Travel

15 Fairy Tale Castles You Must Visit in Scotland (I)

Whenever we think about Scotland, one of the first words coming to our mind is Castles. The ruins of a castle reflected on a loch is a picture we dreamt about it before coming here. Scotland is the land of castles, built over the centuries all around the region. From the ruins of the Dunnottar Castle to the modern and still in use Dunvegan Castle, every building has a different story, and a magic aura surrounding it. And we wanted to explore them all!

Scotland ❤️
Scotland ❤️

Delicious Tip: Castle-safari can be expensive! Decide what you want to visit first, and check the “Historic Scotland” membership card. Several castles belong to this fund (the equivalent of the “English Heritage” in England), and it may be worth buying a one-year membership rather than several single entrances!

The map shows the locations of all the spots on our Castle Trail, and we are eager to hear what’s your favorite castle!

1.) Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan, the amazing view at sunset 🌅

Let’s start with an absolute gem. Eilean Donan castle is, simply put, the image of Scotland we dreamt about before coming here. The castle sits on a small island at the point where three lochs connect. It was part of a line of fortifications built during the 13th century to defend Scotland against Norse Invasion, and it’s been the stronghold of the Mackenzie clan until its destruction, at the end of the first Jacobite rising in 1719. The current structure is the result of the intensive restoration works at the beginning of the 20th century.

Inside, the castle offers some beautiful panoramas over the lochs and the mountains, while other rooms are dedicated to its history over the centuries.

Delicious Tip: If you plan to reach Skye by car through the Skye bridge, you will drive near the castle twice, in both directions. Plan to get there once during the evening, and once during the day. The castle is lit up during the night, and the view is incredible!

Since 13th century, Eilean Donan never stopped to impress its visitors.
The view of the lochs from inside the castle 🌿.
The hills surrounding Eilean Donan are covered in purple colors over summer 🏰 🌺 Castles in Scotland.
The hills surrounding Eilean Donan are covered in purple colors over summer 🏰 🌺 .

2.) Inveraray Castle

The romantic Inveraray Castle, a gem near Loch Lomond, Castles in Scotland
The romantic Inveraray Castle, a gem near Loch Lomond.

One of the most iconic buildings in Scotland, Inveraray Castle is a 18th-century country house north of the Loch Lomond national park. The castle hosts an impressive collection of weapons and some interesting neoclassical architecture. It’s a beautiful place and an impressive building for some great pictures. This location has also been used as a location for an episode of Downton Abbey, can you spot the reference?

3.) Kilchurn Castle

The ruins of Kilchurn Castle, one of the most amazing castles in Scotland 👑, Castles in Scotland
The ruins of Kilchurn Castle, one of the most amazing castles in Scotland 👑

Among the finest ruined castles in Scotland, Kilchurn Castle deserves a special place. This evocative building has been the stronghold of The Campbells of Glenorchy during his whole life. Built in the 15th century, it has been a central point in the wars for the control of the Central Highlands until the end of the Jacobite rising, halfway through the 18th century.

Inside the castle, among the ruined buildings, Castles in Scotland.
Inside the castle, among the ruined buildings.
The view from the tower, dominating the loch nearby, Castles in Scotland.
The view from the tower, dominating the loch nearby.
Castle ruins, a loch, hills. It can’t get more Scottish than that! Castles in Scotland.
Castle ruins, a loch, hills. It can’t get more Scottish than that!
Peeking outer rooms, Castles in Scotland.
Peeking outer rooms.

4.) Duart Castle

The inner courtyard of the castle, Isle of Mull.
The inner courtyard of the castle.

The only castle on the Isle of Mull. The building sits on a small isolated outpost facing the strait between Mull and the mainland. An incredible location, where sea, sky, and land merge into beautiful landscapes.

After a visit to the castle, with a beautiful dining room and the possibility to walk along the external walls, take some time to explore the area between the castle and the sea, where we could get some beautiful pictures of the panorama.

Duart Castle, the only castle remaining on Isle of Mull.
Duart Castle, the only castle remaining on Isle of Mull.
Outside of the castle, the amazing landscape toward the mainland, Isle of Mull
Outside of the castle, the amazing landscape toward the mainland.

5.) Urquhart Castle

The ruins of Urquhart Castle. Once upon a time, one of the greatest buildings in Scotland, Castles in Scotland.
The ruins of Urquhart Castle. Once upon a time, one of the greatest buildings in Scotland.

The Loch Ness is the most famous loch in Scotland. But apart from funny monster tales, the reason for traveling to the rivers of this lake is Urquhart Castle, one of the largest castles in Scotland.

The ruins of this splendid building are the remains of a magnificent castle which constituted the greatest defense against the MacDonald clan. The loch behind the castle, with the mountains surrounding it, adds an aura of mystery to them.

There is also the possibility to do the tour of the lake by boat. It’s a relaxing cruise on the water, arriving directly at the foothills of the castle!

The ruins of Urquhart create a great contrast with the water and the sky above 💙, Castles in Scotland.
The ruins of Urquhart create a great contrast with the water and the sky above 💙.
Enjoying the view from the river, Castles in Scotland.
Enjoying the view from the river.
Urquhart castle was part of an impressive line of defense protecting the highlands, Castles in Scotland.
Urquhart castle was part of an impressive line of defense protecting the highlands.
The view of Loch Ness from Urquhart Castle, Castles in Scotland
The view of Loch Ness from Urquhart Castle

6.) Cawdor Castle

Cawdor castle, with its characteristic drawbridge, Castles in Scotland.
Cawdor castle, with its characteristic drawbridge.

Cawdor Castle is a small castle less than 20 minutes far from Inverness. The building is small, with few halls to explore. The real treat is the gardens. An extensive estate surrounds the manor, divided into different blocks. A large part is left to wild nature, with several paths offering lovely walks among the woods. On the left and the right side of the castle, there are neatly maintained gardens. Do not miss the labyrinth and the rose garden, especially at sunset!

The teahouse of the castle is offering an extensive selection of teas and some delicious scones, perfect for a nice rest between the walks!

Summer is one of the best season to visit this castle, as nature is exploding with colors 🌿, Castles in Scotland.
Summer is one of the best season to visit this castle, as nature is exploding with colors 🌿.
Lost in the maze 💚, Castles in Scotland.
Lost in the maze 💚.
Finally out of the labyrinth! Castles in Scotland.
Finally out of the labyrinth!
The park behind the castle is a wonderful place where to walk, Castles in Scotland.
The park behind the castle is a wonderful place where to walk.
Enjoying a yummy rest at Cawdor Castle ☕️ 🍪, Castles in Scotland.
Enjoying a yummy rest at Cawdor Castle ☕️ 🍪.

7.) Blackness Castle

The central tower at Blackness castle has been used as private apartments and luxury prison, Castles in Scotland.
The central tower at Blackness castle has been used as private apartments and luxury prison.

This is one of the most impressive defensive buildings you will ever find in Scotland. The purpose of Blackness Castle was to protect the access from the sea to Edinburgh and Stirling, on the southern coast of the Firth of Forth. The building has the peculiar shape of a ship, a feature that caused the castle to be nicknamed as “The ship that never sailed”.

Shortly after its construction, the place became royal property. Over the centuries, it’s been used as a prison and as a military garrison. There are no dining hall nor lord’s private rooms. The military vocation of the place is evident.

It’s a perfect place for some stunning photos of the Forth and the castle facing the water, especially from the pier on the left of the castle. Be careful though; high winds always afflict the place, hold your camera!

The main courtyard of the castle, Castles in Scotland.
The main courtyard of the castle.
From the outer walls we had an excellent view of the Firth of Forth, Castles in Scotland.
From the outer walls we had an excellent view of the Firth of Forth.
Blackness castle, the ship that never sailed, Castles in Scotland.
Blackness castle, the ship that never sailed.

8.) Braemar Castle

The Valley of Braemar Castle is amazing, and the castle proudly sits in its center, Castles in Scotland.
The Valley of Braemar Castle is amazing, and the castle proudly sits in its center.

Braemar Castle is the nearest castle to Balmoral Castle, the royal residence in Scotland. It’s a small building at the bottom of the valley, beautifully merged with the surrounding forest. The last inhabitants of the castle were the 16th lord of Farquharson and his wife, an ex-editor for Vogue during the first half of the 20th century. She left a substantial mark on the castle, with several modern interior design choices and an impressive collection of clothing. The castle is scarcely known, making this a perfect place for taking great pictures without any nuisance!

Reaching Braemar Castle, surrounded by woods, Castles in Scotland.
Reaching Braemar Castle, surrounded by woods.
The interior of the castle, inhabited until WWII, Castles in Scotland.
The interior of the castle, inhabited until WWII.

If you liked this post and you would like to discover more about this amazing region, check out our other posts regarding Scotland!