The many dark, brooding castles of Scotland loom over their surroundings heavy with the weight of a long and at times bloody history. Their beauty is mist-laden and full of pathos, but they are no less beautiful for that, as their stone changes colour in the swiftly changing weather. Here are five of Scotland’s most famous and picturesque castles:
This imposing castle sits atop a dormant volcanic rock in the centre of the Scottish capital, and is one of the country’s most visited sites. The Castle Rock has been the site of human habitation since at least the 2nd Century AD, and there has been a Castle on the Rock since at least the 12th Century. Edinburgh Castle was a key strategic stronghold throughout much of Scottish history, and is seen as a key symbol for the cause of Scottish Independence. The castle esplanade offers excellent views over the city, with the Firth of the river Forth in the distance, and the Kingdom of Fife beyond.
Stirling Castle also sits atop a dormant volcanic rock, on the edge of the historic town, with a backdrop of rugged hills. This castle was also an important strategic site, due to its position as the Gateway to the Highlands. It was also home to many of Scotland’s monarchs, and Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here in 1534. Some of the castle has been restored, showing what it would have been like when first built, which gives a fascinating window into history.
St Andrews Castle
This picturesque ruin sits on the North Sea in this small University town. During the Wars of Independence the Castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times. It was home to several Kings, and ‘bottle dungeon’ here was used as a notorious prison. As well as the wonderful views to be had out over the North Sea from this castle, a highlight of a visit here is the interesting siege mine and counter mine into which visitors can descend.
Another picturesque ruin, but this time the outlook is over Loch Ness. A visit here would not be complete without trying to look for the Loch Ness Monster. Legends aside, this castle was once the largest in Scotland – no more. Today, only a small portion of the original castle remains. However, it is still well worth a visit, for its location as well as for its large collection of mediaeval artefacts. The present ruins date from the 13th to 16th Century. It was strategically important because of its position on the Great Glen.
Eilean Donan Castle
Perhaps one of the most romantic castles in Scotland, and certainly one of the most picturesquely situated, Eilean Donan is an island formed at the meeting of Lochs Duich, Alsh and Long, linked to the mainland by a stone bridge. The Castle was built in the 13th Century, but mostly destroyed in the early 18th Century in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellions. The castle seen today is a result of the 20th Century restoration of the ruins.
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