Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Best Castles in Scotland

Doug and I might be going to Scotland next year. I'm very excited, even as I cringe at the exchange rate. I would like to visit some castles while we are there, but I have to decide which ones. What are the best castles in Scotland? Personal opinions are so subjective, but other than Edinburgh and Stirling, here are some of the castles that intrigue me:

balvaird castle, scotlandBalvaird Castle by pinkyogamuffin on Flickr

1. Balvaird Castle- (near Perth)
The castle was built in 1500 by Sir Andrew Murray. You can walk the fields around the castle and visit the ruins in the courtyard anytime. The tower house is open on a limited basis, though, so you need to call ahead to plan your visit.

bothwell castle, scotlandBothwell Castle by dobienet on Flickr

2. Bothwell Castle- (near Glasgow)
Started in the 13th century by Walter of Moray but finished by the Earls of Douglas around 1400, Bothwell has a history of being captured by the English only to be retaken by the Scottish. Another nearby castle to visit is Craignethan.

caerlaverock castle, scotlandCaerlaverock Castle by David A G Wilson on Flickr

3. Caerlaverock Castle- (near Dumfries)
Originally built in the 13th century, what you see today was mostly built in the 15th century. The ruins are what was left after an army of Covenanters attacked the castle in 1640.

dirleton castle, scotlandDirleton Castle by Laura A on Flickr

4. Dirleton Castle- (near Edinburgh)
Originally built in the late 1200's by John De Vaux, rebuilt in the 1300's by the Halyburton family and added to in the 1500's by the Ruthven family. The castle was attacked by Oliver Cromwell in 1651 and left in ruins. Tantallon Castle is also nearby.

doune castle, scotlandDoune Castle by Ben Shepherd on Flickr

5. Doune Castle- (near Stirling)
This 14th century castle is well known as a movie location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. During the 15th century, the castle became a royal retreat under King James I. If you go, be sure to borrow coconut shells from the castle's reception desk.

*Thank you to Marilyn Terrell from Intelligent Travel for sharing a tip about Monty Python Day at Doune Castle.

dunnottar castle, scotlandDunnottar Castle by pinkygreene on Flickr

6. Dunnottar Castle- (near Aberdeen)
In 1652, the castle protected the Scottish Crown Jewels and personal papers of the King. When the castle was surrendered to Cromwell's army after an eight month siege, the jewels and papers were missing, having been smuggled out and hidden under the floor of a nearby church until the restoration of the monarchy.

elcho castle, scotlandElcho Castle from Europe A La Carte Blog

7. Elcho Castle- (near Perth)
Built around 1570, this is the newest castle on my list. The land itself has been owned by the Wemyss family since 1468 and is now looked after by Historic Scotland. The design of the castle includes 3 spiral staircases used to access individual chambers. The ruins are well enough preserved that you can visualize what it must have looked like while it was still in use.
Closed November 1-April 1.
Huntingtower and Lochleven Castles are also nearby. Lochleven is the castle where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned and forced to abdicate.

Most of my information came from two great resources: Historic Scotland and Undiscovered Scotland. If you have any suggestions of must see castles in Scotland, please add them to the comments section.

Related post: Friday Photo Post: Castles of Scotland