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Castles in Scotland holiday cottages

Castles in Scotland

The many castles of Scotland are the foundation of myth, legend, love, history and bloody battles. We take a look at ten of the most popular of these Celtic forts, sprinkled with a few little-known facts thrown in for good measure.

Next time you visit these amazing historic monuments yourself, you can astound your fellow tourists with your in-depth knowledge! 

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh  

Edinburgh Castle by Gary Campbell Hall (CC BY 2.0)

The historic fortress of Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline of the beautiful city of Edinburgh. It perches high and proud on Castle Rock. Excavations in the 1980’s revealed evidence of Bronze Age settlers at the site and once the main structure was built, various parts of the castle have been added on ever since. St Margaret’s Chapel was built in between 1130 and 1140 on the site and is Edinburgh’s oldest building.  

The castle has seen a colourful history and changed hands between English and Scottish ownership many times over the centuries, in a perpetual game of tug-and-war.

Today the Castle is a museum, an attraction, an event venue and a classroom. Visited by thousands of people every year, there is much to see and do. The Stone of Scone, for example, sits in the Crown room, alongside the Crown Jewels, for all to see and has been used for coronations of monarchs for hundreds of years. The infamous Mons Meg cannon is also at the castle where she was brought triumphantly escorted by cavalry and infantry in 1829.

Open all year round except Christmas and Boxing Day.

Did you know?

The Stone of Destiny was stolen from Westminster Abbey, where Edward I of England took it in 1296, by four Scottish students in 1950. It later turned up 500 miles away at the front door of Arbroath Abbey! It was officially returned to Scotland in 1996 where it will stay until the next coronation when it will ceremoniously be taken to London.

Stirling Castle, Stirling

Stirling Castle

This is one of Scotland’s grandest castles and is surrounded by breath-taking scenery. Stirling Castle occupies an imposing position over Stirling and boasts impressive architecture. It was the ‘key to the kingdom of Scotland’ and sits on a vast volcanic rock above the River Forth, where the Highlands meet the Lowlands.

Mary, Queen of Scots

A childhood home to Mary, Queen of Scots and James VI and I, it is rumoured that he would sneak out dressed as a pauper and mingle with his subjects.

Dating back to at least 1107, when we have the first written record of it, this beautiful castle has been party to a rich, dramatic and at times bloody past. It was won back from the clutches of the English in 1314 after Robert the Bruce’s victory at Bannockburn but was back under English control after war broke out in 1336.

Stirling Tapestry by Michel Curi (CC BY 2.0)
Photo: Michel Curi Attribution 2.0 Generic ( CC BY 2.0)

 

The castle has since been an army barracks, been visited by Queen Victoria, served as a military depot until 1964 and today is home to beautiful tapestries that were the result of a £2 million project started in the year 2000.

Open all year round except Christmas and Boxing Day.

Did you know?

In 1507, John Damian, an Italian alchemist at the court of James IV, attempted to fly from the walls with large feathered wings? He only made it as far as the dunghill below whereupon he broke his thigh bone. He blamed his lack of flight on the inclusion of hen feathers instead of exclusive eagle plumage as he had ordered, reasoning that hen feathers are only attracted to the ground!  

Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven

Dunnottar Castle

This rocky fortress is located on the evocative coastline of Aberdeenshire and was once home to one of the most powerful families in Scotland, the Earls Marischal who’s title ended in 1778. Now a ruin, Dunottar Castle is steeped in history and is an iconic destination for tourists from the world over.

Prison

In the 1700’s, Whigs Vault, a dark and menacing space beneath the castle, was used as a prison for 167 Covenanters, both men and women, for two months. They were apprehended during the reign of Charles II for attending open-air religious services (conventicles) and refused to sign an oath of abjuration. Some died and others were brutally tortured for trying to escape.

Tattie Holidays

During the ‘Tattie” Holidays, the fortnight-long school holiday in October, up to 3 children under the age of 16 can enter the castle for free along with a paying adult, where they can take part in the Scavenger Hunt and go rock pooling on the beach below the castle.

Open all year except in very bad weather.

Did you know?

The rock upon which the castle stands was forced to the surface 440 million years ago during the Silurian period and this hard-wearing stone in red rock is known as ‘pudding stone’, and has withstood the battering of the sea ever since.  

Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire 

Balmoral

The Scottish home to the Royal Family, Balmoral Castle is also open to the public on a daily basis from the beginning of April to the end of July. You can play golf there or even stay in one of their holiday cottages throughout the year.

Royal Family

Balmoral was bought for Queen Victoria in 1852 by Prince Albert. The original building was demolished and a new one built and designed by the City Architect of Aberdeen, William Smith that was more befitting of an ever-expanding royal family.

£3 Million

The castle is personally funded by the current monarch and all expenditure, totalling £3 million a year, is spent locally, providing employment and economic stability for the area, as well as conservation and regeneration.

Open From April through to the end of July

Did you know?

There is a live ‘Squirrel Cam’ on the official website for the ultimate spy experience!

Glamis Castle, Angus 

Iain Cameron Attirbution 2.0 Generis (CCBY2.0)
Photo: Iain Cameron Attirbution 2.0 Generis (CCBY2.0)

 

The site of Glamis Castle is in the heart of Angus and has seen over 1000 years of history including the crowning of Macbeth as the King of Scotland. The castle as it is today began building work in 1400 and has been the scene of many deaths and births. Lady Glamis, for example, was found guilty of witchcraft and executed in 1537, in 1650 it was occupied by Cromwell’s troops and Princess Margaret was born there in 1930.

 

 

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The castle was the childhood home of Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (HM The Queen Mother) and in 1950, it was opened to the public for the first time. Currently, it is home to the 19th Earl who inherited it in 2017 and holds the grand title of Master of Glamis, Lord Glamis and Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.

Open all year round, but opening times may be affected by events and private hire. Please check their website for details.

Did you know?

The extensive gardens and grounds are home to roe deer, hares, pheasants, squirrels and otters amongst other woodland creatures and include trails for human visitors to follow such as the Macbeth Trail, where artists have captured the essence of Shakespeare’s play in sculptures made from the trees grown on the estate.

Tantallon Castle, East Lothian

Tantallon castel, East Lothian

Looking out over the Firth of Forth and the North Sea, Tantallon Castle is set on a high cliff edge and features a mighty ‘curtain wall’ that is the best example of 14th-century castle architecture in the whole of Scotland. From its lofty location, it is possible to see the seabird colony on Bass Rock and to spot local wildlife.

Red Douglases

The building itself is in a semi-ruin state, but the grandeur it once displayed is still imaginable. Home to the Red Douglas dynasty, a family that split into two branches in the 1380’s and became known as the ‘Red’ and ‘Black’ Douglases, the Red Douglases owned the castle for 300 years. They had many clashes with the Crown until they abandoned this colossal stronghold when it was finally besieged by Oliver Cromwell’s Army.

Open all year round, but please check the website for unexpected closures

Did you know?

The castle was built before the age of gunpowder. The thick and high curtain wall was built to defend the castle against battering rams, bows and arrows and trebuchets (stone-throwing machine).

Linlithgow Palace, West Lothian

Linlithgow Caste

The birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, Linlithgow Palace was known as the ‘pleasure palace’ following works by James I after a fire destroyed a lot of the original structure. It was the ultimate ‘grand design’ of its time with Stewart kings adding their own stamps and additions over the next two centuries.  The resulting residence was a perfect example of Renaissance living.

Lush greenery

Halfway between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, this residence acted as a stop-over and retreat for the royals and the high towers took in the view of a wildlife-rich loch and lush greenery.

Today it lies roofless and ruined, but is still awe-inspiring. So much so, it is a site of Special Scientific Interest that is maintained and cared for by a Ranger Service.

Open all year round, but please check the website for unexpected closures

Did you know?

Linlithgow Palace stands on a low hill near a small inland loch. The name literally translates as ‘the loch in the damp hollow’.

Inverness Castle, Inverness

Inverness Castle has undergone a few facelifts over the centuries. A fortification has existed on the site since the eleventh century, when Macbeth’s successor, Malcolm III, built a structure that was probably made from earth and timber to protect the town of Inverness.

David I then substantially rebuilt it in the twelfth century and made Inverness into a Royal burgh. It was rebuilt again in the 1700’s into a citadel known as Fort George, and the following century it was converted into the neo-Norman structure that stands today.

Inverness Castle is not currently open to the public, except for the Castle Viewpoint.

There is a new visitor attraction at the castle that is very 21st century. The Castle Viewpoint offers a panoramic 360-degree view of the Highland Capital.

Spynie Castle, near Elgin

Spynie Castle

Spynie Castle, or Palace as it is known, was the seat of the bishops of Moray for 500 years on the edge of a sea loch. Today, nothing remains of either the settlement or the loch, but the ruins of this Elgin palace are impressive. The colossal David’s Tower is one of the largest tower houses ever built in Scotland with a first-floor entrance and six further storeys.

It is possible to visit the palace during the summer season, but it closes for winter between October and March.  

Did you know?

The coats of arms of the resident bishops are carved into the south wall beneath the Royal Coat of Arms of Scotland

Falkland Palace, Fife

The magnificent turrets at Falkland Palace

With one of Britain’s oldest surviving tennis courts, Falkland Palace was also known as a ‘pleasure palace’, and is set in Fife, on the edge of the Lomond Hills. It was inspired by a grand chateau in France and, utterly enchanted by this place, Mary, Queen of Scots was one of the most famous royal residents. She took full advantage of the vast estate and was often seen hunting or enjoying a game of tennis.  

The castle fell into disrepair in the 1700’s, but in the 19th century, the 3rd Marquess of Bute gave it a new lease of life. Impressive ceiling paintings and intricate wood panelling were part of his artistic vision and can be seen in their full splendour to this day.

The Palace and Garden are open from March through to October. The shop is open all year except over Christmas and New Year.

Did you know?

The grounds are beautiful and include an historic orchard and a living willow labyrinth.

 

If you would like to be King or Queen of your own castle in Scotland, have a look at the amazing places we have available for a holiday of a lifetime amongst our luxury cottages in Scotland.

Castle Wing in Ayrshire and Arran sleeps 16 people and two dogs, Corgi or otherwise!
Castle Wing in Ayrshire and Arran sleeps 16 people and two dogs, Corgi or otherwise!

 

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