4 Gorgeous Scottish Castles
The beauty of Scotland is never-ending. Nature provides gorgeous landscape–with mountains, lakes (lochs) and waterfalls there is no end to the photo ops. However, the castles created by humans throughout the centuries is amazingly comparable.
Scotland is part of the United Kingdom and covers the northern third of the island of Great Britain. Edinburgh is the capital, Glascow is the largest city, and the Unicorn is the national animal!
I traveled to Ireland and Scotland in September with my parents and sister, Beth. We were blessed with the opportunity to tour four of the top ten castles of Scotland–I’ve included photos, tips, historical information, and a bit of personal experience on each.
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Eileen Donan Castle
Eilean Donan is recognized as the most photographed castle of Scotland. It was built on an island outside of the village of Dornie. The castle is surrounded by gorgeous natural scenery–it’s no wonder this is one of the most visited and important attractions in the Scottish Highlands.
Speculation has it the name Eilean Donan– island of Donan– is from the 6th century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan, who came to Scotland around 580 AD. Several churches are also dedicated to Donan in the area and it’s likely he formed a small community on the island during the late 7th century.
Inhabited around the 6th century, the first fortified castle was built in the mid-13th century. Eileen Donan stood guard over the lands of Kintail–an area of mountains in the Northwest Highlands of Scotland. At least four different versions of the castle have been built and re-built since due to the feudal history of Scotland.
This door is amazing–notice the spiked bars at the top that are waiting to be released when necessary to keep out intruders…
The stained glass windows are gorgeous works of art. And no, this isn’t a pic of a real person–had me fooled too!
Urquhart Castle is built on a peninsula surrounded by Loch Ness, about 2 miles southeast of the village of Drumnadrochit. It’s one of the most picturesque landmarks in Scotland.
The 5 story tower house is accessed by crossing through a drawbridge. Sadly, the buildings are basically ruins comprised of demolished stone structures. When you’re at the top of the castle you have a great view up the length of the 23 mile loch. Of course, this is one of the best spots for reported sightings of the legendary Loch Ness Monster.
The visitor center offers four main attractions. An exhibition includes a large model of the castle depicting what it might have looked like back in its better days. A theater runs an informative movie for visitors about the history of the castle from the 6th century to the 17th century, when it was demolished. A cafe offers a lovely view of the castle and Loch Ness. And the gift shop holds many treasures, created mainly in Scotland–I purchased a beautiful green and purple plaid wool wrap here.
Loch Ness is one of the most famous lochs in Scotland. I believe it’s probably the most famous loch in the world due to the excitement over Nessie. Unfortunately, we did not spot her, possibly due to the rain.
Beth and I made the best of standing in the rain waiting for the Jacobite Warrior to take us across Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle!
Stirling Castle is one of Scotland’s grandest castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture. Built on a hill above the city of Stirling, the castle and its surrounding view has the power to take your breath away.
Stirling Castle was the key to the kingdom of Scotland. It’s location dominates a huge volcanic rock above the river Forth where the Lowlands and Highlands meet.
Its origins are ancient and the castle has served as a royal residence and military stronghold. During the Wars of Independence–civil wars among the Scots and a struggle between Scotland and England–the castle changed hands eight times in 50 years.
Scottish royalty stayed at Stirling Castle during times of peace to enjoy its beauty and comforts, hunting lands, and to take care of government business.
It eventually became an important military base and home to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders– a line infantry regiment of the British Army. They existed from 1881 until amalgamation into the Royal Regiment of Scotland in 2006.
Once the military moved out of Stirling Castle renovations began to return the main buildings to their original magnificence.
Scotland’s national animal is everywhere! This is one of many flags with unicorns displayed over the fireplaces and on the walls throughout Stirling Castle.
Edinburgh Castle is proclaimed one of the most exciting historic sites in Western Europe, Located high on a hill in the heart of the city, the grounds and view of the surrounding landscape from the upper levels are breathtaking.
There is something of interest for every age group at Edinburgh castle. Keep in mind it’s huge and I suggest planning to spend half a day visiting at minimum. You won’t be disappointed–there are amazing display of architecture and historical memorabilia. We didn’t rent an audio guide, but most of the exhibits are well labeled with a bit of explanation next to them.
Edinburgh Castle includes the Royal Palace, St. Margaret’s Chapel, the National War Museum, the Scottish National War Memorial, and the oldest crown jewels of the British Isles. Like any other tourist attraction, there are cafes and gift shops to make your visit even more memorable.
We had fun searching for clues to our Watson family heritage in the National War Museum. The museum contains artifacts that range from letters home from foreign campaigns to military uniforms and weapons.
There were many cool posters from throughout Scotland’s military history, including prints with Argyll on them. This is meaningful because my parents met as children in their hometown of Argyle, WI. Also, my great, great, great-grandfather James Watson was a Royal Scots Fusilier.
The museum opened in 1933 and is now run by the National Museums Scotland.
Even though we arrived at the castle right when it opened, we waited in line for a bit to view the Royal Crown Jewels. Known as The Honours of Scotland, this display is in the Crown Room on the first floor of the Royal Palace. Unfortunately, taking pictures in this area is not allowed.
We enjoyed formal tea at the castle’s Queen Anne Tea Room. This included the cutest–and tastiest–little sandwiches and desserts I’ve ever seen!
My Mom, Beth and I had a great day at the Edinburgh Castle!
Discover Scotland’s forgotten legends. Historian Brian C. Mack explores the panorama of Scottish history in rich detail with accounts of battles, castles and heroic figures. Artist Karol Mack brings the famous sites to life with beautiful paintings. Its superb storytelling and visual appeal make this the ideal book for anyone touched by the romance and beauty of Scotland.
Check out my post Scotland: Fun Facts and Interesting Tidbits.
Needless to say, these gorgeous castles make Scotland well worth placing at the top of your bucket list when planning your next trip!
Till next time, Sandra