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Castles in Scotland that you need to visit!
Scotland is jam packed full of castles to visit, it is estimated at one point that there were up to 4000 of them in the country! Nowadays, there are remains of around 2000. Although some of these remains are just a few stones still peeking out. But there are some castles in Scotland that you must visit when you are there!
A few of these are Outlander filming locations, which I will call out. So if you are a fan of the series, bookmark this post!
1. Edinburgh Castle – Castles in Scotland to Visit
Okay, let’s start with one of the most famous castles in Scotland to visit! Edinburgh Castle. Set right in the heart of the city, and perched in top of one volcanic rock formed years ago (the other being Arthur’s Seat!). In fact, the Royal Mile was created because the volcanic rock was too solid for a glacier to move through. So it spilt and went down either side, forming the ridge of the Royal Mile, which the castle sits at the top of.
It is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe and has a rich history as royal residence, prison and fortress.
Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG | Map
2. Stirling Castle
What a castle Stirling Castle is! One of the largest and most historically important castles in Scotland to visit! It also sits atop a Castle Hill and the views as you are approaching it are quite something. Learn about the history of the castle from the 14th, 15th and 16t Centuries, walk around the gardens, explore the Royal Palace and the kitchens and visit the built for James IV around 1503.
Castle Wynd, Stirling FK8 1EJ | Map
3. Linlithgow Palace – Castles in Scotland to Visit
This castle (palace) was the birth place of Mary Queen of Scots. It was originally a retreat for Royals to break up the journey between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle and several monarchs were born in this royal ‘pleasure palace’, surrounded by its peaceful gardens and grounds. After the Scottish Monarchs left for England, it was rarely used and actually burnt out in 1746. You can now explore the ruins.
Oh – and as a bonus for Outlander fans – this was the filming location for the infamous Jamie and Randall scenes in Wentworth Prison.
Kirkgate, Linlithgow EH49 7AL | Map
4. Eilean Donan Castle – Castles in Scotland to Visit
Eilean Donan Castle is possibly my favourite of all the castles in Scotland to visit! This castle is so incredibly impressive. It is quite the famous Scotland scene, and the setting of films such as ‘Highlander’, ‘The World is Not Enough’ and ‘Made of Honour’. Built on a small, tidal island at the point where three lochs join. There has been a fortified structure on this island since the 13th century, with the Medieval castle being the biggest – it’s walls and towers filled the entire island. Towards the end of the 14th century, the castle shrunk to about a fifth of it’s size and the reason is unclear.
It was ruined form 1714 and by 1912 there was hardly any of the original castle left. Take a look at some of the images taken from before it was rebuilt! The current building is due to a meticulous reconstruction in the 20th century. Now you can explore inside the castle, climb the steps to the Keep Door, stand in the banqueting hall and walk the perimeter of the castle.
Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh IV40 8DX | Map
5. Doune Castle
Doune Castle is a medieval stronghold, on the outside of the village of Doune. The castle was originally built in the 13th century, suffered damage in the Scottish War of Independence and then was rebuilt in the late 14th century. It played a role in the Jacobite Risings (as most Scottish castles seem to!) but by 1800’s it was ruined. It was rebuilt in 1880 and then it’s care passed to the state. Nowadays the courtyard, banqueting hall and kitchens are most impressive!
You can also take a lovely walk from the castle, along the river Teith back into the village for some very picturesque scenes.
Outlander fans – Doune castle was the filming location for Castle Leoch, you can see images of filming in the courtyard. It has also been used in Monty Python and Game of Thrones.
Castle Hill, Doune FK16 6EA | Map
6. Blackness Castle
Blackness Castle is a 15th Century fortress near the town of Blackness. While it was built as a residence, it was never a peaceful one, and soon took on other roles such as a prison and garrison. It is shaped like a ship and juts out into the Firth of Forth, which is why it is known as ‘the ship that never sailed’.
Another Outlander call out – this castle depicted Fort William in the series.
Blackness, Linlithgow EH49 7NH | Map
7. Craigmillar Castle
Craigmillar began life as a tower house, which still forms the centre of the castle. Located about three miles east from the centre of Edinburgh, it is one of the most completely preserved Medieval castles in Scotland. It is remarkable how complete it’s underlying structures are, including vaulted floors which means it is possible explore some if the upper floors. As well as some outbuildings. From the roof of the Tower House you can see views over the city – to Edinburgh Castle and Arthur’s Seat.
Outlander call out! This castle appears in season 3 as Ardsmuir Prison where Jamie is held
Craigmillar Castle Rd, Edinburgh EH16 4SY | Map
8. Lochleven Castle
This ruined, late 14th or early 15th century, castle is the tower where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in 1567! Lochleven Castle sits on an island in the middle of Loch Leven and visitors can take a boat ride over to visit. The island has grown in size since Mary was imprisoned, due to the levels of water being lower by over a metre, so the castle used to encompass nearly the entire island. The ruins are in a good state and there is plenty to explore.
Pier Rd, Kinross KY13 8UF | Map
9. Craigievar Castle
Like something out of a fairytale, and said to be the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle. Sitting nestled among the rolling Scottish hills, nearby to the Cairngorms. One home to the Clan Sempill and Forbes family, this castle is a fantastic example of a harled castle, which refers to the finish of the castle. Today when you visit you will find it much as Victoria and Albert did when they visited in 1879.
Craigievar, Alford, AB33 8JF | Map
10. St Andrews Castle
The ruins of St Andrew’s Castle sit on the edge of rugged cliffs, gazing out to sea. You enter the castle across a drawbridge and here you can see the extension that was added onto the castle at a later date. One of the more interesting things about the castle are the siege tunnels. The castle was under siege and the attackers tunnelled under the castle to try and blow it up with gunpowder. The defenders realised what was happening and so counter attacked with more, crudely built, tunnels. You can see and crawl through these tunnels for yourself. You enter through the smaller, narrower ones dug by the defenders. This then widens after you step down a ladder into the tunnels dug by the attackers.
Check out this blog post for more to see at St Andrews: St Andrews, Scotland – How to spend a morning
The Scores, St Andrews KY16 9AR | Map
11. Kilchurn Castle
This castle was once the power base of Clan Campbell. Located at the northern most point of Loch Awe, and when the waters are high, it is cut off from the land on it’s own little island. Built around 1450 by Colin Campbell and it is most likely that the way to access the castle was via tunnel under the loch.
Today, the castle stands open to the elements, although there are a few wooden staircases and walkways for visitors to explore. The castle can be accessed by the A85, but it is best viewed from the castle viewpoint across the loch.
Lochawe, Dalmally PA33 1AF | Map
12. Dunnottar Castle
This castle looks incredible stunning against the dramatic east coastline. The remains of the castle today date from the 15th and 16th century, but it is thought there has been a fortress on this site since the early Middle Ages. The location of the fortress provided many strategic advantages. The castle fell into ruins in the early 18th century.
It was bought in 1925 and since then a lot of work has been done on restoring and repairing the castle. It opened to the public in 2009.
Stonehaven AB39 2TL | Map
13. Urquhart Castle
A popular castle on the shores of the famous Loch Ness. While the castle is stunning, it is actually a bit of a mystery. The current ruins are from the 13th – 16th century, but they are thought on stand on the site of a medieval stronghold. The castle has not be occupied since the 17th century. It has a rich history, involving frequent changes of control, it finally passed into state care in 1913 and is now one of the most visited castles in Scotland.
Drumnadrochit, Inverness IV63 6XJ | Map
14. Balmoral Castle
Balmoral castle is located in Royal Deeside, and is most likely the most famous royal castle in Scotland. The Scottish home of Queen Elizabeth II, and has been owned by the Royal Family since 1852. It is a castle she regularly visits to escape the hustle and bustle of Buckingham Palace. It is one of the largest castles to see when you are in this region of Scotland. Historical records suggest the castle was built in 1390 by Sir William Drummound.
Nowadays you can visit on guided tours, but do check if this is possible when you want to visit. Sadly, it was not when I was in the area!
15. Midhope Castle
I am only including this on the list of castles in Scotland you need to visit IF you are an Outlander fan. If not, this is a very ordinary stop. Only a half hour drive outside of Edinburgh, it is very easy to get to (by car). You may also being wondering if you are in the right place, but there is a very small carpark and a man in a hut. And that is it. At £5 for entry (and by entry it means you can walk up to the edge of the building but not go in), it is steep for what it is. But for fans of the series – this was the place they shot Lallybroch. You can’t buy a ticket there, you need to buy in advance. Although we scraped enough signal together to buy while we were standing in the carpark.
Midhope Castle, Abercorn, South Queensferry EH30 9SL | Map
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