The Most Incredible Castles in and Around Inverness, Scotland
From fortified tower homes to evocative ruins, along with fairy-tale turrets and shining white- or pink-walled structures, there are over 3000 buildings in Scotland that can be called castles, and the area around Inverness is a good place to begin exploring some of the most impressive structures.
Perhaps the best place to start this tour, Inverness Castle is perched above the city on the banks of the River Ness. Although a castle has occupied the same spot for nearly one thousand years, the present structure was constructed in 1836. The castle grounds are open to the public, with a wonderful panorama over the city, but the best views of the castle itself are from the opposite bank of the river, especially at sunset when the red sandstone glows with the last light. The castle is also beautifully lit at night, standing proud over the city and reflected in the river below.
‘The Pearl of the North’, Ballindalloch Castle has been occupied by the Macpherson-Grant family since it was first constructed in 1546. The estate is also home to the oldest herd of Aberdeen-Angus cattle in the world. Built on the banks of the River Avon, the grounds contain a stretch of the famous River Spey, both of which are renowned salmon rivers. The spectacular gardens add to Ballindalloch’s overall impression as a sumptuous, magical home. Much of the castle is open to the public, the interior full of wonders of its own, with the nursery, library and dining room deserving a special mention.
Atmosphere:Scenic, Architectural Landmark, Touristy
Used in movies including Mrs Brown and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, and in television shows such as Monarch of the Glen and Outlander, the estate and buildings of Ardverikie will prove instantly recognisable. A relatively recent castle, built in the Victorian era as a sporting estate, Ardverikie is also a popular holiday venue, with a large variety of estate properties for guests to stay in, and rooms available for wedding ceremonies. Situated south of Inverness and nestled in the mountains, the surrounding scenery is some of Scotland’s best.
Atmosphere:Historical Landmark, Touristy, Scenic
There is no other castle like Fort George in Scotland, the design more at home in the colonial fortifications of the Caribbean. Built in 1748 to act as defence and garrison against any future Jacobite uprising, it used parts of an earlier medieval fortress in its construction. Unless you find beauty in hulking geometric fortifications, Fort George is generally not viewed as the prettiest of the castles around Inverness, but it is impressive in its sheer scale and sense of menace. Although still used by the military, it is possible to visit the museum, marvel at the thickness of the walls and potentially spot dolphins in the sea below the walls.
Atmosphere:Touristy, Historical Landmark
The pink-tinged walls of Brodie Castle protect a remarkable collection of art and antiques, and the rooms have been restored with expert care and diligence by the National Trust for Scotland. The castle is open to the public in the summer, and the grounds are open all year round, with woods, hides for wildlife watching and an important collection of daffodils in the landscaped gardens. If you can’t tear yourself away, there is also luxury accommodation available in the Laird’s wing of the castle.
In Shakespeare’s play, the three witches’ prophesy suggests Macbeth will become thane Of Cawdor before becoming the king, but historically, the real King Macbeth was never thane of Cawdor. However, the story behind the location of the Cawdor Castle is perhaps itself worthy of The Bard. The current structure was built over 600 years ago; legend states that the thane had a dream detailing how to choose the site. He released a donkey carrying a heavy burden of gold onto his land and waited to see where the donkey would sit down to rest for the night. When it chose to do so beneath a holly tree, the thane decreed this was the right place, and the castle was constructed around this living tree, the remains of which are still visible within the building today.
For almost 300 years, Castle Stuart lay derelict, roofless and abandoned, the original family fortunes foundering when Oliver Cromwell gained power in England. The present owner, Charles Stuart, has had the castle lovingly restored, including decorating the bedrooms in the tartans of the clans who supported his namesake, Charles Edward Stuart — “Bonnie Prince Charlie” — at the nearby battlefield of Culloden. The golf course beside the castle was constructed in 2009. It is of such a high quality that it has hosted the Scottish Open and won international awards for its design. The castle on one side, and the expanse of the Moray Firth on the other, provide a stunning backdrop for a round of golf.
Perched on the shore of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle commands spectacular views across the water, especially from the top of its tower. The castle was the site of many battles and raids during the years it was in use, often switching hands, and eventually being blown up by departing government forces in 1692 so that it could not be used by the Jacobites. As well as an excellent visitor centre, there is also a full sized, working trebuchet siege engine in the castle grounds and a chance to try to spy the Loch Ness Monster, Nessie.
Atmosphere:Touristy, Historical Landmark
With its pointed turrets, high white walls, 189 rooms and sweeping stairs, all set among luxurious gardens, Dunrobin is the quintessential fairy-tale castle. An ancestral home of the Sutherland family, the castle was extensively remodelled in the 19th century around a much older core, parts of which are still visible today. At one time, the building was used as a boarding school and, although not quite Hogwarts, it must have been a magical place to learn. The castle and grounds are open to the public, and the displays of falconry are not to be missed.