Scotland’s Castle Trail

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Scotland’s only dedicated Castle Trail lets you discover the dramatic stories of 17 of Aberdeenshire’s most famous castles.

This itinerary is organised into 4 broad areas of Aberdeenshire to group the castles around a main hub town. A visit to any of the castles makes an ideal day out or navigate your way along sections of the trail for a longer break.

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  • Looking across to Balmoral Castle from the south side
    Balmoral Castle
  • Looking along the main driveway to Castle Fraser
    Castle Fraser
  • View up to Craigievar Castle in the autumn with leaves lying on the ground
    Craigievar Castle
  • Visitor walks through the walled garden at Crathes Castle
    Crathes Castle
  • Piper on the hill at Dunnottar Castle
    Dunnottar Castle
  • View from the outside of Fyvie Castle
    Fyvie Castle

Basing yourself in the city of Aberdeen, start following the trail by heading south on the A90/A92 to Stonehaven where you'll be met by the well-preserved ruins of Dunnottar Castle, perched on a dramatic cliff some 160 ft above the North Sea. Fought over by Wallace and Cromwell, it was used as a set for Franco Zeffirelli's 1991 film of Hamlet.

Drum Castle Heading north from Stonehaven on the A957 brings you to Crathes Castle, a few miles east of Banchory and Drum Castle, 5 miles further east on the A93. Crathes is a classic fairytale castle standing in superb grounds with a range of woodland trails on offer to help you explore. Inside, spiral staircases lead to rooms famous for their Jacobean painted ceilings and resident ghost, the Green Lady.

Drum Castle combines a unique mix of a late 13th-century tower, fine Jacobean mansion house and later Victorian additions. Superb furniture and paintings are on display while the estate’s woodland trails and exceptional walled rose garden are well worth exploring.

Some 15 miles further north on the B977 stands Castle Fraser, one of the grandest castles of Mar. This magnificent building contains an evocative Great Hall, fine furniture and paintings. Enjoy the beautiful secluded walled garden, extensive woodland walks with fine views of the castle plus a children’s adventure playground.

From your base in Ballater, head west on the A93 to explore Royal Deeside, home to the famous Balmoral Castle, a firm favourite with the Royal Family. The estate has been in the family since 1848, after it was purchased by Queen Victoria.

After a 10 minute drive further east on the A93 you'll find Braemar Castle, the seat of Clan Farquharson. This 17th century stronghold is furnished with many valuable paintings and interesting curios and is best known for its unusual star-shaped outer wall.

Corgarff Castle illuminated at nightSome 40 minutes east of Ballater is one of Scotland's most iconic and best-loved castles, Craigievar. The riot of turrets, gargoyles and high corbelling work create the fairytale appearance which is said to have inspired Walt Disney. Visitors can also enjoy the fine grounds and waymarked trails surrounding it.

In its striking moorland setting 15 miles north of Ballater, Corgarff Castle’s tower house is surrounded by a distinctive star-shaped perimeter wall. View the reconstructed barrack rooms and feel the atmosphere of barrack life at the castle in 1750, when Government redcoats were stationed here.

A further 18 miles north east of Corgarff and you reach the great castle of Kildrummy. This stronghold of the Earls of Mar dominates the landscape around Strathdon and although ruined, it retains many fine features including its hall and chapel.

Ornately carved doorway at Huntly CastleThe market town of Huntly is the base here, home also to Huntly Castle. Huntly Castle served as a baronial residence for the Gordons for five centuries and is remarkable for its impressive architectural features including fine heraldic sculpture and inscribed stone friezes.

Spynie Castle, a few miles outside Elgin, was the residence of the bishops of Moray for 500 years and its mighty tower house, David’s Tower, was one of the largest in Scotland. The beautiful surroundings and wildlife make the palace a wonderful place to visit.

Almost 15 miles west of Huntly on the A920, Balvenie Castle is one the oldest stone castles in Scotland. Originally the seat of the powerful Comyn Earls of Buchan, it later became the home of John Stewart, Earl of Atholl. The Stewarts changed the formidable medieval stronghold into a pleasing Renaissance residence.

Duff HouseUsing Banff as a base, your first stop must be the town's Duff House, one of Scotland's architectural masterpieces. This Adam-designed historic house is a treasure house and cultural arts centre operated by a unique partnership of Historic Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council. With extensive grounds and woodland walks by the river Deveron you'll find a day is not enough.

Heading south on the A947, you encounter a series of enticing properties. Delgatie Castle at Delgaty dates from the 11th century and is steeped in Scottish history yet still has a surprising lived-in atmosphere. It has some of the finest painted ceilings in Scotland. A Best Visitor Experience award winner, the castle also boasts an award-winning restaurant and coffee shop.

Around 10 miles further south, Fyvie Castle at Turiff is an outstanding example of Scottish baronial architecture. Begun as a simple castle in the 13th century, five powerful families each added significantly to it until it reached its present form. Inside, the magnificent sweeping staircase is the most dramatic feature while many treasures are on display including a superb collection of arms, armour and paintings. You can also stroll around the loch or visit the racquets court and bowling alley.

The last two stops on this section of the trail are Haddo House near Methlick and Tolquhon Castle at Tarves.

Haddo is an elegant mansion house boasting sumptuous Victorian interiors beneath a crisp Georgian exterior. Noted for fne furniture and paintings, it also has a terraced garden and country park with lakes, walks and monuments.

Tolquhon is one of the most picturesque of the castles in the Grampian countryside. Largely built in the late 16th century by the Forbes family, it houses the Tolquhon Tomb, one of the best examples of Scotland’s so-called Jacobean ‘Glorious Tombs’.

Find more of Scotland's greatest castles.