Scotland is located to the north of the U.K. It is known for its greenery, scenic views and the lakes (lochs) and valleys (glens) scattered all over the country. The wilderness of the Cairngorms and Northwest Highlands are examples of the country’s preserved mountain wildlife. It is also remembered for golf, being the first nation to host the first game of golf at the Old Course of St Andrews in the 1400s. The country’s recent Renaissance of culture and economy has contributed to spreading awareness about its castles and many other historically significant sites.
Scotland also manages to stand out for the historical monuments it offers; particularly the castles. Ask anyone – tourists or locals – they will recommend you to visit the various castles scattered across the country. With over two thousand castles to look at, it can be perplexing to select which ones to visit. To make it easier for you, we present to you a list of 10 castles you must look at.
List of Top 10 castles in Scotland
- Edinburgh Castle
- Stirling Castle
- Balmoral Castle
- Braemar Castle
- Inverlochy Castle
- Cawdor Castle
- Eilean Donan Castle
- Dunnottar Castle
- Glamis Castle
- Blair Castle
These castles have been built across the Middle Age and have been maintained to showcase how the people then lived. Each castle has memorable forms and architectural work, accompanied by an equally unique tale. Scotland was a crucial location in the Middle Ages, and these castles tell us about the rich history of the country and its rulers.
1. Edinburgh Castle
Located in Edinburgh, the capital, this castle is known for offering a memorable view. As a site significant to the history of Western Europe, it is a must-visit for history lovers.
The one room which should be visited for sure is the Crown Room. The priceless oldest Crown jewels, crown, sceptre and sword of state and Stone of Destiny are all located here. Known as the Honours of Scotland, most of these objects have no traceable origin, have seen a tumultuous past and are of extreme importance to the nation.
With a variety of planned public performances and other things to see, you are bound to be kept entertained throughout your visit. The castle even offers meals for lunch as an individual event. For those who enjoy experimenting with food, be sure to go and have a taste of authentic Scottish cuisine.
- Location: Castlehill, Edinburgh
- Timings: 9:30 am to 6 pm (last entry at 5 pm)
- Entry Fee: £ 17.50 for Adults, £ 10.50 for Children (5-15) and £ 14.00 for Senior Citizens. Ensure to purchase the tickets in advance at https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/plan-your-visit/tickets to guarantee your entry on your choice of the day.
Also See: Top 10 free things to do in Edinburgh
2. Stirling Castle
A site of historic and architectural significance, it is one of Scotland’s most famous castles. It is located at the top of Castle Hill which is a geographical part of Stirling Sill, hence the name. Do not miss the serene Queen Anne Gardens which face the Princess Towers and Queen’s Lodgings. The gardens are said to have been made in the 1400s and house a beech tree which is over 200 years old.
Its architecture has been inspired by various styles and trends, primarily Scottish baronial and Renaissance. The climb uphill is a tad bit tough, but its beauty makes the walk worth it. Several shows and displays take place quite regularly, giving you have a lot to look forward to it. The approaching Scottish Chamber Orchestra takes place on 18th July and is perfect for music enthusiasts.
- Location: Castle Esplanade, Stirling
- Timings: 9:30 am to 6 pm (5:15 pm)
- Entry Fee: £ 16.00 for Adults, £ 9.60 for Children (5-15) and £ 12.80 for Senior Citizens. These prices are for on-site purchases and are lowered for advanced purchases.
3. Balmoral Castle
One of the Royal family’s Scottish holiday homes, this estate is picturesque and royal in every sense. It has beautiful views with sprawling gardens and offers accommodations too. Many exhibitions take place here regularly and are available to the public. Safari Tours allow you to experience the castle’s numerous parks and gardens even better with inputs from Rangers.
Those interested in the royal family can find many fascinating locations. The Garden Cottage is one such location. Once used by Queen Victoria for breakfast, dealing with State correspondences and writing in her diary, the cottage has been maintained with much difficulty. It overlooks the water garden and is surrounded by many gardens, including the rose garden. A few rooms of the castle are available to public viewing; however, as Her Majesty, The Queen still uses most of them; they are not accessible to the public.
- Location: Balmoral Estates, Ballater
- Timings: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (last entry at 4:30 pm)
- Entry Fee: £ 11.50 for Adults, £ 6.00 for Children (5-15) and £ 10.50 for Senior Citizens. Family tickets can be purchased for £ 32.00.
4. Braemar Castle
Constructed in the 17th Century by John Erskine, Earl of Mar, it is located near the village of Braemar and served incredible purposes (to keep a tab of the Farquharsons, the fiery tenants of the Earl) in the past. While it is not too large, it is gorgeous despite the stiff exterior and takes you back in time with brilliant tours.
A rich and colourful history backs this castle and makes visiting it all the more enjoyable. It is well restored with furniture to give you a better idea of how life in the castle was. Located in the heart of Cairngorms National Park, this is the place to look at Scottish red squirrels and various other species specific to the country due to its climate. Interacting with locals gives you an idea of the unique residents and their lifestyle.
- Location: Braemar, Ballater
- Timings: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (Wednesday to Sunday)
- Entry Fee: £ 8.00 for Adults, £ 4.00 for Children (5-15) and £ 7.00 for Senior Citizens. Family tickets are available for £ 18.00.
5. Inverlochy Castle
Built in the 13th Century, this ruined castle in Scotland was the site of the first and second battles of Inverlochy and was built on what was a village destroyed by Vikings. The castle, which is now in ruins, is of much historical significance and is treated well by the National Government.
It is located close to Inverlochy and Fort William and is under the care of Historic Scotland who has changed little from the time of its construction. It is now a ruin but is recognized as a monument of historic importance. Looking at the castle, ruins does not require any entry fee to be paid.
- Location: Torlundy, Fort William
- Timings: Open 24 hours
- Entry Fee: Free
6. Cawdor Castle
This castle is seen as a castle of much literary significance because it serves as an indirect setting in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, as it was mentioned but had not been constructed as we know it then. Located in the parish of Cawdor in Nairnshire, it is an attractive and picturesque place to visit with various gardens to look at and walk around in.
It is still resided in by the Cawdor family and is brimming with tapestries, portraits and various other artefacts whose number has only increased over the last 600 years.
Its gardens have been listed on the national inventory for their diversity and beauty. The Flower Garden, Walled Garden and Wild Garden planted over the years since its construction in the 15th Century are breathtaking, and the woods which border the castle are home to various species of trees making a good trip for nature enthusiasts. A nine-hole golf-course makes this a place which must be visited by those who enjoy and follow the sport.
- Location: Cawdor, Nairn
- Timings: 10:00 am to 5:30 pm (last entry at 5:00 pm)
- Entry Fee: £ 12.50 for Adults, £ 7.50 for Children (5-15) and £ 11.50 for Senior Citizens. A family ticket can be purchased for £ 35.00
7. Eilean Donan Castle
Potentially named after the 6th-century priest Bishop Donand, this castle and island are located over the meeting points of three Lochs (lakes); Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh in the 13th Century, this castle in Scotland is one of the most featured castles across the world due to its unfathomable beauty.
Constructed to defend the island from Viking invasions, this castle has seen much turbulence, with the size expanding and then facing destruction due to a three-day war to tackle the Jacobite uprisings. Reconstructed and completed in 1932, the castle now stands as an attempt to represent how it used to be prior to the bombings of 1719.
It offers an unforgettable view of the water and has been labelled one of the most visited monuments in the Highlands. The castle has various tours and has multiple, and objects of historic importance, such as a sword said to have been used at the Culloden, making it a good and exciting experience worth having.
The tours offer an insight into the history of the island and castle while providing informative inputs about how the castle has been maintained.
- Location: Eilean Donan is an island where the castle is located, hence the name.
- Timings: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm (1st February to 23rd March)
10:00 am to 6:00 pm (24th March to 26th October)
10:00 am to 4:00 pm (27th October to 30th December)
- Entry Fee: £ 10.00 for Adults, £ 6.00 for Children (5-15), £ 9.00 for Senior Citizens. A family ticket can be purchased at £ 29.00.
8. Dunnottar Castle
Located atop a rocky hilltop on the northeastern coast of Scotland, this castle in Scotland is truly made memorable due to the long journey endured just to reach the castle. The history of the castle is quite strange too, first serving as a fort to the Picts (evidence is available too), the history since then has been quite unsteady and rocky, with multiple changes in ownership and an attack by the Vikings. It is now a ruined medieval fortress with only a few surviving buildings from the 16th Century.
The location, while tricky, is also mind-blowing due to the awe-inspiring views it allows you to witness. It was also home to Earls Marischal, one of the more powerful families in Scottish history.
The castle allows tours, which provide you with deeper knowledge and perception of the vivid history of the castle. This is one of the few to meet everyone’s needs – photographers love the view, history-lovers absorb the various tales and tourists just enjoy the ambience of the town and castle.
- Location: Stonehaven
- Timings: 9:00 am to 5:30 pm (1st April to 30th September)
10:00 am to 15:00 or 16:00 pm (1st October to 31st March)
- Entry Fee: £ 7 for Adults, £ 3 for Children (5-15) and a family ticket can be purchased at £ 17.00.
9. Glamis Castle
Seated beside the village of Agnus, this castle has seen over a thousand years of history, has inspired Shakespeare’s Macbeth and has served as the childhood home of HM The Queen Mother, and the birthplace of HRH Princess Margaret. With a range of colourful gardens, woods and assorted lands, the opulent castle grounds alone take hours to absorb. There are a number of open exhibition rooms which are open for public viewing and showcase many aspects of HM The Queen Mother’s childhood.
A number of exhibitions and displays are conducted regularly to entertain the visitors – who can reside at the conveniently provided accommodations in the countryside. The Three Inch Fools Party is one such event, hosted on 16th July. This event is something literature lovers must check out as the commendable performers will add a creative touch to Shakspeare’s Macbeth and Much Ado About Nothing. A closer planned event is the Strathmore Highland Games, something sports fans should definitely have a look at.
- Location: Angus
- Timings: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm (last entry at 4:30 pm)
- Entry Fee: £ 15.50 for Adults, £ 10.00 for Children (5-16), £ 12.00 for Senior citizens. A family ticket can be purchased at £ 50.00.
Also See: Top Incredible Romantic Places in Europe
10. Blair Castle
Dating back to the Medieval Age, this castle is located in the village Blair Atholl in Perthshire this is a castle in Scotland which has been home to the Atholl family, a number of soldiers during the Great War – serving as an auxiliary hospital, and entrepreneurs and other renowned individuals for more than seven centuries. It is inspired by Scottish baronial architecture and offers a stunning idea of how the family lived then. With 30 furnished and maintained rooms, the castle allows for a memorable experience with its numerous gardens and Grounds.
The Hercules Garden (a nine-acre walled garden), Diana’s Grove (well known for the conifer trees) and the ruins of St Bride’s Kirk are a few places one must visit when in the castle. Tours of the farm and safari tours are available to make the visit more pleasant. Children are kept occupied with the unique activities planned for them.
- Location: Blair Atholl, Pitlochry
- Timings: 9:30 am to 5:30 pm (last entry at 4:30 pm)
- Entry Fee: £13.00 for adults, £8.30 for children (5-16) and £11.25 for senior citizens to visit the house and gardens. A family ticket can be purchased for £38.00.
Scotland’s castles are individualistic, each telling an equally mind-boggling but intense tale with novel architecture characteristic to the age. These castles home various essential pieces of furniture and other artefacts, each equally essential in the past and the present. Be sure to visit as many of these castles as you can to experience Scotland and its history to the fullest.