You’re never too far from a historic castle or fortification in the Scottish Highlands, which is one of its best features. Here are some of our favorite castles to explore the history and mystery of the Highlands, from grisly murders and brutal conflicts to wars that changed history.
1. Urquhart Castle, Inverness
It’s not difficult to envision how magnificent Urquhart Castle was in its heyday, given that it is situated on the banks of Loch Ness, the location of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. Even though it is now in ruins, you may still climb the Grant Tower to search for Nessie in the shadowy lake, peer through unsettling jail cells, or stroll around the former great hall where grand feasts were held. Some of Scotland’s most important battles, such as those in the Wars of Independence and the Jacobite Uprisings, took place at Urquhart Castle.
2. Dunrobin Castle & Gardens, Golspie
There is nothing less than magic at Dunrobin Castle. It is one of the oldest continually inhabited stately homes in Britain and has served as the family residence for the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland for more than 700 years. With a formidable 189 rooms, it is also the largest castle in the northern Highlands.
Explore a labyrinth of opulent hallways while taking in the fairy-tale turrets, high ceilings, stunning chandeliers, and enormous fireplaces. After that, venture outside to discover zigzagging hedges, vibrant flowerbeds, and breathtaking vistas of the Moray Firth.
3. Old Inverlochy Castle, Fort William
Around 1280 A.D., this medieval fortification was erected on the banks of the River Lochy. Old Inverlochy had a significant impact on Scottish history because of its advantageous location, which allowed clans to protect their lands. Walking around the walls of a castle surrounded by so much history is an amazing experience because so few castles from this era have withstood the test of time.
A three-sided moat, four round corner towers, and two opposing gates guarded by barbicans—one of which is still standing at its original height—were used to defend Old Inverlochy. You can only speculate on how magnificent the moat would have appeared in its earlier days before it silted up.
4. Armadale Castle, Gardens & Museum, Isle of Skye
The last ancestral residence of Clan Donald (Macdonalds of Sleat), one of Scotland’s biggest and most influential clans, was the picturesque Isle of Skye’s Armadale Castle. Before exploring the 40 acres of lovely gardens and woodlands, you can visit the museum to discover everything there is to know about the illustrious history of Clan Donald. With stunning views of the Sound of Sleat, the castle is appropriately positioned in the midst of the grounds. It’s not difficult to envision how stunning it was at its height.
5. Dunvegan Castle & Gardens, Isle of Skye
The oldest continually inhabited castle in Scotland is Dunvegan Castle, located on the Isle of Skye. For over 800 years, it has served as the chief of the MacLeod clan’s ancestral house. On the coast of Loch Dunvegan, the castle is sculpted into a steep rock face with stunning views of the island.
Inside, you’ll discover stunning antique furnishings and medieval family heirlooms. You’ll also catch sight of the Fairy Flag, which is said to have blessed the Macleod clan with success in battle. Oh, and make sure to go on a boat trip on the loch to observe the colony of grey seals that dwell on the nearby islets.
6. Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie
One of the most recognizable Scottish sights is Eilean Donan Castle, which is perched on a small tideland island and encircled by three enormous sea lochs and rocky peaks. Perhaps even James Bond’s 1999 film The World is Not Enough will help you recognize it.
The current construction of castle was built in the 1930s because the majority of the previous structure was destroyed during the Jacobite uprisings, even though the fortress was founded in the sixth century. A labyrinth of winding passageways, vast halls, and priceless artifacts can be found inside. Keep an eye out for any eerie occurrences as you explore the castle because it is said to be haunted by a Spanish soldier and an apparition known as Lady Mary.
7. Inverness Castle, Inverness
Shakespeare fans, take note. The fictional Inverness Castle served as the inspiration for Macbeth’s setting, and it is simple to understand why. On the banks of the River Ness, the red sandstone castle offers stunning vistas of the city. The Inverness Sheriff Court is now housed in the castle.
Therefore, the only areas that are accessible to the general public are the grounds and the north tower. The view from the top of the tower is absolutely worthwhile, but we’ll let you in on a little secret: head over to the river bank next to the castle before sunset to see the red sandstone sparkle in the final rays of light. You won’t be sorry.