Scotland is a country rich in history, and its many castles attest to some of its interesting past. We have put together information about some of the most famous and fascinating castles in the country, some close to Knockderry, some further afield, all of which can be combined into an amazing Castle Tour of Scotland.
Enjoy stepping back in time!
Since the 1400s the beautiful Inveraray Castle has been sitting upon the shores of Loch Fyne. The many architectural changes over the years (small structural changes in the roof and addition of the third floor due to a fire in 1877) mean that the current standing castle was built in 18th century, but it is still a historical gem, just an hour’s drive from Knockderry. Inveraray Castle has been the seat of the Duke of Argyll and Clan Chiefs of the Campbell’s since the mid-18th century and is still inhabited by the Campbell family today. The castle is surrounded with magnificent gardens and altogether the estate covers 16 acres. Between flower beds and woodland parks, it makes for a perfectly peaceful day out.
But don’t stop there, why not take yourself down to the longest standing stronghold in Scotland, one that sits beautifully upon a volcanic rock overlooking the Clyde? Dumbarton Castle is from an ancient kingdom, rich in royal history that will make for a rich visit. Climb the White Tower Crag to get a peak of the amazing views of the West Coast (some say you can even see the peak of Ben Lomond if you are lucky) and admire the 18th Century military architecture around the castle.
Stirling Castle is a little further afield, about a 1 hour 15-minute drive from Knockderry, but its incredible history makes it worth the visit. The castle sits upon Castle Hill and cliffs surround most of the edges, giving it a great defensive position. Several crownings of Scottish Kings and Queens have taken place there. You can learn all about the famous battles that took place around the castle – some that lasted only 20 minutes and others for several days – from the Wars of Independence to the battle of Bannockburn, there’s plenty to get immersed in. You can also find out about how the castle changed hands eight times in 50 years and how the oldest building within the castle dates all the way back to 1391.
Stirling Castle holds probably some of the most important information and artefacts of Scottish history, as well as precious stories and secrets that have been passed down through generations. It is an interactive castle so perfect for families to come along too.
If you’re looking to tour the East Coast, we highly recommend exploring the brilliant Edinburgh Castle. It stands on Castle Rock at the head of the Old Town and holds thousands of years’ worth of Scottish history. It has been home to several kings and queens, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s failed attempt to take the castle after capturing Edinburgh happened here and later it was used to hold prisoners of war. Learn about the mass prison escape in the early 1800’s or when the castle was taken under English control during the First War of Scottish Independence in 1296.
Now, if you head further north up the East Coast to Stonehaven, you can find a beautiful ruined medieval castle standing upon a steep headland surrounded by tall cliffs that drop 50 meters to the North Sea. Dunnottar Castle was hugely important during the Jacobite Uprising due to its defensive positioning. During the 17th century was also used as a place to hide and protect the Honours of Scotland (the oldest crown jewels within the British Isles) from invading armies.
From there you could head north west towards Inverness and visit the incredibly well situated Urquhart Castle, right by the shoreline of Loch Ness. During this Castle’s existence, it has seen some of the Highlands’ most troublesome and dramatic times and has changed hands through bitter fighting on numerous occasions. During the Wars of Independence, possession of Urquhart frequently changed between the Scottish and the English and later, in an attempt to stop the Jacobite forces using the castle, government troops blew it up as they left. What you see today are the ruins from these tragic affairs. After Edinburgh and Stirling castles, Urquhart Castle is actually said to be the third most visited castle in Scotland.
Skye and Lochalsh Castles
Next stop, heading to the Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan Castle (situated on the mainland but only 15 minutes from Skye Bridge), Dunvegan and Armadale Castles are all bursting with Highland history just waiting to be discovered. Eilean Donan is a beautiful Scottish icon but has somewhat of a sorry past: it was not built until the 13th century as a precautionary measure against the Viking raids and was destroyed during the Jacobite Risings. It lay in ruins for nearly 200 years until restauration in 1932.
Dunvegan Castle is home to the MacLeod’s of Skye. Here you can learn about the history of the Clan Chiefs, their stories and adventures as well as the warring rivalries with neighbouring clans (mainly the MacDonald’s). These somewhat brutal encounters include the Battle of the Spoiling Dyke was between Clan MacLeod and the MacDonald’s of Uist in 1578, and the Massacre Cave on the Isle of Eigg.
Armadale Castle, or as it is better known, the Clan Donald Centre, is home to the MacDonald’s of Sleat (just one of the many MacDonald branches!). Go along and learn about how they fought alongside the Jacobites in 1715 and how they lost many men at the Battle of Culloden, as well as in battles with the MacLeod Clan.