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

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

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

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

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 scho ...
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

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

Kilchurn Castle

Kilchurn Castle is a ruined 15th and 17th century structure on a rocky peninsula at the northeastern end of Loch Awe. It was the ancestral home of the Campbells of Glen Orchy, who later became the Earls of Breadalbane also known as the Breadalbane family branch, of the Clan Campbell. The earliest construction on the castle was the towerhouse and Laich Hall. Kilchurn Castle was built in about 1450 by Sir Colin Campbell, f ...
Founded: c. 1450 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton Castle has the longest recorded history of any stronghold in Scotland. It overlooks the Scottish town of Dumbarton and guards the point where the River Leven joins the River Clyde. Its recorded history reaches back 1,500 years. At that time the place was known as Alt Clut, ‘Rock of the Clyde’. Later it became known by the Gaelic name Dun Breatann, ‘Fortress of the Britons’, from which the ...
Founded: c. 1220 | Location: Dumbarton, United Kingdom

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland. It guards the seaward approach from the Firth of Lorn to the Pass of Brander – and thereby the heart of Scotland. The castle was built around 1220, probably by Duncan MacDougall, son of Dubhgall, Lord of Lorn, and grandson of the great Somerled ‘King of the Isles’. These were stirring times in Argyll, because of the remarkable struggle b ...
Founded: c. 1220 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Rothesay Castle Ruins

Rothesay Castle ruins has been described as one of the most remarkable in Scotland for its long history dating back to the beginning of the 13th century, and its unusual circular plan. The castle comprises a huge curtain wall, strengthened by four round towers, together with a 16th-century forework, the whole surrounded by a broad moat. Built by the Stewart family, it survived Norse attacks to become a royal residence. Th ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Rothesay, United Kingdom

Newark Castle

Newark Castle is a well-preserved castle sited on the south shore of the estuary of the River Clyde in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde. For centuries this location was used to offload seagoing ships, and led to the growth of Port Glasgow close to the castle on either side and to the south. When dredging techniques made the Clyde navigable as far as Glasgow the port became a shipbuilding centre, and the castle was surrou ...
Founded: 1478 | Location: Port Glasgow, United Kingdom

Inverlochy Castle Ruins

Inverlochy Castle was built around 1280 by the powerful ‘Red’ Comyns, lords of Badenoch and Lochaber, to command the southern end of the Great Glen. The site of two battles, the castle remains largely unchanged since its construction. The moat that surrounded the castle has long gone but the location at the western end of the Great Glen and natural defensive postion against the River Lochy gave Inverlochy cas ...
Founded: c. 1280 | Location: Fort William, United Kingdom

Lochranza Castle

Lochranza Castle dates from the 13th century when it was owned by the MacSweens. In 1262, King Alexander III granted the castle and its lands to Walter Stewart, the Earl of Menteith. It is believed that Robert the Bruce landed at Lochranza in 1306 on his return from Ireland to claim the Scottish throne. By 1371, the castle was the property of Robert II. It is thought that at this time it was used as a royal hunting lodge. ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Isle of Arran, United Kingdom

Fyvie Castle

The earliest parts of Fyvie Castle date from the 13th century – some sources claim it was built in 1211 by William the Lion. Fyvie was the site of an open-air court held by Robert the Bruce, and Charles I lived there as a child. Following the Battle of Otterburn in 1390, it ceased to be a royal stronghold and instead fell into the possession of five successive families, each of whom added a new tower to the castl ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Turriff, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Erfurt Synagogue

The Erfurt Synagogue was built c. 1094. It is thought to be the oldest synagogue building still standing in Europe. Thanks to the extensive preservation of the original structure, it has a special place in the history of art and architecture and is among the most impressive and highly rated architectural monuments in Erfurt and Thuringia. The synagogue was constructed during the Middle Ages on the via regia, one of the major European trade routes, at the heart of the historical old quarter very close to the Merchants Bridge and the town hall. Many parts of the structure still remain today, including all four thick outer walls, the Roman­esque gemel window, the Gothic rose window and the entrance to the synagogue room.

After extensive restoration, the building was reopened in 2009. On display in the exhibition rooms is an collection of medieval treasures discovered during archaeological excavations. This includes 3,140 silver coins, 14 silver ingots, approx. 6,000 works of goldsmithery from the 13th and 14th centuries and an intricately worked wedding ring of the period, of which only two others are known to exist anywhere in the world. A mikveh (Jewish bath) has been excavated close by (13th/14th century). The Old Synagogue, the Small Synagogue and two Jewish cemeteries together form a network of historical buildings and sites which vividly portray the role of Jewish life in the history of Erfurt.