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11 Best Ruined Castles in Scotland

While preserved castles have always been a wonder to the eye, there’s something mysterious about castle ruins. The mere fact that they were a symbol of power once and now merely stand neglected in the dark sends shivers down the spine.

Castle ruins are castles left neglected in the hands of time and nature. Here we’re going to get you a trip across eleven ruined castles in Scotland. In spite of being ruins, these are still some of the best Scotland Castles to visit. We have got the perfect Scotland Castles list for you.

Trust me, you are going to love this tour of Scotland Castle ruins!

Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle
Blackness Castle”, by Jeff Hitchcock, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Built in 1440 by Scotland’s Crichtons family, Blackness Castle is one of the most stunning Scottish castles. Overlooking the River Forth and situated near the Blackness Village, this castle used to serve as a port for the royal mansion and the nearby town of Linlithgow back in the Dark Ages. The castle has also been in use as a prison for the state.

From serving the purpose of a royal fortress and state prison in the 1400s to being used to hold the Covenanters and seafarers captive here during the war with Britain, the castle has had an impressive history of warfare, rises, and downfalls. Finally, the castle was taken under state preservation after World War I.

Under Sir James Hamilton of Finnart in the 16th century, one of the most technologically advanced ordnance fortifications was developed in Scotland. Further in the 1870s, officers’ quarters were built.

In the late 1800s, significant changes were made in the structure of the castle, particularly the courtyard’s roofing was completely modified.

From 1926, a period of restoration of the castle embarked upon, and all 19th-century additions were removed, and medieval-style was reintroduced. This resulted in the loss of the original look of much of the castle.

Trivia:- Blackness Castle is among those few ruins of Scotland which pride themselves on their unique appearance. The castle has the appearance of a ship standing by the sea-shore, and for the same reason, it is known as “a ship that never sailed”.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle”, by Graeme Pow, is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Is it worth going inside Edinburgh Castle? Well, I would say definitely!

Standing on Castle Rock, the history of this ruined castle in Scotland goes back to the 12th century. Edinburgh Castle has served as a royal prison and a military garrison in the medieval ages. The castle preserves Scotland’s Crown Jewels. St. Margaret’s Chapel is a prominent tourist attraction here and also is the castle’s oldest part. The chapel was built by King David I in his mother, Queen Margaret’s memory.

The castle has a strategic military location, and likely, this was the reason the people of the Iron Age built a fort here, and ever since, the castle has grown to enormous military and royal potential.

There’s also a Scottish National War Memorial built here after World War I. The castle hosts wedding events presently at the St, Margaret’s Chapel.

The British Army still administers most of the castle; however, its task is mostly administrative. The castle also houses some museums, contributing to its presentation as a tourist attraction.

You can also explore other castle ruins near Edinburgh.

Some of the best castles to stay in Scotland near Edinburgh are Craigmillar Castle, Lauriston Castle, Tantallon Castle, and Dirleton Castle.

Trivia:- Edinburgh Castle is probably one of the earliest human habitation sites in Edinburgh.

Loch Leven Castle

Loch Leven Castle, Kinross
Loch Leven Castle, Kinross”, by Robert Cutts, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Loch Leven Castle was probably built by Alexander III in the mid-1200s and held strategic importance during the Wars of Scottish Independence. It underwent a series of hostile encounters between the English and Sir John Comyn IV.

In the 1950s, Queen Mary of Scots was held captive in the castle after losing against the Scottish lords in the Battle of Carberry Hill. She was said to have given birth to two children during the capture. Not much about the children is known, but many speculate that they died and were buried on the island. The Queen made a narrow escape from the castle and never visited it again.

Finally, after arriving at more pleasant times, the castle began to be used as a prison. Presently, the castle is under the preservation of the Historic Environment Scotland and can be visited during the summer.

Trivia:- Rumours say that Queen Mary’s ghost haunts the castle. The spirit apparently mourns the death of her two children and waits for them to come back to life.

Dunnottar Castle

Scotland Dunnottar Castle
Scotland Dunnottar Castle (2)”, by Brian Yap, is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

“Once seen, never forgotten” is what the tagline on its official website reads. Precisely so, Dunnottar Castle is one of the oldest and most famous castles in Scotland. It is located along Scotland’s north-eastern shores. In the 5th century, St. Ninian built a church here, which is one of the earliest Christian sites in the Pictish Kingdom.

The castle underwent invasion by the Vikings and several conflicts between the English and the Scots. Charles II stayed here when he was attempting to seize the Crown from the Parliament.

After being crowned, however, Oliver Cromwell captured Edinburgh, and so the Honours of Scotland- which included the court crown and some other valuables- were sent to the Dunnottar for protection.

Today, most parts of the castle stand devastated- except the tower house and a redeveloped drawing-room, among some others. However, the castle is most worth-the-visit for peaceful walks along the cliffs.

Trivia:- Benholm’s Lodging, a gatehouse of the castle, was cut out of the cliff’s rocks.

Slains Castle

New Slains Castle, Cruden Bay
New Slains Castle, Cruden Bay”, by spodzone, is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Situated near Cruden Bay, Slains Castle is one of the most visited castles in Scotland. It was built by Francis Hay, Earl of Erroll, from the late 1600s. However, in the early 1900s, the Hays saw financial misery and sold the castle to Sir John Ellerman.

Ellerman apparently demolished quite many parts of the castle. By 1925 the roof had been removed. In the 1980s, an idea was brought upon to transform the castle into a tourist stay spot. The plan, however, remains neglected. The Castle could have become one of the most exciting Scotland Castles to stay in.

Initially called Bowness Castle, the site is listed as a Category B building by Historic Environment Scotland. Enriched with intricate masonry, the castle has a classy Gothic appearance to it.

Trivia:- The castle is well-known to be used as an inspiration by Bram Stoker for his popular novel, Count Dracula (1897).

Huntly Castle

Huntly Castle
Huntly Castle-8106”, by Michael McCarthy, is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Built by the Earl of Fife, Duncan II, in the late 1100s, Huntly Castle has seen a lot of transformations since then. This Scottish castle ruin started off as a motte construction having an artificial mound. Later in the medieval ages, the castle served as a tower house.

In the 1500s, many modifications were made. For instance, the castle in the southern region that was being constructed into a Palace was planned to replace the Tower House as a residence.

The 1600s saw the castle building into a splendid palace, but the civil war following the tranquillity turned the castle into a ruin. George Gordon, second Marquis of Huntly, undertook the final reformation of the castle. His death, however, left the task unfinished and the castle was then, in 1923, put into state preservation.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle”, by Stirling Council, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Stirling Castle’s earliest records go back to as early as around 1110 when Alexander I mentioned a chapel there. The castle stands by the River Forth on a rocky volcanic hill. It can be spotted in all directions till quite a lot of distance. It is still one of the nicest castles in scotland.

Stirling Castle was a preferred choice of the Stewarts for holding huge celebrations in the castle. A key attraction of the castle is The Palace which was revamped in 2011. The plan was to make it look exactly how it did in the mid-16th century when it was built by James V.

The Great Hall and the Royal Chapel, the latter of which was rebuilt by James VI in the 1600s, and the King’s Old Building are worth a visit here. The castle is located between the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland. Thus, the castle is often called the ”brooch” as it connects the two parts of Scotland.

Trivia:- Almost all Scottish Monarchs have either lived in the castle, were coronated, or died here.

Ellon Castle Gardens

Ellon Castle
Ellon Castle”, by Astrid H, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Situated in the town of Ellon in Aberdeenshire, Ellon Castle Gardens are a part of Ardigth Castle’s ruins. The motte of the castle dates back to the 13th century. It was a chief site for Alexander Comyn to carry out legal decisions.

The gardens consist of an outstanding sundial and the English yews, both of which are 500 years old. The gardens are presently managed by the Ellon Castle Gardens Trust. Plans are to develop the site into a tourism centre.

Trivia:- The English yew trees of the castle are considered to be the finest collection in the United Kingdom.

Tolquhon Castle

Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire
Scotland.2008 104”, by dvdbramhall, is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Built in the 1580s, Tolquhon Castle was initially a tower. It is also referred to as “the most characteristic château of the Scots Renaissance”.

Sir William Forbes further brought changes into the site in the 16th century. A luxurious house, some storage facilities, a gallery, and servants’ quarters were further added.

Tolquhon Castle was later on sold to the Earl of Aberdeen to be used as a farmhouse, and by the 1900s, it was left neglected into a ruin. It is now administered by Historic Scotland.

Trivia:- There’s a hide-out place on the castle’s second floor where prized possessions were kept safely.

Kildrummy Castle

Kildrummy Castle
Kildrummy Castle”, by AJfromCO, is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Kildrummy Castle is a 13th-century ruin situated in Aberdeenshire. The castle was built by Gilbert de Moravia and is in the shape of a shield with many towers alongside. The castle played a significant role in the Wars of Independence of the 1400s and the 1715 Jacobite Rising.

The castle also possessed the Snow Tower, which had a French style of architecture. In 1925, many pieces of evidence of battles along with embellished stone flooring were unearthed.

Kildrummy Castle is managed by the Historic Environment Scotland and is open for visits.

Trivia:- In 1303, Edward I of England visited the castle with the builder of his magnificent North Wales castle, Master James. The ground plan of the two buildings is very similar, and so, it can be said that the construction of the gatehouse was carried out by Edward.

St. Andrews Castle

St Andrews Castle
St Andrews Castle”, by Son of Groucho, is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Built in the 13th Century, St. Andrews Castle is one of the most beautiful ruined castles in Scotland. Located on a headland and towers over the North Sea, the castle went through many destructions and resurrections during the Scottish Wars of Independence as the English and the Scots took turns controlling it.

The dungeon of the castle also had many religious reformers captive; as John Knox rightfully puts ‘Many of God’s Children were imprisoned here’. 

Not being much in use made the castle turn into ruin by 1656. The degeneration was to such an extent that its materials were ordered to be used in repairing the jetty.

Trivia:- St. Andrews Castle was the site for Archbishop David Beaton’s hard-hearted murder.

Can you buy a castle in Scotland?

You can find Castles for sale in Scotland, often advertised in “Country Life” magazine or on other websites. Depending on the condition, location, land, etc., prices differ from slightly less than a million pounds to several million pounds.

How many castles are still standing in Scotland?

There are still more than 1500 castles standing in Scotland. Their beautiful architecture and history are worth visiting.

With their classic architecture and remarkable history, these ruined castles in Scotland are a must-visit. The impact of time on these castles leaves anyone knowing them with goosebumps. This reminds us of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s words in his famous work “Ozymandias.”

Nothing beside remains. Round the decay

Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare

The lone and level sands stretch far away

Percy Bysshe Shelley

As quoted above, everything is transient. Even the most colossal works are helpless in the hands of time. But the history of these castle ruins would keep generations to come spellbound.

“Can I stay in a castle in Scotland?” Do you have this question in your mind after reading about Scotland Castle ruins, and you are wondering how to stay in a castle in Scotland?

Well! There are some amazing Scotland Castles you can stay in and enjoy the beauty of Scotland. And if you want to get married in Scotland, do check out these Top 7 Castle Wedding Venues in Scotland!

If you liked reading about ruined castles in Scotland, would you be interested to read about Ruined Castles in Ireland? Please let us know in the comments!

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