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40+ ancient ruins, palaces, standing stones and castles in Scotland to visit

40+ ancient ruins, palaces, standing stones and castles in Scotland to visit

Love history? Then you will love Scotland – there are hundreds of castles in Scotland to visit, alongside palaces, abbeys, and ancient ruins. Whether you love mediaeval battles and ancient fortresses or wishing you could travel through 1000-year old standing stones, want to hunt down the Bonnie Prince or stroll through Edinburgh’s Georgian grandeur, here are 40+ of my favourite historical landmarks and castles in Scotland to visit.

Castles to visit in Scotland - Eileen Donan

Scotland castles – the West Coast, the Hebridean Islands and Scottish highlands castles

Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie – located on a small island where three lochs, Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Loch Alsh, converge, Eilean Donan is probably the most fairy-tale of all the castles in Scotland to visit with its iconic bridge – this is one of Scotland’s most photographed landmarks. 

Iona Abbey, Isle of Iona – located on the Isle of Iona, the Abbey holds immense religious significance as a centre of Christianity in Scotland.

Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye – As the oldest continuously inhabited of the castles to visit in Scotland, Dunvegan Castle has been home to generations of the Clan MacLeod. The castle has lovely gardens on the lochside, and lots of stories to hear – including the legend of the Fairy Flag. Visit the Isle of Skye.

Callanish Stones, Isle of Lewis – a mysterious and awe-inspiring stone circle, The Callanish Stones have captivated visitors to Lewis’s imagination for centuries. Their precise purpose remains unknown, making them all the more fascinating! Visit the Outer Hebrides.

Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt – Sitting on the banks of Loch Assynt sits the ruins of Ardvreck Castle, once the 15th-century stronghold of Clan MacLeod, longtime owners of the Isle of Skye and the Isle of Lewis and Harris. Ardvreck Castle is a popular stop on the North Coast 500.

Inveraray Castle, Inveraray –  Sitting on Loch Fyne, Inveraray Castle has been home to generations of Clan Campbell and the Dukes of Argyll. Replacing a 15th tower house, Inveraray Castle took 43 years to complete, the castle was designed by celebrated Scottish architect William Adam and finished by his sons James and Robert Adam. Visit Inveraray Castle for booking information. Visit Inveraray.

Why not stay in a Castle in Scotland?

Castles to visit in Scotland - Inveraray Castle

Edinburgh castles to visit (& a palace)

Edinburgh Castle – Perched atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle reigns supreme over the city’s skyline. Probably the most famous of the castles to visit in Scotland (and maybe in the world) this iconic fortress guards the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny. Inside the castle is a town in itself and the view is incredible. Why not book a skip the lines tour, try this walking tour of Edinburgh Castle or this guided tour of Edinburgh Castle

Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh – just a short distance from Edinburgh, is Craigmillar Castle, a well-preserved mediaeval fortress and Edinburgh’s second most famous castle! Built in the late 14th century, Craigmillar Castle was originally intended as a residence for the Preston family. Today, Craigmillar Castle is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland and is open to the public. Visit Craigmillar Castle.

Palace of Holyroodhouse – Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, offers visitors a glimpse into royal life and the splendid State Apartments. Outside in the grounds, visit the ruins of Holyrood Abbey. Visit Holyrood Palace.

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh – Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town are a World Heritage Site. The Old Town is full of historical landmarks, including the Royal Mile, St. Giles’ Cathedral, and Mary Kings’s Close. Cross Princes Street to explore the New Town’s beautiful Georgian streets and crescents. Why not explore on a Royal Mile walking tour?

More things to do in Edinburgh.

Castles to visit in Scotland - Doune Castle

Castles in Scotland – Stirling and Central Scotland and castles near Glasgow

Stirling Castle – standing proudly on a volcanic crag overlooking the town, Stirling Castle dates back to the 12th century and was once the residence of Scottish kings and queens, with a Royal Palace and a historic Great Hall. The castle witnessed numerous battles and sieges, becoming a key battleground during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 13th and 14th centuries. 

Take a tour of Stirling Castle on a day tour of Scotland to Loch Lomond and the Kelpies! Make sure you leave plenty of time to explore, Stirling is one of the most intact castles in Scotland to visit.

Stirling Palace – located within the grounds of Stirling Castle, Stirling Palace once served as the royal residence. You can visit the King’s and Queen’s Chambers, decorated with elaborate carvings and ornate furnishings. Guided tours, led by costumed interpreters, provide an immersive experience, bringing the past to life with stories of royalty, battles, and everyday life within the castle walls. 

Doune Castle – Nestled at the confluence of the River Teith and Ardoch Burn, Doune Castle is a magnificent mediaeval fortress. You might recognise Doune Castle as a famous filming location for movies and TV series, including “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and “Outlander.” You can take a tour of the castle with an audio guide narrated by the actor Terry Jones, one of the members of Monty Python.

If you love Outlander you can explore Doune Castle on a 1 day Outlander tour from Edinburgh.

Linlithgow Palace – The birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, and later the birthplace of her son, James VI of Scotland and James I of England, the palace was originally built in the 15th century by James I of Scotland. Visit Linlithgow Palace on a day trip from Edinburgh.

Blackness Castle – known as “the ship that never sailed” due to its ship-like appearance, served as a fortress and prison. Standing on the shore of the Firth of Forth, Blackness Castle was built in the 15th century by the powerful Crichton family, and has been featured in several television shows and movies, including Outlander, where it doubled as Fort William.

Why not stay in a Castle in Scotland?

Castles to visit in Scotland - Blackness

Castles in Scotland – Inverness, Loch Ness and the Moray Firth 

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness. On the banks of the Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle is one of the largest castles in Scotland to visit. The Grant Tower, the largest surviving structure, is the centrepiece of Urquhart Castle and has a fantastic view of the loch – why not try and spot Nessie. Entry to the castle is £9 for adults or free with an Explorer Pass

Cawdor Castle, Nairn – immortalised in Shakespeare’s Macbeth – in the play, the character Macbeth becomes the Thane of Cawdor after encountering three witches who prophesy his rise to power. Cawdor Castle is privately owned and still serves as the family home of the Cawdor family. Cross Cawdor’s drawbridge to explore the elegant interiors and then visit the castle’s lovely gardens.

Fort George, Ardersier – an impressive military fortress, still in use by the British Army. Its walls enclose a vast space that showcases Scotland’s military heritage and offers great views of the Moray Firth.

Fort Augustus, Loch Ness – a picturesque village on the shores of Loch Ness, is known for its historic fort and impressive Caledonian Canal locks – sit on the canal banks with a drink from one of the many cafes and pubs and watch the boats go down the locks out on loch.

Culloden Battlefield and Visitor CentreInverness – the site of the most famous and final battle of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Explore the interactive exhibits and walk the battlefield to experience its historical significance. Managed by the National Trust for Scotland, a visit to Culloden is sobering and stark. More places in Scotland to visit if you love the Jacobites (or Outlander)

Castles to visit in Scotland

What are the best castles in Scotland to visit?

These are my favourite castles in Scotland to visit:

  • Edinburgh Castle – the grand dame of them all in the heart of the capital of Scotland
  • Dunvegan Castle, Isle of Skye – a fabulously intact castle in a beautiful location on Skye.
  • Ardvreck Castle, Loch Assynt – a favourite stop on the North Coast 500
  • Stirling Castle – with excellent guided tours, a great place to learn about Scottish history
  • Doune Castle – a must if you are an Outlander fan
  • Blackness Castle – the ship that never sailed on the River Forth
  • Urquhart Castle – spot Nessie from this huge castle on Loch Ness.
  • Eilean Donan Castle – don’t miss Scotland’s iconic castle
  • Balmoral Castle – the home of the Royal Family in Scotland, explore the estate to find the Balmoral Castle
  • Dunnottar Castle – our most ‘Game of Thrones’ style castle
  • Culzean Castle – an icon of Aryshire
  • Tantallon Castle – East Lothian’s seaside fortress

Castle tours in Scotland

Looking for a Scottish castle tour? Here are the best castle tours in Scotland:

Why not stay in a Castle in Scotland?

Scottish castles to visit in Aberdeenshire and Angus

Balmoral Castle, Ballater – the Scottish residence of the British royal family in the Cairngorms National Park. Balmoral Castle‘s history dates back to the early 19th century when it was purchased by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, as a retreat for the royal family. The original castle on the estate was replaced with a new castle in the Scottish Baronial style, completed in 1856. 

Balmoral Castle’s interior is not open to the public while it is occupied by the royal family, however, the castle estate is open all year round, including the famous Balmoral cairns. One of the most royal of all the castles in Scotland to visit!

Glamis Castle, Angus – has been the ancestral seat of the Lyon family for over six centuries and was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. Glamis is famous as one of the most haunted Scottish castles for its numerous ghostly legends and is believed to be haunted by several spirits, including that of the “Grey Lady,” said to be the ghost of Lady Janet Douglas, who was accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake.

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven – perched precariously on a rocky headland, is a sight to behold. Its romantic ruins, combined with its rich history of sieges and bravery, make it one of the most iconic Scotland castles.

One of the most notable events in Dunnottar Castle’s history occurred in 1651 during the English Civil War. The castle was besieged by Cromwell’s army, and it famously held out against the forces for eight months. The defenders’ resilience and determination earned them the nickname “The Whigs’ Vault” and became a symbol of Scottish resistance. Visit Dunnottar Castle.

Castles to visit in Scotland

Scottish castles to visit in Fife and Perthshire 

St. Andrews Castle, St. Andrews – perched on the cliffs overlooking the North Sea, St. Andrews Castle has one of the dramatic locations of the castles in Scotland to visit. Once a grand and formidable fortress, its ruins now offer visitors insights into its troubled history, including the Siege of St. Andrews.

Culross, West Fife – The charming village of Culross is a well-preserved time capsule, with cobbled streets and traditional architecture. Culross’s history dates back to when it was an important trading and industrial centre, thriving on coal mining, salt production, and trade with the Low Countries. Explore the quaint lanes and visit Culross Palace. Culross also appeared in the TV series Outlander, appearing as the fictional village of Cranesmuir. Vist Culross

Falkland Palace, Falkland – in the charming village of Falkland, this palace has lovely gardens and a real tennis court, built in 1539, which is one of the oldest in the world.

Scone Palace, Perth – on the banks of the River Tay, Scone Palace is a magnificent stately home, and the coronation site of Scottish kings who were crowned and inaugurated on the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny. The current Scone Palace was built in the early 19th century and has state rooms, filled with fine art with The Long Gallery featuring a collection of impressive portraits.

The palace is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, including the vast David Douglas Pinetum, which showcases a diverse range of conifer species from around the world. The grounds also include the Murray Star Maze, where you can get lost in a labyrinth of hedges.

Why not stay in a Castle in Scotland?

Castles to visit in Scotland - Culzean

Scottish castles to visit in Ayrshire

Culzean Castle, Maybole – Perched dramatically on a cliff overlooking the Firth of Clyde, Culzean Castle was designed by Robert Adam. The name “Culzean” is derived from the Gaelic “Cùilfhionn,” meaning “nook of the white dog,” which is believed to refer to the castle’s location on a rocky headland. Culzean Castle’s Swan Pond, designed to resemble a ship’s hull, is a tribute to the Ailsa Craig granite, which was used to make curling stones for the sport of curling.

Castles to visit in Midlothian and East Lothian

Tantallon Castle, North Berwick – Tantallon Castle is a formidable stronghold overlooking the North Sea. Sitting on a dramatic cliff face just south of North Berwick in East Lothian, Tantallon Castle dates from the 1300s and having weathered three sieges, the castle is Scotland’s last great surviving of the mediaeval castles in Scotland to visit.

Rosslyn Chapel, Roslin – made famous by Dan Brown’s novel “The Da Vinci Code,” Rosslyn Chapel is an architectural masterpiece adorned with intricate carvings and enigmatic symbols.

Skara Brae - Visit Orkney


Skara Brae – a prehistoric village dating back to 3180 BC, Skara Brae is older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids. This UNESCO World Heritage Site offers a rare glimpse into the daily life of Neolithic inhabitants.

St. Magnus Cathedral – a masterpiece of mediaeval architecture, dominating the skyline of Kirkwall. Its intricate carvings and serene interior make it a serene sanctuary steeped in history.

Visit Orkney to walk around the Ring of Brodgar – and wonder at how they built it, ind out the story behind the beautiful Italian Chapel and Climb up to the Kitchener Memorial above 100m cliffs filled with seabirds.

Castles to visit in Scotland

Scottish castles in Dumfries and Galloway and the Scottish Borders 

Caerlaverock Castle – a unique triangular fortress, Caerlaverock Castle is surrounded by a moat, set amidst the pretty Dumfries countryside. The surrounding wetlands of the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve attract a wide variety of bird species, including geese, swans, and other waterfowl. Visit Dumfries and Galloway.

Melrose Abbey – a beautiful Cistercian monastery ruin, with intricate stonework and the burial place of the embalmed heart of Robert the Bruce!

Jedburgh Abbey – dating back to the 12th century when it was founded by King David I of Scotland as a house of Augustinian canons, the abbey quickly became a prominent religious centre and played a significant role in the region’s spiritual and cultural life. The ruins of Jedburgh Abbey are a great example of Romanesque and early Gothic architecture.

Visit the Scottish Borders.

Castles in scotland map

Find your favourite Scottish castle on my map of Castles in Scotland to visit:

How many castles are there in Scotland?

There are around 2000 castles in Scotland to visit.

What is the oldest castle in Scotland?

The oldest castle in Scotland is thought to be Castle Sween on Loch Sween, in Knapdale, Argyll. The castle was built in the late 11th century by Clan Suibhne (pronounced Sween)

What are the most famous castles in Scotland?

The most famous castles in Scotland are:

  • Edinburgh Castle – no reason necessary!
  • Doune Castle, Stirling – appears in hit TV series Outlander, alongside Midhope Castle near South Queensferry. Doune Castle also makes an appearance in Game of Thrones and Outlaw King.
  • Eilean Donan, Dornie – the classic picture perfect castle in Scotland. Eilean Donan appears in the movie Highlander.
  • Dunottar Castle, Stonehaven – the closest you will get to a Game of Thrones castle in Scotland.
  • Blackness Castle, Falkirk – appears in Braveheart and stands in for Fort William in Outlander
  • Culzean Castle, Ayrshire – home of Lord Summerisle in the Wickerman

Love, from Scotland x

Why not stay in a Castle in Scotland?