Scotland is at the top of the list for exploring some of the best castles in the world.
Some are complete with period furnishings and terrific tales of glory, history and intrigue. Touch the stones of other soft castles, tumbling to meet the ground. Visit grand castles that have been home to the same clan for centuries.
If you want to conjure up an amazing fantasy, consider spending the night in a castle. What sort of experience would you choose? Somewhere as idyllic and peaceful as an abbey, a place of turrets and towers, or a castle where ghosts appear in the hallways and banquet room? Whatever you want, you’ll find it in Scotland, the country that is in love with castles.
Start with these, and then let your imagination go. You may discover the perfect castle gem just off a country road.
This is probably the greatest castle in Scotland. Its position in the heart of the country’s capital, overlooking all atop a dramatic hill, is remarkable. No less remarkable is the position it holds in the soul of Scotland’s history and national treasures. This is a must-see!
Robert Adam’s, Scotland’s premier architect, design and style reached its apex in this castle. It is one of Britain’s finest mansions. The bucolic setting is juxtaposed with a dramatic coastal position. It faces to the sea from the top of Ayrshire cliff.
An unusual triangular ruin with immense towers, Caerlaverock sits within a filled moat. (How great is that!) Its history covers a siege by Edward I in 1300, sumptuous upgrading, and then its fall in 1640. A photographer’s dream, the yellow sandstone walls glow rosy and pale orange when it basks in a pool of afternoon light.
Perched on rugged crags, Stirling overlooks the plains where many of Scotland’s decisive battles occurred. It’s easy to let yourself slip back in time, to hear the stomping of hundreds of hooves and the fierce cries of freedom, when you visit Stirling. The Gatehouse, Great Hall and Renaissance Royal Palace are marvels. Check out the special events, from reenactments and classes in tapestry weaving to sword fights.
This 17th century castle looks as if it’s straight out of magic spell. Duncan’s Hall was the setting for the King’s murder in Macbeth. It has a secret chamber and was the childhood home of the late Queen Mother. Today, the rooms are a tale of time, containing fine collections of armor, furnishings, and tapestries from different ages. Keep your eyes peeled--there is said to be a ghost prowling around. The gardens were laid out by one of the greatest 18th-century landscape architects. A true treasure.
The one man in Britain still allowed to have a private army is the Duke of Atholl. The sight of his magnificent, white castle on the main road north will stop you in your tracks. The oldest part of the castle was built in 1269. During the Jacobite campaigns, it was designed anew, and the turrets were added. A brilliant stroke of genius.
In a romantic gesture, Prince Albert purchased the estate in 1852 for his wife, Queen Victoria. She loved the area deeply, and they transformed the existing castle into a magnificent mansion set on wondrous grounds. It is still the private holiday home of the royal family, and it will give you a real view in contemporary, stately living.
For sheer elegance and poise, Craigievar is the castle to visit. Its cluster of towers rising above the slender tower house, built in 1626, is a masterpiece. The interior still sets the tone of the original Forbes family.
Did the real Macbeth live here in the 11th century? After you step inside, this other-worldly castle makes historical facts pale. Cawdor Castle fulfills all Shakespearean thoughts of love and tragedy. With its original keep, built in 1454, a drawbridge, ancient yew tree and enough weapons to start an uprising, this castle is the stuff of legend. The garden and estate, complete with maze, are equally remarkable. Who could ask for anything more?
Eilean Donan Castle:
Could there be a finer setting for a castle? Possibly not. Eilean Donan is one of Scotland’s, and indeed the worlds, most photographed castles. Snuggled on an island off the hilly shores of Loch Duich, this castle was built in the 13th century. It is the home and stronghold of the clan MacRae.