7 must-see castles in the Scottish Highlands

No trip to Scotland is complete without visiting one of these enchanting castles.

That The Scottish Highlands has a way of reminding you of the old world. It may have something to do with the fact that medieval castles and fortresses are everywhere. OK, no everywhere, but you are never too far from one. Some now stand in crumbling ruins, while others have been restored to their full glory. Often perched on cliffs or tidal islands overlooking beautiful lochs, Scottish castles ooze romance. But don’t be fooled – these stone walls have seen some serious things go down. From gruesome murders and bloody battles to wars that have shaped history, they’ve seen it all. There is no better way to discover the history and mystery of the Highlands.

Situated on the shores of Loch Ness – home of Nessie, the Loch Ness monster – it’s not hard to imagine how magnificent Urquhart Castle was back in its heyday. Although now in ruins, you can still climb the Grant Tower to look for Nessie in the murky lake, peer into spooky prison cells or wander through the old great hall where grand banquets took place. Urquhart Castle was also where some of ScotlandThe most decisive battles took place, including the Wars of Independence and the Jacobite Risings.

Dunrobin Castle in Golspie

Dunrobin Castle is nothing short of magical. It has been the family home of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland for over 700 years, making it one of the oldest continuously inhabited stately homes in Britain. It is also the largest castle in the Northern Highlands with a mighty 189 rooms. Stroll through a maze of magnificent corridors and rooms and admire fairytale towers, high ceilings, dazzling chandeliers and magnificent fireplaces. Then get outside where you can get lost in zig-zag hedges, colorful flower gardens and stunning views that stretch far across the Moray Firth.

Old Inverlochy Castle in Fort William

This medieval fortress was built around 1280 AD. on the banks of the river Lochy. The strategic location allowed clans to defend their land and Old Inverlochy played a large part in Scottish history. Very few castles from this era have survived unscathed in Scotland, so it’s quite an incredible feeling to walk the walls amongst so much history. Old Inverlochy was defended by a three-sided moat, four round corner towers and two facing entrances protected by barbicans – one of which still stands at full height. The moat silted up a long time ago, but you can see the outline and how epic it would have looked back then.

Armadale Castle on the Isle of Skye

The ruins of Armadale Castle ooze romance on a 20,000 acre estate on the charming Isle of Skye. It was the last ancestral home of Clan Donald (Macdonalds of Sleat), Scotland’s largest and most powerful clan. You can learn all about the Anders clan’s rich history at the museum, before strolling through 40 hectares of gardens and woodland parks, where you will feel like you’ve stepped into an adventure. The castle is perfectly situated in the middle of the garden with a beautiful view over the Sound of Sleat. You don’t have to think too hard to imagine how impressive it was in its prime.

Dungevan Castle on the Isle of Skye

Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and is easily one of Scotland’s most beautiful fortresses. It has been the ancestral home of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 800 years. The castle is carved into the cliffs on the shores of Loch Dunvegan with breathtaking views of the Isle of Skye. Inside you will find exquisite antique furniture and family heirlooms dating back to the Middle Ages. You also get a glimpse of the Fairy Flag, which is said to have been very lucky for the Macleod clan in winning battles and victories. No trip to Dungevan is complete without taking a boat trip on the lake to see the colony of gray seals that live on the neighboring islands.

Eilean Donan Castle in Dornie

The picturesque does not quite capture the beauty of Eilean Donan Castle. Standing on a small tidal island surrounded by mountains, three large lochs and views of Skye in the distance, it is one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks. You may even recognize it from Scottish shortbread biscuit tins or movies like it James Bond or The Highlander. The history of the castle dates back to the 6th century, but the building you see today was rebuilt from ruins in the 1930s when most of the original structure was destroyed in the Jacobite uprisings. Inside you’ll find a maze of winding corridors, rooms, side passages and rare artifacts. Keep your eyes open for spooky happenings as you walk around… the castle is said to be haunted by a Spanish soldier and an apparition called Lady Mary.

Calling all Shakespeare lovers! Inverness Castle is the fictional setting for Macbeth, and it’s easy to see why the literary genius was so inspired. The red sandstone castle sits on the banks of the River Ness with impressive views of the city. The only sections open to the public are the grounds and the north tower, as the castle is now where Inverness Sheriff Court is based. It’s definitely worth climbing the tower, but we’ll let you in on a little secret: head over to the riverbank opposite the castle at sunset to see the red sandstone glowing in the last bit of sunlight. You will not regret it.


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