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