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Places To Visit In Scotland: Six Scottish Castles

Updated on May 4, 2012
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Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan is situated in one of the most beautiful locations in Scotland and has become something of an icon. It was built in the mid 13th century, but it is believed that the site was occupied from the 6th century. The castle has been ruined and rebuilt at different times throughout Scotland's turbulent history. The castle was restored in the 20th century, having been partially destroyed during a Jacobite uprising some 200 years earlier. The castle is open to the public and there are the usual amenities you would expect at a visitor centre.

If you like Eilean Donan, another castle you might like is Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness.

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Brodie Castle

Now maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle is a 16th century tower house which is located a few miles outside of the small Moray town of Forres. The setting is spectacular and there are beautiful walks within the surrounding woodland to enjoy. The castle is home to some magnificent paintings and antiques. The castle is not far off the A96 which is the main road between Inverness and Aberdeen. The castle is well known for the array of daffodils which grow in its grounds in the springtime.

Another great castle, located not far from Brodie, is Cawdor Castle which is the historic seat of the Thanes of Cawdor. Fans of Shakespeare will recognise this term from Macbeth but, unfortunately, truth and fiction are miles apart here and the castle has no real associations with the Scottish king.

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Blair Castle

Although Blair Castle dates back to the mid-13th century, much of the castle you see today is the result of remodelling work done in the Georgian and Victorian periods. There are hundreds of great antiques and works of art to enjoy in the castle and visitors have the opportunity to learn all about the rich history of the castle and the Earls and Dukes of Atholl who have resided within its walls. There are beautifully maintained gardens and woodland walks to enjoy.

The castle is located a short distance from the A9, the main road between Perth and Inverness, about 7 miles from the pretty little town of Pitlochry.


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Glamis Castle

Glamis is a castle with a fascinating history. It began life as a medieval fortress but after centuries of building additions and re-modelling the castle little resembles the original. The castle has associations with major historical events and it is believed that King Malcolm II was murdered within its walls in the 11th century. In 1540, the widow of Lord Glamis, Lady Janet Douglas was burned at the stake on the orders of King James V after being accused of witchcraft. Glamis also has associations with Shakespeare's Macbeth and was the ancestral home of the late Queen Mother.

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Stirling Castle

Overlooking the central Scottish town of Stirling, the castle occupies a key strategic location which offers views for miles around. It has associations with key Scottish historical figures like William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots. There are some structures from the 14th century still in place at the castle. The Great Hall was the largest banqueting hall in medieval Scotland. There is a beautiful chapel and the King's Old Building houses a regimental museum which is a must-see for visitors who are interested in military history.

However, the most impressive part perhaps is the 16th century palace built by King James IV which is considered to be one of the finest Renaissance buildings in Britain. The castle complex serves as a reminder of the importance of Stirling to the Stewart Kings of Scotland.

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Kisimul Castle, Isle of Barra

This castle is a bit off the beaten track but if you happen to be enjoying a tour of the Scottish Highlands and Islands and Barra is on your itinerary, then it is well worth a visit. Once the stronghold of the MacNeils, the castle is first mentioned in a written document in 1549 but scholars tend to date its construction to the 13th century. Castlebay, where the castle is located, was an important point of anchorage in the Outer Hebrides during the turbulent Middle Ages as it is the first safe harbour north of Ireland and upon visiting the castle, you begin to understand the strategic advantage its construction gave the occupants.

The castle fell into a state of disrepair as the clan system declined but efforts to restore it to its former glory were begun during the 20th century. These days, visitors can access the castle by boat. Lighting and some of the doors are modern, but there is still much of the original castle remaining. Some parts of the castle are accessed by fairly steep steps and you do need to be reasonably fit to cope with this. Amongst the areas to explore are the Watchtower and Dungeon, Chapel, Great Hall and Kitchen House.

While some castles give you a sense of opulence and grandeur, Kisimul will leave you with a real sense of what life for the ruling classes in the Middle Ages was like.

show route and directions
A markereilean donan castle -
Dornie, o/s Eilean Donan Castle, Highland, UK
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B markerbrodie castle, forres -
Brodie Castle, Forres, Moray IV36 2TE, UK
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C markerblair castle, blair atholl -
Blair Castle Mains, Blair Atholl, Pitlochry, Perth and Kinross PH18 5TL, UK
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D markerglamis castle, angus -
Glamis, at Glamis Castle (Unmarked), Forfar, Angus DD8, UK
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E markerstirling castle -
Stirling Castle, Castle Esplanade, Stirling FK8 1EJ, UK
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F markerbarra, scotland -
Barra, United Kingdom
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  • Gordon Hamilton profile image

    Gordon Hamilton 5 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

    Interesting and informative. I'm ashamed to admit that although I've visited many Scottish castles, the only one of these I've ever been to is Stirling. There are even a couple I've never heard of here, so I definitely need to get back on the road more and see these sites for myself. Thanks for the info and inspiration.

  • Melovy profile image

    Yvonne Spence 5 years ago from UK

    This brings back some good memories and gives me ideas of where else to visit. My husband and I had National Trust memberships in the years before kids and when we went round Brodie castle one of the guides was Brodie himself! (I can’t remember his title - perhaps Lord?) I’ve never been to Eilean Donan, but have been to Urquart castle and it was very interesting, so perhaps some day we’ll get to Eilean Donan too.

    I’ve never been to Glamis or Blair and I think they just could be day trips for this summer. Thanks for the hub!

  • alliemacb profile image
    Author

    alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

    Thanks, Gordon and Melovy. When I started writing this I very quickly started to realise how many great castles there are in Scotland and am sorry to have had to miss so many out. These are the ones I've visited recently.

  • 2patricias profile image

    2patricias 5 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

    Pat is a member of National Trust for Scotland, and we have both enjoyed holidays in Scotland.

    However, neither of us has been to all the castles on your list.

    In fact, Pat has had a picnic near Eilean Donan, but failed to get close to the building. Worse than that, Pat's daughter used to live across the road from Edinburgh Castle, and has never been inside.

  • alliemacb profile image
    Author

    alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

    Hi Patricias. Edinburgh Castle is a bit too heavy on the military stuff for me, but it does have some great features. If it's a consolation, I walk past Inverness Castle every day and have never been inside. That said, it is the local courthouse, so probably just as well. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • nishlaverz profile image

    nishlaverz 5 years ago from N.E England

    I have only ever been in Dunrobin Castle, Inverness castle, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood House and Balmoral but have seen Eilean Donan Castle and Urquhart Castle from a distance. The is one other I have visited but cannot remember the name of it.

  • internpete profile image

    Peter V 5 years ago from At the Beach in Florida

    Very neat! I want to visit Scotland sometime, and I'll have to put some of these on my list! Also, have you heard of Dundas castle by any chance? I am related to the Dundas clan, and want to visit the castle by the same name as well. Thanks for the great hub!

  • alliemacb profile image
    Author

    alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

    Hi internpete. I do know of Dundas Castle near Edinburgh. I've not been inside but have seen it from the outside and it is truly spectacular. It has a reputation for being incredibly luxurious. Hope you get to see it some time.

  • u-turn profile image

    Arthur George Rettell jr. ( 5 years ago from AZ. STATE

    Great piece of work and stunning pictures. Looks like i could live there. One heck of a visit i bet. Thank you for sharing, just beautiful.

  • Nare Anthony profile image

    Nare Gevorgyan 5 years ago

    Extremely interesting! I love old castles! Voted up and many more!

  • joanveronica profile image

    Joan Veronica Robertson 5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

    You have made my mouth water with all these references to castles in Scotland! How I would like to be able to visit them! Still It is wonderful to read about them and link them to so many previous readings. Congratulations, voted up, etc.

  • alliemacb profile image
    Author

    alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

    Thanks, Nare. I'm glad you liked it.

  • alliemacb profile image
    Author

    alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

    Thanks, Joanveronica. There are so many great castles in Scotland but these are some of my favourites. Glad you stopped by.

  • trimar7 profile image

    trimar7 5 years ago from New York

    I hope to get to Scotland someday as that is my ancestry. Thank you for sharing.

  • ElizaDoole profile image

    Lisa McKnight 5 years ago from London

    Hi Allie, fantastic hub about castles. I've been to Brodie Castle a long time ago and the walks around the grounds are fantastic. I saw Kisumil on the Isle of Skye visit that year too. Fantastic. Scotland is a beautiful place to visit and we are planning a trip this summer.

  • Cre8tor profile image

    Dan Robbins 5 years ago from Ohio

    These are so majestic. I would love to visit Scotland and see these in person. Thanks for bringing me close!

  • TahoeDoc profile image

    TahoeDoc 5 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

    Great hub- well researched, interesting and nice pictures. Very enjoyable all around. If only I could travel more...

  • profile image

    AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

    Enjoyed your article. I love reading about and viewing castles. They are so interesting and have so much history to share. I have written three articles on castles myself. Glamis castle was one I wrote about. It is reportedly haunted. I think it is one of the most beautiful of all the castles I've come across. Glad to see you included it in your article. I wish I could visit them all.

  • Mmargie1966 profile image

    Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

    Great hub! Very informative and beautiful!

  • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

    Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

    These all look so elegant and full of history. When I see your beautiful photos, I picture the people who would have lived there, and it's fascinating to put things in that context.

    Thanks for this absolutely wonderful tour of your treasures!

  • profile image

    Ella-90 5 years ago

    Interesting Hub. Only visited Glasgow so definetly need to explore more of the beautiful parts of Scotland

  • alliemacb profile image
    Author

    alliemacb 5 years ago from Scotland

    Thanks, Ella. Glad you enjoyed it.

  • profile image

    GrammaLinda 5 years ago

    I have not been to Scotland, but enjoy looking at pictures of the castles. Maybe someday...

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