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The 8 Most Famous Castles in Scotland

Home > The 8 Most Famous Castles in Scotland

With over 1,500 castles, it is no surprise that Scotland is famous for it’s castles, all of which have an imense history and story to tell.  I have picked 8 of Scotland’s most famous castles here, some of which you can stay in and others you can visit to learn all about the past.

1. EDINBURGH CASTLE

I have to start with Edinburgh Castle which is set in the dynamic capital of Scotland and is one of the most exciting historic sites in Scotland.  It has been inhabited by humans since the Iron Age and has exceptional views over the city and beyond.  Edinburgh Castle is also famous because for centuries it was home to many Kings & Queens including Queen Margaret who died there in 1093. She was later canonised in recognition of her personal holiness, fidelity to the Roman Catholic Church, ecclesiastical reform and charity.  Today Edinburgh Castle is mainly a tourist attraction but parts of it are used by the Army and it is also the setting for the Royal Military Tattoo each year.

2. STIRLING CASTLE

Part of the city’s World Heritage Site, The Grand Pump Room is a confection of Georgian splendour and a wonderful place for a delicious afternoon tea.  Located above the Roman Baths, most of the features of the Pump Room remain the same; including the spa water that still spurts from its fountain overlooking the natural hot spring.  Mentioned in Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, you can imagine the grand parties that must have taken place there.  Built in 1795, The Grand Pump House is located next to the Roman Baths on Stall Street where it became a venue of great importance in Georgian society.  The building’s exterior has grand columns inspired by Greek temples and inside the Greek theme continues with columns along the walls, high ceilings and moulding around the edges of the walls.  An elegant chandelier hangs in the middle of the room and the huge windows flood the room with natural light, which gives a wonderfully spacious feel.  The next series of Bridgerton will no doubt be filmed there, with Lady Whistletown setting society alight with her gossip sheet.

3. BRAEMAR CASTLE

Further north, in Aberdeenshire, you will find Braemar Castle which was built in 1628 by the Earl of Mar as a base for his hunting excursions nearby.  However, during the Jacobite Uprisings at the end of the 17th Century and beginning of the 18th Century, the 6th Earl lost everything and fled overseas.   The Farquharsons of Invercauld, already significant local landowners, were then able to buy Braemar Castle from the Crown and in 1830 started to turn it into a family home.    It is now owned by the Chief of the Clan Farquharson, although it is currently leased to a local charitable organization and is run by the local community.  Usually, Braemar Castle is open to the public but it is currently undergoing a significant restoration programme thanks to funding from the National Lottery, Historic Environment Scotland and some heroic fundraising from the local community.  It is due to re-open in June 2023 and you can find out more here.

4. INVERARAY CASTLE

Inveraray Castle is one of Scotland’s most important historic houses.  Home to the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, since the 18th Century, Inveraray Castle sits in a stunning position on the shore of Loch Fyne.  This unmistakeably Scottish castle dates from 1720 and features four imposing French influenced conical spires surmounting the stone castellated turrets.  More recently the castle has risen to notoriety as it was chosen for the Downton Abbey Christmas 2012 episode where it became the imaginary ‘Duneagle Castle’ and the Granthams travelled north to stay with their cousins for Christmas.  Excitingly, it is actually possible to stay at Inveraray Castle and perhaps enjoy your own family Christmas there.

5. GLAMIS CASTLE

Glamis Castle has been the family home and ancestral seat of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne since 1372.  Situated in the middle of Angus in Scotland, Glamis Castle has a colourful and interesting history and has welcomed many famous visitors over the years.  It is famous for being the inspiration for William Shakespeare’s Macbeth and also for being the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.  Glamis Castle is now open to the public and has exhibitions, jazz festivals and apple pressing workshops amongst other things to enjoy there.  Plan your visit here and enjoy a day that is as fun for children as it is for grown ups.

6. FLOORS CASTLE

Floors Castle is the gem of the Scottish Borders.  Having been built in 1721 it has been home to the Innes-Ker family for over 300 years.  Overlooking the River Tweed and the Cheviot Hills, it is an architectural masterpiece originally designed by William Adam, then embellished in the 19th Century with turrets and battlements by William Playfair for the 6th Duke of Roxburghe.  Although Floors Castle is still principally a family home, it is also open to the public with a cafe, food & gift shop and gardens to explore.

7. FYVIE CASTLE

Fyvie Castle is famous for the ghosts, legends and folklore that breath from the walls of this Scottish Baronial castle that dates back to the 13th Century.  Perhaps the most famous curse is the ‘Curse of the Weeping Stones’ which is supposed to explain the death of every eldest son in the history of the families who have owned the castle over the past 600 years.  There are three stones which need to be discovered and removed from the river and until this happens, the curse remains.  Only one stone has been found and is on display in the Charter Room.  As a result, the castle has changed hands many times and is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.  The castle is open to the public and well worth visiting.  It has a magnificent collection of art on display including works by Gainsborough, Romney, Lawrence, Greuze, Vigée Le Brun, Millais, Batoni and 13 Raeburn portraits.  It is also known that Robert the Bruce and Charles I were two of the royal visitors to the castle.

8. CULZEAN CASTLE

A Robert Adam masterpiece, Culzean Castle is perched on the Ayrshire cliffs overlooking woods, beaches, secret follies and play parks.  The former home of the Marquess of Ailsa, the chief of Clan Kennedy, Culzean Castle is now owned by the National Trust of Scotland.  The castle was built between 1777 and 1792 incorporating a large drum tower with a circular saloon inside and a grand oval staircase.  It is a fun place to visit and to find out more click here.

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