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30 Best Castles In Scotland To Visit

The Castles in Scotland are some of the most spectacular castles you can see anywhere in the world and the castles in this article are some of the best to visit.

How many castles in Scotland are there? Roughly 1500! 

I’ve put this article together to show 30 of the best Scottish castles along with some legends from the castles to make things a bit more entertaining.

I use the phrase ‘best’ somewhat lightly as there may be castles not here that could be of interest to you. But these are the more famous castles in Scotland to see as well as some less-visited ones.

The first castle in Scotland that I saw was when I was 15 visiting a friend on holiday near the Kyle of Lochalsh. It was Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most iconic castles in Scotland and it blew me away, almost literally, as I remember it being a very windy day when out there. Good old Scottish weather.

My great-grandfather came from Aberdeen and my last name is Duncan, from the Clan Duncan. Clan Duncan used to have their own castle called Lundie Castle but that is long gone to history with only a few stones remaining, so sadly I can’t be recommending a visit.

Personally, I love the more remote setting of the Scottish Highlands and a medieval smaller castle to the more recent Scottish Castles, but each to their own. I have included all styles and ages of castles in this post.

Anyway, enough of Scottish reminiscences and back to what you are searching for.

The best castles in Scotland!


Edinburgh Castle

Castles in Scotland - Edinburgh Castle.
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Let’s start with the most obvious one, Edinburgh Castle.

You literally can’t visit Scotland without spending at least a day in Edinburgh as it’s one of the best medieval cities in Europe, and the main historic attraction to see is the castle.

Edinburgh Castle has a history that goes back 900 years having been built in 1103 on Castle Rock and has been the seat of royalty and an important military base throughout its time. Edinburgh Castle was one of Mary Queen of Scot’s castles.

A legend about Edinburgh Castle: With such a long history there has been plenty of legends and ghostly sightings. One of the most well-known is that of the headless drummer boy who is said to appear whenever the castle is threatened.

Edinburgh Castle is one of the most visited castles in Scotland so expect crowds when there.

I highly recommend taking an Edinburgh old town historical walking tour before visiting the castle to get a better insight into the history of the area.

Stirling Castle

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Stirling Castle is not far from Edinburgh and is one of the most historic castles in Scotland to visit. It’s also my favourite overall for the history and location. Plus there were fewer crowds than at Edinburgh Castle.

Stirling Castle was home to the Stewarts and was the last castle to hold out against the English when king Edward I smashed it to pieces for his own amusement, even after the garrison had surrendered in 1304. In fact Edward I was known as the “Hammer of the Scots”.

William Wallace and Robert The Bruce both used the castle in their time. Robert the Bruce ended up smashing it to pieces himself to make sure the English didn’t get it again. It was rebuilt, obviously, and is what you see today

Stirling Castle was Mary Queen of Scot’s childhood home.

If you’re visiting with children they can get dressed up in costume there and even try their hand at a medieval instrument. Maybe you could give it a go as well?

Stirling Castle ghost: A kilted highlander (what highlander would be without a kilt) is said to roam the castle and show himself to visitors only to disappear before their eyes.

There’s a really good tour to Stirling Castle that includes visiting Loch Lomond and Trossachs which makes for a great day trip. Otherwise, Stirling Castle can easily be reached by local train.

Stirling Castle really is one of the best castles in Scotland.

Read: Day trip to Stirling Castle from Edinburgh.

Eilean Donan Castle

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There is probably no better photo of a castle in Scotland than that of Eilean Donan Castle. It’s also one of Scotland’s oldest castles going back to the 13th century.

Located on a tiny island in the western Highlands it’s a must-visit castle if you can get there. I visited when I was 15 years old when on holiday in the Kyle of Lochalsh as I mentioned at the beginning of the article.

The original castle was destroyed by the English after the Jacobite rebellions in the 18th century and the castle today is largely a reconstruction.

Castle legend: A Lady Mary is said to haunt one of the bedrooms in the castle and a Spanish soldier who died in the siege of the castle in 1719 is said to roam the grounds.

There’s an excellent day tour from Inverness to Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle that comes highly recommended.

Read: The best castles in the Scottish Highlands.

Dunnottar Castle

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Dunnottar Castle is a ruined castle that sits on the moody coast of the northeast of Scotland with steep cliffs surrounding it.

It’s one of the most scenic spots of the castles in Scotland, despite the fact that it’s in ruins. The castle is medieval and dates to roughly the 15th century and the tower house is one of the best buildings to see there.

Part of the Jacobite rebellion happened at Dunnottar Castle.

Castle legend: With so much history at Dunnottar Castle there is no surprise there should be some ghost stories. Keep an eye on the brewery area where a ghostly young girl in a plaid dress is said to hang out. Take a stout beer with you!

There’s a day tour from Aberdeen to Dunnottar Castle and Royal Deeside that you could try.

Castle Fraser

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If you haven’t heard the name Fraser when looking into Scotland then you’ve missed out. It’s a famous name there and Castle Fraser is the home castle of the Fraser Clan.

There is evidence in the castle of an old tower dating to the 15-16th century and it’s one of the largest tower houses in Scotland.

The estate was attacked during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms but the castle survived and is still intact today.

It’s located near Aberdeen so is relatively easy to get to and there are plenty of other castles in Aberdeenshire mentioned here that you can also see.

Dunvegan Castle

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Dunvegan Castle is located on the Isle of Skye, one of the most beautiful places in Scotland to visit, so you should go there anyway, castle or no castle.

The castle is the oldest continuously lived in of all the castles in Scotland and because of that has a hell of a lot of history surrounding it.

Its origins date to the 13th century but it has been added to, like many of the castles here, over the years. It’s the seat of Clan MacLeod.

If you want to go on a tour to the Isle of Skye there is a good one that goes for three days from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye that includes Dunvegan Castle and the Scottish Highlands.

Doune Castle

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Doune Castle is best known these days as ‘Castle Leoch’ in the TV show Outlander. The original castle was built in the 13th century and restored again in the 14th century after some battle damages.

The castle has seen a lot of wars over time including the Jacobite Rebellion and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.

Side note: If you have an interest in old Scotland from Highlander times you will love the Outlander TV show.

There’s an excellent day tour from Edinburgh to Outlander film locations including Doune Castle.

Cawdor Castle

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Cawdor Castle is one of the Clan Campbells castles from the 16th century onwards, although it originally dates to the 15th century.

The castle has a literary connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth play but there is no historical connection in real life as the dates between the two differ.

It’s not just the castle you go for though as the gardens surrounding the castle are worth a visit in their own right.

From Invergordon, you can go on a day tour to Cawdor Castle as well as Loch Ness and whisky tasting at a whisky distillery in the Highlands.

Glamis Castle

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This is a huge castle and in great condition. Although the original Glamis Castle dates to the 14th century and was medieval in style, the building that you see today is mostly built from the 17th century.

Glamis Castle is known as the childhood home of the late Queen Mother.

Castle legend: There are many ghostly stories surrounding Glamis Castle. One of the more well-known legends is that of the Monster of Glamis who was a badly deformed child who stayed in the castle all his life and his rooms were walled up after his death.

There’s also the Grey Lady who is thought to be that of Lady Glamis, who was burned at the stake for being a witch in 1537.

And one that is true and not a legend is that of the Ogilvies who were walled up to die of starvation and their remains lay in the room of skulls. Creepy stuff!

Tantallon Castle

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Tantallon Castle makes for an excellent day trip from Edinburgh. It is a castle ruin dating to the 14th-century and is a very moody castle to visit with a somewhat spooky atmosphere to it.

The Red Douglas dynasty had their home here and it was one of the best medieval castles in Scotland in its time. It also has excellent views of the Firth of Forth.

Castle Menzies

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Set in Highland Perthshire, Castle Menzies is the ancestral castle of Clan Menzies and was built in the 16th century.

Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed there for a few nights in 1746 on his way to Culloden where the famous (or infamous) battle of Culloden took place that wiped out many of the Scottish clans.

Castle legend: Three grumpy women thought to be witches are said to haunt the meat cellar. Enjoy your meat sandwich!

Castle of Mey

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The Castle of Mey is the furthest castle in the north of Scotland. It’s located near John o’ Groats so is a bit of a way to get to but worth it.

It has great views on a clear day across to the nearest Orkney island, Hoy.

It was built in the 16th century and was added to significantly in the 19th century. The castle was in disrepair until The Queen Mother bought the castle in 1952 and restored it to glory.

If you’re short on time in Scotland then I would concentrate on other castles here as they are closer to reach from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, or Inverness. Otherwise, go for it, especially if you plan to go to the far north of Scotland.

Castle legend: The ghost of Lady Fanny is said to haunt the castle’s top floor where she lived a lonely life after being banished there for an unwanted love with a simple stable boy.

Inveraray Castle

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Inveraray Castle is a more modern affair as far as the castles in Scotland go. It was founded in the 18th century and built in a gothic style so is quite distinct compared with older medieval castles.

Its location next to the longest sea loch in Scotland, Loch Fyne, makes a visit worthwhile as well.

Castle legend: Keep an eye on the castle library as a ghostly Irish harpist killed by the duke’s men in 1644 is said to haunt there.

There’s a good day tour from Edinburgh to Inveraray Castle as well as seeing other castles and other lochs on the way.

Urquhart Castle

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Urquhart Castle is in the perfect location on Loch Ness (keep an eye out for Nessie). It’s in a very ruined state of affairs but as it’s on the famed Loch Ness it’s popular to visit.

The original castle dates back to the 13th century. The castle is in ruins partly due to being ransacked by the English in 1692 to avoid it being used by Jacobites during the rebellion.

To be honest, if this castle was in a remote place and you were short on time in Scotland I wouldn’t recommend going to see it, but as it’s right next to Loch Ness which is a popular place to visit anyway then you should definitely take a look when there.

If you don’t go there by your own transport then you can take a tour from Edinburgh to Loch Ness and the Highlands that includes Urquhart Castle.

Kilchurn Castle

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Kilchurn Castle is in a very ruined state of affairs but is worth seeing if you are in the highlands and are going past it to see other places. It’s one of the most photographed castles in Scotland.

It’s the history of the place that makes it worth a visit as it goes back to the 15th century and was a stronghold of the Campbells of Glenorchy, part of Clan Campbell.

There is a tour from Edinburgh to Inveraray via Kilchurn Castle I mentioned earlier that goes by Kilchurn Castle and you stop to take a look at it. It’s a really good tour as you can combine the two castles in one day trip as well as see other things.

Blackness Castle

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Blackness Castle is another one of the castles in Scotland that has a lot of history behind it. It’s an epic Scottish fortress.

Located on the Firth of Forth it’s been used variously as an armoury, prison, artillery site, and more, and dates back to the 15th century. Its strategic location makes it a powerful stronghold.

Castle legend: There’s a story of a phantom knight that guards the prison tower, so watch out when up there!

Balmoral Castle

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Who doesn’t know Balmoral Castle? Well, let’s start by saying it’s one of Queen Elizabeth II’s residences.

It’s packed full of history, and when the Queen is not there you can visit and see the gardens and any exhibitions that may be going on.

The origins of the castle started in the 14 century but the main form of the castle didn’t come into being until centuries later.

It’s not far from Aberdeen and can be combined with Castle Fraser and others nearby for a great day trip.

Duart Castle

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Located on the Isle of Mull, Duart Castle is in a very scenic location and also a very strategic location where it guarded a vital waterway in the Scottish west, back in the day.

It’s a castle of Clan MacLean and is an old castle going back to the 13th century. The castle was in a ruined state by the 18th century but restored in the 19th century. It has great views of the Sound of Mull.

Indeed, even without the castle, a visit to the Isle of Mull and the nearby historical abbey on Iona island is worthwhile. The castle gives it even more of a reason to go there for history buffs and those who love remote castles.

Culzean Castle

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Culzean Castle overlooks the Firth of Clyde and has amazing views of the Ayrshire coast. It’s a more modern Scottish castle dating to the 18th century so don’t expect an old medieval style.

The castle is also one of the castles in Scotland to stay in as it has the Eisenhower Hotel located there.

Castle legend: Apparently a ghostly lone piper roams the castle grounds playing his pipes, especially on a stormy night. Go and stay there during a storm!

You can get an advance ticket for Culzean Castle here.

There’s also a good day tour to Culzean Castle and the Ayrshire Coast from Glasgow that follows in the footsteps of the famed Scottish poet Robert Burns. You will also visit the ruined Dunure Castle on the tour.

Dunrobin Castle

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The origins of Dunrobin Castle go back to medieval times but the present-day building was built in the 19th century and is owned by Clan Sutherland.

It has views of the Moray Firth and even though it’s a more modern castle design it still has its own charms.

Fun fact: In the past, the castle was used as a boarding school for several years. Imagine going to school there… Harry Potter eat your heart out.

Castle legend: Dunrobin Castle looks spooky at the best of times and on top of that there is said to be a young woman who haunts the Seamstress’s Room in the castle where you can hear her cries. Apparently, she was locked against her will to be married to the Earl of Sutherland in the 15th century and fell to her death while trying to climb out of the room to escape.

If you’re in Inverness there’s a day tour to Dunrobin Castle that includes John O’Groats, and Loch Fleet.

Caerlaverock Castle

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Caerlaverock Castle is a 13th-century castle and was the sight of many bloody battles along the border with England.

It’s in a ruined state these days but worth a visit, and the surrounding area has plenty of other historical places to see.

It’s near Dumfries in the south of Scotland.

Castle Tioram

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Another Scottish castle in an epic setting. Castle Tioram is located on the small tidal island Eilean Tioram (hence the castle’s name).

It dates back roughly to the 13th century and is in ruins these days. It can only be reached via a tidal causeway which is part of the fun, but you can’t go inside the castle itself for safety reasons.

Dunstaffnage Castle

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Dunstaffnage Castle is a 13th-century castle and chapel and is located scenically in Argyll and Bute. It’s in a semi-ruined state but good to see.

It’s one of the oldest castles in Scotland (stone castles that is) and was the former castle of Clan MacDougall. It’s located near Tioram Castle mentioned before, so it’s a good option to see both. 

Castle Stalker

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One of the most scenic medieval tower houses in Scotland in the same area as Castle Tioram and Dunstaffnage is Castle Stalker.

First of all, what a name for a castle! Castle Stalker comes from old Gaelic, which means “hunter” which makes it even more epic. It also makes for one of the best photo opportunities of a castle in Scotland as you can see by the photo.

The castle is set in Loch Laich on a small tidal outlet that is part of the Lynn of Lorn National Scenic Area. The original castle was a fort built in the 14th century but was expanded upon in the 15th century to what it is now.

Combining Castle Tioram, Castle Dunstaffnage, and Castle Stalker is one of the best combinations of remote castles in Scotland you can do, in my opinion.

Castle Campbell

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Castle Campbell is the historical home of Clan Campbell, although they are not there anymore. It’s a 15th-century tower house castle, although there were defensive positions in the area for a few centuries before that.

The location alone, like so many of the castles in Scotland, is worth it as it’s set in the woodland area of Dollar Glen.

Fun fact: It was originally called Castle Gloom!

Braemar Castle

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Braemar Castle is a newer Scottish castle than many of the castles in Scotland mentioned here and was built in the 17th century.

The chief of Clan Farquharson owns the castle but it’s under a charitable trust with the local community.

It’s in Aberdeenshire so you can tie it in with many of the other castles near Aberdeen mentioned before.

Drummond Castle

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Drummond Castle has one of Scotland’s, indeed one of Europe’s, best gardens and the oldest part of the castle, which is the tower house, dates to the 15th century, whereas the rest is more recent from the 17th century.

The castle is done in a gothic architecture style.

The castle itself is beautiful but the gardens could actually be the main attraction and have been said to be: “the best example of formal terraced gardens in Scotland”.

It’s around a 1-hour drive north from Stirling Castle so you could possibly do both on the same day if you get an early start.

Fyvie Castle

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Fyvie Castle was first started in the 13th century but parts have been added to it over the centuries since.

Part of its legendary status is that Robert the Bruce has spent time there. But these days part of its legends is that of the ghosts said to haunt the building. 

Castle legend: The most famous of these is about a skeleton found behind a bedroom wall in the early 20th century that was then buried, but after the burial, many strange things began to happen so the castle Laird had the remains put back where they were found, and the hauntings stopped. It’s said to remain there to this day hidden away in a forbidden room!

It’s located in Aberdeenshire so can be added on to the many other castles in Scotland situated there.

Floors Castle

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Floors Castle is a more modern building in Scotland compared with many others here. I use the word ‘building’ here as it was originally constructed as a country estate and later on in the 19th-century turrets were added to it.

So basically looks like a castle, has some castle features, but was not designed as a fortress. But many fortified manor houses are referred to in the term ‘castles’ even if that doesn’t exactly fit the definition of what a castle is.

Built in the 18th century it’s located in Roxburghshire and it is a beautiful building. If you like more modern-style castle constructions that look epic in scale then it’s for you.

St Andrews Castle

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St Andrews Castle is the last on this list of Scottish castles and is a very historic castle, although there is not much to look at these days. It dates to the 13th century and has a legendary castle dungeon that housed prominent figures of history in Scotland, such as David Stuart.

It’s worth visiting for the history and the lovely location looking out to the North Sea. It’s in the county of Fife, not too far from Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.


Castles In Scotland Tour

If you feel like going on an organised tour of Scotland’s castles, palaces, and historic places, then there is an excellent 4 days small group tour of the Scottish Highlands that takes in all of this.

I recommend booking this tour only if you have a real interest in Scotland’s historic places as it is a bit expensive but worth the cost if you really want to get out and see a lot of the castles in Scotland.

You can book the Scottish Highlands Castles and Historic Places tour here. It departs from Edinburgh.


Castles In Scotland

So if you’re going to Scotland and want to see some of the Scottish castles when there, then be sure to check out some of the ones mentioned here, they really are the best castles in Scotland to visit.

At the very least go and see Edinburgh Castle!

For more castles in the U.K. take a look at the 15 best castles in Cornwall to visit.

Tip: If you’re planning to stay in Edinburgh you can find hotels near Edinburgh Castle here.

The books I mention below are on Amazon and are affiliate links and I get a small commission if you purchase through the link at no extra cost to you.

The book Scotland: Castles and Clans: is a great look at the castles and the clans that lived in them.

Pick up the Collins Castles Map of Scotland to help explore the castles in Scotland.

For a great book on the history of castles in Britain take a look at this book from one of my favourite historians, Marc Morris: Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain.

And for a view of what life was like in a medieval castle, you will find the classic book Life in a Medieval Castle very interesting. It was the book that the author of Game of Thrones used in part of his research.


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1 thought on “30 Best Castles In Scotland To Visit”

  1. Fascinating!
    Honestly, this is a trip I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.
    I was close but I couldn’t go, but I would love to.
    The castles, I can only imagine the incredible photos I can take. I’m not one to take a lot of things myself, but I love taking pictures of everything, the sculptures, the textures.
    I love this post so much!

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