One of Scotland’s most iconic features is the sheer number of castles, ruins, fortresses and stately homes that can be found in every nook and cranny of each region. Many of these magnificent castles also have incredible gardens and grounds that are a sight to be explored. So if you like castles and walks, why not combine the two and explore some of these popular and hidden castles in Scotland?
CAERLAVEROCK CASTLE, DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY
In the beautiful south of Scotland, head to the formidable Caerlaverock Castle. This stunning red sandstone castle features a unique triangular shape, with moats, a twin-towered gatehouse and medieval battlements. The castle is perched on the Solway coast, so be sure to visit Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve, where you can stroll the beach and take scenic walks in the sand, and even dip your toes in the water.
CULZEAN CASTLE AND THOMASTON CASTLE, AYRSHIRE
With gardens, beaches, woods and trails stretching for miles, Culzean Castle & Country Park is a stunning clifftop estate that the whole family will love to explore. With 260 hectares of land rich in flora and fauna, towering trees and a glorious walled garden, you can explore the fascinating history of this magnificent castle, while admiring the picturesque landscape around you. After exploring the castle take a stroll to the Wall Garden and if you want to stretch your legs a bit more keep going and you will come to Thomaston Castle. This 13th century castle ruin was built by Robert the Bruce’s nephew, Thomas Bruce, and the majority of its medieval appearance is still intact since it was abandoned around 1800.
CLONCAIRD CASTLE RURAL ESTATE, AYRSHIRE
Set in stunning Ayrshire countryside, Cloncaird Castle & Country Estate has spectacular grounds for walking, with pretty riverside paths to follow and sandy beaches to stroll. South Ayrshire offers some of the best hiking in the country, and with Galloway Forest Park just 20 minutes’ drive away, there are hundreds of trails and paths to explore.
GLAMIS CASTLE AND GARDENS, ANGUS
If you like historical time travel, you are in for a treat! Glamis Castle & Gardens is not only Scotland’s finest castle, it is also the childhood home of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the birthplace of Her Majesty Princess Margaret. The extensive castle garden offers incredible scenery and paths to follow, with the walled garden displaying fruit, vegetables, a grass maze and Monet-style fountains. The Italian garden, designed by Countess Cecilia, is pleasant to walk through and features towering yew hedges, beech alleys, a stone fountain, ornamental gates, and more. Follow the Macbeth Trail or the Nature Trail to discover impressive carvings, wildlife-rich woods, and paths lined with exotic trees and plants.
BALLINDALLOCH CASTLE AND GARDENS, BANFFSHIRE
Situated on the River Spey in Banffshire, Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens is nicknamed ‘the Pearl of the North’, and it’s easy to see why. Explore this idyllic corner of Scotland with acres of gardens, woodland and riverside meadows to roam, plus the rockery, courtyard garden and walled garden to admire. The long-distance walking route, the Speyside Way, passes through Ballindalloch. Section 4, Craigellachie to Ballindalloch, and Section 5, Ballindalloch to Grantown, pass nearby and you can venture there.
DUNOLLIE CASTLE AND MCCAIG TOWER, OBAN
Head to the west coast, to the seaside town of Oban. Stroll along the harbor and you can see the imposing McCaig’s Tower, perched on Battery Hill, towering over the city. Stroll through the peaceful gardens that are inside the tower and gaze out to sea with incredible panoramic views. If you walk further north along the harbor you will come across Dunollie Castle. This ruin is perfectly located above the road and offers spectacular views, which are particularly striking at sunset.
STIRLING CASTLE, NATIONAL WALLACE MONUMENT AND OCHIL HILLS, STIRLING
A small town with a big history, Stirling is home to Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s most historically significant sites, which was once the residence of the Kings and Queens of Stewart. Relax in the castle gardens and admire the panoramic views from the rooftop terrace. Nearby, the National Wallace Monument is a must visit and allows you to learn about the life and legacy of Scottish patriot and martyr, Sir William Wallace. For a more challenging walk, head to the Ochil Hills, north of the city, where you can scale the Ben Cleuch, or even hike to various lookout points for spectacular views of the surrounding landscape . Want to extend your stay in Stirling? Get your bearings in the city with this full-day itinerary.
CASTLE, GARDEN AND ESTATE OF DRUM AND CRATHES CASTLE, BANCHORY
Drum Castle, Garden and Estate, one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses, offers a true medieval Jacobite setting with a walled garden of historic roses that you can stroll through or choose from three marked trails to explore. If one castle isn’t enough, Crathes Castle is a 10 minute drive away and you can stroll along the Coy Burn for the chance to spot buzzards, herons and kingfishers. Spend your time exploring the castle grounds, with six wooded paths that lead you through the gardens.
Dunrobin Castle, the northernmost of Scotland’s grand houses and fortresses, is known for its magnificent gardens which are carefully presented and structured throughout the grounds. Wander and admire the detail and precision of the design and explore the croquet lawn, pyramid garden and lily fountain, or stay for an incredible display of falconry. Then, walk down to the shore and walk along the coast or play in the rock pools to see what you can find.