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The Best Castles in Scotland

Scotland Castles

Sterling Castle is one of the most popular in Scotland

Sterling Castle has been redesigned so many times, it is hard to grasp its complex architecture

Scotland is a delightful place to visit.  While its castles are spectacular, there is much else to see.

Sterling Castle

Sterling Castle is, perhaps, the most famous and certainly the most important of Scotland’s historical castles.  Although its original date is uncertain, construction is thought to have begun early in the 11th century.

The most famous sections of the castle, the King’s Old Building and the Great Hall, were built for James the IV (15th century), while the Palace and Chapel of James V (16th century) are equally treasured.  Sterling suffered various uses throughout the centuries and little of the original structure is visible today.

Statue of Robert the Bruce at Sterling Castle

Almost every major figure in Scottish history (e.g. Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots) spent time at this well-defended bastion of Scottish independence.  Some visitors are put off by the museum-like quality of the presentation/staging of the castle to the public, while other revel in  the approach.

For more information on visiting, see the official website at Historic Scotland


Edinburgh Castle

      Edinburg Castle, sited on a volcanic plateau, looms over the city

Sitting majestically above the city of Edinburgh on a sheer, volcanic bluff, Edinburgh Castle is the most popular attraction in Scotland.  Dating from the 12th century (parts added in the 16th and 17 centuries), the Castle houses the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny (Stone of the Scone - Scotland's coronation stone), the National War Museum of Scotland and numerous antique cannons, including the monstrous Mons Meg.  See the official website of Edinburgh Castle  for more information

The Edinburg Tatoo is a popular military spectacle

This is the castle where Mary Queen of Scots (1542 -1567) gave birth to her only child, a son, who later became the first king of Scotland and England (James I).  For more information on Mary Queen of Scots, see this official site.

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a world famous event featuring military drum and marching squads, is held in August.  See this official website  for more information on the Tattoo.  It is  popular ceremony, so make reservations well in advance.


Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle is extremely scenic and fun to explore

The impressive Dunnottar Castle ruins provide one of the most photographed scenes in eastern Scotland. The castle sits atop a tall rock knob with sheer, smooth- faced cliffs dropping precipitously to the sea. The Castle dates from the 14th Century and the location is believed to have been fortified for over two thousand years. 

Dunnottar Castle is along the coast just south of Stonehaven.  You may remember this castle as it was shown in the background of Zeffirelli's version of Hamlet (1990).  The official website for Dunnottar can be found here.

Eilean Donan Castle

One of the most photographed sites in the Western Highlands is the Eilean Donan Castle, near the town of Dornie (on Highway A87).  The Castle sits on a small islet and is now connected to shore by a narrow stone causeway. The site is majestic and has been marked by the building and destruction of four different castles since the 13th century.  The present castle, which sits on a small peninsula near the joining of three sea lochs, lay in ruins for over 200 years and was reopened to the public in 1932 after years of restoration work.

        Eilean Donan sits proudly in the Scottish Highlands

Eilean Donan castle was destroyed by British frigates in 1719. At the time the Castle was in the possession of Spanish soldiers billeted there in support of the Jacobite Rebellion.  Unfortunately, the Spanish had stockpiled gunpowder in support of the Rebellion and it was used to by the British to destroy the parts of the castle that had not been damaged by the naval bombardment.

The castle is open for touring and the interior is interesting but not spectacular.  Eilean Donan is most famous for its setting and if you wander the area a bit, you will find some spectacular views of the castle, the lochs and the local mountains.  See the official website of the castle for more detail on visiting.



Tantallon Castle

Tantallon  Castle, east of Edinburgh, was a large, powerful castle in its day

Tantallon Castle in east Lothian (near Edinburgh) was built by the Douglases, Earls of Angus, in the 14th century.  It was the last of the great Scottish castles and regarded as one of the most powerful ever built in Scotland.  The castle hugs the cliffs and is snuggled across a small headland that protrudes into the Firth of Forth as it meets the North Sea (opposite Bass Rock).

 The views of the coast  from Tantallon are beautiful and its location strategicThe castle’s construction featured massive curtain walls and a powerful gatehouse.  It was besieged at least three times and seriously damaged by Cromwell’s forces in the 17th century.  Little is left of the original construction and the site is mostly ruins, but what is visible is very dramatic.

See this official site for more details on Tantallon's history and visiting.



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