The Best Castles to See In or Near Edinburgh
These three castles are all in Edinburgh. If you are staying close to the Old Town you can walk the Royal Mile to both Edinburgh Castle and Holyroodhouse. Then take a cab to Craigmillar Castle. DO NOT walk around in Craigmillar alone or at night. Read below to find out why.
1 hide detailHistoric fortress with breathtaking views and opulent riches inside.
Information from Historic Scotland.
No trip to Scotland would be complete without a stop at the magnificent Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock. First erected in the 12th century, the fortress sits on top of an extinct volcano and is the most breathtaking part of the city's skyline. Within the castle walls you see impressive views of most of the New Town, including the Princes Street Gardens, Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags, the famous Balmoral Hotel and more. You can also explore the various rooms, chapels and compartments of the fortress and through interactive displays discover what living and working there might have been like during the medieval era.
The highlight of any tour of the castle is the Honours of Scotland (the crown jewels), on display in the Crown Room of the castle's Royal Palace (built in 1617). These include the ancient crown, sword and scepter, which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Here you can also see Scotland's most prized treasure: The Stone of Destiny, otherwise known as the Coronation Stone. This has been used in the crowning of Scottish and English monarchs (much to dismay of many Scottish nationalists) for hundreds of years.
Be sure to arrive before lunch, so you can watch the master gunner fire the castle's canon at 1pm (except Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.); it is a tradition that dates back to1861 when the firing of the gun was used to signal for ships in the Firth of Forth and the port of Leith.A popular visitor attraction and a World Heritage Site, Edinburgh Castle is now proud host to modern day events including rock gigs and the famous Edinburgh Tattoo.
(aged 16 to 59)
(aged 5 to 15)
Concession: £10.40Opening times:
(aged 60 and over, unemployed)
Child under 5: FREE
9:30am - 6pm
1 Apr - 30 Sep
9:30am - 5pm
1 Oct - 31 Mar
2 hide detailRoyal intrigue and beauty
Situated at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse Palace is today the official residence of The Queen when visiting Scotland. Guests are welcome all year round to visit the gallery and take guided tours of the magnificent décor of Holyroodhouse Palace. The tapestries and ornate furniture still used to this day are highlights of the tour and offer the Edinburgh tourist a chance to wander around a modern day palace.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
(includes an audio tour)
Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £9.30
Under 17 £6.20
Under 5 Free
Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £27.00
Joint Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Queen's GalleryAdult £14.30
Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £13.00
Under 17 £8.30
Under 5 Free
Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £38.50
3 hide detailImposing ruins and royal intrigues
Craigmillar is one of Scotland's most perfectly preserved castles. It began as a simple tower-house residence. Gradually, over time, it developed into a complex of structures and spaces, as subsequent owners attempted to improve its comfort and amenity. As a result, there are many nooks and crannies to explore. Of equal importance were the surrounding gardens and parkland, and the present-day Craigmillar Castle Park has fascinating reminders of the castle's days as a rural retreat on the edge of Scotland's capital city.
At the core lies the original, late-14th-century tower house, among the first of this new form of castle built in Scotland. It stands 17m high to the battlements, has walls almost 3m thick, and holds a warren of rooms, including a fine great hall on the first floor, and the so-called 'Queen Mary's Room' beside it, where Mary is said to have slept when staying there as a guest of the Prestons. In all probability, Mary resided in a multi-roomed apartment elsewhere in the courtyard, probably in the east range.
Also here is a labyrinth of dark spaces, including a grim basement prison where an upright skeleton was found walled up in the early 19th century. The west range was rebuilt as the Gilmour family's residence after 1660. Beyond the well-preserved 15th-century courtyard wall, complete with gunholes shaped like inverted keyholes, lie other buildings, including a private family chapel.
- The tower house – one of the oldest in Scotland, and with fascinating features, including a fine great hall and the so-called 'Queen Mary's Room'.
- The views from the tower – over the city of Edinburgh, including Holyrood Park and Edinburgh Castle.
- The nooks and crannies – a great castle to explore because of the many dark and mysterious chambers.
- The grounds – including the remains of an unusual fishpond laid out in the shape of a letter P, for Preston.
These castles/monuments are located in the city of Stirling, which is about 40 miles northwest from Edinburgh. You can take a train from Waverly Station, bus it or drive it.
4 hide detailOne of Scotland's finest Stewart Castles
Our Local Expert Says:
This castle far exceeds Edinburgh Castle, so plan day trip to Stirling!
Information from Wikipedia and Historic Scotland.
Several Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1543. There have been at least eight sieges of Stirling Castle, including several during the Wars of Scottish Independence, with the last being in 1746, when Bonnie Prince Charlie unsuccessfully tried to take the castle.
The castle rivals Edinburgh Castle in beauty and magnificence. It is is built high on a volcanic outcrop the castle offers a fascinating tour of the Gatehouse, Chapel Royal and Great Hall all built by the Stewart Kings.Visit the Medieval Kitchen and a special Castle exhibition. Relax after your exploration at the café or pick out a gift in the souvenir shop. Free guided tours run regularly.
Open from 9:30am - 6pm (April 1-September 30th). Check website for winter times.
Adult - £9.00 / £7.20
Child - £5.40 (under 5 - Free)
5 hide detailFor over 140 years, this world-famous landmark has fascinated visitors with its exhibits and displays, telling the story of Sir William Wallace.
Information from Wikipedia and official Wallace Monument website.
The National Wallace Monument commemorates Sir William Wallace, the 13th century Scottish hero.
It stands on the Abbey Craig, a volcanic crag above Cambuskenneth Abbey, from which Wallace was said to have watched the gathering of the army of English king Edward I, just before the Battle of Stirling Bridge.
The monument is open to the general public. Visitors climb the 246 step spiral staircase to the viewing gallery inside the monument's crown, which provides expansive views of the Ochil Hills and the Forth Valley.A number of artefacts believed to belong to Wallace are on display inside the monument, including the Wallace Sword, and a 1.68-metre (5 ft, 6 in) long claymore.
The tower was constructed following a fundraising campaign which accompanied a resurgence of Scottish national identity in the 19th century.
These castles are located near the city of North Berwick, which is about a 40-60 minute drive from Edinburgh. Rent a car so you can use your time most effectively. Just make sure you drive on the LEFT side of the road :-)
6 hide detailThe last great castle built in Scotland.
Information from Historic Scotland.
Situated by the sea, mighty Tantallon Castle was built in the 1350s by a nobleman at the height of his power. In 1354, William Douglas came into possession of all his father's lands, as well as those of his uncle, 'the Good Sir James of Douglas', a close friend of King Robert Bruce. The estates included the barony of North Berwick. In 1358 William was created Earl of Douglas, by which date the builders may already have begun to build his new stronghold. In the 1380s the dynastic house of Douglas split into two branches, known as the 'Black' and the 'Red'. Tantallon passed to the junior line, the 'Red Douglases', Earls of Angus. For the next 300 years, the earls of Angus held sway at the castle, acting out their role as one of the most powerful baronial families in Scotland. During that time it endured three great sieges, in 1491, 1528 and 1651. The last, by Oliver Cromwell's army, resulted in such devastating destruction that the mighty medieval fortress was abandoned to the birds.
Tantallon was the last truly great castle built in Scotland. Its architecture harked back to the mighty stone castles of enclosure of the 13th century, such as Bothwell Castle. These were characterized by enormously thick and high stone walls enclosing large closes, or courtyards. Lofty stone towers projected from the great curtain, wherein the noble life was lived.
Tantallon's plan differs from most great 13th-century enclosure castles only because of its situation, at the edge of a promontory. Although the curtain wall enclosed the entire site, the castle only needed formidable defenses along the landward side. That great curtain wall of red sandstone still stands remarkably entire, as do the three towers in which the mighty earls of Angus and their henchmen lived their lives.
Visitors can enjoy wild flowers in season and touch the replica cannon. Refreshments are available in the visitor center.
The castle is haunted as well - a ghost was snapped in a tourist's picture here in May 2008!
1 April - 30 September, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat. Sun, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm
1 October - 31 October, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat. Sun, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
1 November - 31 March, Mon Tue Wed Sat Sun, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm
Adult £4.70, Child £2.80, Concession £3.80