The Scottish Highlands have a way of reminding you of the old world. It may have something to do with the fact that medieval castles and forts are everywhere. Well, not everywhere, but you’re never too far from one. Some now stand in crumbling ruins while others have been restored to their full glory. Often perched on cliffs or tidal islands, overlooking beautiful lochs, Scottish castles are brimming with romance. Here are 7 castles in the Scottish Highlands
But don’t be fooled – these stone walls have seen some serious things fall. From gruesome killings and bloody battles to the wars that shaped history, he has seen it all. There’s no better way to uncover the history and mystery of the Highlands.
Situated on the banks of Loch Ness – home of the Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster – it’s not hard to imagine how spectacular Urquhart Castle was in its heyday. Although it now stands in ruins, you can climb the Grant Tower to see Nessie in the misty lake, peek inside the eerie prison cells, or wander the old Great Hall where the splendid banquets took place. Urquhart Castle was also where some of Scotland’s most important battles took place, including the War of Independence and the Jacobite Rebellion.
Dunrobin Castle is nothing short of magic. It has been the family home of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland for over 700 years, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited stately homes in Britain. It is also the largest palace in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. Wander the maze of grand corridors and rooms and gaze at the fairy tale turrets, high ceilings, dazzling chandeliers, and spectacular fireplaces. Then make your way outside where you can get lost in the zig-zagged hedges, colorful flower gardens, and stunning views spread over the Moray Firth.
This medieval fort was built around 1280AD on the banks of the river Lochi. The strategic location allowed the clans to defend their lands and Old Inverlochy played a large part in Scottish history. Very few castles from this era have survived in Scotland, so walking the walls in the midst of so much history is an absolutely incredible feeling. Old Inverlochy was protected by a three-sided moat, four rounded corner towers, and two opposing entrances, one of which still stands at full height. The moat was closed long ago, but you can see the outline and how epic it would have looked when looked back.
Set on a 20,000-acre working property on the charming Isle of Skye, the ruins of Armadale Castle are oozing with romance. It was the last ancestral home of the Clan Donald (MacDonald of Sleet), Scotland’s largest and most powerful clan. You can learn about Clan Donald’s rich history at the museum before taking a stroll through 40 acres of gardens and woodland parks, where you’ll feel like you’ve stepped into a story. The palace is perfectly set amidst the gardens with sweeping views of the Sound of Sleet. You don’t have to think too hard to imagine how influential it was in its prime.
Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and easily one of the most beautiful forts in Scotland. It has been the ancestral home of the MacLeod clan chiefs for over 800 years. The castle is carved into the sheer cliff on the banks of Loch Dunvegan with breathtaking views over the Isle of Skye. Inside you’ll find exquisite antique furniture and family heirlooms from the Middle Ages.
You’ll also get a glimpse of the fairy flag, which is believed to have been very fortunate for the Macleod clan in winning battles and victories. No trip to Dungwan is complete without taking a boat tour on the lake to see the colony of gray seals that live on the neighboring islands.
Nothing quite captures the beauty of the picturesque Eileen Donnan Castle. Standing on a small tidal island surrounded by mountains, three great seashores, and views of the sky in the distance, it is one of the most iconic Scottish landmarks. You might also recognize it from a Scottish shortbread biscuit tin or from movies like James Bond or The Highlander.
The history of the castle goes back to the 6th century, but the building you see today was rebuilt from ruins in the 1930s after Jacobite rebellions destroyed most of the original structure. Inside you’ll find winding corridors, rooms, side passages, and a maze of rare artifacts. Keep your eyes open for any spooky incidents when you are walking around… The castle is believed to be haunted by a Spanish soldier and a ghost named Lady Mary.
Calling all Shakespeare lovers! Inverness Castle is the fictional setting for Macbeth, and it is easy to see why the literary genius was so inspired. The Red Sandstone Palace is situated on the banks of the River Ness with impressive views of the city. The only sections open to the public are the grounds and the north tower as the palace is now based in the Inverness Sheriff’s Court.
It’s definitely worth climbing the tower, but we’ll reveal to you a little secret: Make your way to the riverbank in front of the castle for sunset and watch the red sandstone glow in the last light of the sun. you will not regret it.