Scotland is very fortunate to have many of the UK’s oldest and most historic castles. Many of the castles in Scotland date back centuries with the oldest inhabited castle thought to be Traquair House (1107), located to the south of Edinburgh. The most famous of Scottish castles include and . Most of the sites include a museum with many interesting facts and genuine artefacts on show, displays highlighting the history of the castle, often guided tours or self guided tours where you can go at your own pace whilst listening to a headset, shops selling memorabilia and most have excellent parking facilities. The most famous castles in Scotland are generally easy to find with clear signage directing traffic.
With the exception of the key royal sites, such as Stirling and Edinburgh, few Scottish castles were located at strategic points, or were intended to house garrisons required to defend or conquer towns. Instead they were primarily fortified dwelling houses, built in an environment of weak royal authority and common feuding between rival clans and groups, in both highland and lowland areas of Scotland.
Most of the nation's castles were built, lived in and fought over by clans or families mainly in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. Most castles are now in ruins but the stones that many people’s ancestors placed one upon another are still there. The MacLeod, Campbell, McMillan, Brodie, Boyd, Sutherland and Leslie clans for example have their ancestral clan castles not just still standing but open to the public and full of information on their forbearers.
Today, castles not only serve to inform us of Scotland's history but play host to many annual events. Edinburgh Castle now hosts a world famous New Year's Eve party, known locally as ‘Hogmanay’. This is attended by thousands of people who line the streets of central Edinburgh and the Royal Mile leading up to the castle to enjoy the atmosphere, the many different genres of live music being played, the midnight firework display and of course some of the famous old public houses. Stirling Castle frequently opens its doors to the public in the form of mainly summer music concerts where recent acts include REM, Ocean Colour Scene and James Blunt.
The grounds that the castles lie in with the gardens are always beautifully maintained and are worth a visit on this alone - the interiors clean and looking as good as when they were being lived in centuries ago and the displays on show being state of the art. The cost of the upkeep of Scottish castles is immense and as a way of generating revenue, some of the castles host weddings and corporate banqueting where newly weds as well as business men and women can enjoy the nostalgic surroundings whilst dining and taking in historic music, poetry and acting performances.
Whether the purpose of your holiday is history and heritage, Hogmanay, a music concert or maybe a family wedding, then there are many castles to visit in Scotland, and many that you can stay in too so you can really get to know Scottish castle life! Staying in a Scottish castle - whether it is now a hotel or still a private house offering bed and breakfast, or a self-catering castle - is a very memorable experience.