The best castles in Scotland
Scotland’s attractions go far beyond shortbread, kilts and whisky. The country’s turbulent history has left a lasting mark in the shape of over 3,000 castles that will send your mind flying centuries back in time. But with so many to choose from, knowing where to start can be half the battle. So, we’ve handpicked the six most beautiful castles for your next trip to Scotland.
1. Edinburgh Castle
If you’re only going to visit one castle in Scotland, make sure it’s Edinburgh Castle. Perched high above the capital on the plug of an extinct volcano, this is the most important and famous castle in the country. Just one look at it will give you goose bumps, especially at night when it’s all lit up against the moonlight. The haunting castle is made up of dozens of buildings dating back from the 12th to the 20th century. But there’s more to Edinburgh Castle than its historical significance; it’s also the best vantage point to admire the city’s unique topography.
2. Inveraray Castle
Now, we’re off to western Scotland for one of the country’s finest stately homes, Inveraray Castle. Rugged highland scenery serves as a jaw-dropping backdrop to the romantic castle and gardens located on the shore of Loch Fyne. The castle is the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Argyll, Chiefs of the Clan Campbell whose family have resided in Inveraray since the early 15th century. Be sure to check out the priceless collection of china, silver and family heirlooms in the Clan Room. And save time for a walk in the beautiful gardens.
3. Ballindalloch Castle
If you’re scared of ghosts, you might want to give this one a miss. Known as ‘The Pearl of the North’, Ballindalloch Castle is one of the most popular haunted castles in the world. The ghost of General James Grant is its most famous inhabitant, while ‘The Green Lady’ haunts the dining room. Eeek. Ballindalloch Castle has been the family home of the Macpherson-Grants since 1546.
4. Eilean Donan
It’s easy to see why Eilean Donan appears on more shortbread tins and calendars than any other Scottish castle. Strategically located on its own little island, overlooking the Isle of Skye, at the point where three great sea-lochs meet, Eilean Donan’s setting is a-ma-zing. Now for a bit of history: the original castle was built during the 13th century as defence against the Vikings and later became a stronghold of Clan Mackenzie. During a Jacobite uprising in 1719, the castle was occupied by Spanish Forces and ultimately destroyed. It lay in ruins for more than 200 years until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap restored it to its former glory. Nice one, Lieutenant.
5. Glamis Castle
Sitting pretty in the county of Angus, Glamis Castle is one of the finest castles in Europe. As well as being the childhood home of The Queen Mother, it’s famous for appearing on the back of the ten-pound note issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland. It’s mentioned as the castle of Macbeth in Shakespeare’s play, although King Macbeth had no connection with the castle. With a history of over 600 years, Glamis Castle has some creepy tales involving monsters and the devil. Yikes.
6. Balmoral Castle
Located in the magnificent valley of the River Dee, Balmoral Castle is one of the most visited and photographed sites in Scotland. Its history begins in 1390, when Sir William Drummond built it as a home, but it became a part of history in 1848 when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert chose it as a private royal residence. The original Balmoral Castle was considered too small for a royal retreat, so the breathtaking estate we see today is the result of extensive redesign. Balmoral has been passed on to each of the royal successors and remains one of the Queen’s favourite holiday destinations.