Fairytale Castles That You Need To Visit In Scotland
Through a combination of breath-taking scenery and immaculately preserved castles, there is no doubting why Scotland is one of the most famous places in the world for its beauty and heritage.
This article has been created to provide you with the 10 best Fairy-tale Scottish Castles you can visit and include them in your itinerary for your next trip. At Private Driver Scotland our private tours often involve visiting Scotland’s beautiful fairytale castles and we are now seasoned veterans in creating tours around these iconic venues.
1) Dunvegan Castle
Residing on the side of a beautiful loch, Dunvegan Castle is located 1 mile to the north of Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye and is the oldest, continuously inhabited of its kind in Scotland. There are many reasons Dunvegan and its surroundings earn its place on the list of Fairy Tale castles. The castle and its gardens sit at the heart of the MacLeod’s enormous 42,000-acre estate.
Located near the village of Carbost in Glenbrittle and free to visit at any time are a collection of waterfalls. Accompanied by a stream flowing through the glen, which is a popular place for explorers, the crystal-clear spring water that reside here are commonly referred to as ‘Fairy Pools’. Some believe that these magical pools get their name from the ‘little people’ who dwell there.
There is a fair amount of the magic attributed to the MacLeod estate, from dramatic wilderness, tales of myths and legends and the silk flag, commonly referred to as the Fairy Flag, residing inside the castle’s walls. Visitors can witness one of the MacLeod Clan’s most treasured possessions on display at Dunvegan Castle and learn of the theories behind how it obtained its name. Woven of silk and believed to have been produced in the fourth century AD, this sacred banner is believed to hold immensely strong, supernatural powers.
2) Glamis Castle
Situated around the village of Glamis in Angus, Scotland, is Glamis Castle. Home to the former Earls of Strathmore Glam, childhood home of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and birthplace of her Royal Highness Princess Margaret. This castle is known primarily for being the setting of William Shakespeare’s, Macbeth.
The estate is surrounded by approximately 1780 acres of woodland, some of which has been in continuous forestry for the last four centuries. There is a large amount of folklore associated with the castle, along with many reported ghost sightings
Still very much a family home, visitors are invited to experience the wonderful heritage Glamis Castle has to offer. With a wealth of history this estate offers hosting of exclusive events such as weddings, private parties and conferences
3 )Eilean Donan Castle
This 13th century castle in the Scottish Highlands will take you on a journey through time and legends. This fortified structure was built in the early 13th century as a defensive measure in order to protect the land of Kintail against a Viking invasion.
Surrounded by mountains, this loch side location offers breath-taking views from all around. The castle was restored and re-built in the 20th century including the construction of its iconic bridge.
Guests are welcome to explore the magical atmosphere this castle has to offer, with access to a visitor centre and car park. There is a number of tours and activities to choose from including guided walks, kayaking and cycling trips.
4) Fyvie Castle
Fyvie Castle is located in the village of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire. With a history stretching back over 800 years, the castle is renowned for its lavish interiors, picturesque loch and a superb exterior consisting of various towers and turrets. The castle is the epitome of a fairy-tale location and offers exclusive access for weddings.
This estate is an enchanting location drenched heavily in legend and folklore. Art lovers can explore an impressive collection of rich portraits, armour and tapestries.
Believed to have been built around the 13th century by William the lion, the castle served as a royal stronghold until 1390. Tours are available via booking in advance. With tales of curses, ghosts and supernatural events, you will not be disappointed by this castle is fascinating history.
5) Balmoral Castle
Since it was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852, Balmoral Castle has been the Scottish home for the royal family. Located in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire. The castle was completed in 1856, after Prince Albert decided to replace his current castle which was not large enough for the royal family.
The castles exhibitions and surrounding gardens are open to the public from the 1st of April until the 31st of July. There is also a gift shop and cafe on site accessible for guests. The Duke of Edinburgh takes an active role in managing the state of Balmoral and has created a large vegetable garden along the terrace of the north side of the castle. Every year Queen Elizabeth the 2nd to spend the summer at Balmoral Castle, which is joined by other members of the royal family.
Each year there are a number of activities on offer including guided walks, Land Rover safaris and weekend events. Also featured on the estate is a nine-hole, 18 tee golf course available for a limited number of dates and can be booked in advance.
6) Craigiever Castle
Recognised for its pinkish appearance, the Craigiever Castle in Aberdeenshire is the perfect image of a fairytale castle. Home to the Forbes family who resided here for 350 years, until 1963 when the property was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland.
This property was said to be the inspiration behind the world-famous Disney’s Cinderella Castle. The enchanting appearance of the elegant turrets and towers create a quirky blend of real life and magic, is sure to enchant adults and children who visit.
The guided tours available really are a must if you are visiting Aberdeenshire. The informative tour guides take you through room by room, and explain the heritage and history are we talking pants over the years.
There are also captivating tales of murder, revenge and even the occasional ghost story to keep visitors entertained. Access to the castle is by guided tour only, so be sure to Secure your space either by a first come first serve basis or in the lead up to your visit.
7) Cawdor Castle
Cawdor Castle is set amid the gardens in the parish of Cawdor, in Nairnshire. Built around the 15th century tower house the property was originally of the Calder family, later passed to the Campbells in the 16th century.
The castle is best known for its connection to William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, in which the main character is titled Thane of Cawdor. According to folklore, the castle is built around a Thorn tree dating back to the 14th century. Visitors can encounter this today in the dungeon area.
An interesting story behind the building of the castle tells of how a donkey layered with gold lay beneath the ancient holly tree to rest. Residents took this as a sign to preserve this tree, believing it to bring good fortune and build around it rather than demolishing it. Scientists and researchers have discovered that the holly tree died around 1372, but it remains are still visible at the bottom of the tower today. There are also tales of ghostly sightings surrounding the castle gardens, with people claim to have seen mysterious apparitions.
The beautiful gardens that encompass this castle are home to a nine-hole golf course, and some of the most beautiful serene spots in Nairnshire. Visitors can enjoy fascinating family portraits, grand stone fireplaces, the old kitchen and the 17th century style tapestry bedroom. Situated 20 km east of Inverness, the castle is open daily from 10 am to 5:30 pm through May to early October. Tours are available providing knowledge of thrilling history and tales of legend. Cawder Castle features on day 6 of our North Coast 500 tour
8) Castle Fraser
Movie fanatics may recognise the famous Castle Fraser as the backdrop to the 2006 Oscar award-winning movie, The Queen, starring Helen Mirren. Sing chanting castle is filled with legends, folklore and tales of murder and ghost stories. The five-story tower house is one of Aberdeenshire is grandest, most romantic looking castles ever built. Dating back to the 15th century, the castle is an atmospheric place of wonder, which invites visitors to soak up stories of its heritage.
Uncover secret staircases, hidden passages, trapdoors and spy holes, it’s hard not to feel like you’re in something out of a children’s story book. With mixed woodland and open farmland on the estate, guided walks magnificently showcase the surrounding beauty of Aberdeenshire.
Let your imagination to run wild as you listen to the thrilling secrets this wonderful building has to offer. There is lots to explore at this magical location including the traditional walled garden that houses organically grown fruit and vegetables.
9) Culzean Castle
Culzean Castle overlooks the Firth of Clyde, near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. Originally belonging to the Kennedys, a well-known historical Scottish family descended from Robert the Bruce. A stone tower house was first erected here in the 16th century and overtime various Kennedy family members made expansions and alterations to it. A no expense spared project resulted in the grandest and most majestic cliff-top castle, you have ever seen.
With a dramatic oval staircase acting as the castles centrepiece, this magnificent clifftop castle has a lot of heritage to explore. The estate is planted with conifers and beech around miles of a sandy coastline. Flamboyant formal gardens with fruit filled glasshouses, add to the extravagancy of this glorious castle.
Free guided tours of the castle are available daily through March to October where visitors can discover the heritage through the use of iPhones and iPads. Private guided tour for groups are also available, or to guests wanting a more one-on-one experience.
Culzean Castle offers availability for exclusive events such as weddings, corporate functions and private parties.
10) Floors Castle
Located in Kelso, in the heart of the Scottish borders overlooking the river Tweed. Floors Castle is home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe and holds the title of the largest inhabited castle in Scotland. Jampacked with fine artwork, historical tapestries and priceless antiques, Floors Castle is the epitome of fairy-tale magic.
This iconic Scottish country house welcomes visitors to explore its interiors and Castle grounds. Surrounded by spectacular Woodland scenery, a stunning Victorian walled garden and beautiful riverside nature trails. This castle offers an extensive range of activities for a fun filled day out, for the whole family.
Throughout the year floors castle runs exciting events to keep visitors entertained. These events include mass pipe band day, Easter activities and exhilarating horse trials and country fairs. The walled gardens and terrace café are open daily all year round. A variety of workshops have been planned to take place including activities such as flower arranging.
The Roxburghe estate covers approximately 52,000 acres of the borders countryside, from heather clad Mooreland to the fertile land of the tweed valley. Just over an hour’s drive from Edinburgh and Newcastle, Castle offers delicious lunch and afternoon tea, assisted walks and tours of the castle gardens and grounds.
There are endless or inspiring locations to discover in Scotland, but it’s selection of fascinating fairy-tale castles has to be on its visitors bucket list. Find your own hidden gems across some of Scotland’s lesser-known tourist locations, or head to the popular historical sites everyone knows and loves.
Arrange a castle tour at your chosen location to absorb as much historical knowledge and fascinating stories as you can. Discover the hundreds of Scottish castles from the inhabited to the ruins, plus woodland trails and stories of myth and legend.