Best castles in Edinburgh and beyond

Edinburgh Castle

The various castles in Edinburgh and Scotland are some of the most popular sights in the country, known for their fascinating history and romantic, fairytale exteriors. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and the starting point for most adventures into the Scottish countryside and Highlands. If you want to visit the best Scottish castles, you’ll find many within a short distance of the capital if you travel to Scotland. 

Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Perched atop of Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is the symbol of the city. Filled with history and home to the Scottish Crown Jewels, you’ll need a couple of hours to fully explore the sights of this castle. Edinburgh Castle was once the most important military strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland. It famously played host to a number of historic conflicts between the 14th and 18th centuries. One of the best things to see at this famous Scottish castle is the daily ‘One O’Clock Gun’. A ceremony that originally served to inform the people of Edinburgh of the time, the tradition has endured since 1861. Every day (except Sundays and National Holidays) a gunshot is fired from the castle grounds at 1 pm. This curious tradition is very popular with tourists.  

Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh

Craigmillar is a ruined medieval castle, known as the ‘other castle’ in Edinburgh. It has strong links with Mary Queen of Scots who used the castle as a safe haven for convalescence after giving birth to her son. At this time the castle was owned by her loyal supporter and feudal baron, Sir Simon Preston. Just a year later, Sir Simon famously turned against the Queen. If you visit this Scottish castle today you can explore its spooky ruins, filled with hidden nooks and crannies. Be sure to climb to the top of the tower house, one of the oldest in Scotland, for breathtaking views across Edinburgh city. 

Lauriston Castle, Edinburgh

A hidden gem, this Edinburgh castle is the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. It boasts spectacular views across the Firth of Forth and is known for its beautiful Edwardian-era interiors. The castle dates back to the 16th-century and is set within a picturesque public park. If you visit Lauriston Castle you might be lucky to catch one of the frequent costume performances, sure to transport you back to a by-gone age! It is also home to an idyllic Japanese Garden. Lauriston is one of the must-see castles in Edinburgh.

Blackness Castle, Edinburgh

Blackness Castle, a 15th-century fortress. is situated just outside of the city centre. Sat on the shore of the Firth of Forth, it is well-known for its unique boat-shaped structure. In fact, this Scottish castle has been nicknamed ‘the ship that never sailed’. Unlike many other Scottish castles, Blackness was not a stately residence of kings but, instead, acted as a garrison fortress and a state prison during its heyday. This castle is also famous as it appeared in the popular TV show, Outlander, where it was used as the setting for Fort William. Originally built for one of Scotland’s most powerful families, the Crichtons, Blackness Castle boasts stunning views across the Firth of Forth. These spectacular views are best enjoyed from its towers and imposing curtain walls.  Blackness is one of the more unique castles in Edinburgh.

Stirling Castle, Stirling

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle is one of the best-preserved castles in Scotland. Surrounded by steep cliffs on three sides, it has served as both a palace and a fortress over the centuries. It was also the site of several famous sieges. Overlooking the River Forth, this 15th-century castle was perfectly situated to guard the important river crossing below. If you visit Stirling Castle today you can explore the refurbished Royal Palace, the childhood home of the infamous Mary Queen of Scots. You can also admire the huge Banqueting Hall, the largest ever built in Scotland. Once you’ve discovered the castle interior, take in the spectacular views across Stirling town and out towards the Highlands.

Dirleton Castle, Edinburgh

To the northeast of Edinburgh lies Direlton Castle. This castle has earned itself a place in the Guinness Book of World Records thanks to its vast herbaceous border. This huge landscaped flower bed is the longest in the world! The castle itself is in ruins, but still retains much of its charm. In fact, it is home to some of the oldest castle architecture in Scotland. If you visit Dirleton Castle you’ll want to lose yourself in the enchanting, endless gardens, which date from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The castle also boasts an intriguing history. During the Third English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell’s army famously invaded Scotland and captured this very castle in the year 1650.

Want to explore these Scottish castles for yourself? Take a look at our captivating tours of Scotland!

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