Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, surrounded by trees in autumn colours.

Beautiful Scottish Castles to Visit – And Book

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Make like royalty in Scottish spires

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Scotland is home to a plethora of castles – so much so, the lofty fortresses are an integral part of the wild and undulating landscape, along with pristine lochs and towering mountains. Castle enthusiast David Weinczok estimates that around 2000 castles are scattered across the ancient land. From ruins to visitor-friendly heritage sites to refurbishments into hotels, there’s plenty of ways to visit these beautiful castles, too. Here’s the C&TH pick of the beautiful Scottish castles to visit – or, if you’re lucky, book yourself into for a regal holiday.

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Scottish Castles to Visit

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Edinburgh Castle, Scotland, from Princes Street Gardens, with the Ross Fountain in the foreground

Edinburgh Castle

Towering over Scotland’s capital, set upon a craggy mountain – once a volcano – Edinburgh Castle is one of Scotland’s most famous castles, a sprawling complex of houses containing the Crown Jewels. Make sure you book head – it gets busy. edinburghcastle.scot

Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, surrounded by trees in autumn colours.

Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire

Although more of a fortified country house than a castle – it was architecturally designed to look grand rather than prepared for battle – Craigievar Castle is the castle most likely to make you feel like fairytale royalty. Thought to have inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle, this pink delight contains a plethora of ancient artefacts, with frequent guided tours of the property. nts.org.uk

Blair Castle located in Perthshire,

Blair Castle, Perthshire

The ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, Blair Castle is the home of Europe’s last remaining private army, the Atholl Highlanders. With a plethora of rooms illustrating the interiors of different time periods, Blair Castle is open to visitors who can embark on tours across the grounds and through the castle interiors. atholl-estates.co.uk

Balmoral Castle with ivy

Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire

Still a Royal Family private residence – and, in that sense, a functioning, traditional castle – when not occupied by the Queen, Balmoral Castle can be enjoyed by visitors in all of its glory. balmoralcastle.com

Image: (c) Stuart Yeates via Wikimedia Commons

Cawdor Castle

Cawdor Castle, Nairn

Literature fans, yes: it is the very same Cawdor castle that Shakespeare’s Macbeth hails from – though Shakespeare’s history knowledge was a little off. Built around a 15th century tower house – ancient, but a few centuries younger than Shakespeare frames it in his play about the 11th century – this ancestral home of Clan Cawdor passed into the hands of Clan Campbell in the 16th century. Today, guests can experience the castle’s stunning grandeur with sumptuous interiors, impressive gardens, and dungeon. cawdorcastle.com

Eilean Donan castle in north east Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands

One of the most photographed Scottish castles, Eilean Donan Castle sits on an island at the confluence of three lochs: Duich, Long and Alshe. Stay in one of the nearby 57 Nord cabins to make the most of the dramatic scenery here. eileandonancastle.com

Castle Ruins to Visit

Dunnotar Castle, Aberdeenshire

The Dunnottar Castle from above

Set against a watery backdrop and perched on an ocean outcrop, this cliff-top stronghold – dating back to the middle-ages – is breathtaking at sunset. Visit by walking along the Aberdeenshire coastline from the pretty, nearby Stonehaven harbour town. dunnottarcastle.co.uk

Huntly Castle, Aberdeenshire

Huntly Medieval Castle, Scotland

Also known as Strathbogie Castle, the magnificent Huntly Castle ruin dates from the 12th century, serving as a baronial residence for five centuries. historicenvironment.scot

Dunskey Castle, Dumfries & Galloway

Dunskey Castle situated on cliff edge which protrudes into the sea, built in 12th Century. This is an iconioc landmark in Scotland sitated about half a mile from Portpatrick on the west coast.

Another dramatic coastal castle, the raggedy Dunskey Castle was once a massive tower house, but has sat derelict since 1700. Arrive by walking along the coastal path – and continue south past the castle to the pretty town of Portpatrick with its picturesque harbour and pastel houses. visitscotland.com

Scottish Castles to Stay In

Ardverikie Castle, Inverness

Ardverikie Scottish castle

The fictional Balmoral in Netflix’s The Crown, this 19th century Gothic home near Inverness has the same brooding turrets and gloomy air as the real Balmoral, just with a slightly lower profile. It makes for a lovely and tranquil staycation destination – across a variety of on-ground cottages, ranging from a pretty lodge to an eco pod. ardverikie.com

Dairsie Castle, Fife

DAIRSIE CASTLE, CUPAR, FIFE

Stepping inside Dairsie Castle is like stepping back in time. Once the site of secret Scottish parliaments, military sieges and even the hiding place of James VI from his Ruthven captors in 1583, the property has a colourful history. Today, the six-bedroom castle with six-acres of grounds – including a walled garden, orchard and parkland – is the perfect place for a weekend break. dairsiecastle.com

Skibo Castle

Skibo Castle

Refurbished by Andrew Carnegie in 1898, Skibo was sold to hotelier Peter de Savary in 1982. Madonna and Guy Richie married here in 2002. It’s now owned by a mega-rich American keeping a low profile.

It’s technically possible to stay in the magnificent Skibo Castle, but, as a private members club, it’ll set you back a hefty £30,000 in joining fees, £9,000 in annual membership fees, and £1,500 to actually stay the night. Worth it? Read the C&TH review to find out. carnegieclub.co.uk

Featured Image: Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland (via Getty)