Top 10 Scottish Castles
It is very well known that Scotland is full of dramatic natural beauty and man-made wonders which would truly take a lifetime to explore. Castles, in particular, tell their own story of Scottish History. There have been more than 2,000 castles in Scotland throughout history, so it’s been hard but we’ve chosen our top 10 favourite castles to visit, which we think you’ll love just as much as us.
10. Urquhart Castle – Urquhart Castle was once believed to be one of Scotland’s largest castles. With over 1000 years of Scottish History under its’ belt, now in ruins you will have to use your imagination (with the help of some handy visitor information boards) to picture what went on throughout history here. Perched on the banks Scotland’s most well-known loch, Loch Ness, this ruin is one not to be missed. Learn about how during the Jacobite Rising the last of the Government Troops that were stationed here, blew up the castle when they moved on, which left it in the ruins it is today. Climb the tower, take in the beautiful views over Loch Ness, you may even spot the infamous Loch Ness Monster!
9. Doune Castle – Doune Castle is a stunning 14th-century medieval stronghold, built with a 100ft high gatehouse. This purpose-built home for the Regent Albany ‘Scotland’s uncrowned King’ has one of the best-preserved great halls in Scotland. This striking castle is a must-see when visiting Scotland! Some of you may even find this stunning piece of history a little familiar. Featured in the award-winning Game of Thrones TV series, Doune Castle was used to portray Winterfell in the pilot of the series. As well as this claim to fame, Doune was also used as Castle Leoch in the TV drama series Outlander.
8. Stirling Castle – Stirling Castle is very impressive, situated at the top of an extinct volcano perfectly perched at the point where the Highlands and Lowlands meet. One of the largest and most historically important castles, it was home to many of Scotland’s kings throughout history. The original castle building dates back to the mid-12th century, with most of what you see today being built in the 16th century. Exploring this castle takes you back in time giving you the opportunity to see exactly how Scottish Royalty lived. Whilst here, you’ll have the chance to explore the royal palace and chapel where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in 1534, walk the Great hall which is known for being the largest medieval banqueting hall to have ever been built in Scotland as well as enjoy the stunning views you get from the top of this volcanic sill.
7. Kilchurn Castle – Perfectly placed looking out over Loch Awe, Kilchurn Castle was a power base for the Campbells of Glenorchy for over 150 years. First built in the mid-1400s by Sir Colin Campbell, First Lord of Glenorchy, this now ruin is one of Scotland’s most photographed castles. Throughout its’ lifetime, this castle was a much-loved home, a fortress and a garrisoned stronghold. In 1689, after the first Jacobite Rising, the castle was converted into its Garrison stronghold form which was later abandoned towards the end of the 1700’s.
6. Inveraray Castle – This stunning castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll the chief of Clan Campbell, one of Scotland’s most famous castles, is a must-see on the West Coast. The original castle was first built in the 1400s later being developed to its’ current state you see today which first began construction in 1744 finally being finished nearly 43 years later. Take a visit to the basement level and see exactly how the cooking in the castle was once done. This antique kitchen was in full working order and used all the way up until the 1950’s by Duchess Louise, the Grandmother of the current Duke of Argyle. With seven different fireplaces, all used for different methods of cooking, you can just imagine the impressive meals this kitchen was once able to produce. This spectacular castle is another of Scotland’s many castles to be used as filming location, this was the perfect place for the 2012 Downton Abbey Christmas Special.
5. Blackness Castle – Blackness Castle was developed in 15th-century castle, perfectly designed to endure the battles of the time. It was once a garrison fortress and later a state prison. This impressive ‘ship that never sailed’ was a stand-in for Fort William in the well-known Outlander series. Sat on the banks of the Firth of Forth, this formidable fortress was a noble residence but also a resilient stronghold built for war!
4. Midhope Castle –The history of Midhope castle dates back to 1458 when the first reference to the castle was found in a document denoting a boundary dispute. In the years after, Midhope had many different owners including Lairds and Earls, most of which added their own little touch to the building. Major changes first happened in 1678 when the castle was first acquired by John Hope. During his time, Hope gave the whole castle a revamp by removing one of the entrance towers and making the east wing extension much larger. After being left to ruin for 100s of years the castle was finally restored in 1988 to how we see it today. This quirky castle may be better known as Lallybroch, the Fraser family home, in Outlander. You can visit and take in the exterior of the castle, unfortunately, the internal is now derelict, but Outlander fans will get a buzz, expecting Jamie Fraser to be just around the corner.
3. Eilean Donan Castle – Eilean Donan Castle is quite possibly Scotland’s most famous and most photographed castle. Although it was first inhabited around 6th century, the first fortified castle was built in the mid-13th century which stood guard over the lands of Kintail. Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have existed. The original walls were built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries. Partially destroyed in the Jacobite uprising in 1719, Eilean Donan lay in ruins for around 200 years until it was finally restored by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap in 1911, with its’ re-opening taking place in 1932. Perched on the site where three lochs meet, you can see exactly why this iconic piece of Scottish history is one of Scotland’s most visited castles.
2. Dunrobin Castle – This magnificent castle with its’ beautiful French chateau spires, is one of the best castles to visit in the Northern Highlands. Dunrobin is Scotland’s largest and most northernly castle. This castle is another piece of history that’s had many uses over its time. During the 1st World War it was a naval hospital with the latter part of the 1900’s it was a boarding school for boys. Nowadays your visit can include exploring the breath-taking gardens and watching a falconry display.
1. Brodie Castle – Once home to one of Scotland’s most prominent families, Brodie castle truly takes you back in time. This impressive 16th-century castle was home to the Brodie family for over 400 years. Not just a stunning castle, the beautiful gardens surrounding the castle are not to be missed, with over 100 different types of daffodil, it is very impressive throughout the springtime.
Written by Simone Robertson, Custom Tour Planner