Historical, magnificent and revered for their grandeur, Scottish castles are just as essential to the country’s stunning landscape as its lochs and dramatic mountains.
Whether you’re dreaming of adventuring to Scotland or making actual plans to go there, these iconic Scottish castles should definitely make your list of must-see destinations.
Since 1437, Edinburgh has proudly been the capital of Scotland and is home to the Scottish Parliament. It’s also home to Edinburgh Castle, which is arguably one of the most famous of all Scottish Castles.
Interestingly, though, the castle often used to be under control of the English. Prior to the 10th Century, Edinburgh itself was controlled by Danelaw and Anglo-Saxons.
Today, the castle’s ownership is no longer up for dispute. Instead, people from around the world come to marvel at its sprawling infrastructure rather than to argue supremacy over its jurisdiction.
If you’re lucky enough to visit, it will surely take your breath away before you even approach it, as it’s situated with authority, towering above the city of Edinburgh where it sits atop an extinct volcano.
It takes about three hours to tour the castle in full, which houses the Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny and a medieval bombard collection known as Mons Meg. Every day at one o’clock, you can attend the ceremonial gun firing, too.
More on this magnificent castle here: https://englandexplore.com/edinburgh-castle
Eilean Donan Castle
Perhaps one of the most photographed castles in the world, this one looks out over a small tidal island known as Eilean Donan.
Even without the castle, Eilean Donan is a unique location as it’s a place where three sea lochs meet (a “loch” being a narrow arm of the sea). The lochs, which are called Duich, Long and Alsh, come together in the Highlands of Scotland right in view of the Eilean Donan Castle.
The first portion of the castle was erected in the 13th century as defences were being put into place to protect the lands from the Vikings, who were raiding and settling much of the North of Scotland during that time.
To this day, the castle truly dominates the island, positioned only a kilometre away from Dornie, a small Scottish village.
However, the picturesque landscape and jutting castle walls surely steal most of the attention away from surrounding villages like Dornie, as the castle is regularly featured in TV shows and movies.
Movie buffs might recognise the castle from the film ‘Highlander’ for example.
If your fairytales leave you yearning to wander grand castle halls and marvel over fine art and tapestries, the Glamis Castle may be more suited to your tastes.
Some of its earliest publicity came in the form of a feature role in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, and its continued admiration through the centuries leaves us with a castle that still appears livable, well-kempt, and suited for royalty here in modern times.
In fact, it’s the present-day home to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne and has been since 1372. As visitors pass through the royal gates, you’ll be instantly taken back in time by the red sandstone walls, pointed turrets and the battlements that crown the towers.
Formal gardens surround the castle, making the grounds just as memorable and photo-worthy as the historic interior.
During a guided tour, historians will walk you through the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots, along with James V, Bonnie Dundee, the Old Jacobite Pretender and the lives of other colourful characters, all while telling about James VIII and the fate of Janet Douglas.
You’ll also get to explore the bitter-sweet life of Mary Eleanor Bowes. Basically, you should plan for a visit you won’t soon forget — and be sure to bring your camera, too.
More on this magnificent castle here: https://englandexplore.com/glamis-castle
While it’s impressive to hear how places like Glamis Castle have remained royal residences for so long, with that comes modern improvements and changes that impact some visitors’ immersion as they take a step back in time.
Perhaps that’s why Stirling Castle is one of the most renowned of all Scottish Castles.
Unlike other castles, which have unfortunately been left to ruin or others updated as centuries pass by, Stirling Castle has been meticulously restored down to every original, glorious Renaissance detail.
Costumed servants, bodyguards and other staff bring history to life for visitors as they learn about its rich past.
Peaceful and sunny, the Queen Anne Gardens sit at the south end of the castle grounds. Inside, The Great Kitchens can be watched mid-service as they prepare for a royal banquet.
Throughout the year, various events are held for visitors of all ages, making Stirling Castle a place anyone can get excited about.
The history of the town and castle is dominated by the Battle of Stirling Bridge between the English and the Scots, lead by William Wallace, depicted in the movie Braveheart.
A monument to Wallace overlooks the town and is a great place from which to view the castle.
We have a separate post on this castle here: Stirling Castle.
Spiral staircases, a bottle-necked dungeon and classic turrets make Braemar Castle appear as though it’s come straight out of a storybook.
The chief of Clan Farquharson currently possesses the castle, but it is leased to a local charity, which opens it up to public viewings. It’s also the only community-managed castle in all the United Kingdom.
With the goal of “saving the past for the future,” the castle features fully furnished rooms and views of the surrounding Cairngorms National Park.
Many of the windows remain protected by the original heavy iron grilles that were put into place as a protective measure against the Farquharsons, who were rising in power during the early 17th Century when the castle was constructed.
In 1689, John Farquharson attacked and burned the castle during the Jacobite rising.
For those passionate about Scottish castles and their history, you can also view the site of nearby Kindrochit Castle, which dates back to the 11th century AD.
Much archaeological work has been done in the area to dig up old ruins, battlements and other remains and the findings are displayed in museums throughout the area.