When you’re in the Scottish Highlands, you’re often a stone’s throw away from an ancient castle or royal ruin. Many of these beautiful castles up in the highlands are in complete ruins due to the passing of time, or historical events that impacted the physical structures. Others have been restored to most of their former glory.
Regardless of whether they are functioning castles or not, these royal spots make for a great adventure!
Some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world can be enjoyed in the Scottish Highlands. Stunning views of majestic mountains, perfect beaches, and wildlife surround these magnificent ancient buildings. The Scottish Highlands offer virtually everything you could ever want, from lavish buildings to eerily gorgeous ruins.
The lifestyles of the Scots in earlier eras are the topic of several fascinating tales. It is a serene experience to walk amongst ruins and hear stories about the people who lived before you.
From royal elegance, dramatic history, and secret romance to family drama and murder, these are the 10 best castles to visit in the Scottish Highlands.
1. Urquhart Castle
Urquhart Castle is a medieval fortress. You can view its beauty on the shores of Loch Ness. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and culture of Scotland, Urquhart Castle is a great choice.
It has a long history; the castle was built more than a thousand years ago. While amongst these old bricks, you’ll become privy to stunning views of the loch, as well as the nearby mountains.
It was a major stronghold for many Scottish clans over the years, and the castle’s strategic location with a view of the loch played a significant role in its history. Visitors to Urquhart Castle are welcome to explore the property’s many intriguing features. This includes spectacular 13th-century castle remains!
You should also visit the tourist centre at the castle. There’s a museum illustrating the castle’s significance in Scottish history.
A boat trip to Loch Ness is another exciting feature of Urquhart Castle. These excursions leave from the pier. They provide a unique opportunity to view the loch and (if you’re very, very lucky) its well-known inhabitant, the Loch Ness Monster.
2. Dunrobin Castle & Gardens
Visiting Dunrobin Castle gives you a close look into the history of Scotland. The architecture of this particular castle was crafted with skill; it’s been around for more than 700 years and continues to stand the test of time.
It is perched on the east coast of Scotland, close to Golspie. Dunrobin Castle is a direct image from your favourite childhood fairytales. It’s the best place to live out your dreams of royalty!
The castle is a genuine jewel of Scottish architecture. It’s unique due to its towering structures, majestic spires, and lovely formal gardens. The spectacular library and dining room are two of the wonderful spaces of the ancient castle that you can explore.
The museum in the castle holds a remarkable collection of historical relics. You can even catch a glimpse of armour, weaponry, and special works of art! These help visitors understand the lengthy and intricate history of the nation. Take your time looking at these artefacts and taking in the ancient details.
It is an absolute must to watch the daily falconry performances at Dunrobin Castle. These displays allow guests to witness some of Scotland’s most spectacular birds up close.
3. Armadale Castle
On the Isle of Skye, Armadale Castle provides a unique and intriguing experience. The abandoned castle is a major tourist attraction, allowing guests to stroll around this Scottish cultural hotspot in awe. Take some time to explore the impressive features of the 19th-century structure!
The MacDonald clan previously resided at the castle at Armadale. This was once one of Scotland’s most prominent and famous clans.
Visitors who explore the castle remains today can see the impressive Great Hall, unsettling dungeons, and high towers. These features offer an intriguing window into Scotland’s past and are a must-see for lovers of history and architecture.
The Armadale Castle on the Isle of Skye encompasses more than simply the castle remains; equally stunning are the gardens that surround the castle! There are over 40 acres of rich vegetation, including vibrant rhododendrons and exquisite azaleas.
The gardens are designed thoughtfully and feature walkways with sights that will blow your mind. There are also higher areas along the walk where you can appreciate the natural beauty of the Isle of Skye properly.
This castle provides programmes allowing you to learn more about the gardens and the history of the castle. You can even join a guided tour to hear from the locals themselves!
Explorers of the Isle of Skye can have the experience of a lifetime at Armadale Castle. For anybody interested in Scotland’s rich cultural past, the destination is a must-visit because of its old castle ruins, gorgeous gardens, and natural beauty. Plan your visit today and discover the magic of Armadale Castle!
4. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
Dunvegan Castle is a World Heritage Site on the Isle of Skye. It has spectacular architecture and gorgeous natural surroundings. The castle is one of Scotland’s oldest inhabited castles, it’s over 800 years old!
You can explore the beautiful Great Hall and the eerie world beneath in the basement at your leisure. The castle’s history and art collection offer a special window into Scotland’s past.
The magnificent 5-acre grounds are a prominent feature of Dunvegan Castle. Visitors can enjoy vibrant flowers, serene water features, woodland walks, and picturesque views.
There are boat cruises to surrounding islands for those looking for adventure. You’ll have the chance to spot seals, dolphins, and other marine life.
Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye is the perfect location for a weekend stay too! There are many cafes, shops, and other attractions nearby, in the town of Dunvegan.
Dunvegan Castle provides a fascinating fusion of culture, history, and natural beauty.
Make travel arrangements right away to experience the enchantment of this Scottish treasure.
5. Eilean Donan Castle
You can explore ancient remains at Eilean Donan Castle with friends and family – even those not into history will get a kick out of it.
It sits at the base of three great sea lochs. Take in the natural splendour of the stunning Scottish Highlands with awe! For visitors looking for a distinctive Scottish experience, the castle gardens and grounds are a must-visit venue. This castle has a truly remarkable design and spectacular position.
Visitors can get an authentic sense of Scotland’s rich cultural legacy here. You can explore the Great Hall, courtyard, and ominous dungeons. Eilean Donan Castle has a long history that extends to the thirteenth century. It is one of Scotland’s most recognisable sights today!
The gardens have well-maintained flowerbeds, lovely walking routes, and spectacular vistas of the neighbouring lochs and mountains. The castle offers various lessons and guided tours if you want to learn more. The region around Eilean Donan Castle also has plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits. These include hiking, kayaking, and animal observation.
Eilean is one of the most beautiful highland castles. The gardens are a distinctive draw for tourists, so wear your walking shoes!
6. Cawdor Castle & Gardens
If you’re looking for more magical Isle of Skye photography locations, then Fairy Glen is the place to be. Found inland in the town of Uig, this destination is a diamond in the rough. Though it may not be as famous as some of the other locations here, Fairy Glen is a personal favourite for plenty of professional (and amateur) photographers.
The views here are truly out of this world, with vibrant green hills, blood-red ferns, and sparkling turquoise ponds. The sunlight that bursts through the clouds only amplifies this beauty. Combined with the palette of colours, Fairy Glen is the idyllic spot for an ethereal and mystical atmosphere.
Fairy Glen may be most well-known for Castle Ewen, which is a rock formation that looks like a ruined castle from certain angles. As the highest point in the area, it makes for the perfect subject or dreamy backdrop.
But that’s not all! There’s more to explore here if you’re feeling adventurous. From winding trails to spiral rock formations, you won’t want to miss a visit to Fairy Glen on a misty day.
7. Brodie Castle
Brodie Castle has some fascinating tales to tell!
The discovery of a secret room in the ancestral home in the 18th century is one of the most captivating stories from the castle’s past. The long-sealed chamber was found to have a wealth of priceless antiques within.
Rumour has it that a prior owner of the castle used the chamber to hide from the law during a time of political unrest. That is just one example of the intriguing stories that can be heard at Brodie Castle.
While you’re imagining the characters in the old tales, take a few minutes to yourself and explore the delightful gardens of Brodie Castle. The natural beauty of the grounds will leave you in awe. Don’t forget to snap a few photos for bragging rights when you get home!
Brodie Castle is a must-see location for travellers interested in having an original Scottish experience. The castle caters to guests of all ages and interests. Plan your trip now, and who knows? You could even discover some hidden riches!
8. Ballindalloch Castle
The Scottish Highlands is home to the historic monument, Ballindalloch Castle. One of the most intriguing tales from the castle’s past involves a daring escape filled with fear and triumph.
The Macpherson-Grant family made Ballindalloch Castle their ancestral home. Rival clans wanted to claim the Grants’ land and possessions, including the wealth and materials belonging to the Macpherson-Grant family in the 17th century.
The “Black Colonel,” a member of the family, was able to flee capture and find refuge at Ballindalloch Castle. The Black Colonel eluded his adversaries with the help of the castle’s inhabitants and went on to command a victorious military operation. His tale is just one of the many interesting ones told at Ballindalloch Castle.
Today, guests can explore the castle’s many remarkable features, such as the famous Grant Tower, the grand dining room, a sizeable art collection, and the formal gardens that surround the building. See the castle of escapism for yourself!
9. Ardvreck Castle
In the Scottish Highlands, on the banks of Loch Assynt, stands the dilapidated Ardvreck Castle. The Clan MacLeod constructed the fortress in the sixteenth century, but now it is only ruins. Ardvreck Castle is still a striking sight despite being almost completely destroyed.
It is a sight for sore eyes with its crumbling walls and collapsing turrets. It conjures up visions of bygone eras. The ruined castle’s stunning setting on the shores of Loch Assynt only enhances its allure. Visitors to Ardvreck Castle are free to explore the remains at their own pace. You can also enjoy the expansive views of the loch.
The castle’s appeal is only heightened by its ruined state. Its picturesque location on the banks of Loch Assynt offers a unique and fascinating experience!
10. Strome Castle
On the west coast of the Isle of Skye is another idyllic beach retreat known as Talisker Bay. Located just a 15-minute drive away from the oldest distillery on the island (which is great for a day trip), Talisker Bay boasts an impressive array of features. These elements make it perfect for photography enthusiasts and nature lovers, so don’t forget to take your friends!
With its sand, boulders, sea stacks, and jaw-dropping sunset views, the beach has all the right ingredients for the ultimate picture.
Still, it may be important to note that the beach is at its best during low tide, when the rocks are visible and give you an interesting foreground for your shot. You’ll also need to pack some comfortable shoes, as the beach is around a 1-mile walk from the parking lot.
The scenery at Talisker Bay is nothing if not impressive, with steep cliffs that surround the bay and big black rocks that dot the shoreline. Plus, the ever-changing tides create intricate patterns on the sand, making for some unique compositions.
Travelling to the Scottish Highlands Castles
We recommend renting a car in Scotland. It is a fantastic way to travel through the beautiful Scottish Highlands and see the many castles scattered around the region. There are plenty of options for car rental, including both domestic and popular international manufacturers. Make sure you do your research before your trip begins. Your trip, your castle choice!
It is also important to double-check the opening and closing hours of some castles before you hit the road. Planning ahead is crucial; some castles require advance reservations or have restricted opening hours.
Plus, some of the castles in the Scottish Highlands are completely remote. Prepare for long journeys with scenic views and patchy phone reception during your car hire drive. Bring a map or GPS device with you to help with navigation.
Scotland has more than a thousand castles to visit – it is impossible to count them all, but some historians estimate around 3,000!
You can stay the night in some castles, but not all. Glenapp Castle is a popular spot for overnight stays, and there are several castle hotels around the country.
In Scotland, there are many royal castles. Popular royal castles include Edinburgh Castle, Dunfermline Palace and Abbey, and Balmoral Castle.
Castle Sween is thought to be the oldest castle in Scotland. Architectural details suggest it was built as far back as the 11th century.
Yes, Edinburgh Castle and Glamis Castle are great spots to have afternoon tea.
Yes, Glamis Castle offers private tours of the castle grounds. You can also get a private tour of Edinburgh Castle, which will allow you to view the Scottish Crown Jewels up close.
The Scottish Highlands have some of the most enchanting castles in the world. From Eilean Donan Castle, which lounges comfortably between three great sea lochs, to Cawdor Castle with its beautiful castle grounds and even the amazing sights and history of Ballindalloch Castle – there are so many Highland castles to explore on your adventure.
If you’re keen on visiting castles in the Scottish Highlands, these ten castles are absolutely essential for your list. Take your time in exploring the remains of Ardvreck Castle, or climb the Grant Tower at Strome Castle for incredible views of nature in the country.
And of course, when you take your trip and begin visiting castles in the Highlands, you absolutely have to see Loch Ness. Maybe you can even catch a glimpse of the famous Loch Ness monster!
If you’re interested in a private tour of these Scottish Highlands castles, make sure you check out Private Tours Scotland. Book your trip today and experience these enchanting castles.