Castles rise up in our imaginations as relics of a mythical past, set places for fantasy tales full of Chivalry and Romance. Or at least this seems to be the way most Americans think of castles. Of course the reality is far less romantic. A real castle is a defensive structure, often used as a base for offense, that lorded over a brutal time. Either way, they are fascinating!
A lot of people think of Scotland as a land of castles, and we did see plenty, though our trip wasn’t centered on them. Occasionally we’d catch a glimpse of a ruined tower or a full castle and then back to the typical scenery, which was gorgeous. Of course most of the glimpses were around water, not up in the moors or mountains.
Some of the castles were ruins, others reconstructed, and still others pretty close to original, though there have been changes and modifications over the centuries. There were even a couple of castles that were more decorative than defensive, though “real” castles had been in those places at one time. Thinking of the past, with hill forts forming the roots of some castles, there have been defensive structures there for on the order of 3000 years.
As I said, our trip was not centered around castles, but we did see a few. Of those we just drove by, we slowed down for photo ops on two – Castle Stalker (between Oban and Fort William, beautiful setting, used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, last scene) and Doune Castle (near Stirling, used in many movies and TV shows, again including the Monty Python). I also saw a lot of Edinburgh Castle and Inverness Castle, but entered neither (well, I was almost in Edinburgh, but no tour).
The first castle we visited was Stirling. It is impressive, dominating the landscape. And it has a rich history, though they seemed to concentrate on Mary, Queen of Scots in our visit. We were a little rushed, but I still made it to most of the rooms and walked around a little, but not much.
Armadale Castle is actually a newer structure built to resemble a “real” castle. It was build by Lord MacDonald. The ruins of the castle form the centerpiece of the Clan Donald Centre and the Museum of the Isles. I talked about my visit when I talked about Skye.
Leaving Skye we visited Eilean Donan. This castle was destroyed in the 18th century, but restored in the early 20th. It is gorgeous! I did get a pretty good photo a couple of days before our our visit, but you can see some reflections on the bus window!
Urquhart Castle is a romantic ruins on Loch Ness. We had a short boat trip to the castle and then plenty of time to walk around. The high point was a defensive structure back to the 6th century, and possibly earlier, but the castle we see today was built between the 14th and 17th century (the large tower being rebuilt in the 16th century). This was a very cool place.
We watched the Military Tattoo ( post to come) from the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade. This isn’t in the castle, but uses the castle as a dramatic backdrop and “prop”. And then the castle is so often visible through out the city. It is the type of places you might think of when you hear the word “castle”.
Below are some photos of castles we saw and/or visited, including photos from above. As always, click on a photo to view it full size. Once up, you can scroll through the photos.
I hope you enjoyed seeing some of the castles of Scotland! To go back to the beginning of the journey, and the page that links all sections together, please see Part 1!