Top 8 Castles To Visit In Scotland

Top 8 Castles to Visit in Scotland on Your Next Trip

Although not all remain today, there are still many majestic marvels to admire in UK’s northernmost country!

Scotland is known for its wild and craggy landscapes, traditional clothing, tartan, and bagpipes, haggis, festivals, and whisky. It is also home to many excellent attractions, including a plethora of atmospheric castles.

Records show that Scotland, a land famous for its rebellious history, has had some 6,000 castles over the years. Although not all remain today, there are still many majestic marvels to admire in the country. From major cities to secluded areas in the mountains or on the coast, here are some of Scotland’s most beautiful castles to check out.

1. Edinburgh Castle

castles in scotland

Image credit: Eskling

One of the top tourist attractions in all of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle is a mighty and imposing hilltop fortress that looks down over the city. It has stood in the same spot since as far back as the 12th century and was home to royals up until the 17th century. Edinburgh Castle was later used to house military personnel and it has seen much battle action. Visitors today can explore the ancient walls, ramparts, towers, and turrets, and there are often historic reenactments with actors in period costumes. Historic displays also teach visitors more about the castle’s past. The One O’Clock Gun booms out loudly every day except Sundays (and Christmas Day and Good Friday). The castle is also home to the famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, who put on their spectacular displays every August.

2. Balmoral Castle

castles in scotland

Image credit: denisbin

Balmoral Castle is located in Aberdeenshire and it’s one of the royal residences. The Queen typically spends summers at Balmoral. Bought by the royal family in the mid-1850s, the sprawling estate includes the grand main building, outbuildings, forests, moorland, and agricultural land. Visitors will often see deer, cattle, and horses roaming wide stretches of greenery. Members of the public are allowed to visit the castle gardens between April and July, though the only room that can be visited inside the building is the opulent ballroom.

3. Stirling Castle

castles in scotland

Image credit: dun_deagh

One of the biggest castles in Scotland, Stirling Castle is perched atop a craggy hill, with jagged cliffs on three sides. Some of the older buildings were built in the 14th century and there are later additions from the 18th century, but most of the estate dates back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Once used as a royal castle, a number of monarchs were crowned here. Visitors can enjoy the castle all year round. Stroll around the high defensive outer walls and admire the stunning views. Wander through the well-kept gardens. Admire the Renaissance Royal Palace, with its unusual carved exteriors and Great Hall. See the historic paintings in the chapel. Stand in old kitchens, storerooms, and sleeping quarters, and soak up the history of this once-mighty fortress.        

4. Inverness Castle

castles in scotland

Image credit: Dave Conner

Standing on the site of a much older castle, the sandstone-built Inverness Castle dates back to the 1830s. Today it is home to a court, though members of the public can visit the gardens and the high North Tower. The castle provides great views of the River Ness and surrounding areas, and it’s easy to imagine how powerful it would have been back in the day, when it saw sieges and attacks.

5. Cawdor Castle

castles in scotland

Image credit: Christoph Strässler

Set in the stunning Scottish Highlands, Cawdor Castle was once a mighty home to a noble family, and it is still owned by the same family today. It is often associated with the famous play, Macbeth by William Shakespeare. It boasts of beautiful grounds with walled gardens, plenty of lawns and flower beds, woodland, and a golf course. You can take a guided tour of the elegant castle, peeking into rooms like the luxurious Tapestry Bedroom, the grand dining room with its ceremonial mantelpiece, the old kitchen (which still has a range of old equipment and silverware), and the opulent drawing room where you’ll see a number of family paintings. Of particular interest is the tree that grows right up through the castle’s interior.

6. Urquhart Castle

castles in scotland

Image credit: Son of Groucho

The ruins of Urquhart Castle sit alongside the banks of Loch Ness. Standing on the site of an earlier castle, the oldest ruins date back to the 1400s. The castle was involved in significant battles and was also used as a royal residence in times gone by. The large ruins include a tall tower and a well-preserved gatehouse. You can climb the tower for sweeping views across both the ruins and Loch Ness — try to spot the Loch Ness Monster! A number of displays and exhibits tell tales of the castle’s past. You can also visit an old prison cell and see a working trebuchet engine. After touring, go for some refreshments at the café.

7. Glamis Castle

castles in scotland

Image credit: Shemsu.Hor

Glamis Castle was where Queen Elizabeth II’s mother was raised. The historic home is still occupied by nobility today, though parts of the magnificent building are open to the public. Built in the 17th century, the castle is steeped in legends and myths, with plenty of stories about paranormal activity and ghostly appearances. Dark turrets atop pale walls and crenellated features give the castle something of a fairytale appearance.

8. Dunnottar Castle

castles in scotland

Image credit: Nick Bramhall

Dating back to the Middle Ages, Dunnottar Castle today stands in an elegant state of ruin. Close to Stonehaven, the castle sits atop a rocky stone promontory and affords terrific views. When Oliver Cromwell invaded the area in the 1700s, the castle was used to hide the Scottish Crown Jewels. Imagine how awesome the dramatic castle would have been in its heyday as you wander between the various rooms and learn more about the site’s history through displays and artefacts.

Other top castles in Scotland include:

  • Culzean Castle
  • Eilean Donan Castle
  • Kisimul Castle
  • Fyvie Castle
  • Brodie Castle
  • Braemar Castle
  • Blair Castle
  • Keiss Castle

Which ones will make your bucket list?

Also read: Isle of Skye: The Gateway to Scotland’s Most Dramatic Scener

About Author

Sarah W
Sarah W

Sarah W is a travelling cat-lover who enjoys exploring places that are a little bit quirky or away from headline attractions. Favourite things include delicious falafel, snuggling under a thick duvet, (badly) belting out karaoke at the top of her lungs, and, of course, her family, friends, and furry pets.


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