Highland Castles

For the love of all the Castles

Let’s just agree that the Scots loved their Castles and around Inverness and the further afield there are some stunning examples for you to see.  Here is a handful to get you started and download the free Visitor Attractions Guide.

Inverness Castle – opposite the Palace sits on a cliff overlooking the River Ness.  Opened in Spring 2017 the Inverness Castle North Tower viewing platform you can now view up and down the River Ness.  The red sandstone structure evident today was built in 1836 by architect William Burn. It is built on the site of an 11th-century defensive structure. Today, it houses Inverness Sheriff Court. There has been a castle at this site for many centuries although it has been rebuilt many times. The castle itself is today the Court House and not currently open to the public, however there is a campaign to explore the possibility opening to the public in the future.  Make sure you visit Inverness Museum & Art Gallery to learn about Scottish History.

Cawdor Castle – only 11 miles from the Palace it is  famed for its literary connection to Macbeth and the 14th century home of the Thanes of Cawdor. It is an outstanding visitor attraction, so make a day of it, take the time to discover the sumptuous interior of Cawdor Castle, a hiding place of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Explore the castle’s manicured gardens, there are three beautiful gardens, enjoy adventuring with the children in the Cawdor Big Wood, if golf is your thing you can enjoy nine holes or the putting green and if that’s not enough and you can arrange fishing.  Make a day of it pack a picnic or enjoy lunch at the Courtyard café an educational and fun visitor attraction.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness – magnificently situated Urquhart Castle, on the banks of Loch Ness, remains an impressive stronghold despite its ruinous state. Urquhart was once one of Scotland’s largest castles. Its remains include a tower house – the most recent building on the site – that commands splendid views of the famous loch and Great Glen.  Urquhart witnessed considerable conflict throughout its 500 years as a medieval fortress and its history from the 1200s to the 1600s was particularly bloody. The castle’s history is told in the exhibition and audio-visual display in the new visitor centre. The centre features an outstanding array of medieval artefacts found at the castle. It also tells the stories of the noble families who held the castle at different times: the Durwards, MacDonalds and Grants.

Brodie Castle near Forres – stuffed to the turrets with antique furniture, paintings and ceramics, the legacy of generations of Clan Brodie, this 16th-century castle is a slice of Scottish history not to be missed.  Explore the rooms, passageways and towers, all sensitively restored to show what everyday life was like for one of Scotland’s most ancient clans.  There’s plenty to discover outside the castle too. The 71 hectare estate has landscaped gardens, a large pond, a walled garden, a woodland walk, an adventure playground and a nature trail with observation hides for watching wildlife.  Set in peaceful parkland, this fine 16th-century tower house is packed with enough art and antiques to keep connoisseurs happy all day.

Eilean Donan Castle on the way to Skye – Eilean Donan is recognised as one of the most iconic images of Scotland all over the world. Situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, and surrounded by some majestic scenery, it is little wonder that the castle is now one of the most visited and important attractions in the Scottish Highlands.  Although first inhabited around the 6th century, the first fortified castle was built in the mid 13th century and stood guard over the lands of Kintail. Since then, at least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built as the feudal history of Scotland unfolded through the centuries.  The castle has its own visitor centre which includes our coffee shop and gift shop.

Dunvegan Castle & Gardens for a wealth of MacLeod family history – Any visit to the Isle of Skye is incomplete without savouring the wealth of history at Dunvegan Castle & Gardens. Built on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Loch Dunvegan once entirely encircled by the sea, Dunvegan is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.  On display are many fine oil paintings and clan treasures, the most famous of which is the Fairy Flag. Legend has it that this sacred Banner has miraculous powers and when unfurled in battle, the clan MacLeod will defeat their enemies. Another of the castle’s great treasures is the Dunvegan Cup, a unique ‘mazer’ dating back to the Middle Ages. It was gifted by the O’Neils of Ulster as a token of thanks to one of the clan’s most celebrated Chiefs, Sir Rory Mor, for his support of their cause against the marauding forces of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1596.  Today visitors can enjoy tours of an extraordinary castle and Highland estate steeped in history and clan legend, delight in the beauty of its formal gardens.  Dunvegan Castle & Gardens has three craft and souvenir shops, the Gift Shop by the Castle car park, the Castle Shop inside the Castle.

Armadale Castle & Garden home to the Clan Donald focal points are the restored historic gardens, and the beautiful walking trails threading through the 40 acres of woodland around Armadale Castle. Part of the Castle has been restored and the striking ruined remains sensitively re-designed, to create an attractive landscape within the gardens.  The fully accredited Museum of the Isles, opened within the gardens in 2002, incorporates the Library and Study Centre.

Castle Mey – for Royal family history visit, Castle Mey on the north coast of Caithness, the beloved estate of HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.  The Castle of Mey was built by George, the 4th Earl of Caithness, for his second son William Sinclair. Her Majesty purchased what was then Barrogill Castle in 1952 and set about renovating and restoring both the castle and its gardens and park lands, which extended to about 30 acres. She also restored the castle’s original name, changing Barrogill Castle back to The Castle of Mey. Open May to September each year.

Dunrobin Castle a little closer home to the Countess of Sutherland Dunrobin Castle and Gardens.  Its truly spectacular location on the sea cliffs, make it the most northerly of Scotland’s Great houses and is certainly one of the most majestic. It is the largest house in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms, and is one of Britain’s oldest continuously inhabited houses, dating in part from the 1300’s. The history of the castle is
quite fascinating and has seen the architectural influences of Sir Charles Barry and Sir Robert Lorimer. The castle has been used as a navel hospital in the First World War and from 1965 to 1972 as a boy’s school. Just 50miles north of Inverness and definitely worth a visit.

Ballindoch Castle is to the east there in Banffshire take a Tour of Ballindalloch Castle Ballindalloch is one of the most beautiful and romantic castles in Scotland. It is first and foremost a much loved family home and has been lived in continuously by its original family, the Macpherson-Grants since 1546.  Known as the ‘Pearl of the North’ it is a warm and welcoming castle set in the magnificent surroundings of the Spey Valley. The Castle is filled with family memorabilia and houses a fine collection of 17th century Spanish paintings built up by Sir John Macpherson-Grant in 1850 as well as beautiful gardens, golf course and distillery

For more Castles make sure you visit National Trust and Historic Scotland properties.  For more information on surrounding areas of these Castles see our free Visitor Attractions Guide.

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