Castles in Scotland are steeped in history and romance. That’s why many who travel to the wild, windswept highlands of Scotland do so for the impressive castles. Whether built by royalty, invaders, or Scottish clans, many the country’s castles, with their medieval architecture, battlefields, and ramparts still stand the test of time, and await the modern day explorer.
Here are Scotland’s twelve most amazing castles…
1. Balnagown Castle
Perched amid dense forest, windswept wooded valleys, and met by the swift current of the Balnagown River, Balnagown Castle, is located in the Invergordon area of the Highlands, in the Parish of Kilmuir Easter. This castle was once the stronghold of the Chiefs of Clan Ross. Built in the early 14th Century, the castle lay in dilapidation from 1942 until 1972 when it was purchased by Mohamed Al-Fayed, an Egyptian business magnate, who restored the house and grounds to their former glory.
2. Inveraray Castle
Inveraray Castle, gem of Inveraray village in Western Scotland is the seat of the Duke of Argyll, chief of Clan Campbell. Constructed in 1746, the castle displays Gothic, Baroque, and Palladian architecture—with its round towers capped by conical spires, and lush 2-acre garden.
3. Tioram Castle
Former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, declared Tioram Castle one of the “most beautiful places I know” after laying eyes on the castle. Today, what’s left of Tioram lies in ruins on a small rocky tidal island in the Western Highlands, and is only accessible at low tide.
4. Stuart Castle
Charles Stuart, one of the first Earls of Moray, poured 15 years and the majority of his wealth into the once derelict Castle Stuart—transforming it into one of the most stunning castles in Europe—both inside and out! Today, you can rent a room (for 150 British Pounds per night) and enjoy a roaring fireplace, restored furniture, and take in the lush surrounding gardens.
5. Balmoral Castle
Sir William Drummond built Balmoral Castle on the River Dee in 1390 as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert’s private royal residence. Balmoral has passed down as an esteemed estate for royal holidays, and today remains one of the most photographed and toured castles in Scotland. Tours occur from April to the end of July each year.
6. Ballindalloch Castle
Constructed as the residence of the Russell and Macpherson-Grant broods in 1546, Ballindalloch Castle is often referred to as the “Pearl of the North”. The castle is also reputed to be haunted by the ghosts of General James Grant and the Green Lady.
7. Inverness Castle
Inverness Castle was the reputed inspiration for the castle in Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Macbeth’ and the site of the character Duncan’s murder. However, Inverness Castle is quite lovely and not so convincing as a site of murder and passion.
8. Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is a synonymous symbol with Scotland. Visited by over one million people every year the castle offers a stunning view of Edinburgh. The Castle was actually build atop a extinct volcanic plug and it was considered a safe haven by Scottish kings up until the early 1600s.
9. Skibo Castle
Considered the most prestigious resort in Scotland, Skibo Castle translates to Schytherbolle in Gaelic, or “fairyland”. Today, it houses the crème-de-la-crème Carnegie Club. This 13th century stone tower house was built as a residence and fortress for Gilbert de Moravia, Bishop of Caithness, who resided here until 1545.
10. Eilean Donan
Set on what appears to be a fairytale setting, Eilean Donan is the whimsical island castle built during the 13th century as the official meeting point of three great lochs and a stronghold against the Vikings. Once largely inhabited by the Clan Mackenzie, Castle Eilean was destroyed by the Spanish in 1719, but rebuilt by Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap in 1932.
11. Urquhart Castle
If you hope to catch a glimpse of the fantastic Loch Ness Monster, you can do so from the eerie ruins of Urquhart Castle, perched on the dark and rocky edge of Loch Ness, in northern Scotland.
12. Glamis Castle
Constructed in 1372, near the village of Glamis, in Angus, Glamis Castle, despite its beauty holds a dark and spine-tingling tale that includes murder, starvation, and crime. The castle was the site where the Ogilvie family hid and starved to death—which is why it’s often tied to inspiring Shakespeare’s Macbeth tragedy.