Magical castles you should visit on your Scotland holiday

When you think about Scotland you undoubtedly think about the beautiful highland scenery, loch monsters, men in kilts  and the romantic and magical castles.  Well if you don’t then you should be thinking of all of the above.  Kidding aside, Scotland truly is a great country with a fascinating history.  This  history has left it filled with magical castles all across its landscape.  For me seeing them is like traveling through time and reliving part of the history through them.  So if like me you are a castle lover you are in luck as you will have over 2000 to chose from when you visit Scotland.  Here is a list of the lucky 13 I chose to explore in my recent 2 week road trip.

1. Edinburgh Castle

edinburgh castle

The first of Scotland’s magical castles I visited was Edinburgh Castle. This historic castle dominates the skyline of Edinburgh and it is one of the cities most popular tourist attractions. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a castle that like many in Scotland is steeped in history and war.  Here you will find the very controversial and legendary Stone of Destiny. It’s also the home of the Scottish Crown Jewels.  You can take one of the many daily tours of the castle or tour on your own. Here is a list of itineraries for your castle visit.  *Historic Scotland Property

To read more on what to see and do in Edinburgh check out this Edinburgh City Guide here.

 

2. Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Just 8 miles from Stirling is Doune Castle.  This magical castle has a long royal and clan history but it has recently been made famous by its appearance on two popular TV shows. It is Castle Leoch in the TV production of Outlander and Winterfell on the Game of Thrones.  But Doune first taste of stardom was while being featured as a setting for the BBC’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail. *Historic Scotland Property

 

3. Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is one of the most historically important castles in Scotland and it is filled with Royal history. This magical castle saw several kings and queens crowned including Mary Queen of Scots. It is also the sight of many famous battles such as Stirling Bridge and the Bannockburn.  Today it is a popular with locals and tourists alike and walking the walls is a great way to see the views this magical castle provides. Stirling Castle is filled with many kid friendly activities so it a perfect castle for the entire family to enjoy. *Historic Scotland Property

Stirling Castle is actually one of the castles my two girls chose as their favorite during our visit.  You can see their choices here *Historic Scotland Property

 

4. Inverary Castle

Inverary Castle - Scottish Castles

Here is another castle that has a bit of TV fame as it is the set for Downtown Abbey ‘s “Christmas Special”.   Inveraray Castle is home to the Duke of Argyll, and the rooms tell the story of the Clan Campbell. The inside of the castle is beautifully maintained and you can see items such as the swords used during the Battle of Culloden, china and silver collections, tapestries and many other family heirlooms. They also have a beautiful garden to stroll through and a very tasty tea room for a snack or cup of tea. Truly one of Scotland’s magical castles.

 

5. Kilchurn Castle

Kilchurn castle

The romantic ruins of Kilchurn Castle are situated at the northern end of Loch Awe and are quite frankly difficult to locate. We actually missed the small nondescript parking lot  and had to turn around. However it is worth finding as admission is free and it is a short picturesque walk to the entrance of the castle.  This magical castle did not experience much conflict but it was abandoned following a fire in 1760 which was caused by lightning.

 

6. Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace

While not technically considered a castle I felt like I needed to include this palace on the list.  It is a magnificent property to visit and it was once the royal residence of the Stewarts and the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. This magical castle is filled with Royal history and is well worth a visit.  *Historic Scotland Property

 

7. Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan castle

Dunvegan is the oldest continually inhabited castle in Scotland and it has been the seat of the chiefs of Clan Macleod for over 800 years. Not exactly the prettiest looking castle from the outside but the inside has some interesting items on display. One of the most famous is the Fairy Flag which has been used twice successfully in battle.  There are a few legends associated with the flag and it is said to come from the fairies and given magical powers of protection. A magical castle indeed.

 

8. Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan

An iconic castle in Scotland and probably one of the most photographed and recognized castles as well. I found the guides inside to be very informative and to provide great stories about the castle and its past. Even if you do not go inside stopping at this magical castle for the classic postcard picture is a must.

 

9. Urquhart Castle

Urquhart castle

No visit to Scotland is complete without seeing this magical castle. The castle ruins of Urquhart have a magnificent location commanding breathtaking views of Loch Ness.  There is no better location to search for the famous Loch Ness Monster than perched on top of this magical castles ruins.   *Historic Scotland Property

 

10. Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin castle has beautiful gardens that for good reason remind me of a french chateau. The inspiration for these gardens came from the Palace of Versailles in Paris. The castle itself is the family home of the Earl of Sutherland and Clan Sutherland and it is still inhabited by the family.   One of the best things about visiting this magical castle is enjoying the magnificent falconry display. Please visit the castles website for more information on dates and times to see the falcons in action.

 

11. Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar castle

This castle wins the award for best magical setting in my eyes. It surely is dramatic as it is surrounded by sheer cliffs and the raging north sea. Dunnottar has a turbulent history but today you can enjoy a peaceful day out with magical views.  If I had to pick only one as my favorite, Dunnottar would be it.  For me this is the most magical castle in Scotland.

 

12. Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle is the family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and was also the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. If you are a lover of ghost stories this castle will surely entertain as there is rumor of 4 residential ghosts which stories you can learn of with the castle tour.

 

13. St. Andrews Castle

St. Andrews Castle

Like several other castles on this list St. Andrews castle enjoys spectacular sea views.  If you are in St. Andrews this historic property is worth a visit.  Make sure to explore the underground mine and take a peek at the bottle dungeon. *Historic Scotland Property

 

BONUS – Castle Stalker

castle-stalker

I technically did not visit this magical castle but I did drive by it.  The setting is quite magical as the castle is surrounded by water. And if it is on your route I recommend you pull over for a quick glance to take in the beauty of the castle and its surroundings. If you are interested in going inside they do some limited tours. You can schedule yours directly on their website here.

 

Money saving tip

I love visiting historic properties and if you do as well, then here is a great tip to save you money while you explore.  You can get a membership to Historic Scotland and visit all of the properties on their list for a very reasonable price.  This has the potential of saving you hundreds if you intend to visit multiple properties. And you do not even need to be a Scotland resident to take advantage of this savings.  Not only will you get free entry for an entire year to over 300 properties, but you also get discounts at the shops and cafes.

If your visit will be for 10 days or less then I would recommend the Explorer pass instead.  I encourage you to visit these websites when you are planning your trip and see how either one of these options can save you money.

 

A night in a castle

Broomhall Castle

If you are looking to have an overnight stay in a castle I can recommend a stay in Broomhall Castle near Stirling. We spent two nights here while exploring the Stirling area.  The location was great giving us quick access to everything we wanted to see in Stirling while not being in the city center.  We enjoyed the beautiful surroundings and tranquil setting as well as the good freshly made breakfast.  The room was spacious and comfortable.  We could not have asked for more.

 

Magical castles are not the only reason to visit Scotland.  Take a look at my top 10 reasons to visit Scotland here. Or you can read about my 2 week itinerary.  Here is week one and here is week two.

 

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Magical Castles of Scotland

What magical castles have you visited?  Drop me a note below or get social with me on Instagram or Facebook.

 

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46 Comments

  1. Wonderful magical castles! I’d never really thought about going to Scotland but not only do I love visiting castles and historical places, I’m also a bit fan of the Outlander series. Great informative post, thanks for the inspiration!

    1. If you are and Outlander liver then you will love visiting Scotland. Truly magical. If I can help at all let me know. Happy Roving!!!

    2. If you are and Outlander lover then you will love visiting Scotland. Truly magical. If I can help at all let me know. Happy Roving!!!

  2. These are absolutely stunning! My partner’s father is Glaswegian so I hope to visit the lovely country sooner than later. These all look absolutely magical! Loved learning a bit about each as well. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. It is a magical place to visit and not just because of the castles. I hope you get to go one day soon and experience it. Happy roving!!!

  3. I could dedicate an entire vacation to just visiting castles easily. It never gets old. They’re all so unique with great histories and stories to tell. Is it possible to see all 13 in two weeks?!? And sneak in some whiskey tasting. I’ve really been wanting to sleep in a castle too…so thanks for the suggestion of Broomhall castle! I pinned this to my castle board. If you’d like to be a collaborator, let me know!

    1. Yes it is possible to see them all in that time and more. I actually wanted to see a few more but my husband had had enough of seeing castles so we stoped. We did a few whiskey tastings but not as much as we wanted since we traveled with our daughters. You can check out my full 2 week itinerary if you are interested in what we did for the full 2 weeks. Also if you want a contributor to your castles board I would love to participate just let me know. Thanks for reading Stephanie and Happy Roving!!!

  4. These Scottish castles certainly look mystical and magical. Your post transported me into a fairytale. I particularly like Urquhart Castle. I’ve stayed in some Irish castles before and loved it.

    1. A stay in a castle is always fun. I know Ireland some great ones. Glad you enjoyed the post and happy Roving!!!

  5. Great list! LOVE Scotland for their castles – Edinburgh Castle was spectacular, though I did love jumping in a car and exploring for the more off the beaten path spots. I do remember Urqart castle, because it’s the same last name as a couple of my friends so we were quite amused in stumbling across it 😀

    1. Hi Meg – glad you enjoyed the list. We spent 2 weeks in Scotland and I agree jumping in a car and getting away from Edinburgh to some of the more remote areas was absolutely fantastic. How funny about your friends who share a name with the castle that must have been a chuckle for sure. Thanks for reading and your comment. Happy Roving!!!

  6. I loved reading through Jo and seeing all the lovely pics, gives me so much inspiration for our own trip we’re planning…maybe next year already, depending on our exact plans and budget? Otherwise definitely the year after! After the USA trip this Summer our savings account doesn’t quite seem to follow as quickly as do our dreams!

    1. If you really plan to visit let me know and I will be happy to give you tips and help out. Scotland is truly one of my favorite places.

    1. Hi Agnes’s, are you traveling to Scotland soon? It is one of my favorite countries and I am glad you enjoyed this list. If you need any help trip planning or an suggestions let me know.

  7. The Urquhart Castle looks like it came straight out of fairy tale book. It’s so pretty specially with the view of the Loch. The 10th castle reminded me immediately of Versailles and I think it’s my favorite (based on the photos you’ve posted) among everything else. Right, I will have to google now what the difference is between a castle and a palace. :p

    1. Hi Noemi – you are talking about Dunrobin. Yes the gardens have a bit of a resemblance to Versaille. They have an amazing falconry display and it is a rescue for these animals. A great castle indeed. Now for Urquhart – this castle is in a prime location and although it is in ruins now it is pretty magical and looks like a fairy tale for sure. Scotland stole my heart and I hope everyone gets to experience its magic.

  8. This is a really great article and overview of all these castles! Scotland and castles have been on my bucket list for some time–still haven’t gotten there but wow, I just can’t wait to go! Thanks so much for the tip on the explorer pass, I will definitely look into that when I make plans to take the trip there.

    1. Glad this was able to inspire and help. Scotland is a true gem and hopefully you get to visit soon. Should you need any advice let me know.

  9. Fantastic post! I’m a huge fan of Scottish castles (in fact my husband and I got married in Culzean Castle on the cliff-top overlooking the Firth of Clyde). We have visited several of the castles you included and they are all amazing to photograph and get a sense of the turbulent history. I’ll be pinning this for our next trip to Scotland (from Australia), as you’ve mentioned a couple I haven’t been to yet.

    1. Ali – what a wonderful place to get married at. How funny you are from Australia. I honeymooned in Australia which is also a great country with amazing sites. Anyway hope you get to go back and explore Scotland some more.

  10. I am from the North of England and only an hours drive from Bonnie Scotland. I have been there a lot but I am ashamed to say I have only been to Edinburg castle. With so many wonderful castles you would think I would have visited more. I really need to make more of an effort next time I am there. Some of the castles are spectacular. I love the looks of Dunnottar Castlethe most.

    1. Kathy – no shame girl. The U.K. Has so much to see and do. Just make it a priority if it is something you are interested in. I highly recommend the historic Scotland explorer pass or even membership if you will be visiting other historic sites. It provides a great savings.

  11. Some really nice Castle photos. My heritage is from Scotland, but never thought of heading there to look around. The castle are interesting, reminding me of the castles we looked at following the Rhine in Europe.

    1. Tony – How amazing that is your heritage. You should definitely visit then I promise the country will blow you away. It is truly spectacular.

  12. I had to save this to my Scotland Pinterest board! I’ve been obsessing over Scotland lately and am DYING to visit – specifically for the castles. Your photography is gorg and has me feeling super wadnderlusty over Scotland right now!

    1. Jacklyn – so happy this post touched you. You should totally put Scotland on your list and should you need help with planning or have questions feel free to contact me. I like nothing better that to talk about Scotland and it would be my pleasure to help you.

  13. These castles look like taken straight out of a fairy tale. Amazing! Especially the Inverary castle and the Glamis castle..I’m sure even with the gloomy Scottish climate (at least when I’ve been to Scotland) it’s spectacular. I’d love to spend a night at the Broomhall Castle. And imagine getting married there!

    1. Kristine – funny the weather was not a deterrent at all and the castles are magical even in the rain. I can imagine getting married at a castle must be a dream.

  14. WOW! How incredible are these?! I just started watching Outlander recently so now I must say I am a bit obsessed with Scotland as is and this just made it worse haha. I need to go asap 🙂

    1. Carolina- Outlander is one of my favorite shows but I must confess I read the books years ago and have been obsessed for years. The trip there was magical and one of my favorites ever and I want to return. I sure hope you get to go I promise you won’t be disappointed.

  15. I am one of those bad brits that have never actually been to Scotland! I have wanted to go to Edinburgh for a while now but will definitely add some of the beauts to our itinerary!

    1. Katie – haha with so much amazingnes going on in the U.K. I am not surprised you have yet to visit Scotland. Hope you get to go soon and enjoy all it has to offer.

  16. I am one of those bad brits that have never actually been to Scotland! I have wanted to go to Edinburgh for a while now but will definitely add some of the beauts to our itinerary!

  17. What a nice list, Joella!
    I spent a month in Scotland last summer hiking, and I haven’t seen any of the castles from your list! I’m such a bad tourist! 😉 I should be punished by being sent back there to catch up on Scottish castles. I would bear the penalty with pleasure! 😀

    Happy travels!
    Ioanna (A Woman Afoot)

    1. Ioanna – I must make sure you are suffering greatly and therefore must accompany you there. Glad you enjoyed the list and I really hope you get to go back and enjoy them in person.

    1. Cindy – you are so right so many castles but each one has its own history and legends. So glad to hear you love Scotland as much as I do.

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