Simply stated, I love Castles of all kinds. I have since I was a little girl. Maybe it’s because I always dreamed I would live in one someday. I mean how could you not with all the Disney Princesses. Yes, I know, big dream, but what little girl didn’t believe this possible when you were 5 years old? Later, as I became an adult, welcome the historic romance novels into my life. You guessed it, lots of royalty, clans and castles. Namely in Scotland, which is where this article is going. To Scotland and the goal? A Scottish Castle road trip/fit in a two-week period; stay in a Scottish castle, visit some of the best Scottish castles. Oh, most importantly- without driving my husband Kevin crazy! So here’s to our map of castles in Scotland!
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Before you go….
Before I start fascinating you with all these lovely Scottish castles to visit on our castle road trip, let me get some facts that you need to check before rushing off to Scotland on your castle crawl.
- Check access dates and opening/closing times. Not all castles in Scotland are the same.
- If photography is important to you, some do not allow photography inside. Drones can be banned from many of the castles of Scotland too.
- Scotland Castle Tours: Is there a guided tour available? There are some that it is required to have a castle guide.
- Castle entries can have all different prices. However, there are passes you can buy that will include certain ones. The castle passes may also include other historic sites throughout Scotland. Before purchasing you should check this web site to see which one, or more, fit your itinerary. Please note; how many days do you have to use the pass, what months, cost and of course the castles they cover. More information here
- Castle location. You will find some castles take a little bit of a hike to get to, steep staircases, uneven paths.
- Don’t skip any ruins in Scotland, you can learn a lot about ancient Scottish castles and plus these sometimes are the free castles in Scotland. So enjoy as many as you can find of the old castles in Scotland!
- Most important: There are so many castles to see in Scotland, so many castles in Scotland to visit and so many castles in Scotland to stay in! There is no way you will be able to do it all in one trip! So take your time, enjoy the Scottish castle tours, have a picnic and take in the history.
Dunnottar Castle Scotland
Normally I would like to save the best for last, but as soon as we arrived at the Aberdeen airport, Kevin let me know our itinerary which included some castles near Aberdeen Scotland! Once we were comfortable with driving on the opposite side of the road from the right side of the car, castles in Scotland map in hand, we headed off to our first castle. Dunnottar Castle. This one wins my vote for the most amazing view! It was just breathtaking. Dunnottar has to be one of the top castles in Scotland.
Built in 1392 this fortress is surrounded by the North Sea just outside the town of Stonehaven. There is a little bit of a walk to get to the fortress so be prepared for the path to and from. Besides the views, there is something about this castle that I just love. It really gives you a feeling of what it must have been like to live in an environment that needed to be built in such a way to be protected and hard to get to for invaders. But at the same time as you move through the rooms and the chapel, you realize the history that goes along with this castle. Dunnottar Castle has seen many attacks, take overs, Kings and Queens. Mary Queen of Scots herself visited Dunnottar Castle in 1562.
Crathes Castle Scotland
Traveling a little further towards our hotel destination we stopped at Crathes Castle. Built in the 16thcentury and owned by the Burnett family. The castle is fully furnished with furniture back from this time. I loved the master room that had a secret area that kept love notes above in the four-poster bed. In some of the rooms there are painted ceilings telling stories of their time.
The gardens at this castle stole my heart. I could have spent hours just strolling through these artfully designed gardens. Every aspect of the castle gardens was faultless and so exceptional. There are eight sections to explore, each unique with the use of colors, heights and varieties. Enjoy as we did, sitting on a bench and take in the tranquility and beauty of another amazing Scottish castle.
Dalmunzie Castle Hotel Scotland
We were very excited to be able to have the chance to once again actually stay in a castle hotel like we did in Ireland. The Dalmunzie Hotel castle is situated in the country on a 6,500 acres estate, surround by mountains and a golf course. Located near the Spittal of Glenshee (I just loved saying the name) the hotel castle is peaceful and has the most personable staff. In fact, I loved that some of the staff were from different countries from around the world, this did not just make for interesting conversation, but also the employees were thrilled themselves to be experiencing Scotland.
Our accommodations in our Tower room were decorated just the way you would want to get the feeling of a castle from back when. Dining at the castle is also a treat, as it is a Michelin guide recommendation for several years. The chefs are creative, and the food was delicious every meal. We fully enjoyed our stay. In fact, the owner showed her appreciation of our choosing her hotel and us appreciating her lovely staff, that she gave us a gift. A beautiful glass decanter that was with the original castle! This now has a very special spot in our home. Dalmunzie Castle gets my vote for one of the best Scottish castle hotels in Scotland.
** Traveling to Ireland? Here are some castle hotels you may love!
Balmoral Castle Scotland
The castles of all castles in Scotland, and one of the most famous castles of Scotland and most beautiful castles in Scotland. This is where the royal family comes to vacation and relax. As soon as you park and walk towards the gates you feel the immense presence of royalty. I could not help but wonder about the cars that were allowed pass the gates and who were the passengers. Were they part of the royal family? I like to think so 🙂
Everything about Balmoral Castle is beautiful and impressive…every single thing. It is no wonder the Queen loves this area, with gorgeous huge trees, wide open areas for riding and a majestic castle that I would get lost in. My husband being a Range Rover owner himself, was thrilled to see their exhibit of the iconic SUV’s through the years located at the castle stables. My favorite was walking out on the lawn, throwing down a blanket and just taking the view in of the castle with a blue, blue sky as a backdrop. One of the best castles to visit in Scotland, so don’t skip it!
Kindrochit Castle Scotland
We discovered these castle ruins quite by accident and actually passed them several times without realizing. As we went through the town of Braemer, once again, we decided to explore the towns church. As we parked at a park, we took a few minutes to watch some Scottish lads having a great time jumping off a cliff into the water below before we made our way over to St. Margarets Church. St. Margarets is a former Episcopal church built in 1901, now used for the arts and music.
As we left the church, we saw something across the street that looked like ruins, and sure enough it was the ruins of Kindrochit. The only information I could find was the plagues as we walked through. The castle was from the 12th and 13th century and even though it is now in a state of ruins, I still find these sites interesting. I can’t help walking around and touch the stones myself and admiring the hard work it took back then to build with limited tools.
Braemer Castle Scotland
Our travels led us pass this castle several times as we would return to Dalmunzie Castle each evening, we finally stopped however it was closed, and we could not enter. It is very “castle looking” with its towers and flag flying above. It can be seen clearly from the road and is more impressive as get closer.
We were able to read up a little about the castle: Since of the 18th century Braemer Castle has been the home for the Clan Farquharson. However, in 2007 they leased the castle to the Braemer community for 50 years. The castle is used for community events, weddings and meetings. There is a good amount of history and links to ancestry search on the castle web site.
Stirling Castle Scotland
Our trip in May found us surrounded by the Canola yellow flowers, acres of fields everywhere filled with yellow blooms. It was even more prominent on our car ride to Stirling Castle. Situated on top of a hill your first view of the castle is that it appears to be very imposing and it is. The town of Sterling is filled with hills, be prepared if the parking at the castle is filled and you have to find a spot on the street, walking up can be a long haul especially for anyone with mobility issues.
The castle of Sterling which was first recorded as existing in 1107 has everything for the castle lover, explorers, history buffs and kids. The childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots, James I and VI, changing hands many times during the Scotland and England conflicts, home of famous battles and of royalty holidays. Stirling Castle is pretty amazing and is a bucket list for many.
The many cannons displayed are a popular photo opt when you enter the walls. There are many rooms and halls to enter that are decorated in the different time periods of Stirling Castle. I found this castle to have a lot of interaction with the tourist. My favorite was women in full renaissance costume teaching children the steps of a renaissance dance. Stirling Castle is for sure one of the best Scottish castles to visit.
If you enjoy whiskey this may be the tour for you, Whiskey and Stirling combined so you can both be very informed on Stirling Castle but at the same time enjoy a little “water of life”.
Edzell Castle Scotland
The color of Edzell Castle makes it stand out on its own. A beautifully shade of RED. This castle sits in the quiet countryside and is stunning with its red walls and gardens to admire. It really makes a perfect place to throw down a blanket and have a picnic lunch. After all, this is the summer home of the Lindsey Family and I can understand why. Tranquil and peaceful, this castle was begun by the 9th Earl of Crawford around 1520. The gardens were added later by his son in the early 1600’s. I would have loved to see this castle back in the 1600’s, I truly believe it was probably very stunning and grand.
Glamis Castle Scotland
Glamis Castle was one of my favorites and one of the best castles in Scotland! At first I was a little put off that to tour the inside you have to do it with a tour guide, no other way. Which we did have to wait about 20 minutes for the next tour to begin. However, as soon as the tour began, it quickly became apparent having the guide would be an integral part of getting the full experience and knowledge of the castle. Glamis Castle has so much history with legends, ghost stories and a forest filled with… you will see.
I don’t want to do a spoiler on the stories you will hear, but I will give you some history. This is the childhood home of the Queen Mother; Queen Elizabeth’s Mother. In fact, the Queen Mother loved Glamis Castle so much she wanted one of her children born here, which did occur when Princess Margaret was born at Glamis Castle. Another interesting fact about this historic castle is that it was the inspiration for the play Macbeth by Shakespeare.
Glamis Castle has just as much interesting aspects outside as it did inside. If you happen to be hungry, you can enjoy a tasty meal that prides itself on using the local sources of food, even some from the gardens of the castle. If you are looking for some additional Scottish items and souvenirs there are plenty available in the retail shop. The gardens take a little bit of a walking since there are four gardens. The Walled Garden, The Italian Garden, The Nature Trail and the most unique; The Macbeth Trail.
Corgarff Castle Scotland
We have our own story about trying to actually get to this castle. According to the map, it should have been an easy trip by just taking a road north of Braemer and head west as we made our way to Loch Ness. Tip of the day: Always be prepared for road closures so you have a different route planned. Happy to say the detour led us through some interesting and amazing landscapes at the outskirts of the Cairngorms National Park.
When the castle comes into view it is definitely different in appearance than your typical castle. The remote area helps make the white tower style castle stand out even more. Corgarff Castle was built by John Forbes around the year 1550. It has been the location of many historic events, starting with the Forbes and the Gardens having opposite views on Mary Queen of Scots which led to a feud between the families. This feud led to the burning down of the castle killing many women and children. It was once again burned down in the late 1600’s by Jacobite’s. Believe it or not again in 1715! In 1748 the castle was converted into barracks. A few more changes including being a farm house for a while and then finally it was in the hands of the state for you to visit.
Eilean Donan Castle Scotland
Due to our timing and needing to get to our hotel before dark on the Isle of Skye, we never had the chance to go inside Eilean Donan Castle. But that is okay, because how impressive this 13th century castle is from the outside was enough for me. Without question, seeing this castle sitting in the middle of a small island where the three lochs join together is absolutely stunning. No wonder it is used for movie settings (Maid of Honor), weddings and more. It may even be the most famous castle in Scotland. The name comes from the martyred Celtic Saint Donnan of Eigg, although never verified the story was passed down that he had a church on the island in the late 600’s before he was killed in the year 617.
The photograph I took here is actually when we were leaving the Isle of Skye on our way to the Jacobite Train Tour. I made Kevin pull over, once again to view this magnificent castle, the early morning light was perfect to capture its royal castle in Scotland. If you are coming from Inverness, here is a tour to Eilean Donan Castle I am sure would be wonderful!
Duntulm Castle Scotland
Driving around the Isle of Skye and just exploring can bring some unexpected surprises. Such as when we were near the town of Uig for our boat tour to see Puffins we also came across a magical fairy glen. After visiting the famous Man of Storr we kept heading north. Checking the map, we saw there was another castle ruins to investigate. Now some may not think it’s anything special to look at ruins, but for me it gets my imagination sparked with questions. Duntulm Castle sits at peak overlooking cliffs, that you can climb down to get close to the water. Which I took advantage of course. As I was looking out at other parts of even more northern Scotland that is less inhabited, I could only just imagine how peaceful and less stress their lives must be.
Okay back to the castle history. The castle was built back in the 14th and 15th century while the Clans of MacDonald and MacLeod were having their notable feuds. While visiting the Isle of Skye you tend to hear these two clans’ names quite a bit, which the stories are quite fascinating. The Duntulm Castle was the seat of the Clan MacDonald of Sleat during the 17th century, which makes it obvious who was named the winners of the feuds. In 1732 the castle was abandoned, the story passed down was that the chieftain at the time lost his son by the baby falling from the tower to the rocks below, the nursemaid was blamed and placed on a small boat to be cast out to sea.
Dunvegan Castle Scotland
Alright, I admit it was definitely a drive to Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye. I believe my husband would argue that it wouldn’t of taken as long if I did not make him stop and pull over for photographs, mainly of sheep. There is something about Scotland that makes you love their sheep! There were babies everywhere crossing the roads and I was constantly holding my breath that they would not get hit by a car. I am happy to say I never did see any injured baby sheep.
Now on to Dunvegan Castle. What’s so different about this castle? It has been in the MacLeod Clan for over 800 years and the 30th Chief of the MacLeod Clan still resides there! Upon entering the castle, you are greeted and explained where to begin yourself guided tour. The rooms are beautiful decorated with many art pieces, artifacts and heirlooms, as if time has stood still. You can peek in some dark corridors, visit their shop and even enjoy some very good food.
Do not skip the gardens, even if you have been to a hundred castle gardens, this one is worth the stroll. Flowers of all colors and fragrances are all placed very careful and strategically throughout the surrounding walls and waterfalls. How wonderful the present Chief of the Macleods find the gardens to be a very integral part of Dunvegan Castle.
St. Andrews Castle Scotland
St. Andrews is known for many things; where Kate and William met, where the game of golf originated and its historic university. The streets are fun to walk through to shop and eat as they bring you back to medieval times of Scotland. If you explore near the sea you will eventually run into St. Andrews Castle.
The St. Andrews castle walls hold a lot of stories as it was an important part of the Protestant Reformation. Murders took place here of Preacher George Wishart (burned to death) and David Beaton a Catholic Cardinal that actually was the one who ordered Wisharts burning. Sieges occurred through time, the castle was also used for a prison. Another archbishops demise took place at this castle, Archbishop John Hamilton was hung in 1571. It was not long after that the castled no one in residence and began to crumble and fall in disrepair.
Ravenscraig Castle Scotland
I am pretty sure this is the castle on our road trip that I drove Kevin crazy on. The reason being I had a map of Scotland in my lap at all times while in the car so I could always know…Is there castes near here? Guess what? There are lots of castles in Fife Scotland. I may or may not have kept bringing up each and every castle that would be in a 10-20 mile radius as we drove. The reason I remember this one specifically is because we drove by it I think 3 times! By that time Kevin was determined to find it. Parking is located in a park, where you then take a walk through and area and all of a sudden you are at a castle ruins with the cliffs looking down at the sea.
Originally built for Queen Mary of Guelders in the 1400’s it also is believed to be the first castle in Scotland built with such think walls that it could sustain cannon fire. It did not stay a royal residence for long, given to the Sinclair family in the late 1400’s. The castle is the setting for a famous ballad by Sir Walter Scott; Rosabelle, written about one of the Sinclair daughters.
Aberdour Castle Scotland
Kevin thought he was in the clear of anymore castles until we reached Edinburgh that day…he should know me better by now. Remember I have a map on my lap still and there is one more I have spotted that would not be off our path. A castle that claims to be one of the very oldest castles in Scotland (Castle Sween too). Of course, we had to check it out! I actually believe this castle helped me get back in good graces with Kevin.
The castle for 500 years has been home to 3 Scottish families; the Mortimer, Douglas and Randolph families. It is very interesting and important to go through their little “story telling” museum before entering the castle and garden areas. You learn a great deal on the history and transitions this castle has made since the 1100’s. On the grounds is a very impressive beehive shaped dovecot. Yes, I had no idea what that was either. But back in the day they housed pigeons and doves. In fact, this one is particularly large that it was discovered to contain 597 nesting boxes. That’s a lot of egg, poultry and dung. Only the very rich and powerful owned dovecots at this time, it was a symbol of status.
Edinburgh Castle Scotland
Our last stop on this amazing two weeks in Scotland is to the city of Edinburgh. We have visited this fabulous city once before and love exploring every inch of its Scottish streets. Looking over the entire city, up on Castle Rock, sits the most famous castle in all of Scotland; Edinburgh Castle. The castle is extraordinary, its architecture very prominent as it looms over the city.
The 12th century castle has been through many transitions throughout its long history and you are able to learn about it all with tours of Edinburgh Castle or by obtaining upon entrance an audio guide, available in 8 different languages. There is a lot to discover, Edinburgh Castle is home to the Crown Jewels of Scotland, The National War Museum of Scotland, The Stone of Destiny, The One O’Clock gun and more. To really be able to experience all of what this castle has to offer plan on spending 2 hours or more if you are a real history lover.
QUICK FACTS and INFORMATION
- Oldest Castle in Scotland- The oldest Scottish castle is Aberdour Castle and/or Sween Castle
- Largest Castle in Scotland- The largest Scottish castle is Edinburgh Castle
- Smallest Castle in Scotland- The smallest Scottish castle is Bath Castle
- How many castles does Scotland have?- There are over 2,000 castles are in Scotland
- List of Clans of Scotland
- List of Castles in Scotland
- Most Northern Scotland Castle- Muness Castle on Unst Island is the most northern Scottish castle
- Scottish word for Castle- ‘dùn’ and ‘caisteal‘
I hope you enjoyed our own little tour of some of the most beautiful castles in Scotland. 17 castles in 14 days, not too bad if you add in all the other things we also got to experience in Scotland. Now don’t you just want to check into if there are any castles for sale and buy a castle in Scotland? There is a reason that Scotland is known to be one of the most beautiful countries in the world, that is because it is, hands down. I hope this article inspires you to travel to this friendly, stunning, scenic part of the United Kingdom, you will not regret it, and you might not come home!