Medieval castles in Scotland

Dunollie Castle Ruins

Dunollie Castle is a small ruined castle located on a hill north of the town of Oban. The castle is open to the public as part of the Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds. There was a fortification on this high promontory in the Early Middle Ages, when Dunollie was the royal centre of the Cenél Loairn within the kingdom of Dál Riata. The Irish annals record that 'Dun Ollaigh' was attacked or burned ...
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Duffus Castle

Duffus Castle, near Elgin, was a motte-and-bailey castle and was in use from c.1140 to 1705. During its occupation it underwent many alterations. Freskin (died before 1171) was a Flemish nobleman who settled in Scotland during the reign of King David I, becoming the progenitor of the Murray and Sutherland families, and possibly others. He built the great earthwork and timber motte-and-bailey castle in c. 1140 on boggy gr ...
Founded: c. 1140 | Location: Elgin, United Kingdom

Mugdock Castle

The lands of Mugdock were a property of the Grahams from the mid-13th century, when David de Graham of Dundaff acquired them from the Earl of Lennox. It is possible that the castle was built by his descendant, Sir David de Graham (d. 1376), or by his son in 1372. In 1458, the lands were erected into the Barony of Mugdock. Later, in 1505, the Grahams were created Earls of Montrose. The original castle may have been shield ...
Founded: c. 1372 | Location: Strathblane, United Kingdom

Huntingtower Castle

Huntingtower Castle was built in stages from the 15th century by the Clan Ruthven family. It was known for several hundred years as the "House of Ruthven", until the family was forfeited for the Gowrie Conspiracy in 1600 and the Ruthven name was suppressed by Act of Parliament. In the summer of 1582, the castle was occupied by the 4th Lord Ruthven, who was also the 1st Earl of Gowrie, and his family. Gowrie was ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Ruthvenfield, United Kingdom

Kisimul Castle

Dating from the 15th century, Kisimul is the only significant surviving medieval castle in the Outer Hebrides. It was the residence of the chief of the Macneils of Barra, who claimed descent from the legendary Niall of the Nine Hostages. Tradition tells of the Macneils settling in Barra in the 11th century, but it was only in 1427 that Gilleonan Macneil comes on record as the first lord. He probably built the castle that ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Outer Hebrides, United Kingdom

Ravenscraig Castle

The construction of Ravenscraig Castle by the mason Henry Merlion and the master carpenter Friar Andres Lesouris was ordered by King James II (reigned 1437-1460) as a home for his wife, Mary of Guelders. The castle is considered one of the first - perhaps the very first - in Scotland to be built to withstand cannon fire and provide for artillery defence. The king was involved with the planning but, ironically, was killed ...
Founded: c. 1460 | Location: Kirkcaldy, United Kingdom

Clackmannan Tower

Clackmannan Tower is a five-storey tower house, situated at the summit of King"s Seat Hill in Clackmannan. It dates back to at least the 14th century, when it was inhabited by King David II of Scotland, and David is recorded as selling it to his cousin Robert Bruce in 1359. Clackmannan Tower is located on King"s Seat Hill, on the western edge of the town of Clackmannan in the Scottish county of Clackmannanshire ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Clackmannan, 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

Tarbert Castle Ruins

Tarbert Castle was a strategic royal stronghold during the Middle Ages and one of three castles at Tarbert. The castle overlooks the harbour and although pre-14th century in construction, the tower dates back to 1494 and the visit of James IV to the Western Highlands. In 712, Tarbert was burned by King Selbach mac Ferchair of Cenél Loairn and of Dál Riata and in 731 by his son, Dúngal mac Selbaig. K ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Kildrummy Castle

The ruined Kildrummy Castle is one of the most extensive castles dating from the 13th century to survive in eastern Scotland, and was the seat of the Earls of Mar. It is owned today by Historic Scotland and open to the public. The castle was probably built in the mid-13th century under Gilbert de Moravia. It has been posited that siting of Kildrummy Castle was influenced by the location of the Grampian Mounth trackwa ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Kildrummy, United Kingdom

Tioram Castle Ruins

Castle Tioram ruins sits on the tidal island Eilean Tioram in Loch Moidart, Lochaber. The castle is the traditional seat of Clan MacDonald of Clan Ranald, a branch of Clan Donald. It was seized by Government forces around 1692 when Clan Chief Allan of Clanranald joined the Jacobite Court in France, despite having sworn allegiance to the British Crown. A small garrison was stationed in the castle until the Jacobite Uprisin ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Alloa Tower

Alloa Tower is an early 14th century tower house that served as the medieval residence of the Erskine family, later Earls of Mar. Retaining its original timber roof and battlements, the tower is one of the earliest, and largest, of Scottish tower houses, with immensely thick walls. It was originally built as part of a line of fortifications defending the north shore of the Firth of Forth. Several 19th century works, incl ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Alloa, 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

Spynie Castle

Spynie Castle was the fortified seat of the Bishops of Moray for about 500. The founding of the palace dates back to the late 12th Century. It is situated about 500m from the location of the first officially settled Cathedral Church of the Diocese of Moray, in present-day Spynie Churchyard. The first castle was a wooden structure built in the late 12th century. The excavated evidence suggests that the buildings were surr ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Elgin, United Kingdom

Dunadd Hill Fort

Dunadd is an Iron Age and later hillfort near Kilmartin in Argyll and Bute. Originally occupied in the Iron Age, the site later became a seat of the kings of Dál Riata. It is known for its unique stone carvings below the upper enclosure, including a footprint and basin thought to have formed part of Dál Riata's coronation ritual. On the same flat outcrop of rock is an incised boar in Pictish style, and an inscription in ...
Founded: 8th century AD | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Newark Castle

Newark Castle is a ruin located just west of St Monans, on the east coast of Fife. The building stands in a dramatic location, overlooking the North Sea. The upper storeys are ruinous, but vaulted cellars survive, hidden from view. Building on the site probably dates back to the 13th century, at which time the Scottish king Alexander III (1241–1286) spent some of his childhood there. The current building was begun i ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: St Monans, United Kingdom

Megginch Castle

Megginch Castle is a 15th-century castle in Perth and Kinross. It was the family home of Cherry Drummond, 16th Baroness Strange. Megginch Castle is a private family home, which is only open for special events. The gardens are home to trees such as ancient yews, there is a topiary, and in the spring there is an extensive display of daffodils. The orchard contains two National Plant Collections of Scottish apples, and pears ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Errol, United Kingdom

Merchiston Tower

Merchiston Tower was probably built by Alexander Napier, the second Laird of Merchiston around 1454. It serves as the seat for Clan Napier. It is perhaps most notable for being the home of John Napier, the 8th Laird of Merchiston, inventor of logarithms who was born there in 1550. Merchiston was probably built as a country house, but its strategic position and the turbulent political situation required it to be heavily f ...
Founded: c. 1454 | Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom

Macduff's Castle

MacDuff"s Castle ruins is associated with the MacDuff Earls of Fife, the most powerful family in Fife in the Middle Ages. It is thought that a castle may have been built here by the MacDuff Mormaers, or Earls, of Fife in the 11th century, at the time of King Macbeth of Scotland (d. 1057). The Wemyss family, descendants of the MacDuffs, owned the property from the 14th century, and built the earliest part of the pres ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: East Wemyss, United Kingdom

Culcreuch Castle

Culcreuch Castle was built in 1296 by Maurice Galbraith. It was the clan seat of Clan Galbraith from 1320 to 1624, when it was sold to a cousin, Alexander Seton of Gargunnock, to settle a financial debt. In 1632, it was purchased by Robert Napier, a younger son of John Napier, the 8th Laird of Merchiston. The Napier family held the estate for five generations. The castle was used to garrison Oliver Cromwell’s tr ...
Founded: 1296 | Location: Fintry, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

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 fascinating reminders of the castle’s days as a rural retreat on the edge of Scotland’s capital city.

At the core lies the original, late-14th-century tower house, among the first of this form of castle built in Scotland. It stands 17m high to the battlements, has walls almost 3m thick, and holds a warren of rooms, including a fine great hall on the first floor.

‘Queen Mary’s Room’, also on the first floor, is where Mary is said to have slept when staying at Craigmillar. However, it is more likely she occupied a multi-roomed apartment elsewhere in the courtyard, probably in the east range.

Sir Simon Preston was a loyal supporter of Queen Mary, whom she appointed as Provost of Edinburgh. In this capacity, he was her host for her first night as a prisoner, at his townhouse in the High Street, on 15 June 1567. She was taken to Lochleven Castle the following day.

The west range was rebuilt after 1660 as a family residence for the Gilmour family.

The 15th-century courtyard wall is well preserved, complete with gunholes shaped like inverted keyholes. Ancillary buildings lie within it, including a private family chapel.