9 Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland Worth Visiting

Are you looking for some beautiful palaces and castles in Scotland to visit? Let me share with you some of the best palaces and castles in Scotland that you can include in your UK itinerary. I have been to Scotland a few times, I have seen the serene nature of the Scottish Highlands and the great history and culture of Scottish cities like Edinburgh, Inverness and Glasgow.

Scotland is a beautiful country to travel through, and there is so much to see and do there that you will want to stay longer. One of the things that makes Scotland so interesting is that you are never more than a short distance from a castle. 

Scotland’s beautiful lochs and tall mountains are home to some of the most famous castles in the world. Many of these castles can also be found all over the country.

At one time, there may have been as many as 3,000 castles in Scotland. That’s almost one castle for every 100 square miles. Some castles have places to stay for the night and some beautiful manor houses let guests stay in one of their well-kept rooms for a memorable experience. What’s more interesting is that some even let people camp on their beautiful grounds.

It was hard for most travelers to choose just 10 of the 20 finalists as their favorites. But these are the beautiful palaces and castles in Scotland that blow their minds, so take a look at them.

Read more:
Best Day Trips From Glasgow, Scotland
Best Day Trips From Edinburgh (Scotland)

Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland Worth Visiting

1. Balmoral Castle and Estate

If you have any interest in the British royal family or are a fan of the popular television series The Crown, then you probably already know about Balmoral Castle. Queen Victoria referred to Balmoral as her “dear paradise in the Highlands,” and the property continues to serve as the private residence of the Royal Family to this day.

Balmoral Castle and Estate
Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland: Visit Balmoral Castle and Estate

Although it is closed off to the general public whenever the Queen is present in residence, guests are welcome whenever she is absent. Imagine that you’ve had the good fortune to schedule such a visit in advance. In that case, you will be given permission to view a number of rooms, the most notable of which is the lavish Castle Ballroom, and you will also be given the opportunity to tour the grounds and gardens.

Despite the fact that it is a more recent castle – the current structure was built in 1856 and sat on the site of much older castles – it is without a doubt regarded as one of the best castles in Scotland to visit if the opportunity presents itself.

Do not forget to visit the Balmoral Pyramid for Prince Albert known as one of the “Cairns” in the Balmoral estate.

2. Edinburgh Castle

The most well-known and significant structure in all of Scotland is without a doubt Edinburgh Castle, which dominates the skyline of the country’s capital city from atop a craggy, dormant volcano.

Edinburgh Castle - Best Castles and Palaces to Visit in the United Kingdom
Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland: Visit Edinburgh Castle

Archaeologists have discovered human remains dating back to the Iron Ages on this hill, indicating that people have been living on this hill for thousands of years. Despite this, construction on Edinburgh Castle did not begin until the 12th century.

There is a good reason why Edinburgh Castle is consistently ranked as one of the top tourist destinations in all of Scotland. You can find out more about the castle’s significance in Scottish history as well as how it came to be one of the most assaulted fortresses in the United Kingdom here.

The Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century and the Jacobite Rising in 1745 were two of the most turbulent times in Scottish history, and Edinburgh Castle was there to witness both of these events.

Inside the castle, you will find treasures that you will want to inspect for yourself. You could look at the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, and every day at one o’clock in the afternoon, a gun from the 15th century would fire. It is imperative that you visit St. Margaret’s Chapel, as it is Edinburgh’s oldest building that is still standing.

Edinburgh castle is definitely one of the best castles to visit in Scotland. I wrote another blog post about the different palaces and castles in the UK, you can read more about Edinburgh Castle in this article.

3. Holyrood Palace

The official residence of Her Majesty the Queen, while she is in Scotland, is located within the Palace of Holyroodhouse. At the very end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh is where you’ll find the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is open 365 days a year.

Palace of Holyrood - Best Castles and Palaces to Visit in the United Kingdom
Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland: Visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse

The massive northwest tower is the oldest part of the existing building. It was constructed between the years 1528 and 1532 by William Aytoun for James V. Two carved panels, relics of earlier panels, have been inserted into the tower. One of the panels bears the arms of Mary of Guise, who was James V’s second consort, and the other bears the Royal Arms of Scotland, which feature a background of thistles and a unicorn in full relief. Both of these panels were carved in the 16th century.

The entire palace that was built in the 16th century was destroyed by an English army in 1544, with the exception of this tower. After more than a century had passed, the structure was still in a semi-derelict state when Charles II, King of England and Scotland, made the decision to re-create a palace on the site.

The current Holyroodhouse Palace is in the shape of a square with four sides and a nearly thirty-meter square open court in the middle. It was built entirely out of the natural stone found in the area, some of which were recycled.

Discover the close ties that exist between the Palace and some of Scotland’s most famous historical figures, such as Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, and find out how the Palace is still utilized by the King of the United Kingdom when he has official business to attend to in Scotland.

4. Hermitage Castle

Spend some time soaking up the sinister and potent atmosphere of an imposing stronghold that has a reputation for being notorious. Hermitage, which is considered to be one of the most impressive castles in the Borders, dates back to the 1300s.

Hermitage Castle in Scottish Borders
Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland: Visit Hermitage Castle

In the 1240s, Lord de Soules constructed the castle, which underwent some restoration work in the 19th century. The castle served as an important factor in the control of the Scottish Middle March for the majority of the time it was inhabited.

In addition, the castle has a storied romantic history, as it was here that Mary, Queen of Scots, paid a visit to her lover, the 4th Earl of Bothwell, while he was recovering from an injury and bedridden. Sir Walter Scott, who also had a soft spot in his heart for this particular fortress, depicted it in a painting.

Want to know more about what to do within the Scottish Borders? I wrote another article about the Best things to do in the Scottish Borders, I encourage you to read it to know more about the county and Hermitage castle.

5. Urquhart Castle

Urquhart Castle is located on a headland with a view of Loch Ness, and it allows guests to try and catch a glimpse of the legendary Loch Ness monster, affectionately known as Nessie.

Urquhart Castle in Scotland
Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland: Visit Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness in Scotland, rumoured to be the dwelling place of a legendary creature with the same name, is one of the few legends that manage to evoke a sense of vivid imagery. Urquhart Castle, which dates back to the 13th century, is one of the most picturesque ruins in the country and can be found near Loch Ness.

The location, on the southern shore of this large lake, lends itself to a sense of seclusion and tranquillity. Because it is surrounded on all sides by water and hills, it has become one of the most photographed and well-known castles in all of Scotland.

When visiting this location, some entertaining things include going on a tour led by one of the attraction’s costumed guides or dressing up your children in costumes from the middle ages. Be sure to stop by the Grand Tower and take in the breathtaking views it offers of Loch Ness.

Even though a significant portion of the castle was destroyed in the late 1600s, it is not difficult to imagine how formidable a fortress Urquhart once was. It is also one of the favourite palaces and castles that people visit.

I had an opportunity to visit Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness during the British Isles cruise with Princess Cruises.

6. Eilean Donan

Eilean Donan Castle must be one of the castles that have been photographed the most around the world and one of the best places to visit in the UK. Eilean Donan has a perfect picture-postcard setting on an island at the mouth of Loch Duich. It is definitely worth visiting when you are in Scotland.

Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland
Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland: Visit Eilean Donan

It is also full of stories about the Jacobites. It looks like it’s on every postcard from Scotland. One of the rare items on display is a sword that is said to have been used at Culloden. Before it was destroyed in 1719 because of its part in the Jacobite rebellions, Eilean Donan Castle stood strong for more than 500 years.

It had been in ruins since the 1700s, but it was fixed in the early 1900s. During a visit, you can look around several rooms and halls filled with furniture from the time period and a large collection of weapons, some of which were used at the famous Battle of Culloden. 

Today, you can go on a guided tour to learn about its long history and try to picture what it was like to live there during this troubled time.

7. Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle, which was carefully brought back to its Renaissance glory, was the favourite home of the Stewart kings and queens. Stirling Castle is one of the best and easiest to-visit castles in Scotland. It is one of the biggest and most historically important castles.

Stirling Castle in Scotland
Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland: Visit Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is an important landmark in the area. It was built in the 12th century and sat on top of Castle Hill in the middle of Stirling.

People call Stirling the “brooch of Scotland.” People used to say, “He who holds Stirling holds Scotland” because of where it is. Because of this, many famous battles took place there, including the sieges of Stirling Castle.

Even though it is a fort, it is also a beautiful palace. Even kings and queens have been crowned and christened there. You’ll love walking through its lush gardens and looking down at the valley below. Or, on rainy days, you can go inside and look at the beautiful sculptures and medieval buildings. Kids will love trying out medieval instruments and dressing up as court officials or maids of honor.

8. Glamis Castle

The village of Glamis is a must-see when you’re in Angus and Dundee. Its 18th-century cottages make it a great place to protect history.

Glamis Castle in Scotland
Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland: Visit Glamis Castle

In the village of Glamis, you can visit the Glamis Gallery. It has a wide range of art and craft from Angus and Scotland, from oil paintings and sculptures to cards and textiles. There is also a village shop with a cafe. The Strathmore Arms, which used to be a coaching inn, is a great place to eat and stay.

Glamis Castle is here, of course. The Lyon family has lived there since the 14th century, but the current building is mostly from the 17th century. The late Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, grew up in Glamis Castle.

Shakespeare’s play Macbeth also made famous use of Glamis Castle. Glamis is the height of baronial grandeur, with its battlements and pointed turrets.

It’s one of the best castles to visit in Scotland, especially if you want to learn more about Scotland in the Middle Ages. Be careful of the ghostly ghouls, though, because this castle is haunted. After all, Glamis Castle and its troubled past are at the center of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth.

9. Inverness Castle

Visit the Inverness Castle, which is made of red sandstone, to get an idea of how people used to live in this region of the world. It provides information about the Jacobite Rising and the life of the well-known Mary, Queen of Scots, and has a fascinating history that dates back to the middle ages.

Inverness Castle in Scotland
Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland: Visit Inverness Castle

This castle, which is located in the heart of Inverness and is considered to be one of the “more modern” Scottish castles, is wonderful. And by modern, it means between two hundred and three hundred years old!

On the current site of the castle, it was King Malcolm II who first built a stronghold there. After destroying Macbeth’s castle on Crown Hill in 1057, he constructed a fortified stronghold at this location. In the first half of the 12th century, the great reforming King David I bestowed upon Inverness the status of a royal burgh.

In addition to that, the castle of Inverness is mentioned in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In the play, the assassination of King Duncan is depicted as having taken place at Inverness Castle. Therefore, if you are interested in learning more about the extensive history of Inverness Castle, look no further than this enchanting location.

Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland worth visiting pin
10 Beautiful Palaces and Castles in Scotland Worth Visiting

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Everything Zany Dual Citizen Travel Blog

Everything Zany

Travel Blog

Everything Zany Travel Blog exploring the UK and beyond. Sharing travel guides, tips, history, and culture. Our travel media brand is founded by travel and hotel industry expert – Ryazan Tristram, a Dual Citizen (British – Filipina) based in Birmingham, UK. Everything Zany is a reputable and award-winning travel blog. Our work and contributions have been featured in Huffington Post, CNBC, Discovery Channel, GMA, Readers Digest, and Lonely Planet. Our missions are to build a great travel community and resource of travel tips, visas, and travel guides for travelers. Join us as we travel around the UK and beyond with a mission to share the best of the world.

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