The rich history of Scotland is reflected by the hundreds of castles dotted throughout the landscape. Many were constructed for defence from foreign invaders or the English Kings but others were built to demonstrate personal importance.
Although numerous castles are now in the care of Historic Scotland or the National Trust for Scotland, there are many still under individual ownership and lots which are still lived in.
From ancient ruins to lavishly furnished residences, from royalty to ordinary people who wanted to fulfil a dream, there is a castle to spark the imagination of young and old alike.
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See the different areas below to discover which castles you can visit across Scotland and where you can stay at one of Scotland’s Best B&Bs for sightseeing days out. Please check opening times with each castle to avoid disappointment.
Please check opening times with each castle to avoid disappointment.
The Highlands is home to some of the most famous and most photographed castles in the world. Whatever the weather, lochs and mountains provide an atmospheric backdrop for the Highland homes of some of Scotland's most famous clans.
Scotland's Best B&Bs hosts will be happy to check opening times and tour times before you set out for a day visiting castles
14 miles from Grantown-on-Spey - Filled with family memorabilia and paintings, this splendid castle has been the home of the Macpherson-Grants since 1546. Extensive grounds and a walled garden. Shop and tearoom. Golf course. Open daily (10.30am - 5pm) from Easter to the end of September (closed on Saturdays). Admission charges apply.
East of Inverness - Mixture of formal gardens and parkland, including maze. Originally built by the Thane of Cawdo around the legendary holly tree, this is ancestral home of the Campbells of Cawdor. Open daily 10am - 5.30pm from May to early October. Gift shop and tearoom. Golf course. Riverside walks on the estate. Admission charges apply.
East of Nairn - The castle was the home of the Brodie family until the late 20th century. The family’s association goes back further than the castle, possibly as far as 1160 when it is believed Malcolm IV gave these lands to the Brodies. In 1645, the castle came under attack from Montrose’s army. Today, you can still see the additions made to the building in the 17th and 19th centuries. Castle open various days April to October with guided tours. Admission charge. Tearoom and gift shop. Children's playround. Wooded grounds (including famous collection of daffodils) open all year. National Trust for Scotland.
Drumnadrochit - Picturesque ruins on the banks of Loch Ness, 15 miles from Inverness. Visitor centre with exhibition, film show, shop and restaurant. Open all year. Admission charges apply. Historic Scotland.
This much-photographed castle at Dornie was around before Viking times, but was rebuilt from a ruin in the early years of the 20th century. Used for film sets such as 'Highlander', it sits on its own tiny island, with the stunning backdrop of Loch Alsh and Skye in the distance. Open daily February - December. Admission charges apply. Gift shop and restaurant.
Isle of Skye - Home of the Chief of Clan MacLeod. It is said to be the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland today. Paintings, antiques, weapons and relics such as the famous Fairy Flag and items from Bonnie Prince Charlie and Flora MacDonald. Open daily 1 April to 15 October 10am to 5pm. Open by appointment in Winter for groups only. Admission charges apply. Gardens, wooded grounds and seal boat trips. Gift shop and restaurant.
10 miles East of Lochinver - The castle was built about 1590 by the MacLeods of Assynt who had owned the area since the 13th century. Rumour has it that The Marquis of Montrose was captured around here in 1650, after his defeat at Carbisdale, and was held at the castle until being sent to Edinburgh for his execution. The MacKenzies seized the castle when they came to Assynt in 1672 and built Calda House, just a stone’s throw away in 1726. Free admission.
Near Golspie - Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly of Scotland's great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. Dunrobin Castle is also one of Britain's oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s, home to the Earls and later, the Dukes of Sutherland. The most photographed castle on the North Coast 500 route. Falconry displays take place on the castle lawn. Museum in the castle grounds. Tearoom and gift shop. Open April to October. Admission charges apply.
Located between Thurso and John O'Groats, this is the Queen Mother's former holiday home in Caithness. The Castle, Walled Gardens and small Animal Centre are open to visitors from May to September (but closed during the last week in July and first week in August when Prince Charles the Duke of Rothesay is in residence for his annual visit to Caithness). The Duke is Chieftain at Mey Highland Games, held at John O'Groats each year. Opening times are from 10.30am until 4pm. Visitor centre with tearoom, toilets and gift shop. Admission charges apply.
This area is home to Scotland’s only Castle Trail - a selection of 13 unique castles and often referred to as Castle Country. Experience the romance and history of these restored family castles, ruins and stately homes, by simply following the trail. With its distinctive white on brown signs and a blue castle logo, which leads you through the heart of Aberdeenshire, it couldn't be a simpler day out.
Near Banchory. 12 miles east of Aberdeen - One of the most beautiful and best preserved castles in Scotland occupied by the Burnetts of Leys for over 350 years and set against a magnificent garden with its world-renowned June border. The Horsemill bookshop is an exciting new addition to the existing Courtyard café and retail facilities at Crathes. Admission charges apply.
This castle has been the Scottish home to the Royal Family since it was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852. Extensive grounds, gardens, exhibitions, gift shop and coffee shop. Open daily 10am to 5pm from end March to 31 July.
2 miles south of Stonehaven - Dating from 1276, this stronghold of the former Earls Marischal of Scotland enjoys a spectacular narrow cliff top setting. It withstood an eight month siege by Cromwellian forces in 1652 and during this time, the Scottish crown jewels were supposedly lowered into a small boat at the foot of the cliff to keep them out of English hands. More recently, Dunottar provided a stunning location for Franco Zeffirelli's film of Shakespeare's "Hamlet". Admission charges apply.
Near Alford. Biggest and best example of 13th century castle in Scotland. Gardens. Open daily 9.30am to 5.30pm from 1 April to 30 September. Admission charge.
At Cock Bridge, Upper Donside -16th century tower house converted to barracks for Redcoats. Furnished and complete. Spectacular position. Admission charge. Open daily 1 April - 30 September from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Near Alford - 15 miles from Banchory - This fairytale castle which inspired Walt Disney for his ‘Cinderella’ is an example of the best of Scottish Baronial architecture. It was built by William Forbes in 1626. The castle is open May to September. Grounds open all year.
8 miles south-east of Turriff - Historic castle dating back to the 13th century when it was a royal stronghold. Impressive collection of paintings, portraits, fine furniture, tapestries, arms and armour. Admission charges apply.
At Strathdon - Ruined 16th century castle with wonderful Gothic atmosphere. Historic Scotland. Open: all year. Admission free.
Near Banchory - The original 13th century keep has an adjoining Jacobean mansion house and additions made by Victorian lairds. There are woodland trails and a garden of historic roses in the grounds. National Trust of Scotland. Admission charges apply. Grounds open daily all year.
16 miles west of Aberdeen - Built between 1575 and 1636, this magnificent building contains an array of historic furnishings, paintings and embroidery. Extensive parkland. Shop and tearoom. Admission charges apply.
Glamis Castle 12 miles NE of Dundee - Glamis Castle has a fascinating and exciting history. It has been the family home of the Earls of Strathmore since 1372, when King Robert II (the first of the Stuart Kings) of Scotland gave the castle to Sir John Lyon. Legends and myths have grown around the castle. King Malcolm II was said to have been murdered here in the 11th century. Childhood home of the late HM Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Open daily from April - October and weekends in November - December. Admission charges apply.
10 miles N of Brechin - Edzell was home to the Lindsays. When they acquired the estate in 1358, the lordly seat was a timber residence beside the ancient church. During the 16th century, they built a brand-new castle a short distance away – the one we admire today. The ‘icing on the cake’ of their new residence was the wonderful ‘great garden’, added in 1604. Open all year. Admission charges apply.
Near Dundee - 15th century estuary fort with museum and fantastic views of the River Tay. Admission free.
5 miles north of Pitlochry. Ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl. Home of the Atholl Highlanders, Europe’s only remaining private army. The earliest known part of the present castle dates from 1269 and is known as Cumming’s Tower. John Cumming of Badenoch took advantage of the Earl’s absence on the crusades to start building a tower. Despite the Earl’s complaints to the King, the tower survives to this day and forms the highest part of the castle. The original tower had an extension added to it by the 3rd Earl in 1530 to form a Great Hall. Admission charges apply. Restaurant and shop. Extensive grounds, pony trekking, walks and ranger service.
Near Crieff - One of the finest formal gardens in Europe, first laid out in the early 17th century. Gardens open at Easter, then from 1 May to 31 October 1pm - 6pm. Admission charge. Note: the castle itself is not open to the public.
Near Aberfeldy - This spectacular sixteenth century castle, restored by the Menzies Clan Society welcomes visitors. Seat of the Chiefs of Clan Menzies for over 400 years and importantly situated, it was involved in the turbulent history of the Highlands and here Bonnie Prince Charlie rested on his way to Culloden in 1746. Splendid example of the transition between earlier rugged fortress and later mansion house. Open from 1st April (or Easter) to mid October. 10.30am - 5pm (Sundays, 2-5 pm).
Near Perth - Once the crowning place of the Kings of Scots, Scone Palace occupies a unique position in the history of Scotland. A breathtakingly beautiful place of power and mystery and the rightful home of the celebrated Stone of Scone - also known as the Stone of Destiny. Open daily from 1 April - 31 October, 9.30am - 5pm (last admission 4pm on Saturdays). Evening and winter tours by arrangement. Admission charges apply.
Near Perth - The structure consists of two separate tower houses, of a type common from the north of England through the Borders up into Scotland, which were subsequently joined together to form a larger residence. National Trust for Scotland.
Near Perth - 16th century fortified mansion with three towers. Open daily 1 April - 30 September 9.30am to 5.30pm. Historic Scotland.
Near Kinross - This late 14th or early 15th century tower was the setting for the most traumatic year in the life of Mary Queen of Scots. It was here in 1567 that she was imprisoned and forced to abdicate before her dramatic escape a year later. Visitors can enjoy the south and east wooded walks from April to July. Open daily 1 April to 31 October. Historic Scotland. Admission charges apply.
There are lots of memorable castles in Scotland, but not many can boast the celebrity status of Doune Castle near Stirling. Built in the late 14th century, Doune has achieved pilgrimage status in recent years having been used as the location for the popular Monty Python film, ‘The Holy Grail’, and more recently featured in the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Outlander’. Even without its impressive acting credits, the castle is a stunning example of its type and well worth a visit. Open all year round.
Isle of Mull - Home of the Chief of Clan Maclean with dungeons and state rooms and 13th Century keep. Admission charges apply. Open in April 11am - 4pm (closed Fridays & Saturdays except Easter). Open from April to mid October daily from 10.30am - 5.30pm. Gift shop and tea-room. Free parking and entry to the grounds. Limited disabled access.
Magnificent castle built in 1720 and home of the Dukes of Argyll. Tearoom, toilets and gift shop. 16 acres of grounds. Open 1 April to 31 October from 10am, last entry 5pm. Admission charges apply. Woodland walks (free).
One of Scotland’s grandest castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture, Stirling Castle commands the countryside for many miles around. It towers over some of the most important battlefields of Scotland’s past including Stirling Bridge, the site of William Wallace’s victory over the English in 1297, and Bannockburn where Robert the Bruce defeated the same foe in the summer of 1314. Cafe. Open daily 1 April - 30 September, 9.30am - 6pm; and daily 1 October - 31 March, 9.30am - 5pm. Admission charges apply
Sitting on the banks of Loch Awe lies Kilchurn Castle, one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. Constructed by the Campbells of Glenorchy in the mid 1400’s, Kilchurn has fulfilled a role as a tower house and then a garrison. Its current appearance owes more to the ravages of nature than any active service the castle has seen - which makes its position on the emerald coloured Loch Awe all the more enchanting.
This impressive tower-house castle occupies an elevated position overlooking the Dollar Glen and defended by two ravines through which the Burn of Care and the Burn of Sorrow pour. Any wonder that it was known as ‘Castle Gloom’ …’glom’ being Gaelic for chasm. As the name suggests, Castle Campbell was for most of its life in the hands of Clan Campbell and despite its apparently impossible position, it was partially destroyed in 1654. Open all year, but only Mon, Tues, Wed, Sat Sun during the winter season 1st October – 31st March
5 miles east of the Forth Bridges. The 13th century fortified residence of Aberdour has a delightful walled garden and terraces with beehive-shaped doocot. Admission charges apply.
Falkland Place has been the palace of Kings for generations, some willingly in the case of James IV and V and some not so willingly as with the imprisoned King Robert III. King Robert was held captive at Falkland long before it became the Renaissance building you see today. Now managed by the National Trust, Falkland Palace is open all year but you should check opening times as these differ throughout the year.
Located on the banks of the River Leven lies Balgonie Castle, dating back to 1360 it has been home to a number of Scottish families over the last 700 years. As with any castle of this age, it is full of history and even has its own ghost, but, it is more modern events that have thrust this castle into the limelight. Used as a location to film the TV Series 'Outlander', it is now a must see on the Outlander trail. The castle is privately owned and tours are Wednesday - Sunday 12.00pm - 5.00pm. You might be lucky enough to be shown around by the Laird himself
Craignethan Castle is situated near Hamilton on the banks of the Nethan River and was the last private stronghold built in Scotland. The walls and keep are largely intact, possibly testament to its unique structure…the result of the architects previous successes at Linlithgow Palace and Stirling castle. It is believed that Craignethan was the inspiration for Sir Walter Scotts ‘Tilletudlem’ in his novel ‘Old Morality’. Open Summer Only 1 April - 30 September, Mon - Sun, 9.30am to 5.30pm Admission Charges Apply.
On the outskirts of the town of Hamilton lies Bothwell Castle, one of Scotland’s greatest and most battle worn castles. Subjected to numerous sieges, it was the seat of the Black Douglases who feature prominently in the wars of independence. Recognisable for its striking red stone and impressive donjon. Open All Year Admission Charges Apply
In the Conservation Village of Douglas – Douglas Castle or, ‘Castle Dangerous’, as it became known in Sir Walter Scott's book of the same name. Now just one remaining tower, it is a site of pilgrimage for descendants of the Douglas Clan, who also visit St Brides Church to pay respect to ‘The Good Sir James Douglas’ in his beautifully carved tomb. Open all year. No Admission
This impressive castle on top of an extinct volcano is the story of Scotland’s history. Home to The Stone of Destiny and The Honours of Scotland (the Scottish "crown jewels"). Also home to the National War Museum of Scotland and the Scottish National War Memorial. Open daily all year. Admission charges apply. Restaurant and gift shop.
East of Edinburgh - The tower house is one of the oldest in Scotland and with fascinating features, including a fine great hall and the so-called ‘Queen Mary’s Room’. Admission charges apply.
4 miles from Linlithgow - Blackness Castle stands beside the Firth of Forth, at the seaport which in medieval times served the royal burgh of Linlithgow. The castle was built in the 15th century by one of Scotland’s most powerful families, the Crichtons. Admission charges apply.
The magnificent ruins of the Palace were once the home to all the Stuart Kings, including the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Admission charges apply..
The Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, or Holyrood Palace, is the official residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, when she is in Scotland on state business. As well as the fabulous state apartments, which have unique art and furniture, you can also see the apartments occupied by the ill fated Mary Queen of Scots. These have been filled with many of her personal belongings and ooze history. As if this was not enough, there is also the ruined Abbey and gardens to see. Definitely worth a day out and an extra treat if there is something 'official' going on. Open all year, but hours extended in the summer Mon - Sun 1st April - 31st October 0930 - 1800
Isle of Arran. Red sandstone castle at the foot of Goatfell mountain. Once home of the Dukes of Hamilton. The castle is open on certain days from 1 April to 31 October. Admission charges apply. The Country Park is open daily all year from 9.30am until sunset. Planned closure for castle renovation: October 2017 to March 2019.
Near Largs - Dating from the 13th century and still lived in by the present Earl and his family, Kelburn Castle provides an impressive background to exotic gardens, famous trees and many features of historical interest. Admission charges apply.
Near Maybole. Principal seat of the Kennedy family from 1759, now cared for by the National Trust for Scotland. Magnificent rooms overlooking the sea, including Eisenhower's private office. A masterpiece of architecture designed by Robert Adam with a famous Oval Staircase. 600 acre estate with deer park, walled garden, swan pond, adventure playground, auditorium with video and exhibition, restaurant and cafe, gift shop, book shop, etc. Castle open daily from 1 April to 1 November from 10.30am with last entry at 4pm. Admission charges apply. The Country Park is open daily all year.
Near Thornhill. Completed in 1691 and still home to the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry. One of the first and most important Renaissance buildings in the grand manner in Scotland. Opulent rooms and historical artefacts. 120,000 acre estate, country park and grand Victorian gardens. Tea room, cafe, gift shop, craft & art studios, cycle museum. Open at Easter and then from May to August.
Castle Douglas. The stronghold of the Black Douglases built in the late 14th century by Archibald the Grim, 3rd Earl of Douglas, on an island in the River Dee. Ring the bell for the custodian to ferry you across the river to the island. Admission charges apply. Open 1 April - 30 September daily 9.30am - 5.30pm (last boat across 4.30pm).
Gatehouse of Fleet. Ancient home of the McCullochs, this 15th century six storey tower house stands on a rocky platform above the Water of Fleet, guarding the access from the Solway Firth. Particularly fine fireplaces in the Great and Upper halls. Admission charges apply.
In Kirkcudbright. Well preserved ruins of a late 16th century noble residence. Open daily April - October.
8 miles from Dumfries - One of Scotland's finest castles. This unusual three sided, moated castle is everyone's idea of a medieval fortress. Children's Adventure Park, model siege engine and nature trail. Admission charges apply. Open 1 April - 30 September daily 9.30am - 5.30pm; 1 October - 31 March daily 9.30am - 4.30pm.
Kelso - Scotland's largest inhabited castle. In 1721, the 1st Duke of Roxburghe made additions to create a plain Georgian country house. The 6th Duke remodelled the castle between 1837 and 1847 and made a romantic fairytale castle with its roofscape of turrets, pinnacles and cupolas. Open April to October daily. Admission charges apply.
Lauder. The home of the Maitlands, The history of Thirlestane dates back to at least the 13th century, when a large Border fort was built on the site to defend the approach to Edinburgh from the south. The central part of the present Castle was completed in 1590, remodelled in the 1670s, and then again in the 1840s. Café. Admission charges apply.
Traquair is actually called a house, but it looks enough like a castle for inclusion here. Dating back to 1107, Traquair is located in Innerlethin near the town of Peebles. It is a truly fascinating place, many parts of which look like time has literally stood still. Visitors can expect access to an unusually large part of the building, including a genuine Priest Hole. The grounds include a yew maze, a collection of small craft shops and even an onsite microbrewery. Open April – End November but check opening times in the autumn as they may vary.
Just across the border from England in Newcastleton, you can find the foreboding Hermitage Castle. Being on the front line of defence in the ongoing struggles between the two countries, this castle was built solely with war in mind. It is a testament to the builder’s craft that the castle is still standing having seen more than its fair share of battles. Open 1 April – 30 Sep 9.30am – 5.00pm
Close to the town of Melrose you can find the magical and romantic Abbotsford, a mini castle that literally sprang from the imagination of one of Scotland’s favourite writers, Sir Walter Scott. Such was Sir Walters love for his home that he found himself in debt and forced to relinquish a share in his copyrights. The castle is stunning, with the interior filled with Sir Walters collections from Scottish history, including pieces from Robert Burns and Mary Queen of Scots. You can also see where Sir Walter penned his famous novels and walk around the beautiful walled garden and grounds. House and Garden Open 1st March – 30th November, times differ throughout the year.