The castles in the highlands of Scotland are some of the most scenic looking castles in the world and are packed full of clan histories and legends.
There are so many castles in the highlands to see but these 15 castles are some of the best you can visit there.
Some of these castles are grand looking and others are but ruins of a time gone by, windswept in the remote Scottish Highlands. But all are worth visiting for their own reasons.
There’s a map of these castles in the highlands at the end of the article to help plan a trip better. I’ve recommended some tours in the post that you may find useful as well.
Eilean Donan Castle
Let’s start with one of the most iconic pictures in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle.
There is no denying the scenic beauty of the castle and its location, but the castle also has a history and atmosphere that make it one of the best castles in the highlands of Scotland.
It’s also a very old castle dating back to the 13th-century, although what you see today is mostly a reconstruction as the original castle was involved in the Jacobite rebellions and destroyed by the English in the 18th-century.
It’s easily one of Scotland’s best castles.
If you’re in Inverness there’s a day tour to the Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle you can do.
Cawdor Castle is a 15th-century castle and belongs to the Clan Campbell.
It is well known for its beautiful gardens and part of Shakespeare’s Macbeth play is based around the place but there is no real historic connection between the two as the play is set centuries before the castle was built.
There’s a holly tree in the dungeon that legend says the castle was built around! There’s a restaurant at the castle so you can eat when there.
From Invergordon, there’s a day tour to Cawdor Castle, Inverness, and whisky distilleries you can do.
Another epic setting for a castle in the highlands is that of Dunvegan Castle which is located on one of the most scenic places in Scotland, the Isle of Skye. You could say it’s castles in the Skye!
Dunvegan Castle is a 13th-century castle and the seat of Clan MacLeod and it’s the oldest continuously lived-in castle in Scotland.
There’s a good tour from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye that includes Dunvegan Castle.
Dunrobin Castle is owned by Clan Sutherland and the original castle on the site went back to medieval times but what you see today is a modern construction from the 19th-century.
It’s located by the Moray Firth and has excellent views of it. In the past, it was used for several years as a boarding school giving a somewhat Harry Potter vibe.
There’s a few haunted legends of Dunrobin Castle, like many castles in the highlands, including one where a woman is heard crying in the room she died in when trying to escape through the window in the 15th-century.
There’s a day tour from Inverness to Dunrobin Castle and the far north that’s recommended.
Duart Castle is located on the Isle of Mull and is in a very strategic location where it protected an important waterway. The original castle dates to the 13th-century but the one you see now is a restored version from the 19th-century.
It’s one of Clan MacLean’s castles.
Tip: Check out the nearby old abbey on Iona Island when there.
Castle Stalker is technically a medieval fortified tower house located on the scenic Loch Laich in the Lynn of Lorn National Scenic Area. It’s set on a tidal outlet.
It was originally a fort built in the 14th-century and was turned into what it is today in the 15th-century.
It’s close to the below Dunstaffnage Castle and Castle Tioram.
Dunstaffnage Castle is in what you could call a semi-ruined state and is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland.
It dates to the 13th-century and used to be a castle of Clan MacDougall. There is also a chapel combined with the castle.
As mentioned before it’s nearby Castle Stalker.
Brodie Castle is a Z plan designed castle dating to the 16th-century, although like many castles extensions were made in later centuries.
It was the home of the Brodie Clan for over 400 years who were one of the most important families in Scotland.
Tip: The castle is famous for its massive daffodil collection in springtime, so if you love flowers you will enjoy them at that time of the year.
Ballindalloch Castle was originally a fortified tower house in the 16th-century although a lot of what you see today was added in the 18th-century.
The castle has been called the “pearl of the north” and it certainly looks pretty. It’s also handily located in the region of Scotland where most whisky is produced, Speyside.
It’s a privately own castle by the Macpherson-Grants family. There’s a tearoom you can rest in when visiting and enjoy tea and a bite to eat.
Castle of Mey
The Castle of Mey is set about as far north in Scotland as you can get for a castle. You can even see Orkney from the top on a clear day.
It dates to the 16th-century and was expanded on in the 19th-century.
The castle is probably most famous for being rescued from a very bad state of disrepair by the Queen Mother when she bought it in 1952 and restored it.
The castles of Sinclair Girnigoe and Old Keiss (see further down the post) are around a 30-minute drive away so you can visit them as well on the same day.
Castle Leod is the seat of Clan Mackenzie and dates to the 15th-century although much of what you see today was built in the 17th-century.
It was part of the Jacobite rebellions and the night before the infamous Battle of Culloden the earl was taken and imprisoned and the estates confiscated.
Fans of the TV series Outlander should recognise Castle Leod as being the inspiration for Castle Leoch in the series.
There’s a 4-day Outlander tour from Edinburgh that includes Castle Leod.
The rest of these castles in the highlands of Scotland are in a ruined state unlike the others mentioned before.
They are very scenic though and definitely worth going to for the stunning settings and the history of the castles.
Urquhart Castle is set in one of the most visited lochs in Scotland, Loch Ness. So basically if you’re planning to see Loch Ness and Inverness then there’s no reason not to take a look at Urquhart Castle.
It’s in ruins today largely due to being destroyed during the Jacobite rebellion by the English. The original castle dated to the 13th-century.
You can take a day tour from Edinburgh to Loch Ness and the Scottish Highlands where you will see Urquhart Castle.
Castle Tioram is set on Loch Moidart on a tidal island and is in a ruinous state inside that you may not be able to enter (check the current conditions when there).
The original castle was started in the 13th-century and expanded on in the 14th. It was a castle of the MacDonalds Clan.
In the 18th-century it was set alight to prevent it from falling into government hands and is partially why it’s in ruins today.
The locals in the area call it “Dorlin Castle” so if you get lost maybe ask for directions for that!
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe (+ Old Keiss Castle)
Castle Sinclair Girnigoe is actually the site of two castle ruins, Sinclair Castle from the 17th-century and Girnigoe Castle from the 15th-century, hence the name.
Clan Sinclair used to own the castle and it overlooks the brooding Bay of Sinclair by the cliffs.
Check out the nearby Old Keiss Castle from the late 16th-century when there as they’re very close to each other and both make for epic cliffside castle photos.
Ardvreck Castle is in a very ruined state and also very remote, but that’s what its charm is and why it’s added here at the end.
It’s set on the windswept Loch Assynt and dates to the 16th-century.
I would recommend only visiting Ardvreck Castle if you have the time due to the remote area and that there is little to see of the castle itself anymore.
It’s definitely the most remote of the castles in the highlands of Scotland mentioned here.
Map of the castles in the highlands:
Castles In The Highlands
When you head to Scotland be sure to see some castles when there and these castles in the highlands will leave you with a sense of the history and the beauty of the place.
There is one notable exception from the castles in the highlands that I didn’t include and that is Inverness Castle, simply for the reason that it is used as a working building and you can only climb up one of the towers there and that’s it.
Get a copy of the (Amazon affiliate link) Collins Castles Map of Scotland that will be useful for getting around and seeing the castles.
Have a read of my article 30 best castles in Scotland for more Scottish castle’s.
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