Best Castles of Scotland: Must-See Enchanting Castles
Scotch whiskey, bagpipes, the Loch Ness Monster, and absolutely captivating castles — you guessed it, we’re headed to Scotland and exploring some of its most famous castles!
More than 1,500 enchanting, fairytale-like castles are dotted across the rolling hills of Scotland, reflecting the country’s rich history through architecture. Many castles are still open to tourists and visitors today.
So which castles in Scotland are really worth the visit? We’ve got your ultimate list of must-see Scottish castles right here! Add these to your travel bucket list, pronto.
The prettiest castle in Scotland: Eilean Donan Castle
The feature photo for dozens of calendars, guidebooks, and postcards, Eilean Donan Castle has been named the most stunning castle in Scotland time and time again.
Known for its romantic stone footbridge, Eilean Donan, meaning Isle Donan, sits where Loch Long, Loch Duich, and Loch Alsh meet. This 13th century structure is one of the best castles in Scotland to visit if time is short.
- Who This Is For: Romantics in search of the most tranquil, coastal island castle views
- Best Time to Visit: Spring and fall, in the early morning or late in the day to beat crowds
- What It’s Known For: Being one of the most iconic and most photographed sites in Scotland
- Location: On its own little island in Loch Duich, overlooking the Isle of Skye
- Website: https://www.eileandonancastle.com/
The most important castle in Scotland: Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle is historically and architecturally one of the most significant structures in all of Scotland. Surrounded on three sides by steep, jagged cliffs and sea caves, you’ll really feel like you’re approaching a medieval fortress.
- Who This Is For: One of the best castles in Scotland for history buffs
- Best Time to Visit: The best weather is in July and August, especially for sunset
- What It’s Known For: The birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, home to Scottish kings
- Location: The city of Sterling, on Castle Hill near the River Forth in central Scotland
- Website: https://www.stirlingcastle.scot/
The oldest castle in Scotland: Dunvegan Castle
The McLeod family has laid claim to Dunvegan Castle for more than 800 years and 30 generations, making it the oldest of the castles in Scotland still inhabited today.
You can even have Dunvegan Castle as the venue for your wedding if you want! Imagine saying “I do” with this stunning Scottish castle in the background? Talk about a fairytale wedding!
- Who This Is For: those who love gorgeous gardens and nearby beaches
- Best Time to Visit: April and May are the driest months, June is still early enough to beat the crowds
- What It’s Known For: a collection of fine oil paintings and McLeod family treasures
- Location: Isle of Skye, west coast of Scotland
- Website: https://www.dunvegancastle.com/
The Most Picturesque Castle in Scotland: Dunnottar Castle
Dunnottar Castle sits high above the sheer, rocky outcrop along the shores of Stonehaven on the northeastern coast of Scotland. This former medieval fortress is surrounded on three sides by the North Sea.
Once the royal residence of Queen Elizabeth II as well as a dramatic war fortress in its history, Dunnottar Castle is one of the best castles of Scotland to visit for a totally dynamic experience, and a peak into medieval Scotland.
A major player in Scotland’s history for centuries, Dunnottar Castle is one of the most beautiful castles among the many Scottish crown jewels still standing. Remnants of a stone chapel dating back to 1296 A.D. still remain visible on the surrounding castle grounds today.
- Who This Is For: Those interested in history and architecture in a jaw-dropping setting
- Best Time to Visit: Summer months, May to September
- What It’s Known For: Scottish history, royal family occupancy, and infamous war history
- Location: Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail, south of Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire County
- Website: https://www.dunnottarcastle.co.uk/
The most visited castle in Scotland: Edinburgh Castle
The breathtaking Edinburgh Castle is situated on a rocky cliffside (and former volcano) above Scotland’s capital city of the same name. Edinburgh is a dynamic, bustling European city in Scotland’s Northern Highlands.
The towering Edinburgh Castle is one of the most visited castles in Scotland, as well as the largest castle in the country and home to the iconic St. Margaret’s Chapel.
Many would say Edinburgh is the most magnificent castle in the Scottish Highlands, though the castles on this list give it some stiff competition.
- Who This Is For: Those interested in the rich history of the Scottish Independence
- Best Time to Visit: June and August have the best weather, but fall sees less tourists
- What It’s Known For: Built atop a 700 million-year-old, inactive volcano called Castle Rock
- Location: The end of the Royal Mile, west of Edinburgh’s Old Town
- Website: https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/
18 More Incredible Castles To See When Visiting Scotland
With such a beautiful country full of countless castles to explore, it’s hard to choose which to add to your itinerary. How many castles you try to squeeze in on your trip is up you, but here are a handful more of Scotland’s castles to choose from:
- Castle Fraser: over 300 acres of manicured grounds, and a tower house among the largest in Scotland
- Inveraray Castle: a stunning example of Scotland’s Gothic Revival architecture
- Blair Castle: home of the Atholl family, the last castle in the British Isles to be besieged in 1746
- Craigievar Castle: this one is a pink castle — one of FOUR uniquely pink castles in Scotland
- Dunrobin Castle: the largest castle in the Scottish Highlands, with 189 rooms!
- Glamis Castle: the childhood home of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother
- Cawdor Castle: best know for its connection to William Shakespeare’s tragedy, Macbeth
- Braemar Castle: built in 1628, perfect example of a Scottish fortified tower house
- Drummond Castle: known for some of the most gorgeous, formal terraced gardens in Scotland
- Floors Castle: the largest inhabited castle in Scotland, home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe
- Brodie Castle: home to a historic collection of artwork, furniture, and ceramics
- Duart Castle: guardian of the sea cliffs of the Isle of Mull on the west coast of Scotland
- Urquhart Castle: the only Highland castle to hold out against the English in Scotland’s struggle for independence
- Balmoral Castle: residence of the British royal family, located near the village of Crathie
- Culzean Castle: known for its intricate painted ceilings and elegant winding staircase
- Kilchurn Castle: once a fortress, and home to the oldest barracks on the British mainland
- Fyvie Castle: located in the heart of Aberdeenshire, known for ghost stories and folklore
Explore Scotland With Explorer Chick
Ready to explore the best castles in Scotland that seem like they’re straight out of Downton Abbey? Explorer Chick has got the Scotland adventure for you!
Join a group of badass babes like yourself on our epic, Unspoiled Hiking Tour of Scotland! We’ll take day hikes in the Scottish Highlands, make our way through medieval villages and local pubs, and of course a stay in a luxury 15th century castle hotel.
Pack your bags, lace up your boots, and dust off your bagpipes! (Actually… leave those at home) Explorer Chick’s expert guides do the dirty work of planning so you can kick back and enjoy the journey. Don’t wait to snag your spot on one of our amazing European adventure tours!
Meet the Writer
April is an adventure lover and freelance writer based in New England, with a passion for public lands, wild places, and all things outdoors. She loves camping in any form and spends as many weekends as she can hiking New Hampshire’s highest peaks, or road-tripping with her sweet dog Marley. If not in the mountains, you can find her planning her next expedition or caring for one of her far-too-many-houseplants.
Favorite outdoor adventure: National Parks Hiking and Road Trips!
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