Medieval castles in Scotland

Dunscaith Castle Ruins

Dunscaith Castle is named after and was the home of the warrior maiden Scáthach. The castle itself sits on an off-shore rock. There is a gap between the rock and the mainland which was once spanned by a walled bridge. This stone walled bridge then led onto a drawbridge, the pivot holes for which are still visible on the far side. Once on the other side of the drawbridge a door opened to a flight of stairs which was ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Isle of Skye, 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

Lauriston Castle

Once a royal fortress, Lauriston Castle can claim to be one of the oldest privately owned and inhabited castles in the region. By tradition, it was the stronghold of Giric, or Gregory the Great, one of the last of the Pictish kings (AD 878–889). The site of his church of Ecclesgreig is nearby and he gave his Latin name, Ciricius, to St. Cyrus. Lauriston’s first charter is dated 1243 and it soon developed into a c ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: St Cyrus, 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

Rait Castle Ruins

Rait Castle is a ruined hall-house castle dating from the 13th century. The remains of the courtyard walls are nine feet high and also contain the remains of the Chapel of St Mary of Rait. The building was a two story building, measuring 20 metres by 10 metres. It had an unvaulted basement and an upper hall. The hall was entered from the outside and was protected by a portcullis and a drawbar. The walls of the castle are ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Highland, 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

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 fas ...
Founded: c. 1375-1425 | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Duart Castle

Duart Castle dates back to the 13th century and is the seat of Clan MacLean. In 1647, Duart Castle was attacked and laid siege to by the Argyll government troops of Clan Campbell, but they were defeated and driven off by the Royalist troops of Clan MacLean. In September 1653, a Cromwellian task force of six ships anchored off the castle, but the Macleans had already fled to Tiree. A storm blew up on the 13 September and t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Isle of Mull, 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

Saddell Castle

Saddell Castle was built by David Hamilton, Bishop of Argyll, between 1508 and 1512 from the stones of the ruined Saddell Abbey. The castle was gifted to James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran by Bishop James Hamilton, as payment of debts and taxes in 1556. The Earl of Arran exchanged it with the Chief of Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg, James MacDonald in exchange for James"s lands on the Isle of Arran. The castle was ransack ...
Founded: 1508-1512 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Dingwall Castle Ruins

Dingwall Castle is believed to have been established by Norse settlers in the area in the 11th century. During the Wars of Scottish Independence the castle was garrisoned by the forces of king Edward I of England. However it was later captured by Scottish forces for king Robert I of Scotland (Robert the Bruce) led by Uilleam II, Earl of Ross. From the castle, the Earl of Ross (chief of Clan Ross) led the men of Ross to f ...
Founded: 11th century | Location: Dingwall, United Kingdom

Brodick Castle

Brodick Castle stands on a slope above the north side of Brodick Bay and under the shadow of Goatfell, which rises behind it. It can best be described as a strategically important castle developed over four centuries between the 1200s and the 1600s, with an 1800s stately home wrapped around it. The location was probably first used as a defensive site by the Vikings until they were driven from Arran, and the rest of the we ...
Founded: 1510 | Location: Isle of Arran, United Kingdom

Carrick Castle

The present Carrick Castle is possibly the third on this location. The first may have been a Viking fort. The second structure, and first castle, is believed to have been built in the 12th century. Allegedly a hunting seat of the Scots kings, Carrick was originally a Lamont stronghold. In the spring of 1307, Robert the Bruce drove Henry Percy from the Castle before conducting a guerrilla war against Edward I of England. E ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Inchmurrin Castle Ruins

At the Southwest tip of the Inchmurrin island are the ruins of the 14th century castle built by Duncan the Eighth Earl of Lennox. The castle is recorded as having been completed by 1393 and the Earls of Lennox took up residence in the 14th century when they moved from their castle in Balloch during the plague. The castle was composed of three rooms, outbuildings and a courtyard. King Robert the I is believed to have been ...
Founded: 1393 | Location: Inchmurrin, 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

Dunbeath Castle

Dunbeath castle is first recorded on the rocky peninsula at Dunbeath in 1428, when the lands belonged to the Earl of Caithness. The first recorded laird was Alexander Sutherland. It later became the property of the Clan Sinclair through the marriage of the daughter of Alexander Sutherland to William Sinclair (1410–1484), the first Sinclair Earl of Caithness. The Sinclairs replaced the earlier structure with a four-s ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Castle Stalker

Castle Stalker is a four-storey tower house or keep set on a tidal islet on Loch Laich. The island castle"s picturesque appearance, with its bewitching island setting against a dramatic backdrop of mountains, has made it a favourite subject for postcards and calendars, and something of a cliché image of Scottish Highland scenery. Castle Stalker is entirely authentic; it is one of the best-preserved medieval to ...
Founded: 1440s | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Dunglass Castle

Dunglass Castle, situated in West Dunbartonshire, is a ruinous castle, originally constructed during 1400–1542. A large section of high wall remains, to approximately 7–8 metres high, with a mixture of original and newer construction. A small conical dovecot also exists on the south wall but it is now completely ruined. The castle and courtyard stone was taken in 1735 to use in repair of the quay following an or ...
Founded: c. 1400 | Location: Bowling, United Kingdom

Fraser Castle

Fraser Castle is the most elaborate Z-plan castle in Scotland. The castle stands in over 1.2 km2 of landscaped grounds, woodland and farmland which includes a walled kitchen garden of the 19th century. There is archaeological evidence of an older square tower dating from around 1400 or 1500 within the current construction. Originally known as Muchall-in-Mar, construction of the elaborate, five-storey Z-plan castl ...
Founded: 1575-1636 | Location: Kemnay, United Kingdom

Ardgowan Castle

Ardgowan Castle is located in the grounds of Ardgowan House near Inverkip. In 1306, Inverkip was besieged by supporters of Robert Bruce, led by Robert Boyd of Cunningham. In 1403, King Robert III granted the lands of Ardgowan to his natural son, Sir John Stewart. The castle is dated to the late 15th century. In 1667 Archibald Stewart was created a baronet. The 3rd baronet married, in 1730, Helen Houston, heiress ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Inverkip, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora

Monastery of São Vicente de Fora (Monastery of St. Vincent Outside the Walls) is a 17th-century church and monastery in the city of Lisbon. It is one of the most important monasteries and mannerist buildings in the country. The monastery also contains the royal pantheon of the Braganza monarchs of Portugal.

The original Monastery of São Vicente de Fora was founded around 1147 by the first Portuguese King, Afonso Henriques, for the Augustinian Order. The Monastery, built in Romanesque style outside the city walls, was one of the most important monastic foundations in mediaeval Portugal. It is dedicated to Saint Vincent of Saragossa, patron saint of Lisbon, whose relics were brought from the Algarve to Lisbon in the 12th century.

The present buildings are the result of a reconstruction ordered by King Philip II of Spain, who had become King of Portugal (as Philip I) after a succession crisis in 1580. The church of the monastery was built between 1582 and 1629, while other monastery buildings were finished only in the 18th century. The author of the design of the church is thought to be the Italian Jesuit Filippo Terzi and/or the Spaniard Juan de Herrera. The plans were followed and modified by Leonardo Turriano, Baltazar Álvares, Pedro Nunes Tinoco and João Nunes Tinoco.

The church of the Monastery has a majestic, austere façade that follows the later Renaissance style known as Mannerism. The façade, attributed to Baltazar Álvares, has several niches with statues of saints and is flanked by two towers (a model that would become widespread in Portugal). The lower part of the façade has three arches that lead to the galilee (entrance hall). The floorplan of the church reveals a Latin cross building with a one-aisled nave with lateral chapels. The church is covered by barrel vaulting and has a huge dome over the crossing. The general design of the church interior follows that of the prototypic church of Il Gesù, in Rome.

The beautiful main altarpiece is a Baroque work of the 18th century by one of the best Portuguese sculptors, Joaquim Machado de Castro. The altarpiece has the shape of a baldachin and is decorated with a large number of statues. The church also boasts several fine altarpieces in the lateral chapels.

The Monastery buildings are reached through a magnificent baroque portal, located beside the church façade. Inside, the entrance is decorated with blue-white 18th century tiles that tell the history of the Monastery, including scenes of the Siege of Lisbon in 1147. The ceiling of the room has an illusionistic painting executed in 1710 by the Italian Vincenzo Baccarelli. The sacristy of the Monastery is exuberantly decorated with polychromed marble and painting. The cloisters are also notable for the 18th century tiles that recount fables of La Fontaine, among other themes.

In 1834, after the religious orders were dissolved in Portugal, the monastery was transformed into a palace for the archbishops of Lisbon. Some decades later, King Ferdinand II transformed the monks' old refectory into a pantheon for the kings of the House of Braganza. Their tombs were transferred from the main chapel to this room.