There’s a lot to love about Scotland. It’s warm (in the friendly sense, not in the temperature sense), it’s full of beautiful scenery, and it’s the home of haggis – although that may be something to dislike, depending on your personal preference.
Above all, however, Scotland is one of the best places on Earth to visit for history lovers – specifically, history lovers who want to step into the history books, rather than just read them.
Across the country, there are over 1,500 castles, many of which have been standing for hundreds of years. If you’ve booked a motorhome hire for 2024, we would highly recommend visiting a few of them. Even if you’re not a history lover, this is a great opportunity to experience a different side of Scotland, with architectural beauty and gorgeous landscapes to ignite your imagination.
But where should you start? With over 1,500 castles to choose from – and even more ruins, manors, and monuments – it’s a difficult task to narrow all of them down into your holiday window. This is why we’ve compiled a list of our favourite Scottish castles, each of which has their own unique beauty to make your visit more than worth it. So let’s get started!
We’ll start where you set off. At the beginning of your motorhome adventure, you’ll be picking up one of our vehicles in Edinburgh, which is a beautiful city to explore in its own right. Edinburgh Castle is right in the centre, sat atop a huge, ancient volcano – no, really! – and it’s well worth a look.
The views at the top of the castle, just near Saint Margaret’s Chapel, are especially stunning. From there, you can see the entirety of Old Town and New Town, with various illustrated maps dotted about the wall, letting you know how the city would have looked hundreds of years back.
You might recognise this castle as the place where the late Queen Elizabeth II passed away. Throughout her lifetime, Balmoral Castle was a beloved refuge from the pressures of public life – in fact, the bagpipers who would perform there were the same bagpipers who performed at her funeral.
Today, the castle is open to visitors, and you can even take a long, relaxed walk through the castle grounds. This is especially enjoyable if you are travelling Scotland in the summer, with a warm sun and colourful flowers blooming in the pristine gardens. Located in a stunning part of Scotland, just near the quaint village of Crathie, which is west of Aberdeen, we’d highly recommend spending some time visiting this one if you’re in the area.
You’ll find this castle at the top of most “Best UK Castle” lists, and it’s not hard to see why. Located in Stirling, this is one of the largest and most historically significant castles in the country, having housed such figures as Mary Queen of Scots and James VI. Today, it is a great symbol of Scottish independence and national pride, and it’s much beloved by the people of Scotland.
Everyone envisages the same thing when they think of the word “castle”, but actually, every castle looks different, with distinct qualities that are specific to the period they were designed. In Inverness, however, the castle is exactly as you would imagine.
Complete with pepper pot turrets, watchtowers, spiral staircases, and even dungeons, this is a picture-perfect castle that is a must for history lovers. It’s also only a short twenty-minute drive from Loch Ness, so if you had monster-spotting on your motorhome holiday agenda, this could be the perfect castle for you.
Before we finish, we want to include a few honourable mentions who didn’t make the list. These include Fyvie Castle, Dunnottar Castle, Tantallon Castle, Glamis Castle, and Alnwick Castle – all of these buildings are just as beautiful as any on this list, but we don’t want to keep you reading for hours, so we have to exclude them. Our final shoutout goes to Shieldhill Castle. Now, this is actually a private castle that is booked for events, so you can’t take any tours.
But the reason it’s on this list is because of the activity you can experience there. Hot air ballooning! That’s right, Shieldhall is also a launch location to take in the Scottish countryside – including the grounds and architectural beauty of Shieldhill Castle – in a completely new way. It might not be for everyone, but this could be a great experience for those who want to take in every inch of Scotland from a birds-eye-view. Hey, you might even be able to spot your motorhome – and the family heights-hating family member waving alongside it!