5 Castles You Need To Visit In Scotland

kilchurn castle
This post could have easily contained more castles as these are only some of the ones we explored on our recent road trip through Scotland. However, some castles were better than others and some were a bit awkward to access if you don't want to venture off the mainland (like Castle Moy on Isle of Mull which you can see in detail in my post here). I might not be an expert when it comes to castles, but I am an enthusiast, eager to explore every fortified ruin I'm able to! These castles each had their own charms and are well worth adding to your itinerary when planning your own Scottish adventure.kilchurn castle Kilchurn Castle: It's easy to see why this is becoming one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. Even in less than ideal conditions (wind, sun, etc) our pictures here were so stunning and amongst our favorites from this trip. After you've snapped a few pictures of the castle from across Loch Awe you can venture on to the grounds to explore inside the ruins and learn more of the history of the building. It was built in the mid 1400s and was the stronghold of Clan Campbell for around 150 years. These castle ruins are definitely worth paying a visit to and at least at the time of our visit, far from crowded (always a bonus in my book!).
castle-1-5Cawdor Castle: Cawdor is a not unknown name given its links to Shakespeare's Macbeth. However, the castle wasn't built when the real Macbeth was alive; despite that fact Shakespeare chose this castle outside Inverness as the setting of that famous play and the connection has remained ever since. In fact, the 5th Earl Cawdor said, “I wish the Bard had never written his damned play!” Even without the Shakespeare or Macbeth connection it's a lovely castle worth visiting for the gardens alone. Unlike many of the castles you may visit in Scotland, this one features elaborate gardens in a variety of styles worth exploring when the weather is decent. You can see more details and photographs of Cawdor Castle in my post here.
castle-1-2castle-1Inveraray Castle: If this castle looks familiar it is likely because it was featured in an episode of Downton Abbey. Perhaps that show can also explain the castle's popularity--if you venture here do expect a crowd! It is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll and an Inveraray Castle has been standing on the shores of Loch Fyne since the 1400s; the current castle began construction in 1746. Once you pay a fee for entry you have free reign of the castles and much of the interior of the castle. Two of the most striking and memorable rooms inside are the State Dining Room and the Tapestry Drawing Room at the very start of your tour--both reminded me of delicate French pastries, pastel and decadent, adding to the castle's very fairytale-like feeling. Many of the castles you explore in Scotland are more rugged, they were fortresses used for defense and they look the part--all thick walls and narrow windows. But Inveraray Castle strikes a different note, it has a picturesque look straight from a storybook and feels much more decorative than defensive.
castle-1-4castle-2Castle Stalker: One of the no doubt best-named castles is the striking Castle Stalker, in Gaelic Stalcaire meaning Hunter or Falconer. Set upon a tiny island in Loch Laich midway between Oban and Glen Coe. The current castle was constructed in the 1440s and has undergone restoration in more recent years to return it to its former glory. The best views of the castle can be found a nearby lookout point, but there are tours by boat to bring you even closer and inside. Once again, if this castle looks familiar it is because like many other Scottish castles was used in a film, although this one was a comedy: Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Although if you're a book nerd like myself, you might better appreciate that this castle was the inspiration for Castle Keep in Susan Cooper's The Boggart. Seeing this castle in person helps bring that story better to life and is inspiring a re-reading!
castle-1-4Eileen Donan Castle: This castle is built at the point where three seas meet, Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh in the Western Highlands. Eileen Donan simply means "island of Donnan" and was named after Donnan of Eigg, the patron saint of the Isle of Eigg which we also visited. The castle was founded in the thirteenth century and became a stronghold for the clan Mackenzie. The Mackenzie's involvement in the Jacobite rebellions sadly led to the castle's destruction in 1719 and the grounds you can tour today were reconstructed in the early 1900s. Today you can explore nearly every inch of the castle from traditional grand hall to narrow staircases and even replicated kitchen scenes, giving you a real feel for what life back in the day would have been like within those walls.


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