Wonderfully preserved medieval strongholds, fairy-tale châteaux, and romantic cliff top ruins, Scotland is packed with charming castles that will bring you back in the time of queens and kings. Known for its legends, its architectural beauty or stunning location, each of them has a unique story to tell.
From the stunning landscapes of the Highlands, the rugged cliffs of the coast, to the capital city of Edinburgh, here are eight of our favorite Scottish castles.
Eilean Donan, Inverness-shire
This 13th-century castle is one of the most photogenic Scottish castles and has gradually become one of Scotland’s most recognizable landmarks. The Eilean Donan Castle was built on a tidal island, connected at low tide to the mainland, idyllically situated in the point where the three Lochs Duich, Long, and Alsh come together. In the 20th century, the castle was restored and a footbridge – that connects now the castle with the mainland – was constructed. The castle and its exhibitions are open to the public. If you want to get an even more spectacular shot of this castle, wait until dusk when the floodlights go on.
Edinburgh Castle, City of Edinburgh
The Edinburgh Castle – perhaps the most visited castle in Scotland – is located in the center of the capital city on the top of a sleeping volcano. This impressive structure – of which the oldest part dates back to the 12th century – is a visible landmark in Edinburgh’s skyline. The Scottish utilized the castle for all of their important battles and military plans. Therefore, it is an important symbol of the Scottish perseverance for independence. Edinburgh Castle is a huge and beautiful place to explore. It has a rich history, an impressive architecture and there are many different attractions within its walls suitable for everyone.
Culzean Castle, Ayrshire
Culzean Castle is fiercely sitting on the top of a cliff at the Ayrshire coast. It is a noteworthy example of a turreted castle that seems to be picked from a fairy tale book. You may recognize the castle upon arrival because already since 20 years it has been featured on the back of the 5-pound note. The numerous rooms of Culzean Castle and its extensive ground are open to the public. With its beautiful neoclassical architecture, a spectacular setting at the Firth of Clyde, and impressive Culzean Country Gardens, is this Scottish castle a perfect place for a nice day out.
Stirling Castle, Stirlingshire
Stirling Castle is one of the largest and historically significant castles in Scotland. Back in the 16th century, this castle was considered the arts center of Scotland and home to many of the country’s kings. The immense Stirling Castle is a great place to visit as a family. Not only it gives the opportunity to see how Scottish royalty lived here, but children can also dress up in costumes and play medieval instruments.
Urquhart Castle, Inverness-shire
Once, Urquhart Castle was one of the largest castles in Scotland. Today pretty much only the remains of the Grand Tower and the stunning views over the Loch Ness are left. The mythical Loch Ness Monster, Nessie, might attract travelers to the Scottish Highlands, but it is Urquhart Castle that steals the show. This 16th- century fortress is positioned conveniently along the main road connecting the North to the West of Scotland and should not be missed.
Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire
Dunnottar Castle, located in Stonehaven, is perched precariously on a jutting headland and surrounded by sheer cliffs and the raging north sea. The remaining ruins of that was once an imposing medieval fortress are a tribute to the castle’s fascinating and violent history. In contrast to Dunnottar Castle’s turbulent history, it makes today for an enjoyable day excursion in Aberdeenshire. Coming from Stonehaven, an impressive 30-45 minute walk along the cliffs takes you straight to the castle. Verify ahead of time if the walking paths are open; sometimes they’re closed due to landslides.
Glamis Castle, Angus
Glamis is one of the most preeminent and historically fascinating castles in Scotland. This fortress is primarily famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and as the birthplace of the Queen Mother, HM Queen Elizabeth. It’s a perfect place to enjoy the architecture of medieval Scotland and to explore the surrounding estate made up of 14,000 acres of gardens, farms, and forests. Pair a visit to this beautiful 17th-century castle with some tea and scones, and you have yourself a real British day out.
Dunvegan Caste, Inverness-shire
On the northwest coast of the Isle of Skye stands the oldest (for the last 800 years) continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, by one family in Scotland. Perched along Loch MacLeod, the castle is an imposing structure set in a beautiful landscape. Inside, you can admire many nice oil paintings. Alternatively, you can enjoy the beauty of its impressive gardens or take a boat trip on Loch Dunvegan and spot the grey seals that live there. The castle and its grounds are open to the public from April through October.