It is estimated that there were once up to 3,000 castles in Scotland – nearly one for every 100 square miles. It’s tough for us to narrow our favourites of those still standing down to just 10. But here’s our pick of the ones which never fail to leave us breathless.
Visually one of the most recognized romantic and iconic castles in all of Scotland. Eileen Donan is set in the stunning Scottish Highlands and is one of the most photographed in the country. Strategically located on its own little island overlooking the stunning Isle of Skye, visitors can wander through most of the fabulous internal rooms, viewing period furniture, Jacobean artifacts and displays of weaponry and fine arts.
The castle is of great historical importance in Scotland as it was once the favored residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held celebrations in the castle. Knights and nobles once flocked to the castle to revel in its grandeur and beautiful gardens. Today, guests can meet costumed characters in the roles of bodyguards, court officials, maids of honor, etc. Families enjoy the palace vaults where children can try activities such as dressing in period costumes and playing medieval instruments. Not too far from Edinburgh and Glasgow, it’s a great visit for first-time travelers in Scotland that are staying in the larger cities.
A must-see for any traveler visiting the medieval and charming capital city of Edinburgh. The castle is a world famous icon and a World Heritage Site, and the most famous of Scottish castles for obvious reasons. The oldest part, St. Margaret’s Chapel, dates from the 12th century– the Great Hall was erected by James IV around 1510 and the castle houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O’Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland.
Urquhart Castle offers a taste of Scotland’s dramatic Highlands– with 1,000 years of drama and history, guests experience a glimpse of the medieval life and stunning views over Loch Ness. The Grand Tower watches over the iconic loch (lake) where guests may spot a view of the mythical Loch Ness Monster, Nessie. Urquhart’s stories can be told through a collection of artifacts left by its residents, historic replicas and more. This is where St. Columba is said to have worked miracles in the 6th century and where acts of chivalry and defiance provided inspiration during the War of Independence.
One of Scotland’s most romantic castles (known as “The Pearl of the North”) — it’s located in the heart of Speyside, one of Scotland’s famed whisky regions and is one of the few private castles in the country that has been lived in continuously by the family which founded it, the Macpherson-Grants. The castle shop stocks a wide variety of great Scottish goods, including luxury cashmere, family tartans and jewelry.
A charming and romantic 12th century castle. The renowned gardens include an Arts and Crafts herbaceous border has been authenticated by the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s longest.
Home of the Thanes of Cawdor, this 14th century castle is set in the Highlands, about 5 miles southwest of Nairn. Originally belonging to Clan Cawdor, it was passed to the Campbells in the 16th century and is famed for its connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The castle’s interior allows for guests to view highlights such as the impressive Drawing Room, Tapestry Bedroom and the Dining Room (which includes 19th century antique cooking tools and furniture).
A monument to Scottish heritage, Glamis Castle is the family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne and the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, along with the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. Every room has its own story and the evolution of the castle and its legendary tales and secrets are brought to life once you step inside.
On the shores of Loch Fyne, Inverary Castle & Gardens is one of Scotland’s finest. The ancestral seat of the Dukes of Argyll, Chiefs of the Clan Campbell whose family have resided in Inverary since the early 15th century, the castle was designed by Robert Morris and decorated by Robert Mylne. Its fairytale facade houses an equally enchanting interior. There is a tearoom that is quite popular amongst visitors.
A remarkable vision of turrets and battlements, Culzean Castle is surrounded by surging seas, secret gardens and lush forests. The castle is set on a dramatic cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde and has been associated with the Kennedy family since the 14th century and was converted by Robert Adam between 1777 and 1792. Culzean also has a strong link with President Eisenhower, as the top-floor apartment was presented to him for his lifetime in recognition of his role during World War II.