking for romantic breaks in Scotland. Its striking location atop a cliff on the rocky coast is enthralling, and it is enhanced by extensive formal gardens, which take advantage of the natural landform.

Clan MacLeod has called Dunvegan Castle home for more than eight centuries.  Many treasures of the clan acquired during its exploits over centuries are on display, and visitors can relive those exploits and learn about the legends of the clan.

Travellers can stay near the castle and also enjoy exploring the Estate, fishing, and observing seals on the loch.

Brodie Castle

Brodie Castle is another of the tourist attractions in the Inverness area of Scotland which is well worth a visit. Dating from the 16th century, it is replete with reminders of its role in history, both in its structure and contents. Visitors can relive the past by exploring the well-restored rooms and viewing the grand collections of art books and furniture.

The estate covers about 160 acres, and the features include lovely gardens and a nature trail. There is the opportunity to really live the life of times past, with accommodation available in a wing of the castle.

Dunans Castle

Dunans Castle, in Argyll and Bute, is a castle building in very poor repair, with a significant 1815 bridge, around which an extensive, architect designed, landscaped garden was created in the 19th century. The garden features the tallest tree in Great Britain.

Historically the home of the Fletcher family, the castle is now cared for by a Trust, and following a fire in 2001, it will be restored. Visitors can still benefit from the experience of visiting this relic of Scottish history and its surroundings.

Craigievar  Castle

Craigievar Castle is in Aberdeenshire, in the north of Scotland. Built in the early 17th century, it is an architectural gem which houses an interesting collection of paintings and furniture. The castle is described as “fairytale” in appearance, and visitors can enjoy strolling through the grounds and woodlands.