Scotland

Best castles in Scotland

With such a rich and fascinating history, Scotland has always had a romantic aura of a legend surrounding it. This is the place where medieval fortresses, clifftop ruins, ancient abbeys, and other architectural and natural wonders form a unique and dramatic landscape. There is nothing, however, that contributes more to this aura of the country than the numerous Scottish castles that dot the rolling hills and mountains. This is a list of the most stunning castles to visit in Scotland if you want to enjoy the architectural and historical splendour of this small but packed country.

 

30 Famous Scottish castles to visit

1.Edinburgh Castle

Castles in Scotland EDINBURGH-CASTLE

For the capital of a country famous for its castles, Edinburgh does not disappoint. Sitting in the centre of the city on a rocky hilltop, Edinburgh Castle is, in fact, the most visited castle in all of Scotland. The history of the castle goes back many centuries, and it is heavily intertwined with the history of Scotland itself, being the setting of many historical episodes and events. This is where the Crown Jewels of Scotland are now stored, after being hidden away for centuries. On the grounds of the castle, visitors can now find the 12th-century St Margaret chapel and several museums.

Where: Castlehill, Edinburgh

When: 11th Century

Style: It presents a mix of architectural styles, thanks to the many additions and renovations over the centuries.

Open for visit: 1st April to 30th September: 9.30 am-6 pm, daily

1st October to 31st March: 9.30 am-5 pm, daily

You might want to check out: The best castles near Edinburgh. 

2. Braemar Castle

Best castles in Scotland BRAEMAR-CASTLE

Built as a family residence by the Earl of Mar at the beginning of the 17th-century, Braemar Castle is an iconic architectural sight with a lovely history. Besides being a private residence, it served other goals as well over the years, being at times hunting lodge and even fortress and garrison. Situated in the Cairngorms National Park, this fairy tale structure with imposing turrets is now home to the Farquharson family. The interiors include collections of personal items of historic value, along with period furniture and memorabilia.

Where: Braemar in Aberdeenshire

When: 1628

Style: Gothic Revival

Open for visit: April to June & September to October: 10 am-5 pm, Wednesday-Sunday

July & August: 10am-5pm, daily

3. Balmoral Castle

Scottish Castles BALMORAL-CASTLE

Located 50 miles away from Aberdeen, in the north-eastern part of Scotland, Balmoral Castle has been a private holiday home of the royal family since the mid-19th–century. Prince Albert purchased the original historic castle in 1852 but decided to replace it with new construction of a larger size, and he made personal contributions to the final design. Today, the large estate, surrounded by thousands of acres of protected woodland, welcomes visitors with guided tours, a gift shop, a café, and various exhibitions.

Where: Ballater

When: 1856

Style: Scottish baronial architecture

Open for visit: April to July – 10.00 am-5.00 pm, daily

4. Blair Castle

Famous Castles in Scotlan BLAIR-CASTLEd

Home of the Atholl family since the 13th-century, Blair Castle has been the scene of many turbulent historical events, but also of many uneventful and happy family moments. During its 700-year history, the castle has suffered many style modifications, according to the needs and preferences of its residents. Built in the Scottish baronial architecture, the castle presents many 18th-century features. The grounds of the castle include the gorgeous walled Hercules Garden and the ruins of St Bride’s Kirk.

Where: 6 miles from Pitlochry

When: 13th Century

Style: Scottish Baronial architecture

Open for visit:  30th March to 30th October: 9.30 am-5.30 pm, daily

5. Inveraray Castle

Best Scottish Castles INVERARAY-CASTLE

Built-in the 18th-century to replace an older castle and to serve as the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, Inveraray Castle is an example of the Gothic Revival architectural style. Set in a picturesque location on the shore of Loch Fyne, in western Scotland, the castle can be easily reached from Glasgow or Edinburgh. Besides the gorgeous façade and interiors, the castle is surrounded by acres of lovely gardens. Although open to visitors, a section of the castle still functions as the private residence of the current Duke of Argyll and his family.

Where: Inveraray, western Scotland

When: 18th Century

Style: Gothic Revival

Open for visit: 1st April to 31st October: 10.00am-5.45pm, daily

6. Cawdor Castle

Best Scottish Castles CAWDOR-CASTLE

Set in the romantic Highlands, a few miles west of Nairn, Cawdor Castle was built in the 15th-century to serve as a residence for the Thanes of Cawdor family, which still owns the castle today. One of the major attractions of the castle is the unique art collection of 20th-century paintings, drawings, and sculptural works, but also the beautiful gardens. The castle is also famous for its connection to Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”, where it appears as the residence of King Macbeth. However, the events in the play take place in the 11th-century, when the castle hadn’t been built yet. Visitors will find a gift shop, a book shop, a restaurant, and a snack bar on the grounds.

Where: Cawdor, Nairn

When: Late 14th century

Style: Baronial style.

Open for visit: 13th April to 6th October: 10.00 am-5: 30 pm, daily

7. Eilean Donan Castle

Castles in Scotland EILEAN-DONAN-CASTLE

Eilean Donan Castle is, undoubtedly, one of the most stunning castles to see in Scotland. Besides being set in the scenic landscape of the Highlands, the castle was built on a little island in the middle of a sea loch, and it’s only reachable via an old stone footbridge. Although severely damaged in the 17th-century, the castle was restored in the early 20th-century and has maintained its magnetism. The views over the Isle of Skye are a great bonus for visitors. The interiors are equally fascinating, with displays of various artefacts and weaponry.

Where: Dornie

When: 13th Century

Style: Baronial

Open for visit: 1st February to 23rd March: 10.00am-4.00pm, daily

24th March to 26th October: 10.00am-6.00pm, daily

July & August: Opens at 9:00 am

June & September: Opens at 9:30am

27th Oct to 30th Dec: 10.00 am – 4.00 pm

8. Dunnottar Castle

Best castles in Scotland DUNNOTTAR-CASTLE

Although located in the remote regions of the Highlands, Dunnottar Castle is one of the best castles to visit in Scotland. Sitting on a high clifftop overlooking the North Sea, the castle benefits from this dramatic setting, which adds an otherworldly charm to it.  Built around the 15th- or 16th-century, the castle’s ruins have been restored, and public access is allowed. With the sea as a backdrop, the Dunnottar is a captivating place, only a few miles away from Stonehaven, a small town in Aberdeenshire.

Where: South of Stonehaven

When: 15th Century

Style: Baronial

Open for visit: 1st April to 30th September: 9.00 am – 5.30 pm,

1st October to 31st March: Opens at 10.00 am

9. Glamis Castle

Scottish Castles GLAMIS-CASTLE

From a historical standpoint, Glamis Castle is one of the most famous castles in Scotland, and it’s located an hour northeast of Edinburgh. The most known resident of the castle is Janet Douglas, or Lady Glamis, who was accused of witchcraft in the Middle Ages. Today, the castle is most popular for being the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. The castle is now the residence of the Earls of Kinghorne and Strathmore, but both the interiors and the lovely gardens are accessible to the public.

Where: besides the village of Glamis

When: 14th Century

Style: Baronial

Open for visit: 10.00am-5.30pm, daily

10. Stirling Castle

Famous Castles in Scotland STIRLING-CASTLE

Stirling Castle is among the largest and best castles in Scotland, and it should be a must-see on your list. Easy to reach from either Edinburgh or Glasgow, the luxurious property is famous for taking part in many important episodes in Scottish history, including the Independence Wars, which is why it is seen as a symbol of Scotland. This is also where the Scottish Royals were crowned. Today, the fortress’s former days of glory are revived through parades and historic plays where costumed characters walk the grounds accompanied by medieval music. The construction seen today is from the 15th-century, although the oldest parts are from the 12th-century.

Where: Stirling

When: 12th Century

Style: Baronial

Open for visit: 1st April to 30th September: 9.30 am-6.00 pm, daily

1st October to 31st March: 9.30 am-5.00 pm, daily

11. Dunrobin Castle

Best Scottish Castles DUNROBIN-CASTLE

Located in the northern Highlands near Dornoch, Dunrobin Castle is the largest castle in the area. Dating back to the early 13th-century, the castle was the residence of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland. Besides the interesting history of the place, visitors are mostly intrigued by the stunning architecture, with the exterior featuring elements of the French and Gothic Revival style and the interior preserving 13th-century elements. Visitors can explore both the castle and the surrounding gardens and woodland.

Where: Golspie

When: 1845

Style: Scottish baronial/French Renaissance

Open for visit: April, May, & October: 10.30am-4.30pm, daily

June to September: 10.00am-5.00pm, daily

12. Floors Castle

Castles in Scotland FLOORS-CASTLE

The largest inhabited castle in Scotland, Floors Castle can be found in the south-east of the country, in a picturesque setting with views over the River Tweed. Built at the beginning of the 18th-century, Floors was meant from the beginning to become the extravagant residence of the Dukes of Roxburgh. The splendid interiors filled with art collections, tapestries, and valuable antiques are a testament to the castle’s rich history. The Duke and Duchess of Roxburgh live at the castle together with their family, but the castle and the surrounding areas are open to visitors.

Where: Kelso

When: 1721

Style: Βaronial

Open for visit: April to September: 10.30am-5.00pm, daily

October to March: 10.30am-4.00pm, daily

13. Fyvie Castle

Best castles in Scotland FYVIE-CASTLE

Fyvie Castle is another impressive Scottish landmark. Located in Aberdeenshire, the castle has an 800-year history, and it is filled with important artefacts and antiques that talk about its former days. Besides the captivating interiors, the castle is a stunning sight in itself, with its four-story-high Tower House and 18th-century walled gardens. What makes Fyvie Castle so attractive to most visitors is a legend which says that the castle is haunted by a woman whose remains were found in one of the chambers during the renovation work in the early 20th-century.

Where: Turriff

When: 13th Century

Style: Scottish Baronial

Open for visit: 1st April to 30th October: 11.00am-4.00pm

14. Kilchurn Castle

Scottish Castles KILCHURN-CASTLE

Kilchurn Castle is a Scottish castle that impresses with its scenic setting. Built on a rocky peninsula at the end of Loch Awe, in Argyll, the castle boasts impressive views from the top. Although they haven’t been restored, the medieval ruins are captivating, especially with verdant peaks and the loch as a backdrop. No wonder Kilchurn Castle is one of the most photographed locations in Scotland. There are no restrictions for visits, but access is difficult due to the lack of proper roads.

Where: Lochawe, Dalmally

When: 15th Century

Style: Scottish Baronial

Open for visit: 1st April to 30th September: 9.30 am-5.30 pm, daily

15. Brodie Castle

Famous Castles in Scotland BRODIE-CASTLE

A 16th-century architectural marvel, Brodie Castle is located near Forres, in Morayshire and is part of the National Trust for Scotland. The former residence of the Brodie family, the castle houses important art collections and fine furniture in its exquisite interiors. In the springtime, the grounds of the castle are covered with daffodils, which have become a symbol of the place. One of the most interesting attractions on the grounds is The Playful Garden.

Where:  Brodie

When: 1567

Style: Scottish Baronial

Open for visit: April to October: 10.00am-5.00pm, daily

November to March: 10:00 am-4.pm, daily

16. Dirleton Castle

Best Scottish Castles DIRLETON-CASTLE

Like other famous castles on the list, Dirleton Castle has always been an important part in the history of Scotland. Set on a rocky ridge near North Berwick in East Lothian, this 12th-century romantic castle is a charming construction surrounded by lovely gardens, including a Victorian garden and a herbaceous border. An interesting fact is that the herbaceous border is the longest in the world, according to the Guinness Book of Records.

Where: Dirleton, North Berwick

When: 1240

Style:  Μedieval

Open for visit: 1st April to 30th September: 9.30 am-5.30 pm, daily

1st October to 31st March: 10 am-4 pm, daily

17. Castle Fraser

Castles in Scotland CASTLE-FRASER

One of the most impressive-looking castles in Scotland, Castle Fraser is a five-story-high tower house located in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. The construction began in 1575 and ended in 1636, but historical evidence suggests an earlier tower structure existed there before. The castle is set amid hundreds of acres of landscaped grounds and woodlands. From the tower, visitors get panoramic views of the surrounding nature. The rooms are adorned with works of art and portraits of the Fraser family and were renovated in the first half of the 19th-century.

Where: Sauchen

When: 1575

Style: Scottish Baronial

Open for visit: 1st April to 31st October: 10.00–4.00, Monday to Saturday

10.00am–4.00pm, Sunday

2nd November to 15th December: 11.00am- 2.00pm, Saturday & Sunday

18. Caerlaverock Castle

Best castles in Scotland CAERLAVEROCK-CASTLE

Caerlaverock Castle is one of the most unique places not just in Scotland, but in the world as well. Set in a natural park, this gorgeous castle was built in the shape of a triangle, with imposing towers and sandstone walls that stand out in contrast with the verdant vegetation. Located near Glencaple, this castle attracts huge crowds of visitors due to its fairytale-like design. Dating from the mid-13th-century, Caerlaverock Castle was repeatedly sieged and left in ruins, but the Maxwell family built a new residence inside the castle walls in the 17th-century. The contrast between the medieval walls and the Renaissance touches of the interiors is surely able to captivate imaginations.

Where: Caerlaverock

When: 13th Century

Style: Μedieval

Open for visit: 1st April to 30th September: 9.30 am-5.30 pm, daily

1st October to 31st March: 10 am-4 pm, daily

19. Blackness Castle

Scottish Castles BLACKNESS-CASTLE

Located near Linlithgow in West Lothian, Blackness Castle belongs to one of the most influential Scottish families, the Crichtons. The castle was built in the 15th-century following a unique design, and its nautical shape has led to increasing popularity, especially after serving as a film location for Hamlet. From the interiors, visitors can enjoy spectacular views of the Fife and the Firth of Forth. Besides being a royal castle, Blackness Castle was once a prison and a military fortress.

Where: Blackness

When: 15th Century

Style: Medieval

Open for visit:  April to September: 9.30 am-5.30 pm, daily

October to March: 10 am-4 pm, daily

20. Duart Castle

Famous Castles in Scotland DUART-CASTLE

Duart Castle was built in the 13th-century on the Isle of Mull in a strategic position from where it controlled the navigation on the loch. For over 400 years, the castle was the seat of the Maclean family. At the end of the 18th-century, it was left in ruin, but a descendant of the Maclean clan restored it to its former shape at the beginning of the 1900s. Besides the intriguing dungeons and the magnificent interiors, the castle is popular for its scenic surroundings.

Where: Isle of Mull

When: 13th Century

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: 1st April to 1st May: 11.00am-4.00pm, daily

1st May to 18th October: 10.30 am-5 pm, daily

21. St. Andrew’s Castle

Best Scottish Castles ST-ANDREWS-CASTLE

Sitting on a rocky promontory in a dramatic landscape at the North Sea in Fife, St. Andrew’s Castle is one of the most beautiful places in Scotland, with a fascinating history behind its ruined walls. Dating from the 13th-century, this was the castle of the Archbishops of St Andrews, a place of great importance for the Scottish church in medieval times. In the 16th-century, St Andrew’s Castle was famous for its dungeons which housed one of the roughest prisons in Britain.

Where: St Andrews

When: 1200

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: 1st April to 30th September: 9.30 am-5.30 pm, daily

1st October to 31st March: 10 am-4 pm, daily

22. Dunvegan Castle

Castles in Scotland DUNVEGAN-CASTLE

Located on the stunning Isle of Skye, Dunvegan Castle has been sitting majestically on the shore of Loch Dunvegan since the 13th-century. The home of the Chiefs of the MacLeod clan for the past 800 years, the castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in the country. The ancestral structure hosts impressive fine art collections and is surrounded by a charming garden. Guided tours and boat cruises are available on the grounds.

Where: MacLeod Estate

When: 13th Century

Style: Medieval

Open for visit: 1st April to 15th October: 10 am-5.30 pm, daily

23. Culzean Castle

Best castles in Scotland Culzean-Castle

One of the popular tourist attractions in Scotland, Culzean Castle impresses visitors with its stunning clifftop setting and beautiful surroundings. The unique neo-classical Georgian architecture is also a beloved feature. The castle is located near Maybole on the rugged Ayrshire coastline, and the estate is comprised of the Culzean Country Park with 600 acres of formal gardens and woodlands.  Built-in the 18th-century, the castle does not have the rich history of other earlier Scottish castles, but it compensates for it with its opulence. Luxurious features were repeatedly added throughout the years.

Where: Maybole

When: 1777 – 1792

Style: Gothic

Open for visit:  30th March to 27th October: 10.30 am-5 pm, daily

24. Craigievar Castle

Scottish Castles Craigievar-Castle

Craigievar Castle sits near the Grampian Mountains in Aberdeenshire. Built in the Scottish Baronial style in the 17th-century, the castle served as the seat of the Sempill family for two centuries, but it was donated in 1963 to the National Trust of Scotland. The interesting architecture featuring turrets and round towers leads visitors to see in Craigievar Castle a place taken out of storybooks.

Where: Craigievar

When: 1626

Style: Scottish Baronial

Open for visit:  30th March to 30th September: 10.30 am–4.00 pm, daily

5th October to 27th October: 10.30 am–3.00 pm, Saturday & Sunday

25. Thirlestane Castle

Famous Castles in Scotland Thirlestane-Castle

Built as the seat of Duke Lauderdale, Thirlestane Castle is a three-story structure with impressive towers, whose construction began in the 16th-century. Significant changes were made in the 17th- and 19th-centuries, which transformed it into one of the most refined inhabited castles in the country. Set amid expansive gardens and woodlands, this charming castle has impressive interiors with plasterwork ceilings considered some of the most exquisite in Europe. Located in Lauder, only half an hour south of Edinburgh, Thirlestane Castle is now the home of the Maitland family.

Where: Lauder

When: 17th Century

Style: Scottish baronial

Open for visit: 1st April to 26th September: 10 am-4 pm, Sundays to Thursdays

26. Castle Stalker

Best Scottish Castles Castle-Stalker

Castles and lochs form an impressive sight together, which is why the Scottish castles located near a loch are considered the most picturesque. This is the case for Castle Stalker as well. Built on a small island on Loch Laich in the 14th-century, Castle Stalker is a beautiful four-story tower house that served as the seat of Clan MacDougall for centuries. The present structure dates, however, from around the middle of the 15th-century. Although private property, the castle is open to visits.

Where: Appin

When: 1320

Style: Baronial

Open for visit: Only by booking.

27. Doune Castle

Castles in Scotland Doune-Castle

Built-in the 13th-century, Doune Castle suffered severe damage in a war. Restored at the beginning of the 15th-century, the castle later passed into the possession of the Crown. For a while, the royal family used it as a hunting lodge, but it was ruined gradually by other wars. Other restorations followed, and now the castle is maintained by the state. Doune Castle is half an hour away by bus from Stirling.

Where: Doune

When: 1400

Style: Medieval

Open for visit:  1st April to 30th September: 9.30 am-5.30 pm, daily

1st October to 31st March: 10 am-4 pm, daily

28. Threave Castle

Best castles in Scotland Threave-Castle

One of the top castles in Scotland, Threave Castle was built on an island in the middle of River Dee. Now under the administration of Historic Scotland, the castle was built at the end of the 14th-century by Lord of Galloway. Threave castle has a strategic position which helped it maintain its integrity under various sieges. Visitors must take a short walk through grass fields and woodland to reach the shore of the River Dee. From here, the castle can only be reached by boat.

Where: Dumfries

When: 1370

Style: Scottish Baronial

Open for visit: 1st April to 30th September: 10 am-4.30 pm, daily

1st October to 31st October: 10 am-3.30 pm, daily

29. Ballindalloch Castle

Scottish Castles Ballindalloch-Castle

Ballindalloch Castle is a 16-century castle that belongs to the Macpherson-Grant family, who has lived there for centuries. Originally a fortified tower house, Ballindoalloch was later expanded and transformed into a luxurious country mansion.  Although privately-owned, the castle is one of the most renowned places in Scotland and welcomes visitors in the summer months. Situated in Speyside, the castle is known as “The Pearl of the North” due to its air of grandeur and refinement.

Where: Banffshire

When: 1546

Style: Baronial

Open for visit: 19th April to 30th September: 10.00 am-5.00 pm, daily except Saturday

30. Urquhart Castle

Famous Castles in Scotland Urquhart-Castle

Located beside the Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland, Urquhart Castle is one of the most famous Scottish castles, due to its association with the mysterious legends surrounding Loch Ness. The ruins visitors see today are mostly from the 13th-century, with significant additions being made up until the 16th-century. The castle played an important in Scotland’s war of independence due to its strategic position beside the loch. Now in ruins after being abandoned in the 17th-century, the castle is still an impressive sight, especially as it offers spectacular views of Loch Ness from its Grand Tower. A large visitor centre has been set up on the grounds of the castle, which includes a shop and a restaurant, besides guided tours.

Where: Drumnadrochit

When: 1509

Style: Gothic

Open for visit: April to September: 9.30 am- 6 pm, daily

June to August: 9.30 am-8 pm, daily

October: 9.30am-5pm, daily

November to March: 9.30 am-4.30 pm, daily

With such a rich and eventful history, it is no wonder that Scotland has so many historically and architecturally important sights. The numerous castles scattered across the rugged yet scenic Scottish landscape are a powerful glimpse into the unique character of the country. When looking for fairytale locations or for places surrounded by legend, mystery, and historical legacy, there is no better place to visit than a Scottish castle.