Majestic monuments and beautiful palaces, famous cities and the breathtaking Highlands, the eight best castles to visit in Scotland capture epic legends and share remarkable history, while steeped in the stunning scenery for which the country is known.
Regal wonders boast architecture that spans the ages, display former homes of famous kings and queens, and represent Scotland’s dynamic heritage, shared in dramatic preservation with visitors from far and wide.
Take a step into a fairytale setting and experience how the architecture of Scotland accentuates the ambiance as you explore, discover, and revel in the splendor of local castles.
Stirling Castle is set up on a hill in the Scottish Highlands and is an important part of the country’s history and architectural heritage. The steep sides surrounding the structure provided an ultimate defense.
The Royal Palace displays just how opulent life was when the castle was fully occupied, in contrast to the peaceful atmosphere of the Royal Chapel that impresses with its masterful frieze that depicts the coronation.
Feast your eyes on the production in the Great Kitchens, step inside the Great Hall, a room fit for royalty, and wander the St Anne Gardens to enjoy their undeniable beauty.
Located in the western highlands of Scotland, the Eilean Donan sits on a small tidal island at the place where three sea lochs meet, making the setting and scenery simply spectacular. This 13th-century castle is one of the most visited in the country and its iconic construction is well-known worldwide.
The banquet hall boasts dramatic wooden ceiling beams and the billeting room with its arched stonework contains castle and Scottish memorabilia. Enter the kitchens and climb up to the keep door for a view over still waters.
Built during the Norman era and remodeled over the years, Alnwick Castle is an iconic Scottish treasure just over the Scottish border in England. Even though the castle is not on Scottish soil, it remains indelibly connected to the spirit, strength, and history across the border. Step inside the many elegant staterooms to find Italian renaissance-style carried throughout.
The gilded ceilings tower over the silk wall coverings and the history of Alnwick is shared through paintings and decor.
Flowing lawns rise up to meet the stone and brick architecture, and incredible views stretch across the south bank of the River Aln. Locals walk through the Artisan’s Courtyard, and the Castle Museum, and the Constable’s Tower offer an in-depth view of its past.
The Scottish home to the Royal Family, Balmoral is one of the most famous castles to visit in Scotland. Prince Albert’s gift to Queen Victoria in 1852, the preservation and upkeep of this beautiful homestead remains of the utmost importance, with every inch of the grounds immaculate.
The architecture is Baronial, with decorative turrets with grounds that function more as a country house. The gardens contain a beautiful fountain set inside a semi-circle of stones and a range of Victorian glasshouses add to the floral charm. Take a guided walk around the grounds to pass quiet monuments and charming cairns.
Set up on Castle Hill at the end of Edinburgh’s popular Royal Mile, this magnificent fortress is not only marvelous to look at, but also offers incredible views out over the city and beyond.
It is an easy castle to walk around and discover treasures, such as the Great Hall with its magnificent wooden beams and St Margaret’s Chapel’s ornate arches. See the crown jewels in the Crown Room and enjoy an authentic re-enactment of a brave battle that takes place near the one o’clock gun.
Listen to the stories of royalty and rebels that help make Edinburgh Castle a highlight on any Scotland visit.
Take a walk up the winding road leading to the Victorian Inverness Castle as it stands strong on a rocky outcrop on the banks of the River Ness. The fortification was modified several times between the 11th and 19th centuries, resulting in the combination of neo-Norman design we see today.
Although the stronghold was destroyed, Cromwell’s clock tower surprisingly still remains as a strong reminder of the castle’s battered past. Inverness Castle houses the sheriff’s court, where you can admire the beautiful green slopes that accentuate the grounds and embrace the castle’s rich history.
The Isle of Skye is home to Dunvegan Castle, a captivating fortress located at the loch’s edge and surrounded by green hills and blue sea.
One of the only castles occupied by the same family for over nine centuries, you can discover the collection of great historic artifacts, art, and memorabilia on display inside the grounds, with each new room sharing information about the proud Clan MacLeod.
In the drawing-room, glimpse the framed ancient Fairy Flag said to contain magical powers. Discover the beauty in the castle’s Rose Garden, Water Garden, and Walled Garden, or pass waterfalls and streams hidden in the woods.
The medieval history of Urquhart Castle remains in the ruins of this popular attraction set in the Scottish Highlands. Views of tranquil Loch Ness glisten below.
Once Urquhart stood as one of Scotland’s largest castles, a stronghold that today offers insight into a true historic working castle. Visitors come to see the glory of Urquhart, with easily imagined banquets in the great hall, the magnificence of the opposite chambers, and the haunting ambiance of the prison cell.
Step outside to marvel at the life-size trebuchet and stroll around the grounds to embrace one last glance at the loch.
Breathtaking and bold, castles cannot help but be impressive, and Scotland has a variety of locations, sizes, and architecture to share with visitors.
From strongholds fully intact to equally eerie and beautiful ruins, including a visit to a Scottish castle in your itinerary is highly recommended.