Scotland's History Captured in Stone.

Scotland's Spectacular & Intriguing Castles

Spectacular and intriguing historic sites await visitors who
want to explore a land of plenty… this is Scotland, naturally.

Written by Linda Jackson

Blackness Castle

Culzean Castle

Crathes Castle

Sitting in cities, nestling in towns, scattered around islands and spread over scenic countryside stretching from the Scottish Borders to the Highlands of Scotland, are historic sites that have been witness to momentous events. These sites include ancient castles and palaces that have been home to kings and queens, famous battlefields, glorious ruins, cathedrals and abbeys that have all played their part in Scotland’s rich past.

With over 5,000 years of history to recall, the Year of Natural Scotland 2013  presents  a great opportunity to showcase the natural world of Scotland… and get people outdoors to enjoy it.

While delving into Scotland’s wealth of castles and monuments with Sarah Cuthbert-Kerr from the National Trust for Scotland and Jennifer Johnston-Watt from Historic Scotland they mention both organisations are anticipating an increase in visitors to their properties throughout the Year of Natural Scotland.

Sarah tells me: “We have a mixture of different castles – about a dozen in all, as well as mansion houses, gardens, and countryside - a total of 129 properties in our portfolio. The National Trust of Scotland is heavily involved with lots of events happening at sites and castles to celebrate the Year of Natural Scotland. Detailed information on all the special events held at them throughout the year, including downloadable maps, can be found on our website.”

Culzean Castle in Ayrshire

‘Must visit’ Scottish castles, and some of Sarah’s favourites she admits, include Culzean Castle in Ayrshire, Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire, and Kellie Castle in Fife. “Culzean Castle is one of the largest castles in Scotland,” Sarah says, “it is in a stunning clifftop location with beautiful views. It’s a Robert Adam-designed building with fabulous internal features, including an oval staircase, and set in acres of landscape grounds. It’s got everything.”

Another NTS property, at the other end of the scale, is Craigievar Castle. “It is titchy” Sarah tells me “and a much smaller example of castle, pretty in pink and a beautiful atmospheric place with lots of nooks and crannies. There are family photos around and a great nursery, it gives you a good idea of what life was like when the Forbes family lived in the castle, and is an intimate spot to visit.”

Craigievar Castle

Features in this iconic tower include stunning 17th-century plaster ceilings and an array of artefacts and ceramic pieces – Lady Forbes was renowned for her exquisite design and knowledge. On the large estate are splendid specimen trees, extensive countryside views, and a wonderful display of daffodils and bluebells at springtime.

Geographically located midway between these two castles is the very interesting Kellie Castle in Fife which dates back to the 14th century – the castle was home to Robert the Bruce’s youngest daughter and boasts a fascinating history. There are magnificent ceilings, panelling, and Sir Robert Lorimer fine furniture. Sarah informs me that “Kellie Castle was also owned by a family with an artistic bent, Sculptor Hew Lorimer - who leased the castle in 1937 – and his workshop is open to visitors. “Don’t miss the walled garden,” Sarah adds “it has a tranquil atmosphere and beautiful views over the Fife countryside”.

Culloden Battlefield

Falkland Palace

The National Trust for Scotland offers visitors a total of 129 unique sites to discover – including Culloden Battlefield, Inverewe Garden, Falkland Palace, and Burns National Heritage Park to name but a few.

Visitors can purchase a National Trust for Scotland ‘Discover Ticket’ from the Trust’s website - it offers a big saving on castle and site entry prices. www.nts.org.uk

With 345 castles, properties and monuments in Historic Scotland’s portfolio to discover, visitors to Scotland are spoilt for choice. Jennifer Johnston-Watt from Historic Scotland when questioned about the most significant sites confirms that “Edinburgh Castle is the most iconic building in Scotland, recognised globally, and then there’s Stirling Castle of course which has had a big refurbishment”. Two ‘must-visit’ castles she says.

Craigmillar Castle

“The most under-rated castle” Jennifer tells me “is Craigmillar Castle, a hidden jewel which is over-shadowed somewhat by Edinburgh Castle. Craigmillar is a beautiful castle and a lovely place to take children – it’s what you would expect a castle to look like and deserves recognition.”

Situated just three miles southeast of the heart of Edinburgh, Craigmillar Castle – one of the most completely preserved Scottish medieval castles – offers lovely panoramic views which take in Edinburgh Castle, Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat and, on a clear day, across to Fife. Mary Queen of Scots stayed here in the mid-16th century and it is where the plot to kill her debauched husband was hatched.

Falkland Palace

Historic Scotland also offers an ‘Explorer Pass’ which gives access to all Historic Scotland sites including fast track access to both Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. There is a choice of either a 3 Day Explorer Pass (over a 5 day period) or a 7 Day Explorer Pass (over a 14 day period). Full details of validity, and how the Pass works, are available on Historic Scotland’s website from which the Explorer Pass can be purchased. www.historic-scotland.gov.uk

Edinburgh Castle

There are also many privately-owned castles in Scotland to visit of course, the most noteworthy being located in Royal Deeside within the Cairngorms National Park: Balmoral Castle - Scottish home of the British Royal Family since 1848 when the castle was purchased by Queen Victoria. Visitors have access to the gardens, exhibitions, and the Ballroom (all other rooms are not open to the public). 

Stunning Glamis Castle in Angus, family home to the Earls of Strathmore from 1372 and the childhood home of The Queen Mother, is full of legends and myths – a murder, a witch burnt at the stake, possibly where Macbeth murdered Duncan, and a secret room where the devil himself is said to have frequented. It is more akin to a French chateau than a Scottish fortress, has extensive grounds, beautiful woodlands, and is the venue for the Strathmore Highland Games every June.

Blair Castle

Expect total grandeur at Blair Castle, set in Highland Perthshire – the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl and another castle with an illustrious history. Dating back to 1269, the castle has seen many changes in its architecture covering medieval, Georgian, and Victorian periods. Castle tours take in stunning rooms, too numerous to mention, and there is plenty to enjoy here for visitors of every age; it’s very family-friendly.

Floors Castle

Fairytale Floors Castle, which sits in the grounds of Roxburghe Estates in the Scottish Borders overlooking the River Tweed, was originally built in 1721. Inside you will discover an impressive collection of furniture, artwork and tapestries that date from the 15th century and outside a roofline of turrets, domes and pinnacles; a lovely walled garden, a woodland and riverside walk, and an adventure playground for children.

With so many historic sites, castles and monuments available throughout Scotland and with such an exciting heritage of Neolithic standing stones, famous circles and mysterious carved stones this newsletter is only a taster of what is on offer.  There are also ancient canals such as Crinan and the Forth and Clyde, famous battlefields, hill forts, and even Roman evidence in Scotland – a country incredibly rich in history and a country which needs at least a year to explore its wealth. The Year of Natural Scotland methinks is a very good year to start.

Luxury Scotland
Tel: +44(0)1786 821 860 
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E: dorothy@luxuryscotland.co.uk

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