Scotland can boast of many things, but it’s number of historic castles is really quite impressive! No matter where you are in Scotland, a castle is never too far away. Many of Scotland’s castles rank amongst the most iconic in the world, like Eilean Donan, Edinburgh and Balmoral, to name a few. Below, we have listed some of the most historical castles you can find in Scotland.
Standing proudly on top of Castle Hill in Stirling, Stirling Castle is one of the most important castles in the whole of Scotland with a long and colourful history. The castle is often referred to as ‘the key to the Kingdom of Scotland’ as it was vigorously fought over and changed ownership during the Wars of Independence with England from 1296 to 1356. Two of the country’s most famous yet bloody battles took place near Stirling Castle: The Battle of Stirling Bridge and the Battle of Bannockburn.
Edinburgh Castle is the symbol of Scotland’s capital, overlooking the city and welcoming over 2million visitors per year. The castle is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe, having been a used as a military garrison, prison and fortress. But it’s perhaps most famously known for once being a royal residency for centuries. Here is where Queen Margaret died in 1093 and in 1566, Mary Queen of Scots gave birth of James VI in the Royal Palace. Nowadays, Edinburgh Castle serves as a military station, is home to the Scottish National War Memorial and hosts the famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo annually.
Eilean Donan Castle
Founded during the 13th century, Eilean Donan Castle was built as a defensive measure to protect the lands of Kintail against Vikings who raided, settled and controlled the North of Scotland and the Wester Isles between 800 and 1266. Several Scottish clans have held a long historical relationship with the castle, including the MacRaes, the MacLennans and the MacKenzies. Defense and ownership of the castles switched between these clans over centuries. Eilean Donan Castle opened its doors to the public in 1955 and is now owned by the Conchra Charitable Trust which was established in 1983 to care for the castle.
No visit to the Isle of Skye is complete without visiting Dunvegan Castle. Having been continuously occupied by the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 7 centuries and 30 generations, it’s thought that Dunvegan Castle is the oldest occupied castle in northern Scotland. Dunvegan is situated on top of the rocky outcrop overlooking Loch Dunvegan. Although it is still a family home, some parts of the castle are open to the public, both inside and outside. Visitors can see one of the castle’s greatest treasures – the Dunvegan Cup, a unique ‘mazer’ which dates back to the Middle Ages and was gifted by the O’Neils of Ulster as a token of thanks to one of the clan’s most celebrated Chiefs.
Glamis Castle bears witness to over 1000 years of history in the heart of Angus. The castle is the ancestral seat to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorn, the childhood home of H.M Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and the birthplace of HRH The Princess Margaret. Not only is Glamis Castle a historical treasure, it’s an architectural gem too. It is protected as a category A listed building and the grounds are included on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland, the national listing of significant gardens.
Owned by HM The Queen, Balmoral Castle is the Scottish home to the Royal Family and has been one of the residences of the British Royal Family since 1852. Balmoral was initially too small for extensive family and servants, so it was demolished, and a completely new castle was built in the Baronial style. Unlike the monarch’s official residences, Balmoral Castle is not the property of the Crown. The castle grounds and gardens are usually open to the public but have been closed recently due to the pandemic. The only room inside the castle that is open to the public is the ballroom.
The ruins of the historic Urquhart Castle are set amidst the dramatic Scottish Highlands, offering a glimpse into medieval life with its impressive collection of artefacts. It’s thought that St Columba worked miracles at Urquhart Castle in the 6th century and here is where the MacDonald Lords of the Isles struggled with the Crown for power. Although the castle is in ruins, visitors can still safely climb the Grant Tower, the castle’s centerpiece.
Check out our Scottish Castles holiday package here. This tour takes visitors from the romantic scenery of the Mull of Kintyre past the lochs, glens and castles of the Highlands, through the Whisky country of the North East and back to Scotland’s stunning capital, Edinburgh. We have put together a sample package, however we can customize all packages to suit your requirements.
Contact us for further information or to begin arranging your trip now.