One of Scotland’s most iconic features is the numerous castles, ruins, fortresses and stately homes that can be found in all the nooks and crannies of every region. Many of these magnificent castles also boasts incredible gardens and grounds that are a spectacle to explore. So, if you love castles and going for a wander, why not combine the two and explore some of these popular and hidden castles in Scotland?
Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries & Galloway
In the beautiful south of Scotland, head to the formidable Caerlaverock Castle. This stunning red sandstone castle features a unique triangular shape, complete with a moat, twin-towered gatehouse and medieval battlements. The castle is perched on the Solway Coast, so make sure you head along to the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve where you can wander on to the beach for picturesque sandy walks and even dip your toes in the water.
Culzean Castle & Thomaston Castle, Ayrshire
With gardens, beaches, woods, and trails for miles around, Culzean Castle & Country Park is a stunning cliff-top estate that the whole family will love exploring. With 260 hectares of land rich with wildlife, towering trees and a glorious walled garden, you can explore the fascinating history of this magnificent castle, whilst admiring the picturesque landscape around you. After you’ve explored the castle, wander along to the Wall Garden and if you want to stretch your legs a little further, keep going and you’ll reach Thomaston Castle. This 13th century castle ruin was built by Robert the Bruce’s nephew, Thomas Bruce, and the majority of its medieval appearance is still intact from when it was abandoned around 1800.
Cloncaird Castle Country Estate, Ayrshire
Located in the beautiful Ayrshire countryside, Cloncaird Castle & Country Estate boasts spectacular grounds for walking, with lovely riverside paths to follow and sandy beaches to stroll along. South Ayrshire has some of the best walking in the country, and with the Galloway Forest Park only a 20-minute drive away, there are hundreds of trails and paths to explore.
Glamis Castle & Gardens, Angus
If you love a historical trip back in time, you’re in for a treat! Not only is Glamis Castle & Gardens Scotland’s most beautiful castle, it was also the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth and birthplace of HRH The Princess Margaret. The castle’s extensive garden boasts incredible scenery and paths to follow, with the Walled Garden featuring fruits, vegetable, a grass maze, and Monet-style fountains. The Italian Garden, designed by Countess Cecilia, is delightful to stroll through and includes towering Yew Hedges, alleys of Beech trees, a stone fountain, ornamental gates and more. Follow the Macbeth Trail or Nature Trail for impressive sculptures, wildlife-rich woods, and walkways lined with exotic trees and plantlife.
Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens, Banffshire
Located on the River Spey in Banffshire, Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens is known as ‘The Pearl in the North’, and it’s easy to see why. Explore this idyllic corner of Scotland with acres of gardens, woodlands and riverside meadows to wander through, alongside the Rockery, the Courtyard Garden and the Walled Garden to admire. The long-distance walking route, the Speyside Way, runs through Ballindalloch with ‘section 4’ Craigellachie to Ballindalloch and ‘section 5’ Ballindalloch to Grantown running nearby that you can venture on.
Dunollie Castle and McCaig’s Tower, Oban
Head over to the west coast to the seaside town of Oban. Wander along the harbour and you’ll be able to see the prominent McCaig’s Tower that is perched on Battery Hill overlooking the town. Wander up to see the peaceful gardens that are maintained within the tower and gaze out to sea for incredible panoramic views. If you walk further north along the harbour, you’ll come across Dunollie Castle. This ruin is perfectly situated above the road and gives spectacular views, which are particularly stunning at sunset.
Stirling Castle, National Wallace Monument and Ochil Hills, Stirling
A wee city with a big history, Stirling is home to Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s most historically important sites that was once the residence of the Stewart kings and queens. Unwind and relax in the castle gardens and marvel at the panoramic views from the rooftop terrace. Nearby, the National Wallace Monument is a must-visit and allows you to discover the life and legacy of Scotland’s patriot and martyr, Sir William Wallace. For a more challenging walk, head to the Ochil Hills in the north of the city where you can scale Ben Cleuch, or even wander up to various viewpoints for spectacular views across the landscape around you. Fancy extending your stay in Stirling? Get your bearings around the city with this one-day itinerary.
Drum Castle, Garden and Estate and Crathes Castle, Banchory
One of Scotland’s oldest tower houses, Drum Castle, Garden and Estate has a real medieval Jacobite setting with a Walled Garden of Historic Roses that you can stroll through, or choose from three waymarked trails to explore. If one castle isn’t enough, just a 10-minute drive away is Crathes Castle where you can wander along the Coy Burn for a chance to spot buzzards, herons and kingfishers. Spend as long or as short a time as you please exploring the castle grounds with six woodland trails taking you all over the gardens.
The most northerly of Scotland’s great houses and fortresses, Dunrobin Castle is known for its magnificent gardens that are carefully displayed and structured across the grounds. Wander through and marvel at the detail and precision of the design and explore the croquet lawn, Pyramid Garden, and Lily Fountain, or stay for an incredible falconry display. Afterwards, wander down to the shore and stroll along the coastline or play in the rock pools to see what you can find.