Urquhart Castle

Castles

A tour of the Highlands is probably one of the most magical journeys you could make - for many, it really is the trip of a lifetime. Outstanding landscapes, rugged coastline, spectacular wildlife… and the icing on the cake? Why, the many historic castles of course!

The easiest way to see all of the castles is by car. You can hire a car at several locations in Inverness, including the airport. 

Transport

Car

Days

4

Miles

381

Route

Inverness to the Isle of Skye

Highlights

Atmospheric castles, stunning locations, period features

Areas Covered

North

see full route

Day 1

overview

Inverness, Loch Ness and Moray Speyside

Squeeze in three inspiring castles in and around the most northerly city in Scotland, Inverness. Start the day on the banks of Loch Ness to see one of the country's most iconic ruins, before travellingeastwards to discover more history and then driving back to Inverness for the night.
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Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness © johnbraid - Fotolia

Urquhart Castle

Start your day with a visit to the magnificent Urquhart Castle, located on the banks of the famous Loch Ness. Stand and soak in a thousand years of history - it has witnessed some of the most dramatic chapters in Scotland's past. St Columba is said to have worked miracles here in the sixth century, and clan rivalries saw bloody raids carried out in the 15th and 16th centuries. You might even witness an historic event yourself, should you spot the elusive Nessie, Loch Ness's most famous resident.

Cawdor Castle

Travelling eastwards from Inverness, Cawdor Castle is full of history, mystery and legend. If you like your castles to have a literary connection, this is for you - it's the 14th century home of the Thanes of Cawdor (recognise the name from Shakespeare's Macbeth?). Delve into the old kitchen, which dates from the 19th century, and has original features such as a roasting spit, ice box and butter-churn.

Brodie Castle

From there, take a short drive through Nairn to Brodie Castle, the ancient seat of Clan Brodie. Shakespeare seemed to really love the idea of Highland castles - Brodie Castle also has literary connections to the playwright's work and is said to be near the hill known as 'Macbeth's Hillock' where Macbeth is said to have encountered the Weird Sisters. Inside, it is filled with countless antiques and lavish furnishings - you might be quite tempted to move in!

Day 2

overview

North East

If you take away anything from your first day, it'll be the knowledge that no two castles are alike! Explore a castle which looks like it popped out of a fairy tale and visit a historic garrison with strong links to the Jacobite Risings.
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Dunrobin Castle, Golspie © Paul Tomkins

Fort George

An important garrison in the area's history, Fort George will have you envisioning billowing smoke from cannon fire and the sound of regimented marching of hundreds of soldiers.

Lying on the road to Inverness, it's the mightiest artillery fortification in Britain. Built in 1746 as the ultimate defence against Jacobite uprising, Fort George is an impressive site, bristling with cannons, muskets, pikes, swords and ammunition. Explore the battlements and gain a fascinating insight into 18th century military life. It's also home to one of only two dog cemeteries in Scotland where loyal regimental mascots and officers' dogs were laid to rest.

Dundrobin Castle

You might have to rub your eyes in disbelief - Dunrobin is the sort of castle you'd almost expect to see a pumpkin coach pulling up to. It has a whopping 189 rooms, making it one of the biggest homes in the country.

Dunrobin Castle is also one of Britain's oldest continuously inhabited houses dating back to the early 1300s, and was home to the Earls and, later, the Dukes of Sutherland. Interestingly enough, the castle was used as a naval hospital during the First World War, and then as a boys' boarding school from 1965 to 1972. AND - it's even said to have a ghost!! Wooooooo!

Explore the many rooms and then venture into the ornate gardens. You might even see the ancient art of falconry being demonstrated in the grounds.

Day 3

overview

Over the sea to Skye

There are plenty of other castles to be explored on the west side of the Highlands, so drive from Inverness across to the Isle of Skye, stopping at one of our most recognisable castles along the way, Eilean Donan Castle. Stay in the lively little town of Portree and get to know the locals.  
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Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh

Eilean Donan Castle

Drive to the majestic Eilean Donan Castle. A true icon of the Scottish landscape, it's distinguished by its long arched bridge and lochside setting. This location is pretty special - strategically it is set on its own little island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, and it overlooks the Isle of Skye. Unsurprisingly, it's one of the most photographed places in the country.

Inside, see period furniture, Jacobean artefacts, displays of weapons and fine art, and learn about the tough battles the castle endured during one of Scotland's most violent eras.

Portree

Portree is a lovely place to stay while you're on Skye. It's one of the island's most thriving spots, with plenty of accommodation options and places to eat and drink. Remember to book accommodation in advance, especially in the summer!

Day 4

overview

Castles on Skye

Finally, venture to two castles on the Isle of Skye and discover clan legends, myths and fascinating stories from centuries gone by. Both of these castles will leave a lasting impression and teach you a little bit more about Skye's past. Spend more time on this island if you can, and admire its iconic other-worldly geology with plenty of walks and outdoor activities on offer.


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Armadale Castle, Isle of Skye

Dunvegan Castle

This castle is set on a spectacular location on a rocky perch beside a loch, surrounded by verdant woodland. And its history is bound to impress too - it's the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and it's been the ancestral home of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.

As you'd probably expect, inside it's filled with all kinds of clan treasures, the most famous of which is the Fairy Flag, a sacred banner which comes with its own legend. Outside, explore the grounds and get a seal-eye view of the castle as you enjoy a boat trip on Loch Dunvegan.

Armadale Castle

Make your way to Armadale Castle and Gardens, located near Ardvasar on the most southerly point of Skye. Built on the ancient lands of Clan Donald, the castle is very much a ruin, but it's surrounded by some wonderful restored historic gardens and woodland walks. 

Delve into the history of one of the country's most famous clans - you might even find you've got some ancestral connections of your own.

Do you still want to see more castles? Drive to the region of Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire and follow Scotland's Castle Trail, or keep on driving with more amazing road trips across Scotland.  

Summary

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