Some of the most lasting marks of Scotland’s history on its landscape are the country’s famous castles. Once fortifications over past conflicts, today they offer a glamorous glimpse of the past as well as a history lesson.
Edinburgh is probably Scotland’s most famous castle. Dominating the capital city skyline from its perch on Castle Rock, its oldest section dates from the 12th century and it has been a royal residence ever since. It is also the famous backdrop to the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Tattoo.
Eilean Donan Castle
The most photographed castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan’s picture features on endless calendars and shortbread tins. Standing on a tiny island that overlooks the Isle of Skye and at the point where three locks meet – Loch Alsh, Loch Long and Loch Duich – it has a breathtaking setting amid the sea and forested mountains. Although it started as a 7th century monastic cell, it wasn’t until the 13th century when it became a fortress against Viking attack, according to the Historic Houses Association.
Best known as Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s childhood home and the birthplace of Princess Margaret, Glamis Castle is also famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Located in the Strathmore Valley at the foot of the Angus Glens, it has been the ancestral home of the Earls of Strathmore for over 600 years. It was used to garrison soldiers during the 17th century Commonwealth period and as a military hospital during the First World War.
Standing on an outcrop and guarding the Sound of Mull, Duart Castle started as a mere wall around a courtyard. A tower was added in the 14th century with cellars and chambers and gatehouses being built in the 17th century. It was used a garrison for government soldiers in the 18th century and later abandoned until 1911 when it was bought and restored by Sir Fitzroy Maclean, a kinsman of the soldier and writer of the same name.
Just 10 miles from Inverness and easily reached through tours on the websitewww.lochsandglens.com, Cawdor Castle was built in the 14th century as the ancestral home of the Thanes of Cawdor. Despite its connection with Shakespeare, the castle was built over 300 years after the death of the real Macbeth. The parish church in the neighbouring village of Cawdor holds the grave of Neil Smith, a naval surgeon who was aboard Victory with Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar.
More a grand country house on a cliff top than a castle, Culzean Castle in Maybole, south Ayrshire, enjoys magnificent views of seas, forests and even a secret garden. Once the ancestral home of the Clan Kennedy, it was rebuilt in the 18th century by the architect Robert Adam. A top floor apartment in the castle was presented to U.S. President Eisenhower for his lifetime use in thanks for is role during the Second World War. Today the apartment is hired out to paying guests.
Image freedigitalphotos.net – Vichaya Kiatying-Angsulee