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We are planning a trip to Scotland with three main interests, castles, geography and distilleries, probably in that order. We’ve done a bit of research (heck a month ago I couldn't name 3 castles). The challenge is which ones are “must sees”, “nice to see” or probably even a few “if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.”. Tough, if you've never been, maybe tough if you've lived in Scotland your whole life?

Now given schedule (our schedule and castle hours), travel distances and interests, there are lots of trade offs.

I’ve found out there are castles and then there are castles. Everything from ancient ruins and rubble to fantastic palaces. Private estates to Nat’l Trust of Scotland to for profit (or just upkeep) castles. We plan to see as much as possible. I like the idea of exploring old ruins (like the Balvenie or Dunnotar), the palaces (Like Glamis, Blair Athol, Scone) and also some of the fantastic gardens and estates.

I have seen some other posts with questions along the same lines. Be it, where do we start, what to see if you’ve got 2 days, 5 days, 11 days (like us) or longer. What to see near Edinburgh, Glasgow or elsewhere.

Anyway, I thought I’d start a thread focused on castles to see when traveling to Scotland.

I’ll start with a couple straight forward questions…

1) what is your list of castles that just can’t be missed (must see’s) and why?

2) What is your list of really worth seeing, if you’ve got the time?

3) And how should I put this? If you’ve seen “A”, “B” and ‘C” and had your fill, then skip “X” and “Y”?

4) Anyone planning a trip, a good question might be: We’re planning to be in for example, Inverness, what castles are close by?

5) Another question I have is, just how long should you plan (at a minimum) if you go to for example Castle Frasier.

Hopefully this will be useful and we get a good wide ranging discussion going.

Anyway, I’ll add my list so far as a reply.

Thanks in advance and best regards,

Kevin in America

(I’ll see you all in June!!!)

Scunthorpe, United...
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1. Re: Castles

To start the ball rolling:

Caerlaverock Castle with its moat

Threave Castle - reached by boat across the river

Loch Leven Castle on an island in the middle of a loch again reached by boat.

Traquair House (oldest inhabited castle)

Monzie Castle near Crieff - a small privately owned castle. (If you are lucky you will be taken round by the Lady of the House.)

Stirling, United...
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2. Re: Castles

Dunrobin Castle - 50 miles north of Inverness


A very palatial style castle, with gardens.

Clynelish and Glenmorangie distilleries are 5 / 18 miles from Dunrobin. The Castle and a distillery would probably be ample for a day.

Carbisdale Castle is a SYHA (Scottish Youth Hostels) hostel - so you can stay there - about 30 miles from Dunrobin.

Edited: 07 January 2011, 23:24
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3. Re: Castles

OK, still in planning, but we've firmed up what we think are must sees, nice to sees and even a few must/nice's that just can't be gotten too.

We're starting in Edinburgh, skipping Glasgow, then up to Glencoe, thru Speyside, down to Aberdeen/shire and back to Edinburgh; all in 11 days. Draw a box around that and trying to see as much as possible. No Loch Ness, no Inverness, no north coast.

I think this is pretty much the order we’ll hit them in, though it will change a dozen times no doubt. I’ll “*” the ones that we feel are can’t miss, but in reality since they are on the list, they are can’t misses anyway. The “***” are the castles that are at the very top of my list.


*Holyrood Palace




Drummond Gardens



Inchmahome Priory







***Glamis (w/Strathjmore Games)







***Blair Athol

Dunkeld Cathedral

The castles below have unfortunately come off the long-list (due to schedule or travel restrictions).

Nat’l Wallace monument (not a castle, I know, is this worth the time?)

Dunferline Abbey

Dunstaffnage (near Oban, will drive by)

Castle Stalker (in Loch Linnhe, will drive by, stop, take pictures)

*Inveraray (this looks great, but just a little off the path)

***Cowdor (missing this and Brodie is killing me, but too far off the path)


Spynie Palace

Elgin Cathedral


Pluscarden Abbey

Leith Hall

Fort George





Pitmedden Garden

Haddo House

Duff House


St. Andrews

Some of these are obvious can’t misses, but we may have to miss them anyway.

PLEASE, if you think these are can’t miss, TALK ME INTO THEM!!!

Also, I’ve found reference to probably another 15 or 20 castles, but found precious little on them on-line, so I’m guessing they are either private or simply ruins and off the beaten tourist track. These could all be interesting for a “drive by and picture”.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I get the impression (especially around Aberdeenshire) that there is a castle on just about every country corner.

Thanks for your feedback and indulgence.



Edited: 07 January 2011, 23:37
linlithgow scotland
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4. Re: Castles


Enjoy your trip!

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5. Re: Castles

I really wanted to get to Caerlaverock, but it was too far south for this trip. Near the border w/England, correct? I saw it described as pretty much everyone’s classic idea of what a castle should be. What more could one want?

Not sure where Threave or Traquir are? Hadn’t heard of them, maybe south too.

Glad to hear your vote for Lochleven!!! That will be our first stop after picking up the rental in Edinburgh. Inchmahome Priory is on an island too. Castle ruins on an isolated island, how romantic an idea is that? Kilchurn Castle is sort of the same. Though it is literally on a peninsula, you can get there by boat.

I hadn’t seen mention of Monzie Castle, but Crieff is pretty much in my travel zone. I’ll have to look it up. If it’s private is there really a way to tour it? That's not even on my long, long list; giving rise to this impression that there is a castle on every corner, well town at least...



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6. Re: Castles

Hi Bobalinks,

I was looking at Dunrobin, beautiful castle!!! Unfortunately, a little north for this trip, but you know, great castle, 2 distilleries and an excuse to go to Cowdor and it’s a good argument for course change.

I might need to add a week or start planning a 2nd trip!!!



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7. Re: Castles

Thanks for mentioning Historic Scotland.

For anyone planning a trip or for residents on the UK in general, getting a yearly pass for Historic Scotland or the National Trust of Scotland is a great idea.

The list above of castles is about 90% covered by one or the other. I haven't added it up yet, but we'll probably get both passes, as I think it will pay for itself.



Also worth mentioning, there is a combined pass for Blair Atholl, Scone and Glamis Castles. I don't think any of these are on the NTS or HS, but the joint pass will save a few bucks.



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8. Re: Castles

Looking at your schedule, I would suggest you just move to scotland as opposed to adding a week,you must enjoy driving. Have a great trip

Edinburgh, United...
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9. Re: Castles

Have we really reached this far without mentioning Eilean Donan?

Might be a bit trite, but for me, it's one of the most impressive and iconic castles in Scotland :)


Edited: 08 January 2011, 09:33
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10. Re: Castles

Abs you took the words right out of my keyboard. Eilan Donan would definately be on my list although might be too far out of Kevin's way.

As for the Wallace Monument I would do this for the view from the top alone. It will only take you an hour or so to see it and I have never taken anyone up there whi didn't say WOW!

Your plans are quite ambitious in 11 days I have to say given that places like Edinburgh ans Stirling castle will take some hours to appreciate fully with the guided tours etc.