For history lovers and those who appreciate magnificent ancient architecture then one of our Scottish castle tours is a must. Scotland has an abundance of stunning castles located all over the country. Each of these castles has a unique and fascinating history and a part to play in connecting modern Scotland to its’ amazing past. No trip to Scotland is complete without a castle visit. We can organise tours of any duration to allow you to get close to history and visit some of these amazing sites. Below we have included some ideas for you to consider if you are thinking about a castle tour of Scotland.
Edinburgh Castle is a world famous icon of Scotland and instantly recognisable along the Edinburgh skyline. Home to the world famous Tattoo, it is a World Heritage Site and was recently voted top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards. It is Scotland’s number one paid-for tourist attraction.
The castle houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O’ Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland.
Combine a visit to Edinburgh Castle with sight seeing in and around the old town of Edinburgh. Perhaps visit the new Scottish Parliament next to Holyrood Palace, situated at the foot of the spectacular Arthur’s Seat, the dormant volcano which dominates the Edinburgh skyline as a spectacular backdrop.
Another great day trip is to Stirling Castle which is a great symbol of Scottish independence and a source of national pride. The Castle’s long, turbulent history is associated with great figures from Scotland’s past such as William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots. Stirling Castle was recently voted as one of the “top 40 Amazing Experiences in Europe” in an ebook authored by travelog guide Lonely Planet.
The renaissance palace within the castle itself was built for King James V and his second queen, Mary of Guise. It is one of the most remarkable and complete Renaissance buildings in Britain. As well as a regimental museum and palace gardens there is a huge collection of renaissance artefacts, as well as palace rooms and halls which have played host to royalty and nobility down through the centuries.
Lying between Edinburgh and Stirling is Linlithgow Palace. The majestic royal palace of the Stewarts at Linlithgow today lies roofless and ruined. Yet the visitor still feels a sense of awe on entering its gates. It was begun by James I in 1424, rising like a phoenix from the flames following a fire that devastated its predecessor. It became a truly elegant ‘pleasure palace’, and a welcome stopping-place for the royal family along the busy road linking Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle.
The Stewart queens especially liked its tranquillity and fresh air. The ancient palace served as the royal nursery for James V (born 1512), Mary Queen of Scots (born 1542) and Princess Elizabeth (born 1596), better known as ‘the Winter Queen’. But after 1603, when James VI moved the royal court to London following his coronation as James I of England, the palace fell quickly into decline. The end came ignominiously in September 1745, when a fire swept through the ghostly rooms.
Over in Fife is the beautiful conservation village of Falkland. Falkland Palace is located here set amongst beautiful landscaped gardens and is well worth a visit.
Scotland has a dedicated Castle Trail which lets you discover the dramatic stories of 17 of Aberdeenshire’s most famous castles. We would recommend a minimum of two days and one overnight to do a section of this trail. The trail is split into four distinct sections
Accommodation can be organised in an appropriate area of the trail and a visit to any of the castles makes an ideal day out, or we can navigate along sections of the trail for a longer Scottish Castles tour.
From Aberdeen we travel to Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle, perched on a dramatic cliff some 160 ft above the North Sea. Fought over by Wallace and Cromwell, it was used as a set for Franco Zeffirelli’s 1991 film of Hamlet.
Nest stop is Crathes Castle, a few miles east of Banchory and Drum Castle, 5 miles further east. Crathes is a classic fairytale castle situated in large grounds and with a range of woodland trails to explore. Inside, spiral staircases lead to rooms famous for their Jacobean painted ceilings and resident ghost, the Green Lady.
Drum Castle combines a unique mix of a late 13th-century tower, fine Jacobean mansion house and later Victorian additions. Superb furniture and paintings are on display while the estate’s woodland trails and exceptional walled rose garden are well worth exploring.
Further north stands Castle Fraser, one of the grandest castles of Mar. This magnificent building contains an evocative Great Hall, fine furniture and paintings. Enjoy the beautiful secluded walled garden, extensive woodland walks with fine views of the castle plus a children’s adventure playground.
Using Ballater as a base lets us explore Royal Deeside, home to the famous Balmoral Castle. The castle and estate has belonged to the royal family since 1848, after it was purchased by Queen Victoria.
Further east is Braemar Castle, the seat of Clan Farquharson. This 17th century stronghold is home to many valuable paintings and is best known for its unusual star-shaped outer wall.
East of Ballater is one of Scotland’s most iconic and best-loved castles, Craigievar. The baronial style complete with gargoyles create a fairytale appearance which is said to have inspired Walt Disney. Visitors can also enjoy walking in the lovely grounds and waymarked trails of the estate around it.
15 miles north of Ballater in a striking moorland setting is Corgaff Castle. The tower house is surrounded by a distinctive star-shaped perimeter wall. The reconstructed barrack rooms let you imagine what barrack life was like at the castle in 1750, when Government redcoats were stationed here.
A further 18 miles north east of Corgarff and you reach the ruins of the great castle of Kildrummy. It was once the stronghold of the Earls of Mar and dominated the landscape around Strathdon. Although ruined, it retains many fine features including its hall and chapel.
The market town of Huntly is the base here, home also to the baronial Huntly Castle. Huntly Castle served as a shelter for Robert the Bruce in the 14th century. Its impressive architectural features include fine heraldic sculpture and inscribed stone friezes.
Spynie Castle, a few miles outside Elgin, was the residence of the bishops of Moray for 500 years. The huge tower house, David’s Tower, was one of the largest in Scotland. The beautiful surroundings and wildlife make the palace a wonderful place to visit.
Almost 15 miles west of Huntly is Balvenie Castle is one the oldest stone castles in Scotland. Originally it was the seat of the powerful Comyn Earls of Buchan and later it became the home of John Stewart, Earl of Atholl. The Stewarts changed the style from a formidable medieval stronghold into a pleasing Renaissance residence.
Banff and Buchan close to Aberdeen is our base for the last leg of the castle trail. Duff House is one of Scotland’s architectural masterpieces. This William Adam-designed historic house is a treasure house and cultural arts centre and is operated by a unique partnership of Historic Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council. There is so much to do and see including woodland walks by the river Deveron you’ll find a day is not enough.
Moving south, you encounter a series of enticing properties. Delgatie Castle dates from the 11th century and is steeped in Scottish history including links to Mary Queen of Scots and Robert the Bruce. The castle has won awards for it’s visitor experience and also boasts an award-winning restaurant and coffee shop.
Fyvie Castle at Turiff is another outstanding example of Scottish baronial architecture. Built as a simple castle in the 13th century, it has evolved significantly until it reached its present form with Georgian interiors. The magnificent sweeping staircase is the most dramatic feature and a number of treasures are on display including a superb collection of arms, armour and paintings.
The last two stops on this section of the trail are Haddo House near Methlick and Tolquhon Castle at Tarves.
Haddo House is an elegant mansion house again designed by William Adam and featuring stunning Victorian interiors beneath a crisp Georgian exterior. It has a collection of fine furniture and paintings as well as a terraced garden and country park with lakes, walks and monuments.
Tolquhon Castle is one of the most picturesque of the castles in the Grampian countryside. Completed in the late 16th century by the Forbes family, it houses the Tolquhon Tomb, one of the best examples of Scotland’s so-called Jacobean ‘Glorious Tombs’.