From crumbling ruins to impressive stone fortresses, an exploration of Scotland’s castles will uncover stories of bloody war, romance, legend and myth.
The medieval stronghold of Caerlaverock played a key role in the border wars with England. Its twin-towered gatehouse, moat and battlements have seen countless sieges. Although ruined, it’s still possible to explore the grounds and the castle-themed adventure park beside it.
Eilean Donan Castle
Seen on the front of many a postcard, Eilean Donan Castle is one of Scotland’s architectural and historical highlights. Overlooking the Isle of Skye and surrounded by forested mountains, the castle was built in the 13th century to protect the area from Viking invaders.
Mighty Bothwell sits on a bluff overlooking the river Clyde. It’s the largest stone castle in Scotland and a much fought over stronghold. Building begun in the 13th century, but because the castle was continually besieged by the British it wasn’t finished for over 100 years.
This dramatic-looking castle built in the 14th century has been used as an artillery fortress, a prison, a royal residence, an armoury, as well as a film location for Hamlet. With stunning views across the Fife coast, it’s easy to see why it attracts so many visitors.
Built on a bluff on the shores of Loch Dunvegan amid moorlands and mountains, this castle is the oldest continually inhabited castle in Scotland, home to the clan MacLeod for 800 years.
A ruined fortress in an atmospheric setting atop a cliff, this impregnable castle has hosted many kings and queens, but is more famed for being the castle that held out against Cromwell for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels.
This fairytale tower was owned by the same family for 350 years and is now in the guardianship of the National Trust. Visitors can stroll through its extensive woodland and Victorian kitchen garden, as well as admire the original Jacobean woodwork inside.
Made famous by its links to Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, this magnificent castle was built in the 14th century as a stronghold for the Thanes of Cawdor and still remains their family home today. The original medieval tower is now surrounded by 17th century buildings filled with antiques and tapestries.
Sitting atop an extinct volcano and overlooking the stunning capital of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has been a stronghold of the city for over 3000 years, though it wasn’t until the Middle Ages that it became a royal residence. The castle suffered many sieges during the wars for independence, and its history as a military fort is well documented.
In the wilds of northeast Scotland sits the formidable fortress castle of Balvenie, built in the 13th century by the lords who ruled over the area. With a history of betrayal and battle, this ancient stone castle was transformed in more recent centuries into a Renaissance residence, complete with fine furniture and art.