Castles Near Edinburgh Worth a Visit

Craigmillar Castle, best known for its association with Mary, Queen of Scots, is one of the top castles to visit near Edinburgh
Craigmillar Castle, best known for its association with Mary, Queen of Scots, is one of the top castles to visit near Edinburgh | © PhotoFires / Alamy Stock Photo
Suzy Pope

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.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.

Craigmillar Castle

Historical Landmark

© Jon Arnold Images Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

On the outskirts of South Edinburgh, Craigmillar Castle has a long history. It has ties to Mary, Queen of Scots, as she fled here during the plot to murder her husband, and its roots date back to the feudal barons of the region. Though technically a ruin as it has no roof, it is one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Scotland. Spiral staircases and tucked-away rooms can still be explored, and information boards make a self-guided wander around the nooks and crannies a treat, revealing the colourful history of the castle as you go.

Dalhousie Castle

Historical Landmark
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.

Lauriston Castle

Historical Landmark

© Axator Brimshaw / Alamy Stock Photo

Set back from the shore at Cramond, this mansion-like castle boasts spectacular views across the water. The immense grounds are free to explore; wander across the sprawling lawn, along forest paths, past secret statues and into the picturesque Japanese garden. Entry to Lauriston Castle itself is by pre-booked tour, or a scheduled tour that runs daily at 2pm. The Reid Family, former owners, were avid collectors, and their private collection of furniture and art is displayed throughout the house, like an Edwardian mansion frozen in time. Plus, the library has a fantastic collection of rare and antique books. Lauriston Castle also runs a programme of events, including garden parties, Victorian fetes and crafty Christmas markets.

Blackness Castle

Historical Landmark
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.

Dirleton Castle

Historical Landmark
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.

Tantallon Castle

Historical Landmark

© John Carroll Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

This cliff-top castle near North Berwick isn’t on everybody’s radar, but it is one of the most striking scenes around Edinburgh. The subject of moody paintings over the years, the dramatic ruins of the 14th-century keep are perched on the rocks above the restless North Sea. Bass Rock floats in the background, making this the perfect photo opportunity. Those aiming their cameras at the upper windows might snap an eerie image of the Tantallon ghost, whose anguished face has been the source of paranormal speculation over the years.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,665 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article