Medieval castles in Scotland

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

Almond Castle

Almond Castle is a ruined L-plan castle dating from the 15th century. The estate originally belonged to the Crawford family, and they built the castle in about 1470. In about 1540 it passed by marriage to the Livingstones, who built an extension at the south west. They also built an extension along the south east wall in 1586. When James Livingstone was created Baron Livingstone of Almond in 1633 the castle’s name was c ...
Founded: c. 1470 | Location: Linlithgow, United Kingdom

Borthwick Castle

Borthwick Castle is one of the largest and best-preserved surviving medieval Scottish fortifications. The castle was built at the site of an earlier structure, and it remains the Borthwick family ancestral seat. Sir William Borthwick, later the 1st Lord, obtained from King James I on 2 June 1430 a licence to erect a castle or fortalice. It was originally a stone enclosure fortress centring on an unusually tall tower house ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Gorebridge, 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

Ardross Castle

The ruins of Ardross Castle, dating back to at least the 15th century, occupy a fine defensive coastal position standing high on sandstone cliffs overlooking a sandy beach below. In 1068 a Northumbrian knight named Merleswain came to Scotland, and was granted lands in Fife. The first mention of Ardross seems to occur in the mid-12th century. It is believed that a castle was first built on this spot by Sir William Dishin ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Fife, United Kingdom

Wemyss Castle

Wemyss Castle is situated on the sea cliffs between the villages of East Wemyss and West Wemyss. Accounts date the construction of the castle to 1421 when Sir John Wemyss decided to build a fortified castle to replace one destroyed by the Duke of Rothesay at Kilconquhar in 1402. The castle is thus the ancient seat of the Earls of Wemyss and their families. Historically, the castle is perhaps best known as the location whe ...
Founded: c. 1421 | Location: East Wemyss, United Kingdom

Balgonie Castle

Balgonie Castle keep dates from the 14th century, and the remaining structures were added piecemeal until the 18th century. The keep has been recently restored, although other parts of the castle are roofless ruins. Balgonie, excepting the tower which is used for residential purposes, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The lands of Balgonie were held by the Sibbalds from at least 1246. Probably in the 1360s, the Sibbalds b ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Glenrothes, United Kingdom

Glengarnock Castle

Glengarnock Castle is one of the ancient ruined fortifications of Ayrshire. Its keep is located on a remote rocky promontory overlooking the River Garnock about 2 miles north of the town of Kilbirnie in North Ayrshire. There is no clear account of when this was erected or by whom, but it may have been built by the Cunningham (or Cunninghame) family or by the Riddels who preceded them.  In the 12th and 13th centuries, th ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Kilbirnie, United Kingdom

Ballinbreich Castle

Ballinbreich Castle is a ruined tower house castle in Fife. The castle was built in the 14th century by Clan Leslie, and subsequently rebuilt several times. There may have been an outer curtain-wall though this no longer survives. Much of the present structure is of 16th-century date. It is a three-storey L-plan castle and overlooks the Firth of Tay. Early maps of the castle by Timothy Pont and John Adair at the National ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Cupar, 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

Dundas Castle

Dundas Castle is a 15th-century castle, with substantial 19th-century additions by William Burn, in the Dalmeny parish of West Lothian. The home of the Dundas family since the Middle Ages, it was sold in the late 19th century and is currently the residence of politician and businessman Sir Jack Stewart-Clark. In the 11th century, the lands of Dundas, along with other land in Lothian, were granted by King Malcolm Canmore ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Dalmeny, United Kingdom

Aros Castle Ruins

Aros castle was probably built by one of the MacDougall Lords of Lorn in the 13th century and was once the major stronghold of the Lords of the Isles. It first comes on record in the later 14th century when it was in the possession of the Lords of the Isles. It appears to have been garrisoned by Argyll’s troops in 1690, though it was described two years previously as ‘ruinous, old, useless and never of any Strength’ ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Isle of Mull, United Kingdom

Dun Ara

Dun Ara was a stronghold of the MacKinnon clan who held the land here from 1354 onwards. The castle was still in use until the 17th century when it was abandoned. The castle was probably built on the site of a previous Dun or fort. The castle had a surrounding wall protecting a central keep or building on the main outcrop of rock. The location was valuable as it protected a harbour of boat landing as well. The castle was ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Isle of Mull, United Kingdom

Ardstinchar Castle Ruins

Ardstinchar Castle is a late medieval castle in the west coast of Ayrshire at the mouth of the River Stinchar. Only remnants of the castle keep remain to this day. Ardstinchar Castle was built by Hugh Kennedy of Ardstinchar, originally a Dominican friar who left his monastery to travel to France, where he took part in the Hundred Years" War as a mercenary and led troops for Joan of Arc at the Siege of Orléans (1428 ...
Founded: c. 1450 | Location: Ballantrae, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

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Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.