Places To Visit In Scotland: Six Scottish Castles
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.