Medieval castles in Scotland

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe

Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is considered to be one of the earliest seats of Clan Sinclair. It was built by William Sinclair, the 2nd Earl of Caithness, probably sometime between 1476 and 1496, but before his death at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. In 1577, George Sinclair, the 4th Earl of Caithness imprisoned his own son John, Master of Caithness in Castle Sinclair Girnigoe, on suspicion of rebelling against his rule. He w ...
Founded: 1476-1496 | Location: Caithness, United Kingdom

Strome Castle Ruins

Strome Castle was originally built by the Macdonald Earls of Ross. Later in 1472 the castle was owned by the Clan MacDonald of Lochalsh and Alan MacDonald Dubh, 12th Chief of the Clan Cameron was constable on behalf of the MacDonalds of Lochalsh. In 1539 King James V of Scotland granted the castle to the Clan MacDonnell of Glengarry and Hector Munro, chief of the Clan Munro was constable of the castle for the MacDonalds o ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Lochcarron, United Kingdom

Red Castle

The earliest structure on the site of Red Castle was built for King William the Lion in the late twelfth century to repel Viking invasions to Lunan Bay. Evidence shows, however, that William took up residence there on several occasions whilst on hunting expeditions. In 1194, William conferred the castle, and land surrounding the village of Inverkeilor, to Walter de Berkeley, the Great Chamberlain. On his death, his lands ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Montrose, United Kingdom

Cortachy Castle

Cortachy Castle is a castellated mansion House at Cortachy, some four miles north of Kirriemuir. The present building dates from the 15th century, preceded by an earlier structure that was owned by the Earls of Strathearn. It was acquired by the Ogilvies in 1473 and substantively modified in the 17th and 19th centuries. In 1820 it was 'romanticised', as was the fashion of the day, by the addition of crenellatio ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Cortachy, United Kingdom

Kinnaird Castle

Kinnaird castle has been home to the Carnegie family, the Earls of Southesk, for more than 600 years. In 1400 Duthac Carnegie married Mariota of Kinnaird and the Castle dates from that time. Early records were lost in 1452 when the castle was burnt down after the battle of Brechin. The Carnegies were, for once, on the winning side supporting the King but unfortunately the Earl of Crawford, who was on the losing side, took ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Brechin, United Kingdom

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 also ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Isle of Skye, United Kingdom

Drumin Castle

Drumin Castle is a ruined tower house near Glenlivet, Moray. The lands were granted by King Robert II to his son Alexander Stewart in the early 1370s. It passed from the Stewart family to the Gordon family in 1490. The castle was abandoned in the 18th century and fell into disrepair.
Founded: 14th century | Location: Ballindalloch, 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

Dunnideer Castle Ruins

Dunnideer Castle, now ruined, was a tower house located near Insch, Aberdeenshire. It was built c. 1260 partially from the remains of an existing vitrified hill fort in the same location. It consisted of a single rectangular tower of 15m by 12.5m with walls 1.9m thick. Evidence suggests that a first-floor hall existed. Evidence shows it had several floors. The tower house is built within an older prehistoric vitri ...
Founded: c. 1260 | Location: Insch, United Kingdom

Castle Roy

Castle Roy is one of the oldest castles of its type in Scotland unique in that it is largely unaltered, whilst most other castles have been extensively modified over the centuries. The castle is thought to have been built at some point in the early 13th century, replacing an earlier wooden motte and bailey keep of Norman influenced design. In accordance with its early design it is one of Scotland’s simplest forts co ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Caisteal Maol

Caisteal Maol (Castle Moil) was an ancient seat of the Mackinnon clan. It was a fortress commanding the strait of Kyle Akin between Skye and the mainland, through which all ships had to pass or else attempt the stormy passage of The Minch. The present building dates back to the 15th century, but is traditionally reputed to be of much earlier origin. According to that tradition, Alpín mac Echdach"s great-grandson F ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Isle of Skye, United Kingdom

Ardtornish Castle Ruins

Ardtornish Castle stands at the seaward end of a promontory which extends in a southerly direction into the Sound of Mull, approximately a mile south-east of the village of Lochaline, Highland. The castle was one of the principal seats of the high chiefs of Clan Donald from the early 14th to late 15th century. It was at Ardtornish Castle that John of Islay, Lord of the Isles, 6th chief of Clan Donald died in the 1380s an ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Morvern, United Kingdom

Dunyvaig Castle Ruins

Dunyvaig Castle was built on top of an ancient fort or dun in the 12th century. Forfeited in 1493, the castle passed to the MacIans of Ardnamurchan. Afterwards the castle was leased to the MacDonalds, then the Campbells and back to the MacDonalds. In the 17th century Dunyvaig was conquered several times by the English and Scottish armies. The castle was seized in 1647 by the Covenanters and passed into the hands of the C ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Islay, 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

Moy Castle

Moy Castle was built in the 15th century by Hector Reaganach Maclean, 1st Laird of Lochbuie. It has a three level tower with a garret. The ground floor contains a well. It was captured from the Macleans of Lochbuie by Clan Campbell, but later returned to the Maclaines. The castle was captured from the MacLaines and garrisoned by Campbell followers but later returned to the MacLaines. It was abandoned as a residence in 175 ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Isle of Mull, United Kingdom

Castle Varrich Ruins

Castle Varrich precise origins and age are unknown. The ancient seat of the chief of the Clan Mackay was at Castle Varrich, thought to be over one thousand years old, there are believed to be caves under the castle which were once inhabited by the Mackays. It is believed to be possible that the Mackays built their castle on the site in the 14th century, on top of an existing old Norse fort. The walls are generally 1.4m t ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Tongue, United Kingdom

Auchindoun Castle

While there is evidence of prehistoric or Pictish earthworks in the grounds of the Auchindoun Castle, the remains most visible today are of the castle constructed in the mid-15th century. This building is sometimes said to be the work of Robert Cochrane, a favourite of James III. It passed to the Clan Ogilvy in 1489 and from them to the Clan Gordon in 1535. The castle was damaged by the Clan MacKintosh in 1592 in retal ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Dufftown, United Kingdom

Borve Castle Ruins

Borve Castle, also known as Castle Wearie, is a ruined 14th century tower house. MacGibbon and Ross attributed the building of the tower to Amie mac Ruari, wife of John of Islay, and dated it to between 1344 and 1363. It was occupied by the Macdonalds of Benbecula until the early 17th century. The ruined tower measures 18 metres by 11 metres, and 9 metres high. The walls are up to 2.7 metres thick. The entrance, in the s ...
Founded: 1344-1363 | Location: Outer Hebrides, United Kingdom

Fincharn Castle

Fincharn Castle was built in 1240 by the Lord of Glassary, but the present ruin must represent a later castle. It is said to have belonged to the MacMartins or to the MacIains.
Founded: 13th century | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Mingarry Castle Ruins

Mingarry Castle was considered a strategically important site in terms of communication with overseas areas and as an entranceway to the Sound of Mull. Originally built in the 13th century for the Clan MacDonald of Ardnamurchan, the castle has had many different occupants. King James IV of Scotland used it as a stronghold for fighting off Clan Donald in the late 15th century. In 1515 the castle was besieged by the Clan Ma ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

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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 dominates the rocky islet, and in its shadow a crew house for his personal galley and crew. The sea coursed through Macneil veins, and a descendant, Ruari ‘the Turbulent’, was arrested for piracy of an English ship during King James VI’s reign in the later 16th century.

Heavy debts eventually forced the Macneil chiefs to sell Barra in 1838. However, a descendant, Robert Lister Macneil, the 45th Chief, repurchased the estate in 1937, and set about restoring his ancestral seat. It passed into Historic Scotland’s care in 2000.

The castle dates essentially from the 15th century. It takes the form of a three-storey tower house. This formed the residence of the clan chief. An associated curtain wall fringed the small rock on which the castle stood, and enclosed a small courtyard in which there are ancillary buildings. These comprised a feasting hall, a chapel, a tanist’s house and a watchman’s house. Most were restored in the 20th century, the tanist’s house serving as the family home of the Macneils. A well near the postern gate is fed with fresh water from an underground seam. Outside the curtain wall, beside the original landing-place, are the foundations of the crew house, where the sailors manning their chief’s galley had their quarters.