A collection of the fallen castles, churches, and towers of Scotland.
Undoubtedly, the castles are one of Scotland's famous features; while many are well-preserved, we'll start this post with those that decayed over time. Most just sit there as a quiet reminder of the past, free to visit any time – Only three castles from the list below have an admission fee. So, here we go in alphabetical order:
Some of the captions include links to posts about the particular place if you'd be interested in more photos and texts from there.
The first on this list is the An Eilein (14th century). Placed on a small island in a remote loch in the Cairngorms, it is a great picnic stop if you are nearby.
Auchindoun Castle (15th century): A massive ruin sitting atop a hill with lovely outlooks. A bit in the middle of nowhere, but the roads that lead to it are fun to drive, and the place itself delivers. Recommended!
Ardvreck (16th century). Another island castle, but bigger and more impressive than An Eilein. Situated in Sutherland, it is a bit out of reach but well worth a visit and a must if you do the NC500 loop. Take a good rainjacket, though!
Buchanan. The newest castle from the list, dating from the 19th century. As a result, it is relatively in good shape. Combine that with overgrowing vegetation, and you get an immensely vibrant ambience. While it isn't very famous, it is one of my favourites.
Corse Castle (16th century). A surprising, accessible ruin north of the Royal Deeside not many people know about.
Dunnottar: Built on the beautiful red cliffs of the east coastline, this complex of cool ruins from the 15-16th century is one of the most exciting castle-ruins out here. It is the first from the list that requires an entry fee, but in my opinion, it's worth it.
Dunscaith (14th century) - one of Skye's secrets. Most people visit the island to see its mountains and waterfalls without even knowing that there are any ruins. They might not be as impressive as elsewhere, but since nobody visits them, experiencing them on your own or with a friend feel quite special.
Inverlochy (13th century). Just north of Fort William, this makes for an interesting and convenient stop on the way to the northwest.
Girnigoe (15th century). Probably the most scenic of the list, this is another of my favourites.
Kildrummy, one of the most extensive 13th-century castle ruins in the Scottish east. It has an admission fee, but you get lots of signs to learn about it hands-on in reward.
Knock (15th century), another of Skye's castles. Just like Dunscaith, there's not a whole lot left.
Another castle ruin called Knock (built around 1600) is in Aberdeenshire. It is small but surprisingly atmospheric..
Slains Castle (the current structure is from the 19th century). A tremendously mysterious set, which inspired Bram Stoker for his horror novel Dracula. An interesting fact is that the reason for its current state is that its last owner didn't want to pay property tax for it, and he learned that it wouldn't count as an estate if it had no roof. So he stripped the tops, and the place decayed since.
St Andrews (13th century). Here, one can go swimming from the castle's sandy bay, which is a quite neat, unusual experience.
Urquhart (13-16th century): Perhaps the most touristy ruin of the bunch. Placed on the shores of Loch Ness, this is always crowded, and they charge for admission.
This list is not final; there are simply too many ruined castles to cover them all in my free time. But I am working on it 🙂 Meanwhile, here are the other ruins I stumbled upon here:
Scotland once had an incredible collection of gothic cathedrals; however, many of them fell apart due to the strange ways the reformation mixed interests and values of the church.
Arbroath Abbey (12th century)
St Andrews Cathedral (12th century)
A newer ruin, ruin nonetheless. Church Of Old Auchindoir (19th century)
Beauly Priory (13th century)
Balmerino Abbey (13th century)
The old Balquhidder's kirk (17th century). A neat place to start an mtb adventure.
Ruthven Barracks from 1719, an icon on the A9.
Brochs are Iron Age drystone hollow-walled roundhouses to be seen in the northwest.
The best-preserved is Dun Carloway on Lewis.
A different one is another of the ruins on Skye. Not much left of this one, yet, it is still impressive sight considering its age.
Airlie Monument (1901). It could serve as an observation tower; unfortunately, it's been falling apart for decades now.
Kinnoull. Constructed in the 19th century as a decoration.
Kinpurney Tower, built in 1774 for James Mackenzie as an astronomic observatory.
Tower of Lady Janet of Anstruther from the 18th century. Built as a changing room for the lady who used to go swimming in the sea here.
Carrbridge - remains of the oldest stone bridge in Scotland (1717).
Bunavoneader, Harris (~1910) is reportedly the most preserved whaling base in the northern hemisphere. A beautiful place.
The Luibeilt house. This former stalker lodge is the most remote ruin on the list, as the closest paved road is 7.5 miles away, proving for an atmospheric set. A sudden hailstorm drove me away from the house when I was there, and apparently, others met more desolate forces there. The BBC4 programme Uncanny brought stories about the house's history, including suicide in early 1890 and several haunted encounters from the 1970s onwards.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also like my other posts from Scotland, or:
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