When we imagine the wilds of Scotland, we might perhaps summon romantic visions of weather beaten, heather-lined landscapes, rolling hills and the poetic remnants of Celtic history marking the landscape and the people, in the cities and the highlands alike. All of these things come together, however, in some of the most engaging tourist attractions in Scotland; for example, the many majestic castles which stand as a testament to the country's tumultuous history and courageous spirit. Scotland's castles showcase some of the richest parts of the country's history, along with some of the most beautiful landscapes. Whether you're interested in architecture, history or simply aesthetic beauty, the following five castles - across both cities and countryside (and, in some uniquely Scottish cases, both!) - are five must-see spots in their respective regions.
Eilean Donan Castle is the most classically Scottish sight you're likely to see on a trip through Britain. Set among the wild and rugged scenery of the Eilean Donan island, the castle was first built in the 13th century and was reconstructed from ruins in the 20th century. Well maintained and staffed by enthusiastic (and often costumed) guides, the castle is worth a visit for the interior tour, the wild and rocky terrain outside and the striking mountain views.
The stately family home of the Campbell clan, located on Loch Fyne, is one of Scotland's most impressive historic buildings. High turrets, a symmetrical facade and the dark rock of this Gothic structure are juxtaposed with the lush greenery surrounding the castle to make for a dramatic sight. The castle has been home to the Duke of Argyll for over 3 centuries, and as such the castle is heavy with history. Inside, visitors have the chance to view the castle's rooms laid out in an authentic historical fashion. Helpful staff direct independent visitors who are free to adventure around the public rooms and gardens with information sheets provided upon entry.
No doubt many tourists will make their way to this part of Scotland for a glimpse of the fabled Loch Ness monster, but if you fail to spot Nessie then visitors will be consoled that they're also in the right place to see one of Scotland's most beautiful architectural ruins. Today, Urquhart Castle is made up of the ruins of a formerly grand Scottish military stronghold. Of course, in Europe, "ruins" rarely mean ruined, and in the case of Urquhart Castle the glory of the majestic building has faded to allow for the romantic, rambling rocky structures that are now formative parts of the Highlands around Loch Ness. An entrance fee allows gets visitors a video introduction to the heritage of the area, along with entrance to the ruins and access to a privileged view of the Loch.
Stirling Castle is marked by a tempestuous history, which adds to the romance of this stunning Renaissance castle. The strategic importance of Stirling Castle means it's been a significant feature in wars and conflicts throughout Scottish history, and so a trip to this remarkable castle is both educating and culturally enriching. But it's not a sombre affair! With beautiful gardens, galleries, museums, special exhibitions and interactive tours, a trip to Stirling Castle is an engaging all-day journey through Scotland's history.
Scotland's capital is distinguished by the remarkable Edinburgh Castle, the sprawling buildings of which are viewable from almost all angles throughout the city. A steep incline through Edinburgh's quaint Old Town leads to the apex of the city where this historic building stands. Edinburgh Castle's history dates back to the 12th century, but most of the current buildings were erected around the 16th century. A visit to Edinburgh castle is an immersion into the country's colourful history and culture, through military museums, an educated guided tour, and a packed schedule of shows and events. The crowning jewel of this visit, however, is the view from the top of the castle: A panorama of the ancient city of Edinburgh is a well-earned reward for the steep climb.