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Scotland is one of the world’s favorite travel destinations. It’s home to plenty of beautiful lakes, hills and many historic churches. Scotland has a great sporting culture, with plenty of soccer and football teams. This country is also regarded as the birthplace of golf, and it’s dotted with plenty of courses. There are allegedly cryptids like Nessie the Loch Ness Monster there, too. But one of the most popular reasons to visit Scotland is surely to see the remarkable assortment of castles there.


Castles are plentiful in Scotland in part because of the country’s turbulent history. Some of them date to the medieval period, like Stirling Castle. They were important centers for noble families and also had a military purpose. Castles like this were the most important fortifications of their era in Scotland. Later castles, like Balmoral, were built more for show. The current castle there was built in the 1850s for Queen Victoria, although the land has been the site of a castle since the 1300s. Today, it remains a favorite retreat for Queen Elizabeth II and her family.


There are also castles that sit close to the sea, like Dunnottar. Historically this ruined castle had a very important role in national defense. It’s also the place where Scotland’s crown jewels were kept hidden from Oliver Cromwell. Dunnottar Castle is perched atop a cliff overlooking the North Sea. It was an important strategic building from the Middle Ages onward, until the Jacobite Rebellions of the 1600s and 1700s. Today, the castle and fortress there are just ruins, but they’re still incredibly popular with both locals and tourists. Dunnottar is one of the most dramatic castles in Scotland, and it photographs very well. However, the location is somewhat isolated.


Unlike Dunnottar, Edinburgh Castle sits above the capital city of Scotland. It’s one of the most famous and accessible castles in Scotland. Its proximity to the capital city also means that it’s easy to visit this site while staying there. A trip to Edinburgh Castle provides some relief from the hustle and bustle of life in the big city. Edinburgh Castle is always a great side-trip for people who are in the city for other reasons, like the Fringe Festival and other big events.


When planning your vacation to Scotland, be sure to put these castles on your agenda. They provide a deep look into Scotland’s past as well as their military and engineering achievements. Even if you only visit one castle, it will be worth the trip!