Capturing Scotland’s Castles
Date published: 30 April 2019
From ruined clifftop bastions to romantic fairytale fortresses, Scotland is home to some spectacular castles – and each one of them is steeped in myths, majesty, and more than a little magic.
Countless people the world over have glimpsed these spectacular strongholds on film, television and shortbread tins and been enthralled by their beauty – but nothing compares to setting sail and capturing these castles for yourself!
Scotland is home to some incredible castles and, at first glance, Castle Stalker – named from the Gaelic ‘Stalcaire’ meaning hunter or falconer – is nothing compared to Edinburgh or Eilean Donan. But when the sun begins to slink down over the horizon, this rugged fort in the mouth of Loch Laich comes alive. Castle Stalker is home to some of the most spectacular sunsets to be found it Scotland – seeing its stout silhouette set against a burning sky will stay with you for a lifetime.
Ruined but romantic, evocative but eerie, Dunnotar Castle is a fallen fortress plucked from a fairytale. Set on a soaring cliff top overlooking the roaring waves of the North Sea, Dunnotar has played a pivotal role in the history of Scotland. Most famously, a small garrison held out against the might of Oliver Cromwell’s army for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels, the ‘Honours of Scotland’, from destruction.
A lavish bishop’s palace; an impregnable fortress; an infamous state prison – St Andrews Castle has been many things during its 450-year history. Overlooking Castle Beach and the North Sea, St Andrews is, quite fittingly, blessed with an incredible vista but the tales of the castle are far from heavenly. The bottle prison (so-called due to its shape) was one of the most infamous castle jails in medieval Britain. Walking its dank, airless halls – hewn from solid rock – will send shivers up your spine.
The oldest continuously-inhabited castle in Scotland, the ancestral seat of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod is also the home of more than a little magic. Set sail for Skye to explore its five acres of beautifully-maintained gardens complete with woodland glades, waterfalls, and a wonderful array of vibrant blooms; or discover the legendary artefacts of the Clan, including the famous Fairy Flag – said to have miraculous powers when unfurled on the battlefield…
A brute mass of masonry perched on a promontory on the Firth of Lorn, 13th century Dunstaffnage Castle holds a special place amongst Scottish castles. Unlike Edinburgh or Eilean Donan, where beauty melds with murderous design, Dunstaffnage Castle rises like a golem from the Argyll coast. It’s a grim, dark and foreboding monument of defence and defiance that’s nonetheless unforgettable.
Set sail for the Kyle of Lochalsh and pay a visit to Eilean Donan Castle – one of the most recognised structures in Scotland and a recurring feature on shortbread tins and calendars the world over. It’s easy to see why – towering against the landscape overlooking the Isle of Skye at the point where three great sea-lochs meet and surrounded by the leafy mountains of Kintail, Eilean Donan’s setting is unforgettable. Subtly but beautifully-lit, seeing the castle in the mid-night gloom is nothing short of magical.
(c) Pete Stevens
Explore the rugged beauty and history of the Highlands in iconic Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. Home to over 1,000 years of history, the castle is where St Columba is said to have worked miracles in the 6th century, where acts of chivalry and defiance provided inspiration during the Wars of Independence, and where the clan MacDonald, Lords of the Isles, struggled with the Crown for power. Sailing in its shadow on deep, dark waters of Loch Ness is something every sailor should experience!
Built on the craggy summit of an extinct volcano, Scotland’s most famous castle is known the world over and played a pivotal role in the history of the nation – it’s no surprise there’s no shortage of things to see and do. Explore the stories of the kings enthroned upon the Stone of Destiny; hear your footsteps echo in the city’s oldest building, St Margaret’s Chapel; or cover your ears as the iconic one o’clock gun blasts over the city. Whatever you choose, this is a city alive with magic and filled from the caverns beneath its cobbles to the tops of its towers with myths and legends. Berth up, make your way ashore, and take it all in.
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