Looking to tour Scotland’s most beautiful castles? It’s estimated there were once as many as 3,000 castles in Scotland. Now there are still around 1,500 scattered throughout the country, from fairy-tale fortresses that have been beautifully preserved or restored, to craggy ruins that cling to clifftops. Here are the best castles to visit on your trip to Scotland:
1. Edinburgh Castle
Seen from almost anywhere you go in the capital, Edinburgh Castle, atop an old volcanic plug, is an idol of Scotland and has defended the nation for centuries. Within its walls are the Honours of Scotland (Scotland’s crown jewels), as well as the Stone of Destiny, and Edinburgh’s oldest building: St Margaret’s Chapel. Even if you don’t visit the castle itself, keep an ear out for the One O’clock Gun, which is fired every day except Sundays.
2. Aldourie Castle
Most visitors to Loch Ness head to Urquhart Castle, a ruin on the western shores that is saturated with tourists in summer, but for a castle visit with more privacy, the exclusive-use Scottish baronial palace of Aldourie on the southern shores is truly spectacular. If you can’t stretch to hiring the whole castle, there are also some lovely, quaint cottages to rent within the grounds.
3. Stirling Castle
This castle, located between the Highlands and the Lowlands, was once so integral to the swing of power in the country that it was said, “He who holds Stirling, holds Scotland.” Though it fell into disrepair for many years, careful restoration has returned some of the interiors to their Renaissance glory.
4. Dunnottar Castle
Formidable, dramatic, historic—there are many adjectives to describe this ruinous Aberdeenshire castle, where the Honours of Scotland were once hidden away, but none can conjure that feeling you get when you first spy it hanging on precariously atop sheer cliffs above the angry North Sea below.
5. Eilean Donan Castle
When you first see this castle on the road to the Skye Bridge, you’ll probably feel like you know it, even if you’ve never been here before, as it’s a popular filming location and features regularly on shortbread tins and the like. Much of what you see was re-created in the 20th century, but it doesn’t lose any of its atmosphere for it.
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