Comprising the northern third of the United Kingdom, Scotland has long been the land of sweeping landscapes—vibrantly verdant plains stretch and roll over highlands and lowlands with deep blue lochs and enchanted forests scattered all in-between. In tandem with this historic natural beauty are the manmade equivalent—castles.
Echoing with the tales and fables of yesteryear, the castles in Scotland are as integral to the appreciation of the land as biscuits are to tea time: It would be informal heresy to have one without the other. For a few sites of stone saturated with significance and lore, look to visit the following in your Scottish travels.
Now just ruins of a bygone era, the remains of Urquhart Castle carry significant meaning in Scotland’s history. It played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence before being the site for countless clan battles and wars in the following five centuries. While much of the castle is now no more than a stone façade and foundation, the crumbling tower does make the perfect place to stare out at the Loch Ness, with hopes of spotting a certain loch-dwelling monster.
Sitting on a rock overlooking the shore of Loch Dunvegan, speculation is that Dunvegan Castle was a fortified site since the earliest times (think prehistoric Norse), but the furthest back formal proof can be found is the 13th century. Since then, its history has been storied. As the stronghold for the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod, it’s the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland at just shy of 800 years. Behind its imposing bridge entrance and defensive battlements, a treasure trove of artifacts and antiques are housed and displayed—the most fabled being the Fairy Flag. Supposedly provided to the Clan MacLeod by fairies, legend has it that when this banner is unfurled, it guarantees victory for the clan in battle. Pair witnessing the castle’s enchanted artifacts with the surrounding enchanting MacLeod Estate for a perfect day. Seal-spotting and fishing in the loch are worthwhile endeavors, as is venturing out to the neighboring Cuillin mountains and Fairy Pools.
Nestled in Aberdeenshire’s lush countryside, Glamis Castle has been a lightning rod for captivating stories for over 1000 years. The earliest is most likely that King Malcolm II was murdered at Glamis in 1034, and the intrigue only propagated from there. To date, the spired towers hold tales of “The Monster of Glamis” —a terrifyingly grotesque child that once roamed the castle before being bricked up in a room, the Earl Beardie playing cards against the Devil and losing his soul, and most famous of all, “The White Lady” —the ghost of Janet Douglas roaming the castle after being executed for charges of witchcraft. With all that being said, it feels exceptionally fitting that Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” takes place at Glamis Castle. Whether you find the fables fantastic or eerie, know that they only add to the regal character of the castle—which only adds to the timeless enchantment of Scotland itself.
Wishing you could be embedded amongst the scenic beauty and captivating castles in Scotland right this moment? Before you book your trip, speak with one of our travel agents. Their knowledge, expertise and professional relationships with specialty travel partners like CIE Tours International allow you to construct the vacation of your dreams.