What makes these 8 Castles of Scotland a Must-See?
Bubbly Tourist ranks these castles from top to bottom. Find out why...
1. Dunnottar Castle - Stonehaven
Why a Must-See: Rugged and Majestic Clifftop Ruins
What makes this 13th century fortress so amazing is its clifftop position along the Scottish North Sea coastline. It is perched atop a 160 foot rock and surrounded on three sides by the sea. To gain access one must follow a steep path practically all the way down to the sea and then back up the rock. The climbs will definitely elevate your heart rate but maybe that's a good thing while on vacation.
Fun fact: The Scottish crown jewels known as the Honours of Scotland were hidden here between 1651 and 1652. They can now be seen at the Edinburgh Castle.
2. Edinburgh Castle - Edinburgh
Why a Must-See: The Scottish Crown Jewels
Besides the spectacular views of the city of Edinburgh from the Castle, there is a lot to explore. The number one attraction is the Honours of Scotland or the crown jewels. This refers to the crown, sceptre and sword of state used in the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543. Pictures are prohibited so make sure to enjoy looking at them. The grounds also contain several war museums, jails, St Margaret's Chapel and the Great Hall that are available to visit. Allow plenty of time to explore and be sure to purchase tickets in advance.
Fun fact: Every day at 1:00pm (except on Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day) the One o'clock gun is fired to announce the time. Crowds gather and be ready... it is loud!
3. Balmoral Castle - Balmoral
Why a Must-See: The Royals Summer Playground
There is something to be said about walking the grounds where English royalty still vacation every summer. You learn things like how King Charles is changing over the vegetable garden to make it more sustainable. Inside the ballroom (which is the only room open to visitors) is a large collection of family photos which gives you a glimpse into the royal's lives. There is plenty to see on the grounds. The path along the river is mostly unexplored by tourists and an enjoyable way to walk in and out of the grounds.
Fun Fact: Dogs are allowed on the grounds. Just don't bring Fido in August when the royals are home and the castle is closed.
4. Eilean Donan Castle - Western Highlands
Why a Must-See: "Picture Perfect Postcard"
When you come across this castle, somehow you know you've made it to the Western Highlands. One might be able to picture the battles of the Scotsmen against one another back when the island's original castle was conquered in 1563 by the McRae Clan. Later it became a stronghold of the Clan Mackenzie but was subsequently destroyed during the Jacobite rebellion. The castle was rebuilt in 1932 based on the surviving ground plan of earlier phases.
Fun Fact: This castle stars at the beginning of the movie, The Highlander. #ThereCanBeOnlyOne.
5. Dunvegan Castle - Isle of Skye
Why a Must-See: Isle of Skye's most Magnificent Castle
This is the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years. It is located on the northern end of Isle of Skye and offers visitors the opportunity to see the inside of the castle as well as traverse the extensive gardens. The castle collection contains many beautiful paintings and important heirlooms such as the mystical Fairy Flag and Sir Rory Mor's (15th Clan Chief) ceremonial drinking horn and gourd.
Fun Fact: It's been featured in several movies including The Highlander (as one might expect given the Great MacLeod Sword of Dunvegan on display), Macbeth, Maid of Honor and 47 Ronin.
6. Stirling Castle - Stirling (40 miles northwest of Edinburgh)
Why a Must-See: "He who holds Stirling holds Scotland"
Stirling Castle sits atop a volcanic crag overlooking Scotland's historic plain that divides the Lowlands from the Highlands. It is here that many great Scottish victories (and defeats) took place. As the saying goes "For he that holds Stirling holds Scotland". The castle was built by a series of Stuart monarchs including Mary Queen of Scots. You can still see the cannonball marks on the castle walls from the time when Bonnie Prince Charlie attacked his own ancestor's home.
Fun Fact: The Coronation of Mary Queen of Scots took place here in 1543
7. Dunstaffnage Castle - Oban
Why a Must-See: One of Scotland's oldest stone castles
Built in the early 13th century, this now partially ruined castle and chapel is situated less than 3 miles north of Oban and is surrounded on three sides by the sea. It was built by the son of Earl Somerled, known also as the 'King of the Isles'. The forest from the carpark to the castle houses the ruined chapel. The paths around the grounds offers abandoned picturesque coastal scenery.
Fun Fact: Fans of Outlander will be happy to visit this filming location
8. Doune Castle - Doune
Why a Must-See: For Game of Thrones and Monty Python fans
Unfortunately Bubbly Tourist was unable to fit this 600 year old castle into our itinerary. We simply ran out of time but plan to make a stop here on our next visit. This castle serves as Winterfell in the pilot of Game of Thrones and is featured in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail.