Medieval castles in Scotland

Drum Castle

Drum Castle was for centuries the seat of Clan Irvine. The original 13th-century tower of Drum Castle has been suggested as the work of medieval architect Richard Cementarius, who built the Bridge of Don in Old Aberdeen. It is believed to be one of the three oldest tower houses in Scotland (and notably unaltered). A large wing was added in 1619 by the 9th laird, and further alterations were made during the Victor ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Drumoak, United Kingdom

Burleigh Castle

The remains of Burleigh Castle are located just outside the village of Milnathort. It now sits beside the A911 road, opposite a 19th-century steading, recently adapted into housing. The lands of Burleigh were held by the Balfours from 1456, when they were granted by James II to John Balfour of Balgarvie, and a tower house was erected in the late 15th or early 16th century. Sir James Balfour of Pittendreich extended the c ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Milnathort, 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

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

Ardrossan Castle

Ardrossan Castle is situated on the west coast of Scotland in the town of Ardrossan. The castle, defended by a moat, stands on a ridge above the town. There is a keep dating from the fifteenth century, and a vaulted range containing a kitchen and cellars. In a deep passageway there is a well. Part of the keep remains up to the corbels of the parapet, but it is in ruins. The original castle, owned by Clan Barclay, was part ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Ardrossan, 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

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre

Built around AD 90 to entertain the legionaries stationed at the fort of Caerleon (Isca), the impressive amphitheatre was the Roman equivalent of today’s multiplex cinema. Wooden benches provided seating for up to 6,000 spectators, who would gather to watch bloodthirsty displays featuring gladiatorial combat and exotic wild animals.

Long after the Romans left, the amphitheatre took on a new life in Arthurian legend. Geoffrey of Monmouth, the somewhat imaginative 12th-century scholar, wrote in his History of the Kings of Britain that Arthur was crowned in Caerleon and that the ruined amphitheatre was actually the remains of King Arthur’s Round Table.

Today it is the most complete Roman amphitheatre in Britain.