Ask anyone to name three things associated with Scotland and there’s a massive probability that castles will make it into their choices.
Scotland’s castles range from massive buildings of historic significance like Stirling or Edinburgh, down to fortified farmhouses built only to keep one family safe. Some are disappearing piles of rubble and others have been renewed, restored and turned into hotels, hostels or self-catering accommodation.
Home to the Scottish crown jewels and occupying the finest location in Edinburgh, this castle is without doubt one of the top castles in the World.Perched on a volcanic rock high above the city, it doesn’t take much imagination to see the futility that attackers must have felt when attempting to siege this masterpiece. Edinburgh castle is open to the public and is also a working barracks. Beware if you are on the ramparts approaching 1pm and don’t be surprised when the daily gun goes off! Admission charged.
Many people believe Stirling to be an even finer castle than Edinburgh. Historically of course, it was more at the center of Scottish royalty than Edinburgh. The great hall in Stirling is something to see, and the displays in the castle kitchens are really interesting. Great views across much of central Scotland as well as to the famous battle sites of Bannockburn and Stirling Bridge. Open to the public. Admission charged.
Modern folklore has it that Eilean Donan castle in the Highlands is the most photographed castle in Scotland. This is really unlikely given its geographical location near the Isle of Skye but it certainly is a photographers dream. The castle sits out on a loch with the most picturesque bridge leading over to it. Eilean Donan has been used in countless movies from Highlander to James Bond to Entrapment. Admission charged.
In East Lothian, Tantallon castle sits right on the coast overlooking the Firth of Forth and the Bass Rock. Tantallon was the home of the Red Douglas Earls of Angus, one of Scotland’s most powerful families. Combine a trip here with a visit to North Berwick or Seacliff Beach for a great day out. Admission charged.
Although this was more of a palace than a castle, this glorified hunting lodge for the Stewart kings and queens is a spectacular historical building to visit in Fife. Not only does it have some fascinating preserved rooms and stunning gardens, Falkland palace is home to one of the few remaining real tennis or royal tennis courts in the UK. If you are lucky when you visit there may be players having a game – see where the modern game of tennis originated. Admission charged.
Nestled high above the town of Dollar, Castle Campbell wasn’t always known by its current name. Many centuries ago it was called Castle Glume. It was set in a strong position, with deep ravines protecting it on both sides and the high tops of the Ochil hills protecting it from behind. Now a suspended walkway winds up through the ravines from the village of Dollar and allows the visitor a really interesting approach to the castle. Run by Historic Scotland, admission charged.
Just south of Stonehaven, set on top of a near impregnable sea stack, Dunnottar is, without a doubt, one of Scotland’s most impressive castle locations. Great historical names have graced the castle over the centuries but it is noted for being where the Scottish crown jewels were protected from Cromwell’s maurauding forces. Dunnottar was also used in the movie, Macbeth with Mel Gibson. Admission charged.
The Isle of Skye has many wonderful and mysterious stories but one of the most amazing must be the story of Dunvegan and it’s famous fairy flag. The flag is said to have saved the Macleod stronghold more than once and the story is stuff of legend. Whether or not there is any truth in it of for others to decide but it is worth visiting the castle to make up your own mind. Admission Charged.
In Ayrshire, near the coast lies one of Scotland’s grandest buildings. Culzean castle appears as more of a huge mansion house set in a vast estate with some of the top formal gardens in the UK. The National Trust for Scotland have done an amazing job of restoring and maintaining the castle and it’s grounds. Admission charged.
In north-west Argyll on tiny island lies a castle dating back some 700 years in one form of another. The castle takes up nearly the entire island and is in a truly beautiful location. There are few really good viewpoints from the main Oban-Fort William road but it is worth trying to get a look at this castle. The castle is in private ownership but is open for pre-arranged visits at certain points through the year.
Duart Castle, Mull
On a promitory reaching out from the easternmost point of mull sits the ancestral home of Clan Maclean and it is an extremely fine looking castle. The castle dates back over 400 years and for many of those acted as a focal point for the sea power of the Macleans. There is a visitor centre and shop and an admission charge.
Blair Atholl Castle
Heading up or down the A9 through Perthshire, one cannot help but be blown away by the site of the white walled Blair Atholl Castle. The castle is at the heart of Atholl Estate which covers a large portion of Highland Perthshire. The castle and grounds are open to visitors with an admission charge for the castle.
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Credits: Edinburgh Castle – Bernt Rostad; Stirling Castle – Roger4336; Eilean Donan – sedoglia; Tantallon – Ghost of Kuji; Falkland – Jim.Gifford; Castle Campbell – Tom Jervis; Dunnottar – JelleS; Dunvegan Castle – Buho22; Culzean – Mat’s Eye; Duart Castle – Hoops Hooley; Blair Atholl Castle – Photojenni