The cathedral town of Glasgow, Scotland is a busy and popular city with an eclectic mixture of old and new architecture, with such beauty and charm that thousands of tourists flock here every year. Embodying the intriguing history of the area are the castles in Glasgow, ancient fortresses of times past.
If you’re visiting Glasgow, be sure to visit some of these castles. Scotland is famous for these ancient structures and they make for an ideal day out in the Scottish city.
Most Famous Castle In Glasgow
Stirling Castle is arguably the most famous and one of the best castles in Glasgow, Scotland. It’s a grand castle and is a poignant representation of Scotland’s culture. The oldest parts of it date all the way back to the 7th century so it has seen many lives lived throughout the years.
It has lots of interesting and varied history to it. In 1542, Mary Queen of Scots was crowned there, it oversees the place where William Wallace won a battle against the English during the Wars of Independence, and it’s the place where the oldest football in the world was found!
It’s one of the most well-preserved castles in Scotland (and all of Britain). The Great Hall was even rebuilt using medieval techniques. The imposing architecture of this Glasgow castle is embraced by sweeping grounds.
Previously used as a war office, the castle is now a museum celebrating Scottish history. Buy tickets online before you go to make sure you’ll be able to enter and then take either a guided tour or an audio tour on your mobile phone and enjoy exploring this famous fortress in all its glory.
There’s also a family trail around the Unicorn’s Garden, where you learn about the horses, ponies, and unicorns that play a part in the dynamic history and legends of Stirling.
It’s 40 minutes away by car from Glasgow, or you can get a bus or train from the city. This is one of the most prominent landmarks in Scotland.
Historic Castles In Glasgow
Ten miles south-east of Glasgow, on the bank of the River Clyde, lie the ruins of Bothwell Castle which date back to the 13th century. It is wrapped in layers of history, overseeing the reign of David I, Saint Margaret of Scotland and the Wars of Independence, so is ideal if you’re interested in ancient history.
This castle in Glasgow was constructed by the ancestors of Clan Murray, initially aiming to help defend the river but it was never fully completed due to multiple sieges it underwent. It was left to ruin by the 18th century and is now one of the most popular castles in Glasgow due to its remarkable scale and centuries of history.
It’s just a 25-minute journey by car or a 45-minute train journey from Glasgow Central Station.
What remains of Crookston Castle is a tower house situated on a low-lying hill giving you a magnificent view of Glasgow city from up high. If you can climb up the narrow ladder, you’ll be rewarded with a spellbinding glimpse into what the defenders of this Glasgow castle would’ve seen all those years ago.
Throughout its time, Crookston Castle has seen a multitude of battles dating all the way back to the 12th century and is now the only medieval castle that remains standing directly within the city.
It’s free to enter and since it’s proximal to the gorgeous Pollock Country Park, Crookston Castle makes for a relatively simple but very enjoyable day out, only a 20-minute drive from the city center.
Sandwiched between two gigantic, volcanic rocks, Dumbarton Castle is remembered as the original capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde, which succeeded the Roman Empire’s rule in Britain.
Overlooking the River Clyde, this castle near Glasgow gives impressive views across the water and remains as a token to its life as a garrison fortress long, long ago. It has a tumultuous history of sieges and attacks which will spark your imagination of times past. It has also been visited by notable figures such as William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, and even the legendary Merlin!
It’s a 30-minute drive from Glasgow city center or alternatively, you can take a train there.
Strathaven Castle is south of Glasgow and dates back to the 13th century, with a rich history of famous and affluent families who’ve lived there over time. Only two walls and a single tower remain due to damage by lightning storms and quarrying but it’s worth the visit for its impressive heritage.
Initially, it was built as a wooden structure but later converted into the stone that you can see today. In more recent times, it’s been used as a marketplace and a courthouse.
If you’re a fan of ghost stories, this is a place for you. The legend of the White Lady tells of the haunting of a woman who was trapped inside a small chamber and left there for all eternity.
To drive there, it takes half an hour, or you can get two buses which will take you about an hour and a half.
Beautiful Castles In Glasgow
Dean Castle is one of the most admired castles in Glasgow for its sheer beauty which includes 200 acres of a gorgeous country park. It’s free to access and guided tours are offered that will teach you all about the history of the estate along with the sustainable living that the area prides itself on nowadays.
There are countless walks through the woodland to enjoy, lots of local wildlife, plus an adventure playground inspired by the 14th-century castle to spark off children’s imaginations. There are frequent events such as festivals and family fun days, making this an ideal day out for everyone.
Just a 40-minute drive from Glasgow, go to Dean Castle and experience a fun and varied day out!
This castle near Glasgow is an elegant fortress situated on the estuary of the River Clyde. It was built in 1478 by George Maxwell and was inherited by the infamous Sir Patrick Maxwell in the late 16th century who transformed it into a Renaissance-style mansion.
It’s been open to visitors since 1909 and is an extremely well-preserved piece of architecture offering stunning views of the Firth of Clyde from the top of it.
Drive west on the M8 for 30 minutes to reach Newark Castle.
Balloch Castle stands at the southern end of Loch Lomond as a 19th-century mansion overlooking the site of an ancient castle. None of the original stone remains but the area holds onto its rich heritage of 900 years.
200 acres of woodland, parkland, meadows, gardens, and shorelines make this stunning castle near Glasgow a truly impressive sight to see. There’s also a Chinese Garden, Secret Garden, Pleasure Grounds, and a Fairy Trail established by Sir Patrick Muir.
The easiest way to get there is to take a 40-minute drive to Balloch via the M8.
The enchanting ruins of Craignethan Castle are located in the stunning countryside with a deep medieval and military history. It was built by James Hamilton of Finnart who was one of the most powerful and affluent men in Scotland in the 16th century. He was executed by the order of King James for suspected treason in 1540.
It is rumored to be the inspiration behind many of Sir Walter Scott’s (novelist and poet) writing which is a large attraction for many who come to this Glasgow castle. It also has the best surviving ‘caponier’ in the UK which is a military bunker, so is a great place for anyone interested in British war history.
Just 10 miles from Glasgow city, it takes 40 minutes to drive there.
Perched on the cliffs of Ayrshire, this castle near Glasgow has an incredible view of the Firth of Clyde. Designed in a neoclassical Georgian style, this yellow stone castle is beautiful inside and out.
Along with its stunning appearance, Culzean Castle has lots of interesting history associated with it. It was featured on the Royal Bank of Scotland’s five-pound note. Plus, in 2018, archaeologists discovered a medieval door to underground caves which were thought to have been used by smugglers in olden times!
It’s an hour’s drive from the center of Glasgow.
Medieval Castles In Glasgow
The 15th-century Blackness Castle is the ideal medieval castle overlooking the stunning Firth of Forth and contains a number of features that make it one of the best castles near Glasgow.
It was constructed by Sir George Crichton in the 1400s when the area was an essential area for trade between ports. It’s lovingly known by many as the “ship that never sailed” due to its resemblance to a grand stone ship.
Inside, there’s a prison and armaments depot, and a small exhibition teaching you about the castle’s history. It’s been featured in countless films including Hamlet and the BBC’s Ivanhoe.
40 miles from Glasgow city, it takes around 45 minutes to drive to Blackness Castle.
Towering over Avon Water and Chatelherault Country Park, this castle near Glasgow is a fascinating treasure trove of medieval history. It houses royalty as early as the time of David I in the 1100s and even housed Mary Queen of Scots for a short time after she escaped Loch Leven Castle.
The Great Hall, kitchen and chapel are what remain of the medieval architecture and it’s now been somewhat reclaimed by nature, giving it a spellbinding, fairytale-like atmosphere. You can catch the best view of it in its entirety from Chatelherault’s West Lodge or from Duke’s Bridge.
A simple half-hour drive from Glasgow will get you to Cadzow Castle.
On top of a hill, this 14th-century castle is one of Glasgow’s hidden gems which has associations with the Stewart dynasty, Wallace family, and the Cochranes. It was built in 1371 for Robert II but the site is thought to have housed a fort as early as 1000 A.D.
Offering intriguing history, extraordinary views of the coast, and frequent events, exhibitions, and tours, this well-preserved medieval castle in Glasgow is guaranteed to keep you entertained all day.
It’s in the village of Dundonald, South Ayrshire, and only a 45-minute drive from Glasgow, so easy to get to from the city.
This medieval castle near Glasgow was built in the 13th century on a Roman fort and had visits by Mary Queen of Scots and James II of Scotland. It was badly damaged during the Scottish Wars of Independence and then rebuilt by Robert Stewart and the son of King Robert II of Scots.
Despite the damage, it still features the classic medieval architecture of a courtyard, tower house, and great hall and has been a filming location for Outlander, Game of Thrones, and Monty Python!
It’s around a 45-minute drive from Glasgow and features lovely grounds to explore as well as the interior of the castle.
Other Famous Castles In Glasgow
Not much remains of this castle near Glasgow but the location is stunning as it’s on the west coast with a view of the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran. It dates back to the 13th century and was destroyed by Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1648 so they could use the stone to build a fort in Ayr.
The local town of Ardrossan is a quaint seaside town with a lovely beach and shops, cafés, and restaurants to stop off for a nice lunch.
It’ll take you a 50-minute drive to get there from Glasgow.
Mugdock Castle is a 14th-century structure that’s now in ruins but remains open to the public. Situated in the beautiful Mugdock Country Park, on volcanic rock, only a single tower still stands. You can still enter it and inside is a museum.
The visitor center has information with suggested walks, any events happening, a gift shop, and an education center to teach children about the local environment.
It’ll only take you 20 minutes from Glasgow to Mugdock Castle.
Built in the 1200s, this ancient castle near Glasgow was used to defend the Firth of Clyde in its day. Since the 1700s, it’s fallen into disrepair but has become a gloriously beautiful sight to see even in its state of decay.
Dunure Castle is a must-visit for those with both a love for history and photography and it’s recommended that you stay until sunset to capture the stunning views. In addition, it’s located just on the coast by the fishing village of Dunure which was used as a setting for the show Outlander.
Take part in the virtual treasure trail from the town to the castle, making your way through secret paths and the magnificent shoreline to make yourself feel like you’re in your very own dramatic film!
Drive 60 minutes to the coast to reach this Glasgow castle.
This castle near Glasgow is an intriguing and unique member of this list. It was built in 1143 and is still standing strong. Whilst the interior remains a classic, old-fashioned castle, the exterior has been covered in colorful graffiti by Brazilian artists since 2007.
On the grounds, there’s also a secret garden, waterfall, and forest. The castle also hosts many events including an outdoor cinema, garden parties, and (believe it or not) tree climbing lessons!
A piece of artwork and one-of-a-kind experience, Kelburn Castle is 50 minutes away.
This roofless renaissance palace has seen an incredible amount of history over its time, including the births of James V, Mary Queen of Scots, and Princess Elizabeth.
It was destroyed by a fire in the 1400s but its grounds remain a popular place for the summer, with the lake coming alive with boats, kayaks, and canoes.
It’s an easy 40-minute car drive to get there from Glasgow, or a train from Glasgow Queen Street.
Discovering The Best Castles In Glasgow
Though Glasgow doesn’t have many castles within the city limits, there are so many that are just an easy car drive or train ride away. There are massive, towering fortresses, ruins that have been reclaimed by nature, and more modern, artistic structures to choose from, and they offer activities that suit everyone’s interests.