Scotland has just been announced as ‘Rough Guides’ number 1 country in ‘"the 20 most beautiful countries in the world" for 2019 and to celebrate we thought we would compile one of our largest blog posts- all about Scotland’s stunning castles!
Scotland is famous for its castles, in fact it is estimated there once were over 2,000 castles in Scotland, now less remain, some have been carefully restored and others left in various states of ruins, all still well preserved. The thing is about these castles that remain- they are dotted around everywhere! They are nestled into the landscape, or perched on a cliff edge, or overlooking some of the most stunning lochs. And with Scotland so easy to travel around, make sure you add some of the world’s most famous castles to your itinerary.
We have visited so many amazing castles, that is was has tough for us to narrow down our favourites, but we have managed to find our top 30!
We have 4 castles outstanding on our list that we hope to complete by the end of 2019! These are also included as we don’t want you missing out on these ones!
Castles if departing from Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle is the most important royal fortress in Scotland. The current castle has stood since the 12th century although there has been a castle here since 900BC. The castle was a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Edinburgh has been involved in many conflicts through the ages, from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The Castle is in the heart of Edinburgh, at the top of the Royal Mile and has view across Edinburgh. Today, the castle is the setting for Edinburgh’s famous Royal Military Tattoo and houses the crown jewels, be sure to time your visit for the one o’clock gun!
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Location Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG
Price *£17 (all prices for adults)
Craigmillar Castle is ‘Edinburgh’s other castle’ and it is the remains of medieval castle from the 14th century which was extended throughout the 15th and 16th centuries. Mary, Queen of Scots Mary visited Craigmillar in November 1566 to convalesce following the birth of her son, the future James I of England. Be sure to climb the winding staircases and explore this exceptional ruin which is one of the best-preserved examples of a medieval castle.
Craigmillar Castle is just a 15-minute drive from the centre of Edinburgh.
Tantallon Castle is a 14th century-built castle which with 5 storeys towers over the cliff edge in North Berwick, which is around a 50-minute drive from Edinburgh. This ruin is spectacular with a massive red sandstone curtain wall. The mighty stronghold was finally abandoned after more than 300 years, when it was besieged for a third time – by Oliver Cromwell’s army. (You will hear a lot about Cromwell throughout the castle trails)
Location North Berwick EH39 5PN
Tantallon Castle is around 50 minutes’ drive to the east of Edinburgh
Dirleton Castle was built in the 13th century although the large fortresses residence was badly damaged during the Wars of Scottish Independence, when it was twice taken by the English. Rebuilt and reinforced, the castle was again damaged during Cromwell’s siege of 1650; it was then left to decay, now the ruins stand magnificently, and you can get a great idea of the layout of the castle, there is also a bridge across the moat, be sure to check out the castle gardens too!
You can visit Dirleton Castle right after Tantallon Castle as they are only a 15-minute drive apart.
Blackness Castle is one of Scotland's most impressive strongholds, built in the 15th century by one of Scotland's most powerful families, the Crichtons, and was massively strengthened in the 16th century as an artillery fortress, Blackness Castle has been a royal castle, prison, armaments depot and film location for Outlander, Mary Queen of Scots and Outlaw King.
Location Blackness, Linlithgow EH49 7NH
Blackness Castle is located on the Firth of Forth and is just under a 45-minute journey west from Edinburgh.
St Andrews Castle
St Andrews Castle was built in the late 1100’s when St Andrews was the religious pilgrimage for the Church of Scotland in the years before the Protestant Reformation. During the Wars of Scottish Independence, the castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times as it changed hands between the Scots and the English. Most of what can be seen today dates from a rebuild completed around 1400. The castle sits on a rocky cliff edge on the North Sea. St Andrews Castle has been a bishop’s palace, a fortress and a state prison during its 450-year history. Explore the infamous castle prison with its ‘bottle neck dungeon’ and delve underground to the 16th-century siege mine and counter-mine.
>To find out some more about St Andrews Castle and the town- click here<
Location The Scores, St Andrews KY16 9AR
St Andrews and its Castle is in an hour and half drive North from Edinburgh.
Dunnottar Castle is one of the most iconic castles as it juts out from the lands’ end, the remains of this medieval fortress date from the 15th and 16th centuries, with the site believed to have been fortified from the early Middle Ages. Due to its strategic location, Dunnottar has played a prominent role throughout Scotland’s history, but is perhaps best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels, were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army during the 17th century.
Dunnottar Castle is located near Aberdeen and is a 2 hour + drive from Edinburgh up the east coast. If leaving from St Andrews, the journey is just under 1 and half hours
Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland and it is set high on a rocky crag. The castle has survived at least eight sieges and several Scottish kings and queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots. The buildings range from the 12th century to the 16th century.
>Want to explore the town of Stirling?- then click here<
Location Castle Esplanade, Stirling FK8 1EJ
Stirling Castle can be reached from Edinburgh in one hour.
Doune Castle was originally built in the 13th century, then damaged during the Scottish Wars of Independence before being rebuilt in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, the son of King Robert II of Scotland. This is a great castle to explore and do take note the impressive courtyard and one of the best-preserved great halls in Scotland.
Location Castle Hill, Doune FK16 6EA
From Stirling Castle, you can reach Doune Castle in just 15 minutes.
Balmoral Castle is the Scottish residence of the British Royal Family where the current Royal family reside each summer. A castle has stood on the grounds since the 15th century and when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert came they fell in love with the region and people during a visit to the Scottish Highlands, but it was considered too small so they purchased the estate and constructed a new castle in place of the now demolished old castle. The couple spent many weeks each year relaxing at their new home in Highlands, and after Albert’s death, Victoria spent up to 4 months each year at Balmoral.
Location Balmoral Estates, Ballater AB35 5TB
From Edinburgh the drive to Balmoral Castle takes you through the Cairngorms National Park and takes around 2 and a half hours, or if you are leaving from Aberdeen, having been to Dunnottar Castle, the drive will take you 1 hour and 15 minutes to the west. (We suggest you pop into the nearby village of Ballater and grab something to eat or drink. We glamped nearby at Torbeg and visited the butchers in Ballater for our BBQ)
The red sandstone building of Inverness Castle was built in 1836, and now houses the Sheriff Court however there has been a succession of castles which have stood on this site since 1057.
Location Inverness IV2 3EG
From Edinburgh the drive North to Inverness will take 3 and half hours, and if coming from Balmoral Castle the drive is around 1 hour 45.
Price £5 to climb the tower only.
Though built on the site of an early medieval fortress, the present ruins overlooking Loch Ness date from the 13th to the 16th centuries. Urquhart played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century and was subsequently held as a royal castle. Largely abandoned by the middle of the 17th century, the castle was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently fell into disrepair.
Location Drumnadrochit, Inverness IV63 6XJ
If driving from Inverness Castle, you will reach Urquhart Castle in 30 minutes.
Castles if departing from Glasgow
There has been an Inveraray Castle standing on the shores of Loch Fyne since the 15th century, although what we see today is from the 19th century following a fire, the style is a mix of modern, baroque, Palladian and Gothic-style, today Inveraray Castle is one of Scotland’s finest stately homes. Wander around the manicured gardens before exploring the stunning interior.
Location Inveraray PA32 8XE
From Glasgow going north west, it will take around 1 and half hours to reach Inveraray and its Castle. (Make time to pop into Inveraray too, we suggest grabbing a bite to eat in ‘the George’)