24 amazing castles in Scotland
Scotland's castles are incredibly beautiful medieval fortresses. Many are located on high cliffs or islands surrounded by a river, lake or sea. Each Scottish castle has its own unique history. Many of the forts were not built as defensive structures, but as family homes that evolved into more interesting buildings over time. Whatever the weather conditions and time of day, Scotland's castles are worth seeing by any traveller. Below are 24 remarkable Scottish castles that are incredibly picturesque in photographs and even more beautiful in reality.
Balmoral Castle is more like a huge mansion than a fortress. Situated on the River Dee, it is a private residence where the royal family spends British holidays, starting with Queen Victoria. The castle was conceived by Prince Albert. The building is considered one of the most interesting examples of Scottish architecture. The grounds, gardens and exhibitions at Balmoral are open to the public, usually from April to July.
Braemar Castle is located in Aberdeenshire, overlooking the River Dee. The fortress was built in the 17th century as a hunting lodge. It was destroyed in 1689 during the first Jacobite uprising to restore Catholicism to Scotland. The castle was rebuilt and came into the hands of the Farquharson clan. Since 2006 the site has been leased to the local community. It is run on behalf of the community, who have taken care of the restoration of the fortress. The castle was reopened to the public in 2008.
Craigievar Castle, with its iconic turrets and cone-shaped roof, is one of Scotland's more interesting buildings. It was built in 1628. Unlike other fortresses, this one was built in a family home and never had a defensive function. Regarded as a fine example of medieval architecture, it is known for its original plaster ceilings. One of Scotland's best-loved castles is filled with family portraits and furniture collected over the centuries.
Crathes Castle is a 16th century building near Banchory. The detached building sits in a setting of woodland, walkways and gardens that make it one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. The castle in the Aberdeenshire region began as a fortress built on an island in the middle of a marsh. It is known for its picturesque Scottish Renaissance ceilings. The fortress and nearby grounds are owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland and are open to the public.
Dunnottar Castle is located near Stonehaven, on top of 50-metre-high cliffs. Only the ruins of the building remain today. It has gone down in history as an impregnable medieval fortress, where the Crown Jewels were stored during the invasion of Oliver Cromwell's army in the 17th century. Access to the remains of Dunnottar Castle can be gained by climbing 200 steps.
Stirling Castle is one of Scotland's largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally. It is located on Castle Hill. The keep is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. The castle has been besieged at least eight times, including several times during Scotland's wars of independence. It is now used as a museum and is open all year round except for holidays.
Edinburgh Castle is considered Scotland's most famous fortress and an iconic landmark of the national capital. Originally built as early as the early medieval period. In the early 17th century it was rebuilt and adapted to a defensive role. As one of the most important strongholds of the Scottish kingdom, it was the scene of many historical events, whether in the wars of Scottish independence in the 14th century or during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. It remained a royal residence until 1603. The castle was built on a 120-metre-high rock, surrounded on three sides by cliffs and on the fourth by a steep road.
Fyvie Castle is located near Turriff in Aberdeenshire. The oldest parts of the stronghold date to the 13th century, and some sources claim it was built in 1211 by William Lion. In 1885, the castle was bought by Scottish industrialist Alexander Leith. His descendants sold the fortress to the National Trust for Scotland. There is a story associated with the castle that during renovation work in 1920, the skeleton of a woman was discovered behind a bedroom wall. On the day these remains came to rest in the cemetery, the inhabitants of the fortress began to be plagued by strange noises and unexplained events.
Stalker Castle is best known for its role in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The current castle was built by Sir John Stewart around 1446. The name 'Stalker' comes from the Celtic Stalcaire, meaning 'hunter'. From its inception, the site has 'witnessed' great violence and intrigue. In 1463, Stewart was murdered at his own wedding, and five years later the murderer was avenged. Another murder was committed here in 1520, when Sir Alexander Stewart was killed while fishing just off the islet, next to the castle. Stalker Castle remains in private hands and is open to the public during the summer.
Dunrobin Castle is the seat of the Earls of Sutherland. The fortress, with its beautiful French-style turrets, has its origins in the Middle Ages. Most of the present building and gardens were added by Sir Charles Barry between 1835 and 1850. Part of the original building can be seen in the inner courtyard, despite a number of extensions and alterations that have made it one of the largest buildings in northern Scotland. It was used as a boarding house for seven years and is now open to the public.
Duart Castle is located on the Isle of Mull, off the west coast of Scotland. The fortress was built in the 13th century as the seat of the MacLean family. It was razed by the English in 1756 and rebuilt in 1911. It is now privately owned, in part open to tourists. In 2012, a representative of the Maclean family announced that his family could no longer afford to maintain the castle in light of costly repairs. The castle was used as a filming location for the production of 'The Enchanted', which starred Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones.
Glamis Castle is located in County Angus. It is considered to be the most haunted castle in Scotland. The oldest elements of the building date back to the 11th century. The stronghold was rebuilt in the 17th century. One of the castle's rooms is Duncan's Hall, where William Shakespeare placed the scene of the killing of the king in Macbeth. Glamis Fortress and its gardens are open to the public from April to October.
Inveraray Castle is the seat of the Duke of Argyll. The original building was built in 1720 and has been modified several times by designers. The castle was severely damaged in fires in 1877 and 1975. After the second fire, it was not until 2008 that renovation work began. The ground floor and some of the chambers on the first floor are open to tourists. The castle is one of the most important tourist attractions in the west of Scotland.
Kilchurn Castle was built in the 15th century. It does not appear as large as other Scottish fortresses, but its setting is equally impressive. The structure sits on a rocky peninsula at the north-eastern end of Lake Loch Awe. Kilchurn is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. Today, the remains of the castle are in the care of Historic Scotland and open to the public during the summer.
The remains of the castle are now in the care of Historic Scotland and open to the public during the summer months.
Caerlaverock Castle is unique because of its design. It was built on a triangular plan, rather than square or rectangular like most. The 13th century building is surrounded by a moat and is considered the quintessential medieval fortress. Although the fortress has been dismantled and rebuilt several times it has always been on the characteristic triangular plan. The castle is now in ruins, but remains a popular tourist attraction.
Dunvegan Castle is the ancestral seat of the Scottish clans of the MacLeods. It holds the title of the oldest continuously inhabited fortress in Scotland, having been a refuge for over 800 years. The current appearance of the building is the result of renovations and extensions during the Victorian period. In the castle you can learn about the history of the MacLeod clan , see rooms, parlours and dungeons with family memorabilia. The castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Eilean Donan is a medieval castle rising above Loch Duich and is one of the most attractive tourist destinations in the Scottish Highlands. The original fortress was built in the early 13th century to defend against the Vikings. The castle is one of the most photographed landmarks in Scotland and a popular location for weddings and filming scenes.
Inverness Castle is situated on a cliff overlooking the River Ness. The current fortress was built in 1836, on the site of an 11th century defensive structure. The fortress was destroyed several times. When it was last rebuilt, it housed the town hall. Currently, the castle is not open to the public, but efforts are being made to make it accessible in the future. At the moment, only the castle grounds can be visited.
Tioram Castle - the ruins of a fortress on the island of Eilean Tioram. It appears to have originally been the main bastion of Clann Ruaidhri. The castle is now in very poor condition and was closed to the public in 1998 at the request of Highland Council. In 1997, the idea of rebuilding the stronghold was conceived, but it was not realised. The ruins can be accessed across the causeway, but there is no access to the interior due to the risk of wall collapse.
Urquhart Castle, situated on a promontory overlooking Loch Ness Lake, has a bloody history as the site of clan wars and British raids. It played a significant role in the struggle for Scottish independence in the 14th century. Currently the fortress lies in ruins, although it was once one of the largest medieval structures. The visitor centre contains a large collection of artefacts found within the castle grounds.
Brodie Castle is the ancestral seat of the Brodies - one of Scotland's oldest clans. The original building was built in 1567, but was destroyed by fire in 1645. In 1824 the castle was rebuilt and extended. Today it has a very well-preserved central 5-storey tower with adjoining walls. The interior contains fine antiques, oriental affectations and painted ceilings. The area around the fortress has been provided with gardens, a pond, walkways and nature trails.
Kisimul Castle is a small medieval fortress located on the small island of Castlebay. The name comes from the Celtic ciosamul meaning 'castle on an island'. The earliest records of Kisimul date from the mid-16th century. In 1838 the castle was abandoned and the island sold. Some of the building's stones were used for ballast for fishing vessels and others ended up as paving slabs in Glasgow. In 2001 the castle was rented by the head of Clan MacNeil for the annual sum of L 1 and a bottle of whisky.
Culzean Castle is located on the Ayrshire coast and is one of the most impressive castles in Scotland. The building dates from the 18th century and was designed in a neo-Gothic style. The castle is surrounded by extensive gardens and parkland, which are open to the public. The interior of the castle is richly decorated and full of valuable works of art. Culzean is also known for the so-called 'Hidden Staircase', which leads to the castle's secret underworld.
Tantallon Castle, situated on the North Sea coast in County East Lothian, is one of the most spectacular castles in Scotland. The fortress was built in the 14th century and was one of the main centres of power for the Douglas family. Tantallon Castle is partly in ruins, but still retains its impressive character and beauty. Visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the sea and surrounding countryside.