Medieval castles in Scotland

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh from its position on the Castle Rock. Archaeologists have established human occupation of the rock since at least the Iron Age (2nd century AD), although the nature of the early settlement is unclear. There has been a royal castle on the rock since at least the reign of David I in the 12th century, and the site continued to be a r ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is one of the largest and most important castles, both historically and architecturally, in Scotland. The castle is a great symbol of Scottish Independence and a source of enduring national pride. Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification from the earliest times. Stirling Castle is a Scheduled Anci ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Stirling, United Kingdom

Linlithgow Palace

The Linlithgow Palace was one of the principal residences of the monarchs of Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries. Although maintained after Scotland"s monarchs left for England in 1603, the palace was little used, and was burned out in 1746. It is now a visitor attraction in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. A royal manor existed on the site in the 12th century. This was replaced by a fortification know ...
Founded: 1302 | Location: Linlithgow, United Kingdom

Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle dominates a rocky promontory jutting into Loch Ness. That promontory has hosted some famous names in its long history. Around AD 580 St Columba was making the long journey from his monastery on the island of Iona to the court of Bridei, king of the Picts, at Inverness. As he was passing up Loch Ness, he was called to the residence of an elderly Pictish nobleman at Airdchartdan (Urquhart). Emchath was close ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most recognised castles in Scotland. It is, without doubt, a Scottish icon and certainly one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Highlands. When you first set eyes on it, it is easy to understand why so many people flock to its stout doors year after year. Strategically located on its own little island, overlooking the Isle of Skye, at the point where three great sea-lochs meet ...
Founded: c. 1250 | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

St Andrews Castle

St Andrews Castle is a ruin located in the coastal Royal Burgh of St Andrews. The castle sits on a rocky promontory overlooking a small beach called Castle Sands. There has been a castle standing at the site since the times of Bishop Roger (1189-1202), son of the Earl of Leicester. It housed the burgh’s wealthy and powerful bishops while St Andrews served as the ecclesiastical centre of Scotland during the years before ...
Founded: 1400 | Location: St Andrews, United Kingdom

Bishop's Palace

The Bishop"s Palace, Kirkwall was built at the same time as the adjacent St Magnus Cathedral. It was built for the cathedral"s first bishop, William the Old of the Norwegian Catholic church who took his authority from the Archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim). The ruined structure now looks like a small castle. Originally it is thought to have been like a typical Royal Norwegian Palace, with a large rectangular hal ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Kirkwall, United Kingdom

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress located upon a rocky headland on the north-east coast of Scotland. The surviving buildings are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive st ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Stonehaven, United Kingdom

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was originally built in the thirteenth century, then probably damaged in the Scottish Wars of Independence, before being rebuilt in its present form in the late 14th century by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (c. 1340–1420), the son of King Robert II of Scots, and Regent of Scotland from 1388 until his death. Duke Robert"s stronghold has survived relatively unchanged and complete, and the whole castle w ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Doune, United Kingdom

Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle is a 15th-century fortress on the south shore of the Firth of Forth. It was built, probably on the site of an earlier fort, by Sir George Crichton in the 1440s. At this time, Blackness was the main port serving the Royal Burgh of Linlithgow, one of the main residences of the Scottish monarch. The castle, together with the Crichton lands, passed to James II of Scotland in 1453, and the castle has been crow ...
Founded: 1440s | Location: Blackness, United Kingdom

Blair Castle

Blair Castle is the ancestral home of the Clan Murray, and was historically the seat of their chief, the Duke of Atholl. Blair Castle is said to have been started in 1269 by John I Comyn, Lord of Badenoch. John Murray, son of the second Earl of Tullibardine, was created Earl of Atholl in 1629, and the title has since remained in the Murray family. During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms of the 17th century, the Murrays su ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Blair Atholl, United Kingdom

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar is one of Scotland’s most perfectly preserved castles. It began as a simple tower-house residence. Gradually, over time, it developed into a complex of structures and spaces, as subsequent owners attempted to improve its comfort and amenity. As a result, there are many nooks and crannies to explore. The surrounding gardens and parkland were also important. The present-day Craigmillar Castle Park has fascina ...
Founded: c. 1375-1425 | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle is located in the village of Easter Aberdour. Parts of the castle date from around 1200, making Aberdour one of the two oldest datable standing castles in Scotland, along with Castle Sween in Argyll, which was built at around the same time. The earliest part of the castle comprised a modest hall house, on a site overlooking the Dour Burn. Over the next 400 years, the castle was successively expanded accor ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Aberdour, United Kingdom

Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle was the seat of Clan MacLeod chiefs. Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the stronghold of the chiefs of the clan for 800 years. A curtain wall was built round the hill in the 13th century around a former Norse fort which was only accessible through a sea gate. A castle was constructed within the curtain wall by Malcolm MacLeod around 1350. Today Dunvegan c ...
Founded: c. 1350 | Location: Isle of Skye, United Kingdom

Dornoch Castle

Dornoch Castle was built around 1500 as the home of the bishops of Caithness. Bishop Robert Stewart gifted the castle to John Gordon, 11th Earl of Sutherland in 1557. In 1570 the castle was set alight in a feud between the McKays and Murrays. The rebuilding which followed included the addition of the upper part of the tower. The castle decayed during the 18th century, but was restored in 1813–1814 to serve as a school a ...
Founded: c. 1500 | Location: Dornoch, United Kingdom

Cawdor Castle

Cawdor Castle is built around a 15th-century tower house, with substantial additions in later centuries. Originally a property of the Clan Calder, it passed to the Campbells in the 16th century. It remains in Campbell ownership, and is now home to the Dowager Countess Cawdor, stepmother of Colin Campbell, 7th Earl Cawdor. The castle is perhaps best known for its literary connection to William Shakespeare"s tragedy M ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Cawdor, United Kingdom

Portencross Castle

Portencross Castle site has been fortified since the 11th century. The present tower castle is thought to date from the mid-14th century and later. It remained in use until it was unroofed by a great storm in 1739 and gradually became ruinous. In the castle"s earliest days, it was known as 'Arneil' and was held by the de Ross family. After the victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Seamill, United Kingdom

Dunure Castle

Dunure Castle is located on the west coast of Scotland, about eight kilometres south of Ayr and close to the village of Dunure. Today the castle stands in ruins on a rocky promontory on the Carrick coast, overlooking the small harbour of Dunure. The site dates from the late 13th century; the earliest charter for the lands dating from 1256, but the remains of the building are of 15th- and 16th-century origin. One traditio ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Ayr, United Kingdom

Broughty Castle

Broughty Castle was erected in 1490 by the 2nd Lord Gray, on a charter from James IV, in response to increased English naval activity. It was taken without a shot fired by the English in 1547, and reclaimed by the Scots two and a half years later. The castle fell back into English hands in 1651. In 1860 the threat of French invasion prompted Broughty’s conversion from a ruin to a modern artillery defence. The castle wa ...
Founded: 1490 | Location: Dundee, United Kingdom

Dunrobin Castle

Dunrobin Castle is the most northerly of Scotland's great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands with 189 rooms. It is also one of Britain's oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s. Dunrobin Castle has been called home to the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland since the 13th century and was first mentioned as a stronghold of the family in 1401. The castle stands possibly on the site of an ...
Founded: 13th/19th century | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Aberlemno Sculptured Stones

The Aberlemno Sculptured Stones are a series of five Class I and II Early Medieval standing stones found in and around the village of Aberlemno. The stones with Pictish carvings variously date between about AD 500 and 800.

Aberlemno 1, 3 and 5 are located in recesses in the dry stone wall at the side of the road in Aberlemno. Aberlemno 2 is found in the Kirkyard, 300 yards south of the roadside stones. In recent years, bids have been made to move the stones to an indoor location to protect them from weathering, but this has met with local resistance and the stones are currently covered in the winter.

Aberlemno 4, the Flemington Farm Stone was found 30 yards from the church, and is now on display in the McManus Galleries, Dundee.