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Exploring Scotland’s Finest Castles: 22 castles to visit in Scotland that are open to the public

With towering fortresses perched atop volcanic crags, nestled within lush glens, and looming over cityscapes, Scotland is peppered with hundreds of magnificent castles that whisk visitors back centuries through legendary history and folklore.

While it would take a lifetime to explore every Scottish castle, these iconic strongholds provide a captivating cross-section of the country’s most impressive castles open for tours.

Plan an unforgettable castle itinerary through the Highlands, majestic cities and beyond using this guide to Scotland’s can’t-miss castles.

The stone walls and towers of Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

No castle tour is complete without a stop at iconic Edinburgh Castle, which sits proudly atop Castle Rock towering over Scotland’s capital city.

Holding a strategic position over the landscape, the site has been fortified since the 12th century.

Visitors flock to see famous sights like the Crown Jewels of Scotland and Stone of Destiny, watch the One O’clock Gun firing, and take in awe-inspiring panoramic views from the ramparts.

Walking through Edinburgh Castle provides an incredible overview of Scottish heritage.

How to get to Edinburgh Castle

By Road: From central Edinburgh follow the A7, A8 and A1 to reach the castle which has parking available.

By Public Transport: Take any Lothian Buses to the city centre or buses to the West End, then walk 15 minutes uphill along the Royal Mile to the castle esplanade.

The closest railway station to Edinburgh Castle is Edinburgh Waverley or Edinburgh Haymarket.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle, situated on a volcanic outcrop, offers sweeping vistas over Stirlingshire and the Forth Valley.

Dating from the early 12th century, this imposing stronghold above the city holds an important place in Scottish history as the site where many kings and queens were crowned.

Visitors are treated to beautifully preserved palaces, the Royal Chapel, Great Hall and a Renaissance garden. Costumed interpreters and tours bring Stirling Castle’s history to life and captures Scotland’s complex past in all its grandeur.

How to get to Stirling Castle

By Road: Take the M9 to Junction 10 signposted for Stirling. Follow the A84 into Stirling city centre, then brown signs lead to castle parking.

By Public Transport: Regular train services from Glasgow and Edinburgh stop at Stirling Station. From there, take bus 61 or 62 up to the castle (a 10-minute ride).

The closest railway station to Stirling Castle is Stirling.

Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness

Urquhart Castle

Seemingly floating upon Loch Ness, the romantic ruins of Urquhart Castle are among Scotland’s most picturesque.

Perched on a rocky promontory jutting into the famous loch, the 13th century fortress commands breath-taking views across the water to the Great Glen.

While mostly ruined today, visitors can still see remains of a great hall and tower house. The rich history from medieval wars to 20th century restoration comes alive via video presentations.

The iconic castle continues to capture imaginations today with its legends of monsters below its storied walls.

How to get to Urquhart Castle

By Road: Take the A82 along Loch Ness to the village of Drumnadrochit. Follow signs to reach the castle car park.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach bus 11 or Citylink bus 917 from Inverness to Drumnadrochit stops nearby. Walk route signposted to castle (2 miles).

The closest railway station to Urquhart Castle is Inverness.

A stone castle reached by a stone bridge.  The castle is illuminated as the sun sets over the loch
Eilean Donan Castle, West Highlands

Eilean Donan Castle

Recognisable around the world, Eilean Donan Castle (perched on a small island at the meeting point of lochs Alsh, Duich and Long) is simply stunning.

First established in the 13th century, the romantic castle has been regularly reconstructed across the centuries. Cross the stone footbridge over the water to explore the castle interior with its spartan rooms, Jacobite exhibits and stunning views across the lochs from the ramparts.

By night, Eilean Donan’s atmospheric illumination makes it one of Scotland’s most photogenic castles.

How to get to Eilean Donan Castle

By Road: Take the A87 which runs alongside Eilean Donan. Castle parking available nearby.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach bus 117 from Kyle of Lochalsh drops off near the castle. Limited services.

The closest railway station to Urquhart Castle is Kyle of Lochalsh.

A large stone built house with pointed roof turrets
Thirlestane Castle, Scottish Borders

Thirlestane Castle

The majestic Thirlestane Castle is a magnificent 16th century castle set within the beautiful Lauderdale Estate in the Scottish Borders.

it is the historic home of the Duke of Lauderdale, and the Castle is one of the oldest and finest in Scotland and still remains home to the Maitland family today.

Inside the castle you can discover fascinating collections and stories, including its connection to Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary Queen of Scots.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in the Scottish Borders, Thirlestane also offers luxury 5-star accommodation inside the castle and in beautifully appointed woodland lodges.

How to get to Thirlestane Castle

By Road: Take the A68 south towards Jedburgh. Drive through the centre of Lauder and take the first left onto the B6362. Parking is available on site.

By Public Transport: Bus services run from Edinburgh to Lauder every hour on most days, and take around 1 hour and 10 minutes. Look for No51. with Borders Buses (

The closest railway station to Thirlestane Castle is Tweedbank and it is approximately a 20-minute drive to the castle.

The remains of a Scottish castle perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the sea.
Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven

Dunnottar Castle

Perched dramatically upon a rocky headland towering over the North Sea, the ruins of Dunnottar Castle are among Scotland’s most imposing.

Dating from the early Middle Ages, Dunnottar holds an important place in Scottish history as the home of the Honours of Scotland hidden from Cromwell’s army in the 17th century.

Today soaring stone walls, narrow windows and fortress towers remain for exploration. Walk the rocky paths to reach the isolated castle and take in the wonderful seaside views.

How to get to Dunnottar Castle

By Road: Follow A92 towards Stonehaven. 3 miles south of town, exit towards Dunnottar Castle.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach buses run from Aberdeen to Stonehaven. From bus station it’s a 30-minute walk to the castle.

The closest railway station to Dunnottar Castle is Stonehaven.

The well preserved remains of Cawdor Castle in Scotland, with a wooden bridge crossing the dry moat.
Cawdor Castle, Inverness

Cawdor Castle

Surrounded by gardens and rolling countryside, Cawdor Castle (near Inverness) looks like something from a fairy tale.

The 14th century fortress features distinctive towers and turrets encircling a tree-filled central courtyard. Inside, sumptuous staterooms with tapestries, antiques and ornate ceilings await.

Beautiful walled gardens and nature trails offer a magical backdrop for picnicking and walks and kids will delight in the castle’s literary connections to Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

For a charming inland castle brimming with magic, Cawdor is tough to top.

How to get to Cawdor Castle

By Road: Located 15 miles east of Inverness just off the A96. Ample parking provided.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach bus 26 from Inverness stops at Cawdor Village. It is then a short, 15-minute walk through woodland path to the castle.

The closest railway stations to Cawdor Castle are Nairn or Inverness Airport.

Dunrobin Castle, Golspie

Dunrobin Castle

Located on the Northern Highland coast, Dunrobin Castle resembles a French chateau more than a stereotypical Scottish castle.

Serving as the historic seat of the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland since the 13th century, the fairy-tale turreted castle overlooks stunning gardens modelled after Versailles. Visitors can tour the palatial rooms, climb the spiral staircase and wander through the formal gardens and falconry centre.

A real “Beauty and the Beast” style hidden gem, Dunrobin offers Scottish elegance by the sea, and even has its own railways station!

How to get to Dunrobin Castle

By Road: On the A9, 54 miles north of Inverness, follow signs for Dunrobin Castle.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach and Citylink coaches stop in Golspie village. A scenic 20-minute walk through woodlands leads to castle.

The closest railway station to Dunrobin Castle is Dunrobin Castle.

A white castle with coniferous trees in the foreground
Blair Castle, Perthshire

Blair Castle

Nestled within the majestic Highlands, Blair Castle provides a wonderful blend of romantic exterior and lavish Victorian interior.

Surrounded by parklands near the River Garry, the whitewashed castle shines amid a lush green landscape.  Visitors are awed by the extravagant state apartments housing treasures like 17th century hunting tapestries.

A café and expansive grounds encourage lingering to explore historic trees, the walled garden and beautiful trails. For an enchanting inland castle, Blair is a must.

How to get to Blair Castle

By Road: 8 miles north of Pitlochry off the A9. Well-signposted.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach bus 23 stops right at Blair Atholl village for connections by foot or local shuttle to the castle.

The closest railway station to Blair Castle is Blair Atholl.

A stone castle set amongst green fields in Scotland
Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

Castle Fraser

The quintessential Scottish tower house, Castle Fraser dates from the 15th century and sits wrapped in woodlands outside of Aberdeen.

The medieval fortress still retains its original structure on the exterior while inside Victorian-era furnishings display an elegant family estate. Kids will love exploring the secret staircase and room for “naughty boys.”

The extensive grounds include an ornamental walled garden, Victorian laundry exhibition, woodland trails and a restaurant. For a true taste of a historic Scottish clan castle, Castle Fraser fits the bill.

How to get to Castle Fraser

By Road:  Take the A96 west from Aberdeen and turn off a Denhead, where Castle Fraser is well signposted.

By Public transport:  Being a little more remote, buses are limited and will only get you as far as Kemnay, which is about 3 miles from Castle Fraser.

The closest railway station to Castle Fraser is Kintore.

Stalker Castle in Scotland
Castle Stalker, West Highlands

Castle Stalker

One of Scotland’s most picturesque castles, Castle Stalker is a tiny four-story tower situated on a tidal islet on Loch Laich.

Surrounded by the sweeping sea loch and mountains, the petite but photogenic medieval fortress can only be reached by boat. Tours of the castle interior reveal basic stone rooms furnished with displays depicting its history.

But it’s the stunning island setting that makes Castle Stalker a must for castle lovers’ bucket lists. Visitors rave there are few sights in Scotland as fairy tale perfect as this.

How to get to Castle Stalker

By Road: Head along the A828 from Connel and park at the Old Inn at Portnacroish. Then take the private boat departing for the castle.

By Public Transport: A limited bus service (the 405 operated by westcoastmotors from Oban or the 918 from Fort William) but both stop close (less than 100 metres away) to the Old Inn at Portnacroish.

The closest railway stations to Castle Stalker are Oban and Fort William.

A prominent and well preserved Scottish Castle, with formal gardens,
Culzean Castle, Ayrshire

Culzean Castle

Sprawling along the cliff tops overlooking the Firth of Clyde, Culzean Castle combines 18th century Georgian opulence with a dramatic seaside setting.

Designed by famed architect Robert Adams, the oval mansion is filled with superb neoclassical interiors, furniture and art. The grounds are also fantastic to explore, from the walled garden and clock tower to the castle’s sea caves and stretches of the Ayrshire coastline.

For an elegant coastal castle experience, Culzean is certainly one of Scotland’s greats.

How to get to Culzean Castle

By Road: Well-signposted off the A719, 12 miles south of Ayr. Extensive parking available.

By Public transport: Stagecoach bus 585 from Ayr stops at Culzean Castle gates. Limited services.

The closest railway station to Culzean Castle is Maybole.

An isolated Scottish castle surrounded by trees and scrub.
Castle Campbell, Dollar

Castle Campbell

In a jaw-dropping setting at the mouth of Dollar Glen, Castle Campbell (formerly Castle Gloom) epitomizes a medieval fortress.

The 15th century stronghold perched 300 feet atop a crag was designed to project power. Climbing the rugged path to the castle provides wonderful valley views before reaching the long-ruined but still mighty castle.

Visitors are free to wander lonely ruins like the gatehouse and tower house. For a taste of gritty medieval castle life in an incredible setting, Castle Campbell delivers.

How to get to Castle Campbell

By Road: Located off the A91 near Dollar. Limited parking at the top of glen by castle.

By Public Transport: Bus 200 by Strathearn Buses from Stirling drops at Dollar Village. A scenic 2-mile walk leads up Dollar Glen to castle.

The closest railway station to Castle Campbell is Alloa.

The walls and towers of Balmoral Castle in Scotland
Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside

Balmoral Castle

The royal Scottish retreat of King Charles Elizabeth III, Balmoral Castle is open to the public annually between April to August, although exact dates will vary due to royal scheduling.

Located in scenic Aberdeenshire on the banks of the River Dee, the grand turreted castle is surrounded by lush grounds perfect for walking around.

Tour the ballroom and state apartments to gain insights into the royal family’s life on the Scottish estate. With a regal interior and idyllic Highland setting, Balmoral provides a special glimpse into royal traditions.

How to get to Balmoral Castle

By Car: Located on the A93 in Royal Deeside. Well signed from Aberdeen. Parking available at Crathie Kirk then can walk to castle.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach bus 201 from Aberdeen to Braemar stops at Crathie Kirk. From there it’s a 15-minute walk to the castle.

The closest railway stations to Balmoral Castle are Pitlochry and Aberdeen.

The tall walls and pointed towers of Glamis Castle in Scotland
Glamis Castle, Forfar

Glamis Castle

Steeped in history and legends including Macbeth and the Queen Mother, Glamis Castle is an unmissable 15th century stronghold near Forfar.

Aside from the opulent staterooms and priceless artworks inside, highlights include secret passages and the magical walled gardens.

Special child-friendly tours let kids discover the castle’s fairy tale allure. With over 600 years of captivating history, Glamis Castle promises a memorable experience.

How to get to Glamis Castle

By Car: Located just off the A94 about 12 miles from Forfar. Well signed with parking onsite.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach bus 22 from Forfar Bus Station to Glamis Village stops right at the castle gates.

The closest railway station to Glamis Castle is Dundee.

A long path leading through the centre of well-kept lawns and flowering borders, with trees in the far distance
Drummond Castle Gardens, Perthshire

Drummond Castle Gardens

This medieval castle, enriched by lavish 17th century renovations, offers an oasis of tranquillity and beauty.

Wander through stately Renaissance architecture and explore the expansive formal gardens adorned with statuary.

Unique attractions like the spectacular sundial garden make for a superb day out. Drummond Castle provides a harmonious blend of nature, culture and history.

How to get to Drummond Castle

By Car: On the A85 around 12 miles west of Perth. Well signed Crieff to the north.

By Public Transport: Citylink bus 915 from Perth stops in Muthill. 30 minute walk along trail to castle.

The closest railway station to Drummond Castle is Gleneagles.

A pink-stone castle with a mown lawn to the front
Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire

Craigievar Castle

The beloved pink fairy-tale facade of Craigievar Castle rises from the Aberdeenshire countryside like something from a storybook.

While the exterior oozes medieval charm, inside opulent Victorian furnishings fill the historic rooms. Climb narrow stone stairs to wonder at the carved ceilings and tapestries.

Kids will love exploring the magical grounds with secret gardens, trails and family activities.

For an enchanting castle bursting with wonder, Craigievar is tough to top.

How to get to Craigievar Castle

By Car: Located 5 miles south of Alford on the A980. Parking available on site.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach bus 204 from Aberdeen to Alford stops nearby. 90 minute walk to castle.

The closest railway station to Craigievar Castle is Inverurie.

The remains of a stone castle on an isolated island in the west of Scotland
Castle Tioram, Loch Moidart

Castle Tioram

Dramatically situated on a tiny tidal island in Loch Moidart, 13th century Castle Tioram provides one of Scotland’s most atmospheric castle ruins to explore.

Once a base for the Clanranald, only outer walls and towers now remain. A narrow causeway appears at low tide to provide access on foot.

Breathe in the crisp sea air while searching for otters and seals amid this isolated Highland scene straight from Celtic legends.

How to get to Castle Tioram

By Car: Reached via the A861 and down a track toward Loch Moidart.  Limited parking spaces close to the edge of the loch.

By Public Transport: Shiel Buses service 500 from Fort William stops in Acharacle to connect by foot (plan to take just over a hour to walk there at a steady pace)

The closest railway station to Castle Tioram is Fort William.

A triangular castle surrounded by a moat and trees
Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries & Galloway

Caerlaverock Castle

With its distinctive moated triangular layout and red sandstone walls, Caerlaverock Castle located near Dumfries looks plucked from the pages of a storybook.

Siege warfare history and ornate stone carvings come to life on informative tours of the 13th century fortress.

Nearby nature reserve trails also allow visitors to soak up wildlife and views over the surrounding wetlands from this one-of-a-kind castle.

How to get to Caerlaverock Castle

By Car: Located just off the B725, 10 miles from Dumfries. Parking available nearby.

By Public Transport: The 6A Bus from Dumfries stops very close to the Castle, where you can then continue your journey on foot.

The closest railway station to Caerlaverock Castle is Dumfries

A large, well preserved castle sitting on top of a hill covered in mown grass.
Inverness Castle

Inverness Castle

Rising high on a hilltop above Inverness, this commanding 19th century castle built on an 11th century fort site affords tremendous views across the city.

Walk the grounds to appreciate the castle exterior and defensive location. Inside, the North Tower houses an intricate 16th century memorial casket.

Combined with the scenery, Inverness Castle makes a worthwhile stop while exploring the Highland capital.

How to get to Inverness Castle

By Car: Located in the centre of Inverness just off Castle Road. Some street parking available.

By Public Transport: Stagecoach buses 1 and 2 stop nearby on Castle Road at the north end of the city centre.

The closest railway station to Inverness Castle is Inverness.

A large 3-sided stone castle with formal parkland in the background.
Floors Castle, Scottish Borders

Floors Castle

Set amid tranquil countryside and riverside gardens, this grand stately home has served as the seat of the Dukes of Roxburghe for centuries.

Step inside the cavernous rooms to uncover masterpieces by Van Dyck, fabulous furniture and rich tapestries. The expansive grounds are also ideal for riverside strolls, garden tours and horse rides. History and natural splendour blend seamlessly at Floors Castle.

How to get to Floors Castle

By Car: Located just off the A6089, less than a mile from Kelso. Well signed with parking available.

By Public Transport: Perryman’s Buses 213/214 from Kelso stop at the Floors Castle entrance. Limited services.

The closest railway station to Floors Castle is Tweedbank.

The pointed turrets of Inveraray Castle with an orange sky in the background.
Inveraray Castle, Argyll & Bute

Inveraray Castle

Resting along the shores of Loch Fyne, Inveraray Castle with its conical spires exudes French and Gothic influences.

Wander through opulent rooms filled with art, antiques and suits of armour. Outdoors, stroll through the meticulous gardens and along loch-side trails.

Inveraray provides a wonderful blend of architecture, nature and Clan Campbell history on the west coast.

How to get to Inveraray Castle

By Car: Located just off the A83 which runs along the shore of Loch Fyne. Parking available at the castle or Inveraray town centre.

By Public Transport: Citylink bus 926 from Glasgow stops right at Inveraray.  From there it is a 10 minute walk to castle.

The closest railway stations are Loch Awe, Dalmally and Arrochar & Tarbet.

From royal fortresses overlooking bustling cities to remote island castles shrouded in mist, Scotland captivates with diverse castles dotting dramatic landscapes across the country.

Wandering battlements and echoing chambers makes history spring to life, and you can use our guide to plan your next visit the very best of Scotland’s castles where clan chiefs and legendary rulers once walked.

The storybook magic awaits!

About the author

Having worked across the heritage and tourism sector for over 10 years, Monty Beaumont is an expert when it comes to discovering new places to visit and great days out for the whole family. 

He has previously worked for the National Trust as a General Manager in Cornwall, coordinated the complex operations of running a castle in Devon and the mastered the intricacies of providing exceptional hospitality and service at some of the finest historic houses in the UK. 

As part of his vision and drive for Monty’s Guide, Monty travels across the country to find new places to visit and explore, and sharing his finding on, which is used by 1,000s of people each week to find their next great day out.

His experience and knowledge of the historic and cultural sector gives him a unique insight into the elements that make tourism and learning so important in our quest to understanding more about our heritage.

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