When people think of Scotland, they likely think of bagpipes, whiskey, and castles. And, castles are a large part of the landscape in Scotland– from those offering sweeping vistas – to fortifications in city centers – to crumbling ruins in the highlands that have taken their former inhabitant’s secrets to the grave. Visiting castles should be a part in any tour of Scotland, and here are a few of the best to add to your itinerary.
Edinburgh Castle is probably Scotland’s most famous castle, and certainly the nation’s most visited attraction. Perched atop an ancient volcano in the center of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh Castle overlooks the city like a mother hen alongside her chicks. It became Scotland’s chief royal castle in the Middle Ages, becoming the seat of royalty and the repository of the nation’s crown jewels and state records. Every year the Edinburgh Castle is the site of the Military Tattoo, bringing visitors from around the world to partake in the festivities.
Most tourists will visit the grounds of Urquhart Castle when boarding a boat to cross Loch Ness in search of Nessie. The castle’s location offers a supreme view, in any weather, over the loch and the Great Glen. Be sure to watch the movie in the visitor center which explains the castles history, including the reasons why it was destroyed – and is now in partial ruin.
Doune Castle, near Stirling, is mostly known for its backdrop in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The castle was built at the end of the 1300s for Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, and has been passed down finally to the Earl of Moray. In 1984, the 20th Earl of Moray placed the castle in the care of the nation and it is now looked after by Historic Scotland. It’s a charming little place with lots of fun trivia associated with the movie.
Located just outside Dumfries, this castle ruin is a waterside beauty. Built in the 1300s and updated in the 1500s, it was unfortunately ransacked in 1640 by the Covenanters during religious wars. It is one of the few triangular-shaped castles in the world.
A very expensive castle to build, the Drumlanrig Castle near Dumfries has a long history of political turmoil and family bickering. Thankfully, the castle and its interiors remain intact, and it is home to many exquisite antiques and beautiful artwork. Drumlanrig Castle is the ancient Douglas stronghold and is the Dumfriesshire home of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, KBE.
Purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852, the Balmoral Estate has been the Scottish home of the British Royal Family ever since. This castle is quite popular with tourists as it is a favorite residence of the queen, who takes great interest in its upkeep and improvement. Only one room inside can be toured, but the lavish gardens are open to tourists.
Built in 1628 as a hunting lodge, this adorable castle is a real charmer. The tour, which includes the Victorian kitchen and dining room with a 200 year old grandfather clock, will transport you back in time.
A visit to Stirling Castle is an essential part of any visit to central Scotland. Stirling Castle, situated atop a volcanic crag in the center of Stirling, is visible for many miles in every direction and rivals even Edinburgh Castle for sheer magnificence. Several important battles have taken place at this castle; it was also the site of the crowning of several Scottish Kings and Queens.