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Scotland's Stately Homes,
Georgian Houses, & Medieval Castles

Discover captivating historical places to visit in Scotland

Linda Jackson explores some of Scotland's stately homes, Georgian houses, Jacobean mansions and medieval castles, including Balmoral - the Scottish castle home of the British Royal Family.

Colourful, compelling and turbulent is an apt description of Scotland's history. Tales of burning castles, powerful baronial families and warring clans do much to evoke the atmosphere of past centuries while myriad historic buildings enrich Scotland's landscape. Ancient fortresses and tower houses scatter the Scottish countryside while elegant Georgian houses sit neatly in city squares. But sitting firmly at the top of the 'must see' attractions for visitors to Scotland are its castles.

Capture your imagination as castles and stately homes open their doors this season by visiting some historical properties in Scotland, many managed or owned by the National Trust for Scotland or Historic Scotland.


EDINBURGH & LOTHIANS


Edinburgh Castle

Needing little introduction, Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh, exudes the past. Just explore its famous streets and historic buildings to bring the city’s history to life. Built on top of an extinct volcano, towering above Edinburgh and overlooking the Esplanade, sits one of the most famous castles in the world, Edinburgh Castle. Highlights are: the Crown Jewels of Scotland; the Stone of Destiny; The Great Hall built by James IV in 1511, and a chapel dating from Norman times.

Roasting enemies and introducing the tortuous thumb screw into Scotland is the claim to fame of one of Scotland's oldest family members

The Edinburgh Castle is also where the internationally famous spectacle of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo is staged each August, and 2010 will see pipers, drummers, singers, dancers, gymnasts, and motorcycle display teams take part in an amazing programme to celebrate the Military Tattoo Diamond Jubilee.


The Palace of Holyrood

At the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is the home of Mary Queen of Scots, The Palace of Holyrood; now the official residence in Scotland of the Queen of England. This baroque palace has a turbulent history: it was used by Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 1745 uprising, was the wedding venue of Mary Queen of Scots and the scene of the murder of her male secretary and confidante, Rizzio.

Highlights are: plasterwork ceilings; the Great Gallery, magnificent furnishings; and a collection of Brussels tapestries.

Late 18th century Edinburgh has been vividly recreated in The Georgian House at No.7 Charlotte Square. Get a feel for high society life as well as the life of servants ‘below stairs’. Highlights are: Georgian silver, furniture, porcelain and paintings.


Craigmillar Castle

Country houses and ruined castles are dotted around the Lothians, the region surrounding Edinburgh. There is the well-preserved medieval Craigmillar Castle boasting one of the oldest tower houses in Scotland (14th century). Other highlights are its mysterious chambers, the Great Hall, and Queen Mary’s Room.

Roasting enemies and introducing the tortuous thumb screw into Scotland is the claim to fame of one of Scotland’s oldest family members, General Tam Dalyell of the House of the Binns, built in the 17th century with 18th-19th century additions. Highlights are: moulded plaster ceilings, a collection of portraits, furniture and porcelain; plus panoramic views over the River Forth. You’ll find nearby Newhailes, a 17th century Palladian-style villa, something of a time capsule: it houses a fine library and collection of paintings.

Suggested Accommodation: Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Greywalls,


GLASGOW, CLYDE & AYRSHIRE

Pollok House, one of Glasgow’s most elegant family homes, is fifteen minutes drive from Glasgow and open year-round. With a sumptuous mahogany and marble entrance hall, striking library, beautiful rooms, vast servants’ quarters, a stunning collection of paintings, silver and ceramics, this Georgian mansion is not to be missed.

Suggested Accommodation: One Devonshire Gardens at Hotel du Vin, The Gleneagles Hotel.


Pollok House
   

Culzean Castle

On a clifftop setting on the Ayrshire coast, amid stunning countryside, gardens and woodland, Culzean Castle and Country Park boasts a spectacular Oval Staircase, impressive Armoury and Circular Saloon, and an Eisenhower exhibition (General Dwight Eisenhower stayed at Culzean a number of times). Recorded history of the property started in the 16th century, but it is thought a building existed there even prior to 1400.

Suggested Accommodation: The Turnberry Resort, Knockinaam Lodge.


A favoured retreat for Stuart kings and queens, scene of Mary Queen of Scots’ childhood years, Falkland Palace is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture 

CENTRAL & WEST

Located on the top of a volcanic crag, Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland; the majority of buildings are 15th and 16th centuries with some 14th century structures. Several Scottish kings and queens have been crowned here including Mary Queen of Scots. Highlights: the Great Hall (largest medieval banqueting hall in Scotland), lavish Renaissance façades, the Chapel Royal, Great Kitchens.

Sited above the River Teith five miles from Stirling Castle, sits Doune Castle (built around 1400), a formidable courtyard castle stronghold. It has a striking 100ft high gatehouse which houses the cathedral-like Lord’s Hall with minstrels’ gallery and unusual double fireplace.


Stirling Castle
   

Doune Castle

Suggested Accommodation: The Gleneagles Hotel and the selection of Luxury Scotland hotels in Glasgow or Edinburgh.


KINGDOM OF FIFE

A favoured retreat for Stuart kings and queens, scene of Mary Queen of Scots’ childhood years, Falkland Palace is a stunning example of Renaissance architecture. Famous for its gardens and the real tennis court built in 1539, this atmospheric palace is one of the most impressive you’ll find. Highlights: Chapel Royal, 17th century Flemish tapestries, portraits of Stuart kings and queens, panelled keeper’s quarters, the old library.

Suggested Accommodation: Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa.



Crathes Castle

ABERDEEN & GRAMPIAN

In this quiet corner of Scotland there is a Castle Trail steeped in history. There is Balmoral Castle of course, worthy of a visit for its exhibitions and gardens. Purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852 it has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family ever since.

Crathes Castle, Garden & Estate is one of the best preserved castles in Scotland; it is open all year and offers a range of attractions for families. This late 16th century castle features intriguing round towers and overhanging turrets, and celebrated gardens. Highlights: strikingly painted ceilings and magnificent furnishings.

The fairytale castle of Craigievar, an iconic tower house, is a fine example of Scottish Baronial architecture. Completed in 1626, little has changed. It is seven storeys high and features multiple little turrets, gargoyles, gables and chimney stacks; an extensive collection of ceramics; and a wonderful display of daffodils and bluebells in spring.

Suggested Accommodation: The Marcliffe Hotel and Spa.



Brodie Castle

MORAY

For those interested in interiors allow plenty of time to explore Brodie Castle. There is a wide range of antiques and French furniture, Chinese and European porcelain, a major art collection, and a magnificent library containing around 6,000 books.

The 16th century tower house (added to in the 17th and 19th centuries) also features unusual plaster ceilings, and in spring the grounds are carpeted with daffodils.

Suggested Accommodation: Boath House.

Colourful and compelling, Scotland's castles and stately homes
bring alive the drama and romance of Scottish history!


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