Scotland’s 10 Greatest Castles

Scotland is a land steeped in history and romance and is famously home to some of the most stunning and evocative castles in the world. At their height, it’s thought that Scotland was home to no less than 3,000 castles!

Many of these majestic fortresses have stood the test of time, and each one holds a treasure trove of tales about battles, famous historical figures, and royal intrigue. In this blog post, we will take you through Scotland’s 10 greatest castles, exploring their history, architecture, and the secrets they still guard within their walls. 

Whether you are a history enthusiast or a traveler seeking breathtaking landscapes, these castles offer an unrivaled glimpse into Scotland’s past.

And if you want to explore these sites for yourself, there’s no better way to do it than with Motorhome Hire – travel with freedom, luxury, and comfort.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle

Set against the enchanting backdrop of where three great sea lochs meet, Eilean Donan Castle is undoubtedly one of the most iconic and photographed castles in Scotland. It was initially built in the 13th century as a defense against Viking invasions. 

A curious fact is that the castle was partially destroyed in a Jacobite uprising in the early 18th century and lay in ruins for around 200 years before it was meticulously restored in the 20th century. 

Today, Eilean Donan is a picturesque amalgamation of various architectural styles, as its restoration drew inspiration from different eras. Moreover, it’s not just its beauty that makes it famous; Eilean Donan has also graced the silver screen in movies such as Highlander and James Bond: The World is Not Enough.

Eilean Donan Castle is a must-visit site for anyone travelling to the magnificent Isle of Skye while in Scotland. 

Doune Castle

A medieval stronghold near the village of Doune, in the district of Stirling, Doune Castle 

captures the imagination of history enthusiasts and film buffs alike. Built in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, the castle boasts a remarkably well-preserved great hall and a stunning 100-foot high gatehouse. 

Intriguingly, during the 16th century, Doune Castle became a royal retreat and was frequently used as a dower house by queens of Scotland. In modern times, Doune Castle’s impressive architecture has not gone unnoticed by filmmakers; it is famously known as Castle Leoch in the TV series Outlander and featured in the classic comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Explore our options for taking a Short Motorhome or Campervan break in Scotland and discover the beauty of Doune Castle for yourself.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle

Perched on a rugged cliff overlooking the North Sea, Dunnottar Castle is a hauntingly beautiful ruin that offers panoramic views of Scotland’s coastline. This medieval fortress is steeped in history; it’s said to have been where the Honours of Scotland (Scottish crown jewels) were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s army during the 17th century. 

Additionally, William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, and Charles II all graced Dunnottar with their presence at various points in history. What’s especially intriguing is that Dunnottar Castle is thought to have inspired Disney-Pixar’s animated film Brave. Learn all about the Scottish locations that inspired this modern children’s classic by reading Visit Scotland’s article on Disney-Pixar’s Brave.  

When visiting, the dramatic approach to the castle, which involves crossing a narrow strip of land with sheer cliffs on either side, will leave you in awe.

Glamis Castle

Glamis Castle, situated in the rolling hills of Angus, is often referred to as one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland. This stately home has a fairy-tale quality, with its turreted towers and sprawling gardens. 

The castle is certainly steeped in legend and history, as it was the childhood home of the Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. One of the most famous legends associated with Glamis is that of the Monster of Glamis, rumored to be a deformed member of the noble family who was kept hidden within the castle. 

The castle also has a room known as Duncan’s Hall, which is said to be the location of King Duncan’s murder in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Although the connection to these historical events is debated, the tale adds mystery to this captivating castle.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Situated atop Castle Hill, Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s most historically significant fortresses. It was a favored residence of the Stewart kings and queens, who held grand celebrations at the castle. 

Many significant events occurred here, including the crowning of several Scottish kings and queens. The castle’s strategic location, on the shortest crossing over the River Forth, made it a focal point in the Wars of Scottish Independence. Within the castle, the Stirling Heads Gallery is a sight to behold; these carved oak portrait roundels showcase figures from history and mythology and are considered extraordinary examples of Renaissance art. 

The beautifully restored Royal Palace, with its ornate stucco work, offers visitors a chance to step back into the sumptuous world of Scotland’s royal court.

Edinburgh Castle

Dominating the skyline of the Scottish capital, Edinburgh Castle is an iconic symbol of Scotland’s heritage. Built on an extinct volcanic rock, the castle has witnessed many of the defining events of Scottish history. 

St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, resides within the castle and is a charming example of Norman architecture. The Honours of Scotland, including the Crown Jewels, can also be seen here. 

A curious fact is that the castle is home to the National War Museum and the Stone of Destiny – a symbol of Scottish monarchy that was returned to Scotland from England in 1996 after 700 years.

Inveraray Castle

Inveraray Castle

Nestled on the shores of Loch Fyne, Inveraray Castle is a stunning example of Gothic Revival architecture. This imposing castle is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell. 

The castle’s Armoury Hall holds an impressive display of arms, including what is believed to be one of the oldest surviving claymores. Interestingly, Inveraray Castle was featured in a Christmas episode of the beloved television series Downton Abbey

Enchanting gardens and woodlands surround the castle, which boasts a fairy-tale-like quality with its conical spires and picturesque setting.

Urquhart Castle

Overlooking the dark, mysterious waters of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle has one of the most idyllic settings in Scotland. Although now in ruins, the castle’s history is as deep as the loch it guards. 

Once one of Scotland’s largest castles, Urquhart’s history stretches back over a thousand years. It played a significant role during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century. It was also subject to numerous raids by the MacDonald Lords of the Isles during the 15th and 16th centuries. 

Visitors today can explore the ruins, including the Grant Tower, which offers panoramic views of Loch Ness. Be sure to watch for Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster, who is said to inhabit the depths of the loch. The sightings of this elusive creature have made the castle a popular destination for hopeful monster hunters and curious travelers alike.

Caerlaverock Castle

Situated in the southern region of Scotland, Caerlaverock Castle is renowned for its unique triangular design and moat, making it an architectural gem among Scottish castles. Built in the 13th century, the castle was the stronghold of the Maxwell family for centuries. 

Caerlaverock played a significant role in the Wars of Scottish Independence and endured several sieges. A curious fact is that the castle features a twin – a replica was built in Australia by Alexander McCracken, a rich brewer who named it the “Caerlaverock Castle” in honor of his Scottish heritage.

Visitors today can explore the enchanting ruins and learn about the turbulent history through an exhibition that includes a siege warfare exhibition.

Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle

Perched on the cliffs of the Ayrshire coast, Culzean Castle is a splendid example of 18th-century architecture. This castle, designed by Robert Adam, is often considered his masterpiece, showcasing elegant interiors and an oval staircase. 

Culzean Castle is surrounded by a sprawling estate encompassing lush gardens, woodlands, and a captivating shoreline. An intriguing aspect of Culzean is the Eisenhower Apartment. The castle’s top floor was converted into a flat as a gift for General Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his role during World War II. Visitors can even book stays in this apartment, offering a unique experience of sleeping within a castle’s historical walls.

Explore Scotland with Zoom Motorhome Hire

Scotland’s castles are windows into a rich and diverse history. From the royal grandeur of 

Edinburgh and Stirling Castles to the atmospheric ruins of Dunnottar and Urquhart, these fortresses provide insight into Scotland’s cultural heritage. 

Each castle carries its own set of legends, historical tales, and architectural wonders, making them not just beautiful structures but time capsules of bygone eras. As you journey through these castles, you retrace the steps of kings, queens, warriors, and poets who have shaped the Scottish nation. 

Hire a Motorhome or Campervan for your dream holiday in Scotland and explore this majestic land in maximum comfort and style.