The Best Castles in Scotland
Collected by AFAR Editors , AFAR Staff
Scotland’s finest castles range from medieval palaces and Renaissance residences to hilltop fortresses and stately homes. Some have interesting histories (the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, the burial site of Robert the Bruce), while others showcase ornate halls, charming courtyards, and formal gardens. One castle even served as the setting for both Monty Python and Game of Thrones.
MacLeod Estate, Dunvegan House, Dunvegan, Isle of Skye IV55 8WF, UK
The oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, Dunvegan has served as the ancestral home of Clan MacLeod for more than 800 years. Restored between 1840 and 1850, the castle features a unified exterior complete with defensive battlements...
Dornie, Kyle of Lochalsh IV40 8DX, UK
Eilean Donan is the über-castle of the Highlands, perched on a rocky islet in a tidal loch on the road to the Isle of Skye. After crossing an arched stone bridge, visitors may recognize the setting from such films as Highlander and The World...
Castlebay - Kisimul Castle, Isle of Barra HS9 5UZ, UK
Nicknamed the “Castle in the Sea,” this stone tower sits on a rock in the sheltered harbor of Castlebay—the largest town on the Isle of Barra. In fact, you need to take a small boat across the bay to visit Castle Kisimul, which...
Duart Castle, Lochdon, Isle of Mull PA64 6AP, UK
The ancient home of Clan Maclean, Duart Castle towers over the Sound of Mull, making a statement with its huge curtain walls and solid keep. It spent more than a century in ruins before Sir Fitzroy Maclean had it refurbished in 1911, and now...
Braemar, Ballater AB35 5XR, UK
Braemar Castle has been through a lot. Built as a Highland hunting lodge for the Earl of Mar in 1628, the classic tower house was repeatedly sacked throughout the years, torched by John Farquharson in 1689 and again by the English in 1715 and...
Blair Atholl, Pitlochry PH18 5TL, UK
You can just imagine the hunting parties that must have gathered at this magnificent castle, surrounded by the wooded glens of the Perthshire Highlands. In one hall, the walls are lined with 175 pairs of antlers. Situated on the historic estate of...
East Port, Falkland, Cupar KY15 7DA, UK
Built in 1500 by King James IV as a royal hunting lodge, this Renaissance palace was a favorite residence of Mary Queen of Scots, who took advantage of the vast estate to pursue falconry and play games of tennis on what is now Britain’s...
Stirling Castle, Esplanade, Stirling FK8 1EJ, UK
Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most impressive castles, particularly for its role in Scottish history—several kings and queens were crowned here, including Mary Queen of Scots. Tour the Great Hall, the lavish Royal Palace, the elegant Chapel...
St Margaret's Street, Dunfermline KY12 7PE, UK
Founded as a priory by Queen Margaret in the 11th century, Dunfermline was turned into an abbey by David I and later became a royal mausoleum. It’s believed that Robert the Bruce is buried here, along with seven other Scottish kings....
Kirkgate, Linlithgow EH49 7AL, UK
The birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots in 1542, Linlithgow Palace was built and added to over two centuries by Stuart kings, resulting in a magnificent Renaissance residence. Complete with high towers overlooking lush greenery and a sparkling loch,...
Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, UK
Perched on a great rock above Edinburgh’s New Town, this impressive castle dominates the city. Iron Age warriors understood the site’s military potential and built a fort here in the late first century C.E. It changed hands several...
Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX, UK
The Palace of Holyroodhouse remains the official residence of Queen Elizabeth when she visits Scotland, and guided tours here include her public reception rooms in the main part of the pile. History buffs, however, will want to see the palace’s...
Caerlaverock, Dumfries DG1 4RU, UK
Unique in its triangular shape, this red-sandstone castle is something of an unknown treasure. First attacked by England’s Edward I in 1300, Caerlaverock (pronounced kah-liver-ick) was repeatedly placed under siege and rebuilt over the...
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