Recently updated on August 13th, 2023 at 04:51 pm
A quick Google search reveals there are more than 1500 castles to visit in Scotland. Despite the small size of the country, it would take a lifetime to visit each unique Scottish castle – so instead take notes of the very best.
From restored fortresses with epic watchtowers to thick stone walls crumbling dramatically into the sea, these are the best Scottish castles to visit when you find yourself wandering the Highlands, Lowlands, cities or isles.
From landmark Scottish manors to mysterious ruins, walk through Scottish history when you step foot in these castles around the wee country with a long, dark past.
Dramatically perched atop Castle Rock, the world famous Edinburgh Castle has dominated the city’s skyline for centuries and claims its fame as the most besieged castle in British history.
This fortress is one of the best castles to visit in Scotland, with visitors able to see the 12th-century St Margaret’s Chapel, view the Scottish crown jewels, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One o’ Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland.
This World Heritage Site and royal residence in the Scottish capital is also the country’s most Instagrammed with more than 600,000 mentions of #EdinburghCastle.
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The largest castle in the Northern Highlands, the 189-room Dunrobin Castle is more like a palace by the sea. This fairytale home is one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses, home to the Earls and later the Dukes of Sutherland since the early 1300s.
Lucky guests can peep at Scottish history as the French château-looking home with towering conical spires is open for six months of the year.
Packed with history, armour and art, this enchanting castle is said to have been Walt Disney’s inspiration for Cinderella’s Castle. The spellbinding pink tower was built in Scottish Baronial style around 1576 and the exterior remains virtually unchanged since it was finished in 1626.
A family home until the 1960s, Craigievar is now among the best preserved Scottish castles of this style. The former owner requested that artificial light not be installed in the upper floors, meaning that visitors will enjoy the extensive archive of historic artefacts and art in shifting natural sunlight.
There are two walks around the castle grounds where you should keep an eye out for red squirrels and pine martens in the woodlands.
Eilean Donan Castle
One of the most photographed castles to visit in Scotland, this iconic Loch-side fortress is a must-visit in the Highlands. Sitting pretty on its own little island, the stone castle rests at the point where three great sea-lochs meet with views of the Isle of Skye and forested mountains of Kintail.
Eilean Donan Castle has been at this breathtaking location since Bishop Donan chose the place in 634 for a monastery. With a long history involving a lesser known Jacobite uprising that razed the castle and left it in ruin for 200 years, you have to see this stunning location and feel the Scottish history for yourself.
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Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here in 1542, as were many other Scottish kings and queens. As far as Scottish history goes, Stirling Castle has witnessed it all as one of the largest and most important castles to visit in Scotland.
These days you’ll be greeted with costumed characters who will show you 16th century life at the castle as you wander the Great Hall, Chapel Royal and more.
Outlander fan? You’ll recognise this Scottish castle made famous in the TV show. This 16th century tower house is the location for fictional Lallybroch, the family home of Outland character Jamie Fraser. While the exterior of this castle is relatively intact and perfect for filming, the castle is actually derelict inside. Find Midhope Castle on the Hopetoun Estate about half-an-hour drive from Edinburgh.
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The dramatic cliff top ruins of Dunnottar Castle have to be seen in real life. With the North Sea on three sides, this once impenetrable fortress of the Earls Marischal is steeped in Scottish history. Once one of the most powerful families in Scotland, experience the romantic and haunting ruins atop this 160-foot (49m) high rock on the east coast, south of Aberdeen.
If these walls could talk then we would know if the legend of the Loch Ness monster was true. Sitting on the banks of the famous loch, Urquhart Castle counts more than 1000 years of Scottish history and has seen great battles during its time as a medieval fortress. From the power struggles between the Scots and the English, to the raids by the Lords of the Isles.
This is one of the best castles to visit in Scotland as you’ll be treated to unique views over the famous loch and learn about medieval life of the upper class and how the last government troops garrisoned here during the Jacobite Risings blew up the castle when they left.
These are the best castles to visit in Scotland to soak in Scottish history and learn more about life 1000 years ago and during the famous Jacobite uprisings. Have you been to any others we should include on our Scottish castles list? Let us know in the comments below….