Scotland is an incredible country with a lot to offer in terms of nature, history, and architecture. Edinburgh is one of my single favorite cities in the world, and not just because of it’s connection to Harry Potter. The eight-story stone buildings and hidden alleys can make you feel as though you’re living in medieval times.
A lot of people don’t think to venture far out of Edinburgh or Galway, except maybe to go on a day tour to Loch Ness. But if you’re a fan of history, creepiness (in some instances) or specifically, castles, the Scottish countryside is a must-see.
If you can make it out there, or are simply curious about some of the coolest castles (some of which are supposedly haunted) in Scotland, check out this list!
*I tried to include castles that you wouldn’t find on your typical “best castles in Scotland” lists. Enjoy!
Eilean Donan Castle
Perhaps one of the most picturesque and recognizable of Scottish castles, Eilean Donan is perched on a tiny island, connected to the mainland by a small stone bridge. The castle was built in the 13th century but has been extremely well preserved.
With 189 rooms, Dunrobin Castle is the largest in the Highlands and one of the most elegant in the whole country. In fact, it looks like it belongs in the Loire Valley more than Scotland, and it has a lovely fairytale charm to it.
This castle has always reminded me of a book I read when I was younger, about a boy who lived in a castle that was haunted by a boggart. Although there are no stories of it being haunted, fires and previous residents have placed it into disrepair. Now, Buchanan Castle is crumbling tragically, but lovely ivy has taken over, creating a wonderfully haunting site.
Built in 1758, this historic castle is so incredibly beautiful that you really have to see it in person to do it justice. Like many of the other ruinous castles, crawling ivy has made its home at Crawford Priory. It’s got that interesting and mildly macabre sort of Gothic beauty, with dozens of detail turrets, buttresses, and spires. If you’re one for exploring inside castles, you better make Crawford Priory a priority.
Bishop’s Palace, Kirkwall
One of the oldest locations on the list, Bishop’s Place was actually built during a time when Norwegian’s own the local port. It’s got a very lovely medieval appearance, even after only sporadic residents throughout the centuries. It’s very close to the St. Magnus Cathedral and, if you’re interested in old graveyards, you should check that out as well!
This is one of my favorite castles in Scotland, primarily because of the location, but also because of its rich history, which you can read about here. Dunnottar Castle, which is slightly run down and crumbling, is perched perfectly on a small cliff overlooking the sea. If you plan on visiting, wear some comfy shoes, because the hike up to it is pretty steep.
Not far from Edinburgh, you can find your way to Carlowrie Castle on an easy day trip from the city. Carlowrie is another one of those fairytale-type castles with perfectly manicured gardens and tons of towers and turrets. If anything, it’s pleasant to have a stroll around the property and take a look inside. It’s one of the better maintained items on this list.
Keiss Castle is similar in appearance to Dunnottar Castle, in that little remains of a once modest yet magnificent structure also seem to be clinging onto the cliff above Sinclair Bay for dear life. The castle was severely damaged from a raid by Sir Robert Gordon and then beat down further by the elements. Catching it with a heavy fog in the early morning will make for a great Instagram photo.
If you’ve watched the TV show Outlander, Drummond Castle will look familiar to you, as it appeared in Season 2 as being the garden of Versailles. The gardens of the 15th-century Drummond Castle are absolutely stunning and are among the most famous in Europe. Unfortunately, the inside of the castle is not open to visitors, but the terraced gardens are and, in my opinion, those are the best parts anyway.
As you can see, Scotland is a great place for a different kind of adventure. If you rent a car, rather than taking tour buses or trains, you’ll also get the chance to stay at some local B&Bs or cottages and will get a damn good view of the country side.
I hope you all get a chance to see it for yourself some day x