A draw for vast numbers of tourists every year, the Castles of Scotland are among the most popular visitor attractions in the country. In fact, the list of Scottish Castles contains a wide range of fascinating fortifications, from beautiful castle ruins to fully functioning royal residences and everything in between.
From the world famous Stirling Castle, which brings you straight into the world of James V to the remnants of Craigmillar, Dirleton or Craigmillar Castle, the castles of Scotland have a huge variety of experiences and stories. Indeed, the history of Scotland’s castles, and the events they have witnessed through the centuries, is often as enthralling as the castles themselves. First appearing in the 11th and 12th centuries, many of Scotland’s castles were influenced by the Normans, who were constructing fortifications across England to the south. Stone built castles began to appear in Scotland around 1200AD and some of the great Scottish castles were constructed over the next two hundred years.
For a considerable time, the castles of Scotland played a pivotal role in the country’s military history – through wars with England, internal struggles and civil unrest. However, as with castles across Europe, the advent of gunpowder saw Scotland’s castles become increasingly redundant in military affairs. This did not put off the builders though, and many castle-inspired grand residences continued to be built as status symbols and marks of great influence. Thus it is that today the list of Scottish castles contains a mix of grand country homes and stark medieval fortresses.
If you’re keen on visiting castles in Scotland you can explore our selection of some of the best through our Scottish castles map above or list of Scottish castles below. Click on the title of each castle to find out more information.
One of the most famous castles in Scotland, Balmoral has been the Highlands home of the British royal family since the reign of Queen Victoria.
Balmoral Castle has been the official Highlands home of the British royal family since the reign of Queen Victoria. Having fallen in love with the Highlands after their first visit in 1842, it was in fact Queen Victoria and Prince Albert who built Balmoral Castle between 1853 and 1856. Today, parts... Read More
A ruined medieval stronghold near Glasgow, Bothwell Castle played an important role in the Wars of Independence.
Bothwell Castle is a stunning ruined medieval stronghold near Glasgow and one of the most celebrated of its kind. Begun by the Morays, an important aristocratic family, in around 1242, Bothwell Castle was intended to be a large and imposing fort. The tower or "donjon" which remains there today... Read More
Set in truly jaw-dropping countryside, Caerlaverock was one of the most important Scottish castles, providing defence for the Scottish crown in a period of deep rooted rivalry with England.
Caerlaverock Castle is an impressive a medieval fortress which stands out for its unique triangular design and picturesque location, ensuring it ranks among Scotland’s most remarkable castles. First built in the late-13th century on the site of previous fortifications, Caerlaverock Castle has a long and fascinating history and still bares the... Read More
One of many picturesque castles in Scotland, amongst other things Craigmillar Castle is famous for once playing host to Mary Queen of Scots.
Craigmillar Castle was built from the fourteenth century and is now a pretty and well-preserved medieval ruin. The most famed aspect of Craigmillar Castle was that it played host to Mary Queen of Scots when she was recovering from an illness. It is also the namesake of a pact between... Read More
Crichton Castle is a distinctive 14th century castle which was built as the residence of the aristocratic Crichton family. Today its ruins include the impressive great hall.
Crichton Castle is a distinctive medieval castle built as the residence of the aristocratic Crichton family in the fourteenth century. It would later pass to the Earls of Bothwell. For visitors to Crichton Castle, there is its impressive tower house, unusual facade and fifteenth century great hall.... Read More
Now a scenic ruin not far from Edinburgh, Dirleton Castle was an imposing medieval fortress and one of many Scottish castles to have been captured on several occasions in the Wars of Independence.
Dirleton Castle was an imposing medieval fortress and noble residence, which is now a picturesque ruin not far from Edinburgh. First built in the thirteenth century by royal steward John de Vaux, Dirleton Castle became the home of the de Vauxes, under whose ownership it was severely damaged and captured... Read More
Among the more renowned entries on the list of Scottish castles is Dumbarton, which is one of the oldest castles in Scotland. Over the centuries it has served as a wartime prison, a royal shelter and a defence against both foreign and local threats.
Dumbarton Castle was a medieval stronghold which served as a wartime prison, a royal shelter and a defence against both foreign and national threats. Even the site upon which Dumbarton Castle sits -Dumbarton Rock - has an illustrious past. Little survives of the medieval castle - most of it is... Read More
Built at a time when Scotland was under constant threat from Norwegian attack, Dunstaffnage Castle is a medieval stronghold which is still an impressive and imposing sight.
Dunstaffnage Castle is a medieval stronghold built by the MacDougall clan at a time when Scotland was under constant threat from Norwegian attack. Begun in the 1220s, Dunstaffnage Castle was made of stone and its curtain wall remains a highly impressive and imposing sight. In the Scottish Wars of Independence, Robert... Read More
Probably the most famous castle in Scotland, Edinburgh Castle is a medieval fortress and royal residence turned national monument and World Heritage site.
A royal residence, a vital stronghold and an iconic structure, Edinburgh Castle is one of the most famous castles in the world. Known by its English name since the invasion of the Angles in 638AD, the first mentions of Edinburgh Castle occurred in 600 AD during Roman Britain, when it... Read More
A fortified country retreat and castle, Falkland Palace was the work of kings James IV and James V and became the hunting lodge of the royal Stuart dynasty.
Falkland Palace was the Renaissance country retreat and hunting lodge of the royal Stuart dynasty for around two centuries. Begun in 1450 and completed in 1541, Falkland Palace was the work of kings James IV and James V and was very much a favourite of Mary Queen of Scots. The highlights of... Read More
A pretty castle ruin, Hailes Castle was a medieval stronghold which mostly dates back to the fourteenth century.
Hailes Castle was a medieval stronghold, the pretty ruins of which date back mostly to the fourteenth century. However, some of the stonework at Hailes Castle is thought to have been constructed as far back as the thirteenth century, making it some of the oldest of its kind in Scotland. It... Read More
A famous castle-like royal palace, Holyroodhouse is the Scottish royal residence famed as having been home to Mary Queen of Scots and is the place where she married two of her husbands.
Holyroodhouse Palace has a history stretching back to the twelfth century. Now the official Scottish residence of the Queen, the story of Holyroodhouse Palace is intertwined with that of the monarchy, particularly that of Mary Queen of Scots. Holyroodhouse Palace is said to have been founded as an Augustinian monastery by... Read More
Dating back to the 15th century Kinneil House is a grand Scottish residence which reflects elements of castle design and even includes an ancient Roman fortlet within its grounds.
Kinneil House and Museum, part of the Kinneil Estate, has a rich history spanning almost 2,000 years. The Kinneil Estate holds a wealth of historic sites, including a Roman fortlet - part of the Antonine Wall - the ruins of a medieval church, a cottage belonging to inventor James Watt... Read More
Built in the fifteenth century, Linlithgow Palace was the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and host to many of the Stuart kings.
Linlithgow Palace was built in the fifteenth century on a site with a history dating back thousands of years. Now a dramatic ruin, its royal connection makes it an enduring tourist attraction. It was James I who began building Linlithgow Palace in 1424. With its location between Stirling Castle and Edinburgh... Read More
Renowned for being the prison of Mary Queen of Scots, Lochleven was a medieval stronghold which has survived as a dramatic ruin which can only be reached by boat.
Lochleven Castle was a medieval island stronghold, the dramatic ruins of which can be reached by boat. Whilst being most well known for being the prison of Mary Queen of Scots, Lochleven Castle’s role within Scottish royal history extends far further. Many royals were guests - as opposed to prisoners... Read More
Distinctive for its thirteenth century circular curtain wall, Rothesay Castle is an important medieval ruin with strong links to the royal Stewart dynasty and is among several royal castles of Scotland.
Rothesay Castle was originally built by Walter, 3rd High Steward and ancestor of the royal Stewart line, in the thirteenth century. It was intended as a stronghold against the ongoing threat of Norwegian invasion and was taken by attackers from Norway in both 1230 and 1263. In 1371, Rothesay Castle attained... Read More
Ranked among the great castles of Scotland, Stirling Castle is a royal palace, medieval stronghold and a focal point and symbol of Scottish independence through the ages.
Stirling Castle is an iconic royal palace and stronghold, seen to represent Scottish independence and a focal point for many of the most important events in Scotland’s history. Famous Events at Stirling Castle It was the site of royal deaths such as that of King Alexander I in 1124 and William... Read More
Built in the fourteenth century, Tantallon Castle was the medieval stronghold of the Douglas Earls of Angus. Today, the dramatic cliff-top ruins of Tantallon are quite a sight.
Tantallon Castle was the imposing medieval stronghold of the influential Douglas Earls of Angus for around three centuries. Built in the fourteenth century by the first such earl, William Douglas, and later updated to deal with more modern warfare, Tantallon Castle would survive numerous sieges before being utterly devastated by... Read More