Which is Scotland’s best castle? It’s a difficult question, especially considering the sheer number that this country has to offer, from medieval fortresses to Victorian estates. Of course, we all have our own tastes, but here are five of our favourites:
Caerlaverock Castle, just south of Dumfries, is distinctive for its striking triangle shape and archetypal moat. It was built in the 13th Century and was home to the Maxwell family for almost four hundred years before the Wars for Independence started a long sequence of partial demolitions and reconstructions until the castle was abandoned in the 17th century. It has a gruesome but fascinating past, and throughout its turbulent history it has maintained its iconic triangular shape. Today it stands on the edge of the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve and is a popular tourist destination.
Castle Craigievar, completed in 1626, would not look out of place in a Disney film. This uniquely pink seven-storey building has all the trimmings of turrets and gargoyles, giving it a classically fairytale appearance. It is situated not far South of Alford in Aberdeenshire, and was the home of the Forbes family for over 350 years before they gave it to the Scottish National Trust in 1963. Nowadays, the castles and its 200 acres of woodland surroundings are open to the public during the summer months.
Situated in Dollar Glen flanked by the gorgeous Ochil Hills, Castle Campbell is a similarly attractive spot located above the town of Dollar in central Scotland. Originally, however, the building was called Castle Gloom, a fitting name considering its history, and one which possibly came from the Scottish Gaelic word glom which means chasm. In 1488, the Duke of Argyll asked King James IV if the name could be changed to Castle Campbell, named after the Duke’s clan. The castle remained in the possession of the Campbell clan until 1654 when Royalist rebels, who opposed Argyll’s support of the Commonwealth, burned Castle Campbell to near ruins. For over two hundred years it lay abandoned, until it was bought and finally handed over to the National Trust.
This enormous castle is perhaps the most famous on our list. Built in stages during the latter half of the eighteenth century, Culzean Castle has featured on five pound notes since 1987, and has also stared in films including The Wicker Man. Formerly the seat of Clan Kennedy, this opulent building has been owned by the National Trust of Scotland and open to the public since 1945.
An archetypal castle, Doune has become a bit of an A-lister among castles in Scotland. It was used as a filming location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and more recently has been used as the set for Winterfell in the Game of Thrones as well as a stand-in for the fictional Leoch Castle in Outlander. After being captured by Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite rising, this iconic monument was left for ruin until the 1880s when restoration began.