Historians state that Scotland has been occupied since the late Palaeolithic era, around 12,000 BC. Despite this, the country was not officially formed until the 9th century. This means that castles in Scotland have endured prolific battles and storms, which is the reason so many persist as remains.
One of the main reasons to visit Scotland is because of its ancient history and nature. Many of the Scottish castles left standing were once home to royals or other significant figures.
Most Famous Castle In Scotland
Edinburgh Castle, as you can guess by its name, is located in Edinburgh. Its location in the capital alone makes it one of the most famous castles in Scotland, yet its history is just as fascinating.
The construction of the castle dates back to the 11th century, demonstrating just how many battles it has weathered. In fact, it is the most besieged castle in Britain, with almost 23 attempts at it being captured.
Nowadays, the castle is restored and there are many fun activities to partake in, especially as a family. If you are visiting quickly, you can explore St Margaret’s Chapel or climb the Lang Stairs. You can even stop by for a snack in the Tea Rooms. Alternatively, full-day tours are available.
This is also where the Scottish Crown Jewels are kept! It is after all one of the famous landmarks in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh, Scotland Castles
The Barnbougle Castle name is derived from ‘shepherd’s hill’, of course, because it was built atop a hill. You can find it in the capital on the Firth of Forth, the mouth of the large River Forth.
As a result, this Scottish castle is famous for its picturesque view of the waterways before it.
The castle grounds are public, however, visiting the inside of the castle is open either for private hire or in the summer months. If you are planning to explore the interior of the castle, you should plan your trip accordingly.
Dundas Castle is one of the most accessible castles in Scotland, simply a short drive away from Edinburgh airport.
It is a relatively old castle built in the 15th century. Despite its historical significance, it is remarkably well-maintained. This is because of significant renovations which took place in 1995, after a long period of abandonment and desolation.
The huge castle consists of three pivotal structures: The Main House, The Pavilion, and The Auld Keep. Whilst the latter was the first to be built, it has since then been refurbished with modern fittings. This means that the castle has a genius combination of classic roots with updated features.
If you are hungry for more, be sure to check out the 15 best palaces and castles in Edinburgh.
Aberdeenshire, Scotland Castles
Balmoral Castle is no doubt one of the most well-known castles in Scotland. This is because it is the residence of the Royal Family, who reside there during the warm summers. It is also famously the beloved castle where the late Queen Elizabeth II spent her final days.
In addition to the regal associations of the castle, it is also popular due to its nature. The gardens are the habitat of several animals, especially endangered red squirrels.
The estate grounds are open for public visitation. If you plan on going inside, the ballroom and café are almost always accessible.
Fyvie Castle is a grandiose castle in Scotland that is perfect for a family day out.
If you are interested in Baronial architecture, you will enjoy the construct of the castle. This is reflected by the asymmetrical construction, conical roofs, and characteristic granite structure.
The interior is just as beautifully designed, with oil paintings hanging off every crevice, as well as historical armor collections.
Children particularly love the outside grounds. There are courts, a lake, a large forest, and an extensive garden. Spotting the wildlife here will create memories they will never forget!
Dunnotar Castle is one of the most unique and dramatic castles in Scotland. It is surrounded by and overlooks the North Sea, suspended on a tall rock. This rock dates back 440 million years!
The castle itself has a rich history. Many significant figures are associated with this castle, such as guests like Mary Queen of Scots and King Charles II.
Unfortunately, the castle has suffered many damaging events since then and a large portion of the rooms are now ruined. Still, the atmosphere and location alone make it worth visiting.
Corgarrf Castle is an underrated castle in Scotland with an interesting history.
The castle was built in the 15th century and was famously occupied by the Forbeses of Corgarrf. However, it was burnt down multiple times by Jacobites, who were clans supporting King James VII.
Subsequently, the castle was turned into a military base, whereby you can still visit the barracks. Another interesting use of the castle years later was for whiskey smugglers!
The tour is popular, as you can explore the castle with a knowledgeable guide who can offer further insight into its dramatic history.
Fraser Castle dates back to the 14th century and was finally completed in the 17th century.
It is a super example of a ‘Z Castle’, composed of a large rectangular tower with smaller towers on diagonal ends. It was formerly known as the Muchall-in-Mar Castle; one of the grand castles from the Mar Earldom.
There are several attractions to discover here. You can climb the tower to reach the top and marvel at the panoramic view. There are also secret trapdoors, a collection of art, and beautiful Victorian rooms.
Be sure to visit the gardens which surround this magnificent Scottish castle. They are ideal for a picnic!
Ayrshire, Scotland Castles
Culzean Castle is one of the most natural castles in Scotland. It is owned by The National Trust, which preserves the country park and ensures its upkeep.
Children especially will adore the Swan Pond, Adventure Cove, and kid’s play areas. This is perfect for a family day out, surrounded by fresh air and several fun activities.
The castle itself was built for the Kennedy Family, an important clan in the 18th century, which makes it a relatively modern Scottish castle. Because of this, the rooms are elegant and stylish. You should consider visiting the Eisenhower Apartment at the very top of the castle, which you can even book and stay in!
Kelburn Castle is a historical castle in Scotland in the north of Ayrshire.
The castle is one of the older Scottish castles, and although there is no known date of construction, it is thought to be from the early 12th century. This is when the wooden tower was built. Since then various structures have been added, such as a stone tower and mansion.
The most predominantly well-known addition is undoubtedly the Graffiti Project. This was surprising, as no other castle is known to take such a historical structure and turn it into an urban renovation venture.
That said, the south side of the castle is now embraced by vivacious Brazilian art. The mural aims to demonstrate the collaboration of two cultures.
Fife, Scotland Castles
St Andrews Castle
St Andrews Castle is an ancient ruin that overlooks the North Sea.
The castle was built in the 12th century and therefore has a vivid history. The most notable figure who resided here is King James I, who ruled over Scotland for three decades. Additionally, the first bishop of St Andrews, Patrick Graham, was thought to be imprisoned here for insanity!
Due to its proximity to the sea, this Scottish castle has suffered constantly from erosion, and many elements of the castle are destroyed. Nevertheless, the remaining structures are worth visiting, as there are many interesting exhibitions inside the visitor center.
Falkland Palace is one of the seven listed palaces in Scotland. Unlike the castles, which suffered many sieges are were built for protection purposes, it was built to showcase the affluence of their owners. It was built for King James IV.
Furthermore, it was adored by Mary Queen of Scots, who resided here for the sporting opportunities. The palace is home to the oldest tennis court in the world! It was also a hunting lodge.
Nowadays, you can roam the beautiful meadows, and explore the typical Renaissance interior of the palace.
Ravenscraig Castle is located in Kirkcaldy. Construction began in 1460 under the order of King James II and Queen Mary of Gueldres. Subsequently, the Sinclair Family took over and foresaw the completion of the castle.
It is a prime example of artillery defense, as the walls are several meters thick and you can see the reflection of the cannon fire.
There is no access to the inside of the building, as, like many castles in Scotland, it is a ruin. Nevertheless, there is a beach and park which you can explore nearby.
Highland, Scotland Castles
Dunrobin Castle is one of the largest castles in Scotland. It consists of almost 190 rooms and has had a multifaceted purpose over the years. Examples include a royal residence, a hospital during the wars, and even a boarding school!
There are many attractions in this Scottish castle. The architecture of the castle itself is the main charm, where you can observe a magical combination of the Baronial and Renaissance styles.
Additionally, there is a museum with various relics and animals. The gardens have also been skilfully preserved over the years, and falconry displays are held in the summer months.
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most famous castles in Scotland. It has been featured in several popular movies, such as James Bond and Loch Ness! Therefore, it is one of the places Scotland is famous for.
The castle is named after Bishop Donan, built as a defense for protection against siege. Since then, it has suffered from many attacks but has continued to redevelop and expand into its current glory.
There are many elaborate structures, but its location is what gives the castle its fame. From here, you can see Cuillin Mountain, Dornie village, and Long Loch.
Nowadays, you can visit the castle, gift shop, and café. Additionally, you can plan an overnight family trip and stay in the cottage if have the time!
Cawdor Castle was built in the 15th century, an improved structure built on the grounds of a ruined fortification existing centuries before.
The castle is famously built surrounding a holly tree. Strangely, this is due to a vision that the Thane of Cawdor is said to have dreamt. In this dream, he was told to build a castle over the place where his animal decided to rest. Sure enough, his animal lay next to the holly tree, and the castle was then erected.
In addition to the castle, there are three gardens, a fishing spot on the river, and a golf course.
Inverness Castle is a popular castle in Scotland, largely due to Shakespeare. All literature enthusiasts will know this as the castle where King Duncan was murdered in the play, Macbeth. Additionally, Mary Queen of Scots is said to have hung the guard who refused her entry to the castle.
Despite its gruesome history, the castle itself is a beautiful structure surrounded by nature. It is built on the River Ness, which can be seen clearly from the castle’s viewpoint. Because it is erected on a hill, this makes it easy to spot despite being covered by tall trees.
In addition, that varying terrain and landscape means you can find some of the most exciting adventures and things to do in Scotland for young adults.
Another key attraction to note is the statue in front of the castle. This is the Flora McDonald monument, the woman who aided Charles Stuart in escaping during the Battle of Culloden.
Dunvegan Castle, on the Isle of Skye, is one of the oldest castles in Scotland. It was built in the 13th century, although the existing structure is due to its remodeling in the 19th century. It is famous for being the sole Highland fortress which has been inhabited by the same family for over eight centuries.
The most important attraction to visit in the castle is Fairy Flag. It is a silk heirloom belonging to the Macleod Clan, and is said to have magical powers! Additionally, exhibitions are held regularly in the gardens. This ranges from fireworks to movie screenings.
Perth, Scotland Castles
Balhousie castle is a 16th-century castle in Scotland which currently operates as the Black Watch Museum.
The castle served as protection against multiple wars, ranging from the French War to the Second World War. As a result, the building now holds various important works which have been collected over the years. Key pieces include ‘The Queen Mother’ by Susan Crawford and ‘Afghanistan’ by James Dyke.
You can both visit the museum freely, or opt for a guided tour. If you have children, you should consider the story tour, where you can hear about the individual experiences of soldiers.
Drummond Castle is a beautiful castle, with some of the best gardens of all the castles in Scotland.
The castle was built in 1490 for the Drummond family, a prominent Scottish clan. However, the gardens which you can visit today were redesigned in 1950. They aimed to maintain the core features of the original garden, whilst adding a creative spin.
There are many seasonal activities here. If you plan to visit, you should consider the Easter or Christmas seasons, as there are fun exhibitions and attractions.
Other Famous Castles In Scotland
Glamis Castle is located in Angus. It is one of the most important royal castles, as it has been home to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne since the 14th century. Additionally, it was beloved by Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret.
The rich history of the castle is only one of the reasons for visiting. The gardens are an eminent attraction, consisting of The Walled Garden and The Italian Garden.
There are also two trails, which is ideal if you have children. The Nature Trail through the woodlands is a great adventure for the kids and can be completed quickly. Similarly, the Macbeth Trail is a culmination of seven tree sculptures demonstrating key parts of the play.
Stirling Castle is an important historical Scottish castle located in Sterling. It continues to be one of the famous landmarks in Scotland.
The first known origin of the castle is a Chapel built in 1107, which was famously handed to King Henry II as ransom. Since then, the castle has suffered many destructions, yet remains standing.
There are many structures to explore here. This includes The Great Hall, The Great Kitchens, The Royal Palace, and Queen Anne Gardens. If you have time, you should also consider visiting the museum which has priceless military artifacts.
In addition, there are many other exciting castles in Glasgow that you can check out after visiting Stirling castle.
Floors Castle in Roxburghshire is one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland. It is an 18th-century castle, which features Georgian architecture. Since its construction, it has been home to the Innes-Ker family, making it the largest occupied castle in the country.
The name ‘Floors’ is said to have come from the French word for ‘Fleurs’, meaning flowers. This is indisputable because of the stunning gardens that the castle overlooks. This includes the Walled Gardens and Millennial Gardens. Here, you can plan a picnic, cycle on the trail, or simply sit and marvel at the castle.
Caerlaverock Castle is one the most distinctive castles in Scotland, well-known for its unique triangular shape. It is surrounded by a moat that served as a defense during battles and a twin-towered gatehouse.
You may know this castle from the 2011 romantic drama, ‘The Decoy Bride’, which was filmed in Dumfries and featured the castle.
Aside from exploring the castle, you can also visit the museum to learn further about the history of the castle and its significance. There is also a snack area and gift store.
Duart Castle is found on the Isle of Mull. Although built in the 13th century by the McDougall Clan, it has been the seat of the Maclean Clan for over 700 years. The location of this castle is significant because it was chosen wisely, ensuring that it was safe from any sieges. It faces the Sound of Mull and the Firth of Lorne.
Aside from the castle, you can also enjoy many scenic paths and trails. At the end of the day, you should consider stopping by the Tearoom. This café serves traditional Scottish snacks such as scones and cakes made from tasty local ingredients.
Discovering Famous Castles In Scotland
There are a variety of castles in Scotland, each with its interesting history and features. One of the fun facts about Scotland is that Edinburgh castle sits on top of an extinct volcano.
The most famous castles have landscaped gardens, valuable museums, and regal rooms. Some have also made appearances in global movies!
However, many are ruined castles. This is because they were built in the 11th century and have sustained various damages since then. Nevertheless, there have been many reconstructions and repairs, making them worth visiting.