As I have not been to all of the stately homes and castles in Scotland yet (or, at least, I can’t remember some of the places that I have apparently been to – supposedly, I went to heaps as a kid!), I’ve decided to make a list of the castles and stately homes in Scotland that I have been to.
Here’s my Top 15 favourite castles and grand homes in Scotland! (All photos are my own)
- Old Rathen Cemetery
Technically, not a castle or a grand house but I love it here, with all of its old graves and the old, ruined church. As it’s a public cemetery, it’s free to enter. Try and find Edvard Grieg’s (yes, that Edvard Grieg) grandparents’ grave.
- Deer Abbey
Now owned by Historic Scotland, Deer Abbey is free to enter and is the ruins of a monastery that was founded in the 13th century. It is an interesting place to see, and some of the intricate stonework has been found and preserved.
- Kinnaird Head Lighthouse
Again, this ‘castle’ is owned by Historic Scotland, although you have to pay a small fee to enter it. It used to be a castle until the 18th century, when it was converted into a lighthouse. This lighthouse is no longer in use, and the new one is built literally right next to it. The lighthouse itself is very interesting, and if you go on the tour you will be told about a couple of ‘ghosts’, one of which is the ghost of an old lighthouse keeper who used to live in the lighthouse; the other ghost is said to be the daughter of a member of the Fraser family who, after her suitor had been imprisoned below the winetower and drowned, threw herself onto the rocks below. There’s red paint where she supposedly died. Once a year, the winetower is open to the public, which I would highly recommend seeing.
- Scone Palace
Scone Palace is not owned by either the National Trust or Historic Scotland and is a gorgeous castle to look at. It is also home to the infamous ‘Stone of Scone’ where multiple Kings of Scotland were crowned. The Stone of Scone was also used for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth the Second! Since the family who own the castle live there, you can only see about half a dozen of the rooms, which, having paid to visit, would be disappointing if not for the grounds. The grounds are huge and have their own cemetery and maze to get lost in.
- Edinburgh Castle
Everyone knows about Edinburgh Castle. Owned by Historic Scotland, you have to pay a small fare to enter but it’s worth it. The castle is not so much a castle anymore, as a fortress and is a recognisable castle all over the world. It’s more of a military museum, with only a small section relating to royalty, but it is really interesting to see the ‘dungeons’ and the old military prison. I happened to be visiting when the 1 o’clock cannon went off, which scared the crap out of me!
- St Giles’ Cathedral
This is technically not a castle or stately home either but is so gorgeous I couldn’t leave it off of my list. It’s not owned by Historic Scotland or the National Trust and is completely free to enter. I love the ceiling and all the gothicy architecture – which is probably why I love most cathedrals!
- Haddo House
Haddo House was built in the 18th century and is owned by the National Trust, which means you have to pay to enter. It’s a bit different from the other stately homes that I’ve been to, in that it’s a guided tour, instead of you being able to walk about by yourself. Queen Victoria visited here and planted one of the Wellingtonia that you can see in the gardens (you can’t miss it – it’s huge!). If you aren’t in the mood for going into the house itself, the grounds are free to wander through.
- Delgatie Castle
The castle that exists now was built in the 16th century, but there has been some form of Delgatie Castle in that spot since the early 11th century. Although it’s not owned by either the National Trust or Historic Scotland, you have to pay to enter. Be prepared for stairs! This castle is in the style of a tower house, so there aren’t that many rooms to a floor, but there are lots of floors to make up for it!
- Knowsie House
This isn’t on any lists of places to visit in Scotland but I love visiting it (and with it being literally a five minute walk from my house, I go there often!) I don’t know much about this house (if anyone does, I would really appreciate some more info 🙂 ). The only thing I really know about it is that it was occupied until at least 1932, so it hasn’t been ruins for that long a length of time. I love the location in the middle of the woods as well – it feels like a fairytale!
- Fyvie Castle
Owned by the National Trust, Fyvie Castle is exactly the sort of castle that you picture when you think of Scottish Castles. Like all good Scottish Castles, Fyvie Castle has a resident ghost. Apparently, back in the early 20th century, when renovations were being carried out, a skeleton was found in a bedroom wall and buried in the local cemetery. This caused all sorts of strange phenomena to happen in the castle. The Laird of the castle then panicked and had the skeleton replaced behind the bedroom wall, which caused the phenomena to stop. I’ve no idea which bedroom the skeleton is behind but I made sure to have a close look when I was there! (The gardens of the castle are amazing and should also be visited – they’re free!!)
- Tolquhon Castle
Pronounced ‘Toh-hon’, Tolquhon Castle is an excellently preserved ruined castle owned by Historic Scotland. The original part of the castle (of which one wall now remains) was built in the early 15th century, with the rest of the castle seen today built in the 16th century. The castle wasn’t occupied for long, before being abandoned due to debts in the early 18th century. The castle then fell into ruins before being bought and preserved by Historic Scotland. There’s original 16th century tile-work, which is incredible, and I love the bee-boles around the outside of the castle, where the owners would have kept beehives.
- Huntly Castle
Also owned by Historic Scotland (most of the castles in Scotland are!), the original Huntly Castle was built around the 12th century but there are no ruins of that, except a mound where the motte would have sat. Another castle was built in the 14th century before being burned to the ground, and the castle we see today was built at the end of the 15th century. The house was used as headquarters for the Jacobite Army in the 17th century. In the 18th century, the castle was decaying and people building their houses stole stones from the castle for their own houses. This is unlike other ruins that I’ve seen, as there are still inscriptions on the walls, and a couple of really fancy fireplaces are still there. I found out from the man in the shop that those fireplaces survived because the stones on those floors disappeared first, so people were unable to find a way to get to the fireplaces. Lucky for us!!
- (New) Slains Castle
Technically the second Slains Castle (the old one is a bit further up the road and all that remains is one wall). There originally used to be an entire garden and tennis court, but erosion has caused these to gradually fall into the sea. New Slains Castle (the inspiration for Dracula!!) is free to visit but, technically, you’re not actually allowed into the castle. A couple of years ago, a teenager fell from the cliffs and a fence was put up to deter people from visiting. However, people still climb the fence to visit the castle. If you go, be very careful to stay away from the edge!!
- Duff House
My favourite stately home ever. This is owned by Historic Scotland and you have to pay to visit but I would heartily recommend visiting. It’s a Georgian estate house and, probably, the best one in the entirety of the UK. The rooms are amazing, and the art inside is incredible. You’re able to walk freely through the house and can see almost every single room. The grounds are also impressive and there are an ice house and a mausoleum in the forest. Every few years or so, the mausoleum is open to the public for a weekend. I’m never sure which year it’s going to be, so I haven’t actually been inside the mausoleum (yet!) but I want to!
- Dunnottar Castle
Obviously this is in first place! Dunnottar Castle is the very picture of a fairytale castle. The location is incredible, and, if you’re up for climbing a couple hundred stairs, I would definitely recommend visiting. Even though it’s ruins, the castle is incredibly well preserved. In the 17th century the Scottish Crown jewels were kept here (because, duh. It’s surrounded by cliffs) to stop Oliver Cromwell getting to them. The castle was eventually declared forfeit to the crown in the early 18th century, before being bought and dismantled for building work by the York Buildings Company (could you imagine what it would look like if it hadn’t been dismantled? Wow). In the early 20th century it was sold to Historic Scotland and us lucky people can visit and be in awe of its splendour. Seriously, it’s my favourite castle ever and I don’t think any will top it. Visit it if you get a chance!!