Best Castles near Edinburgh

Best Edinburgh Castles-Linlithgow-Palace

Visit Edinburgh and you’ll be hard-pressed not to visit it’s most famous historic castles but why stick to the typical tourist trail just visiting Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse when there are so many more castles to see and enjoy! See where James V and Mary Queen of Scots were born, spend a night (or longer) in medieval grandeur, admire the Scottish tower houses, and see the beauty of the Scottish countryside all of it right on Edinburgh’s doorstep.

The best 15 castles to visit in and near Edinburgh

1. Edinburgh Castle

Castles in Edinburgh-Edinburgh-Castle

This historical fortress and royal palace dominate the city’s skyline from its position atop Castle Rock. One of the oldest fortified palaces in Europe, it is the castle where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI who became King of Scotland at 13 months of age and who later united Scotland and England. Visit this top tourist attraction to learn the history, admire the interior and exterior architecture, as well as the jewels in the crown room. Also onsite is the National War Museum.

Where: Edinburgh
When: 12th century
Style:
Gothic / Renaissance
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from 9.30 am

2. Palace of Holyroodhouse

Best castles in Edinburgh-Palace-of-Holyroodhouse

The official residence of the Queen when she is in Scotland on official business, Holyrood Palace was originally built as a monastery in the 12th century before becoming a royal residence in the 15th century. Learn all about the Kings and Queens of Scotland who has lived here including Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie as you take a tour to see the state apartments, the throne room, and the great gallery before heading outside to admire the gardens and the ruins of the beautiful Holyrood Abbey.

Where: Edinburgh
When: 17th century
Style: Neoclassical
Open for visit: Open daily from 9.30 am unless the Queen is in residence. Check website for dates of closures.

You might also be interested in: Famous castles to visit in Scotland.

3. Craigmillar Castle

Edinburgh Castles-Craigmillar-Castle

The lesser-known of the 3 castles in Edinburgh itself, Craigmillar Castle sits in ruin just 3 miles from the city centre and built 1 mile outside of the original city walls, was somewhat of a country retreat for royals of the past. Walk in the footsteps of Mary Queen of Scots as you wander the ruins for it was here that Mary fled after the murder of Rizzio and where the plot was hatched to murder Lord Darnley.

Where: Edinburgh
When:
14th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes, Open 9.30 am-5.30 pm April-September and 10 am-4 pm October-March. Closed 25th, 26th December and 1st, 2nd January.

4. Liberton Tower

Famous Castles in Edinburgh-Liberton-Tower

Built by the Dalmahoy family, of whose family crest can still be seen, this refurbished 4-storey square tower house provides accommodation with stunning views across Edinburgh for those who wish to enjoy their very own medieval fortress for a night or two!

Where: Liberton, Edinburgh
When:
15th century
Style:
Lothian
Open for visit:
Only for those who book it for accommodation

5. Lauriston Castle

Best Edinburgh Castles-Lauriston-Castle

With views overlooking the Firth of Forth, this tower house turned manor house turned museum (quite a hidden gem!) contains stunning Edwardian interiors with historical costumed performances that help bring history to life. Enjoy the extensive grounds which are open daily if you can’t make it on a guided tour of the house itself.

Where: Edinburgh
When:
16th and 19th century
Style:
Jacobean
Open for visit:
Yes, by guided tour only. April-October Monday-Thursday at 2 pm, weekends at 2 pm, 2.30 pm, 3 pm, and 3.30 pm. November-March weekends only at 2 pm and 3 pm.

6. Rosslyn Castle

Castles in Edinburgh-Rosslyn-Castle

This partially ruined castle is an imposing sight, surrounded by the ancient woodland of Roslin Glen together with the restored five-storey mansion of the St Clair family which is now used for holiday accommodation. Be sure to visit the remarkable 15th century Rosslyn Chapel with its state-of-the-art visitor centre which is a short walk away from the castle and allows you to admire the surroundings in more detail.

Where: Roslin, Midlothian
When:
14th-16th century
Style:
Gothic
Open for visit:
Mansion access for guests only. Chapel and ruins open to the public.

7. Crichton Castle

Best castles in Edinburgh-Crichton-Castle

Home to Medieval lords and Renaissance noblemen (including Mary Queen of Scots 3rd husband, James Hepburn the 4th Earl of Bothwell) wander around the atmospheric ruined castle of Crichton and admire the architecture as well as the panoramic views overlooking the River Tyne.

Where: Crichton, Midlothian
When:
14th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from April-September 9.30 am-5.30 pm

8. Blackness Castle

Edinburgh Castles-Blackness-Castle

This impressive-looking fortress that, as well as being a residence for the noble Crichton family, was also used as a state prison is in the shape of a boat hence being known as ‘The Boat That Never Sailed’. If you’re thinking it looks familiar, it was used as the filming location for Fort William in season one of Outlander and also stood in as Holyrood Palace in the 2018 film Mary Queen of Scots.

Where: Blackness, Linlithgow
When:
15th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily from April-September 9.30 am-5.30 pm

9. Midhope Castle

Famous Castles in Edinburgh-Midhope-Castle

This picturesque 5-storey tower house is located on the private estate of Hopetoun and was another filming location for the TV series Highlander in which it featured as Lallybroch. Though derelict inside, it remains an impressive sight from the outside and can be walked all the way around.

Where: Abercorn, South Queensferry
When:
15th century
Style:
Open for visit:
Exterior only. Open April-October 9 am-5 pm and November-December 10 am-3 pm unless closed for estate activities. Visitors must purchase a vehicle pass from the Hopetoun Farm Shop before proceeding to the castle.

10. Aberdour Castle

Best Edinburgh Castles-Aberdour-Castle

Dating back to 1200, Aberdour Castle is one of the oldest masonry castles still standing in Scotland. Now a striking ruin, this tower house castle was once the luxurious home of Regent Morton who was the most powerful man in Scotland between 1572-1578. As well as the ruins and the painted ceiling from the 1600s, visitors can also enjoy a walk around the beautiful pleasure gardens.

Where: Easter Aberdour, Fife
When:
12th century
Style:
Renaissance
Open for visit:
Open daily April-September 9.30am-5.30pm and October 10am-4pm. November-March open Saturday-Wednesday 10 am-4 pm.

11. Dalhousie Castle

Edinburgh Castles-Dalhousie-Castle

Said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland, Dalhousie Castle has been turned into a luxurious spa hotel located within 11 acres of beautiful wooded parkland. Once the seat of the Earls of Dalhousie, the chieftains of Clan Ramsay, Dalhousie Castle ensures a romantic getaway on the banks of the River Esk.

Where: Bonnyrigg, Midlothian
When:
13th and 15th century
Style:
Renaissance
Open for visit:
Only for guests who book accommodation.

12. Preston Tower

Famous Castles in Edinburgh-Preston-Tower

This 4-storey L-plan tower house keep stands in ruin today and can only be admired from the exterior but you can still catch a glimpse of some of its unusual features. Built-in the 1400’s by the Hamiltons of Rossavon, Fingalton and Preston, Preston Tower was attacked twice throughout history, the 2nd time by Oliver Cromwell’s forces.

Where: Prestonpans, East Lothian
When:
15th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Exterior only, dawn to dusk.

13. Linlithgow Palace

Best Edinburgh Castles-Linlithgow-Palace

A principle royal residence for the 15th and 16th Scottish monarchs and the birthplace of James V and Mary Queen of Scots, Linlithgow Palace is an impressive ruin located beside a beautiful loch. The palace was used as a retreat to break the journey when moving between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.

Where: Linlithgow, West Lothian
When: 12th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes. Open daily April-September 9.30 am-5.30 pm and October-March 10 am-4 pm

14. Tantallon Castle

Castles in Edinburgh-Tantallon-Castle

Built for the Red Douglas dynasty, Tantallon Castle enjoys spectacular views overlooking Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth from its clifftop position where you can climb the battalions. Its massive red sandstone curtain wall is the best example from the 1300s anywhere in Scotland and visitors can also admire an exact copy of the gun used to defend against James IV and James V in the East Tower.

Where: North Berwick, East Lothian
When:
14th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Open daily April-September 9.30 am-5.30 pm and October-March 10 am-4 pm

15. Dirleton Castle

Best castles in Edinburgh-Dirleton-Castle

Located within beautiful gardens and grounds are the ruins of this picturesque Medieval fortress. Dirleton Castle was home to three noble families over its 400-year history, falling into ruin after it was partially destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s forces in 1650. Today, visitors can see the pit prison, the chapel, the storage vaults, the dovecot, and admire the world’s longest herbaceous border.

Where: Dirleton, East Lothian
When:
12th century
Style:
Medieval
Open for visit:
Yes open daily April-September 9.30 am-5.30 pm and October-March 10 am-4 pm. Closed 25th, 26th December and 1st, 2nd January.

 

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