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The castles in and around Scotland’s capital have been the inspiration for literature, film and TV. From Tantallon Castle to Blackness Castle, these are the best castles near Edinburgh that you can visit, each one brimming with historical intrigue.
This castle hotel on the River Esk just outside Edinburgh was once the seat of the Earl of Dalhousie. Now a popular spot for weddings and spa breaks, the castle has seen the likes of Edward I (Longshanks), Alexander Ramsay and Oliver Cromwell prepare for battle. You can stay overnight in one of the castle’s sumptuous rooms, or visit the atmospheric Dungeon Restaurant in the bowels of the castle where a medieval-inspired feast is served in the stone chambers overlooked by knightly armour. There’s also an on-site bird sanctuary where majestic hawks and cute owls wait to greet you.
Serving as the backdrop for films and TV series such as Outlander, Outlaw King and Mary Queen of Scots, Blackness Castle, jutting out into the Firth of Forth, makes for a dramatic sight. It was never designed as a country getaway or stately home. Blackness was a fortress made to keep out attacking armies and keep in prisoners of war. Known as the “ship that never sailed”, it is surrounded by water on all sides, and the views from the top of the keep over the Firth are magnificent. Visit Scotland has made an Outlander audio guide especially for Blackness.
If you asked a child to draw a castle, it would probably look like Dirleton; stone turrets, a portcullis and a dramatic entrance across a moat. The towers may be crumbling now and the moat dried up, but this well-preserved ruin outside North Berwick still screams traditional Scottish castle. Dating back to the 13th century, this was the stronghold for the local lord. Now, the ruins remain surrounded by fantastic grounds, with the longest herbaceous border in the country. Pro tip: It’s a 15-minute drive between Dirleton Castle and Tantallon Castle, so combine the two for the perfect historic day trip from Edinburgh.