The 8 greatest castles in Scotland

Scotland’s turbulent historical past of battles within the glens has bequeathed the nation an impressive choice of castles, with the added bonus of its rugged panorama.

Whether or not you roam the fortresses overlooking Edinburgh and Stirling or hunt down a romantic break amid the huge lochs and brooding mountains of the Scottish Highlands, inspiring historic adventures await. 

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Perched atop the volcanic plug of Fortress Rock, Edinburgh Fortress is the Scottish capital’s crowning glory © iStock / Getty Photographs

Discover royal historical past at Edinburgh Fortress 

Perched atop the volcanic plug of Fortress Rock, the Scottish capital’s crowning glory is a powerful begin to a tour of the most effective castles in Scotland. The historical past of Britain’s most besieged place goes again a thousand years, and the citadel’s Georgian barracks proudly overlook the Princes Road Gardens that separate Edinburgh’s Outdated and New Cities.

Highlights embody the firing of the One o’Clock Gun, a practice courting to 1861, in addition to James IV’s wooden-beamed Nice Corridor and the Sixteenth-century Royal Palace. Within the latter, don’t miss the chamber the place Mary, Queen of Scots, gave beginning to James VI, the primary monarch of each Scotland and England.

Eilean Donan Castle and Loch Duich, Dornie, Scotland, United Kingdom
Eilean Donan has a splendid location on a rocky islet on the assembly of three mountain-rimmed lochs © iStock / Getty Photographs

Admire the lyrical setting of Eilean Donan Fortress 

Eilean Donan usually serves as a pin-up for the storybook romance of the Highlands, with its splendid location on a rocky islet on the assembly of three mountain-rimmed lochs. You’ll see its reconstructed medieval towers and turrets from the principle street west to Skye, however it’s price crossing the stone bridge to one of many best castles in Scotland. 

Featured in movies such because the James Bond flick The World Is Not Sufficient, it stood robust from the thirteenth century till 1719, when English men-of-war bombarded its 5m-thick (16ft) partitions whereas besieging Spanish troops throughout the Jacobite uprisings. Inside, you’ll be able to think about your self a Jacobite plotter on the battlements, peek by way of spy holes, maintain a cannonball and wield a claymore – the hefty sword brandished by William Wallace in Braveheart.

Embark on a family-friendly historic journey at Stirling Fortress 

The Jacobite uprisings sought to revive the Home of Stuart to the British throne, and you’ll comply with these monarchs to their imposing fortress atop riverside Fortress Hill. “He who holds Stirling, holds Scotland,” goes the previous saying – and the citadel has witnessed some 20 sieges and battles. 

The 18th-century pockmarks left by Bonnie Prince Charlie’s cannons are a small a part of the constructing’s wealthy historical past, which you’ll be able to uncover on guided excursions of James V’s Renaissance-style Royal Palace, the walled Queen Anne Gardens, the stone-floored Nice Kitchens and extra. Galleries show artifacts together with the Stirling Heads, Sixteenth-century oak medallions carved with royal portraits, and kids love listening to historic yarns from employees in frilly interval costumes.

Dunnottar Castle - a ruined medieval fortress located upon a rocky headland on the coast of Scotland near Aberdeen. The castle was restored in the 20th century and is now open to the public
A windblown relic atop the cliffs of a headland on the North Beach, Dunnottar Fortress is unbeatable for sheer drama © iweta0077/Getty Photographs

Dunnottar Fortress is one for drama queens (and kings)

This windblown relic atop the 49m-high (160ft) cliffs of a headland on the North Beach is unbeatable for sheer drama. A customer middle is deliberate, however for now, the medieval fortification is a spot to soak up the romance of its scenic setting and lengthy historical past, maybe whereas approaching alongside the Aberdeenshire Coastal Path from close by Stonehaven. 

William Wallace, Mary, Queen of Scots, and Charles II all handed by way of, however Dunnotar’s proudest second was serving to a small garrison safeguard the Scottish crown jewels (now on show at Edinburgh Fortress) from Oliver Cromwell’s forces.

The library of the Dunrobin castle
The stately rooms and corridors of Dunrobin citadel convey Downton Abbey to thoughts © Shutterstock / Gimas

Discover the fairy-tale chateau of Dunrobin Fortress

Like a wing of the Palace of Versailles transported to the Northern Highlands, the conical spires of this 189-room chateau overlook its formal gardens and the Moray Firth. The normal seat of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland, its stately rooms and corridors convey Downton Abbey to thoughts, with their stag heads, gilt-framed portraits and family-crest-emblazoned hearth. 

There’s a tearoom, a museum, falconry shows and gardens laid out by Sir Charles Barry, architect of London’s Homes of Parliament. Open between April and October, the previous naval hospital and boys’ boarding college has seven centuries of historical past, making it one of many UK’s longest repeatedly inhabited homes.

Channel the Bard at Cawdor Fortress

One for actors who superstitiously seek advice from Macbeth as “the Scottish play,” this looming pile options in Shakespeare’s tragedy, when the protagonist fulfills the witches’ prophecy that he’ll turn into Thane of Cawdor.

The play’s Eleventh-century occasions predate the citadel by a number of centuries, however the fairy-tale rooms and gardens nonetheless provide many Scottish legends. Discover the walled backyard and go to the medieval tower constructed round a fortunate holly tree, which protected Cawdor by way of the Jacobite uprisings. 

Shakespearean completists ought to take a look at one other superb Highlands edifice, Glamis Fortress, the setting for a lot of Macbeth (and the late Queen Mom’s childhood dwelling).

Tour Blair Fortress, the final phrase in Scots Baronial structure

You’ll be able to tour 30 rooms of this whitewashed Scots Baronial masterpiece within the southern foothills of the Cairngorms, the place the Atholl household left medieval, Georgian and Victorian imprints. Step into the wood-paneled entrance corridor, adorned with muskets used on the Battle of Culloden, and wander the hushed rooms of furnishings, china and lace, collected by 19 generations of adventurers, Jacobites and royalists. 

Keep in a cottage or shepherd’s hut to understand the landscaped grounds, the place peacocks and crimson squirrels inhabit the three.6 hectare (9 acre) walled backyard, woodland grove, deer park and sculpture path. The property is dwelling to each sustainability schemes and Europe’s final remaining non-public military, the Atholl Highlanders, which guarded Queen Victoria throughout her keep on the citadel. 

For a Cairngorms citadel crawl, gallop northeast to Seventeenth-century Braemar Fortress (reopening after renovations in July 2023) and the royal-owned Balmoral Fortress, the place the ballroom and gardens open to the general public between April and August.

See the towers and turrets of Inveraray Fortress

Loch Fyne within the Western Highlands is legendary for each oysters and this pearl of a Scottish ancestral seat, its tubular towers topped with witch’s-hat spires.

Behind the arched home windows in its granite-gray facade, the ornate interiors embody the 18th-century drawing room’s painted ceiling and French Beauvais tapestries, the opulent State Eating Room and the Armoury Corridor with some 1300 weapons. Head “under stairs” to the tearoom and previous kitchen, discover the grounds on a 1.5-mile woodland stroll and in a single day in one of many property’s cottages.