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Scotland's Must-See Castles

Scotland's castles offer a long history that comes alive telling the story of ancient kings, knights and warring clans that shaped the country's destiny over the centuries.

Below, check out the some of the best preserved specimens throughout the country allowing visitors an up-close look at medieval as well as modern-day royal castle life...

Picture of Edinburgh Castle
Along with centuries of history, Edinburgh
Castle features great views of the city below.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle has witnessed centuries of sieges since it was first built in the 11th century. Today, it is the No. 1 visited castle in all of Scotland situated in the heart of the country's capital, Edinburgh.

Rising high above the city in a strategic position built on ancient volcanic rock, the castle remains a beacon for visitors and a goldmine of Scotland's historical artifacts — including displays of medieval armor and weapons, Scotland's crown and sceptre, and the Royal apartments where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to her son, later James VI of Scotland and I of England.

Around the castle grounds, look for the Witches' Well, (where women found guilty of medieval witchcraft met their fate) and take a peak inside tiny St. Margaret's Chapel, all the more poignant for having survived centuries of tumult.

Into the 21st century, Edinburgh Castle is still a working castle and home to the Scottish Division.

More famously, the castle Esplanade also plays host to the Military Tattoo that takes place each year in August.

Picture of Edinburgh Castle cannon
Cannon still in place
high above Edinburgh.

Directions: Follow the Royal Mile (High Street) that ends directly at the castle esplanade.

Opening hours: 9.30am - 6.00pm

Handicapped access: At the main entrance, ask about the courtesy mini-bus that takes visitors from the esplanade up the steep inclines to the top of the castle.

Balmoral Castle

Picture of Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Castle, the favorite summer
home of Queen Elizabeth II.

Most noted today as the summer home of Queen Elizabeth II, Balmoral Castle (50 miles west of Aberdeen) only became a royal retreat in the mid-19th century when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert first set up house here in 1848.

Since then, both the castle and acres of surrounding gardens and woodland have been continually revamped and expanded to accommodate a burgeoning royal family as well as millions of tourists annually from around the world.

Elizabeth and brood usually occupy the castle from August to September during their annual summer getaway, but the beautiful estate gardens and castle ballroom are open to visitors from the end of March to the end of July each year.

Directions to Balmoral Castle: By car, take A93 towards Braemar and approximately nine miles west of Ballater you will come to Crathie, which is well sign posted for parking and visitor information. Scheduled tours, as well as regular train and bus service, are also available from Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Opening hours: open daily from the end of March until the end of July from 10 AM to 5PM.

Handicapped access: Balmoral Castle offers handicapped parking, sign-posted handicapped entrances & restrooms, as well as arrangements for free wheelchairs available at the visitor's office.

Stirling Castle

Picture of Robert the Bruce statue at Stirling Castle
A memorial to Robert the Bruce
at Stirling Castle.

Surrounded by steep cliffs and centuries of history, Stirling Castle remains one of Scotland's grandest fortifications.

An hour's drive from Edinburgh, the castle affords sweeping views of Stirling as well as an awesome photo opportunity of the "Braveheart" William Wallace Monument, a mile away.

Inside the castle complex visitors may learn more about the stronghold's position in history as the flashpoint for centuries of sieges during the struggle against English domination. Here, for example, is where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in 1543.

Today, Stirling remains a living museum with ongoing projects to restore the Great Hall, the Royal Palace, and the Chapel Royal.

Also don't miss modern-day tapestry weavers in action as part of a project to decorate the castle as it might have looked like in the 16th century.

Picture of the William Wallace Monument
From the castle battlements,
a view of the William Wallace
Monument built in 1869.

Directions to Stirling Castle: Take the M9 to Stirling and follow sign posts to the castle.

Opening hours:
Open daily from 9:30 AM to 6 PM.

Handicapped access:
A courtesy bus for visitors is available for visitors who may have difficulty up the castle's steep inclines.

Eilean Donan Castle

Picture of Eilean Donan Castle
Photogenic: Eilean Donan Castle


Named for the Island of Donan on which it is situated, Eilean Donan Castle dates back to at least the 13th century. Since then, it has been built and rebuilt over the centuries until eventually falling into ruin following the Jacobite rebellion in the 18th century.

What remained of the castle stood forgotten and forlorn for 200 years until 1911, when Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap lovingly began a 25-year quest to restore the castle to its former glory.

Although today representing more a major tourist attraction than an authentic piece of Scottish history (it is THE most photographed castle in Scotland), Eilean Donan is worth the trip for its majestic backdrop alone.

Directions to Eilean Donan Castle: Take main route A87 to the picturesque village of Dornie and follow signposts. The site is also a main stop on the way to the Isle of Skye located 8 miles from the castle.

Opening hours:
Open daily 10 AM - 6 PM with 9 AM openings during July and August.

Handicapped access:
Unavailable into the castle proper, but ask at the visitor center about a peak inside Eilean Donan Castle via a computer virtual tour.

More about Scottish castles on the Web:

Castles from Rampant Scotland Directory

Castles, Manors and Abbeys in Scotland

Castles in Scotland - Wikipedia


also see in Travel -> Loch Ness | Scotland Luxury Hotels | Scotland Whiskey Trail



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