When you think of Scotland, you probably think of castles. With over 3,000 castles, including some of the oldest and most famous (or infamous!) in the world, Scotland is bursting with romance, mystery and legend. Each castle tells a tale woven of both myth and fact, from important clans to famous historical figures, such as King Robert Bruce and the tragic Mary Queen of Scots. Some are brooding ruins, others are remarkably restored, and some stand as museums celebrating Scotland’s long and storied past.
The best way to explore Scotland’s castles is with a campervan hire in Edinburgh, where you will fly in and be met by Roseisle’s friendly staff, who will get you all set up in your luxury campervan, your comfortable home away from home.
In one of our campervan hires, you will travel in self-contained luxury through one of the world’s celebrated landscapes- and you won’t waste time booking separate lodgings for each leg of the journey or packing and unpacking every night. Each of our stops features a range of excellent campervan facilities nearby catering to your every need, and, except in Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace (where public transportation is available), it is easy to drive and park your campervan hire at any of the castles on our route (parking fees and/or entrance fees may apply.)
With our detailed routes, maps and highlights, you can plan a driving tour of some of the most spectacular castles in the world. We’ve chosen a variety of must see treats for any castle lover- from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, in various gorgeous settings, some dramatic ruins, others still inhabited. Each is utterly magnificent in its own way.
Choose itineraries customised especially for our campervan hire customers. These itineraries are designed for the adventurous castle hunter, making the most of your time in Scotland to see as many sites as possible. However, for example, if you fancy more time in Edinburgh to explore, then consider skipping the St Andrews leg and go straight to Angus. You can customise these plans to fit the way you travel, whether you prefer packing as much in as you can, or taking a bit more time to soak it all up. Just remember that in these northern latitudes, summer days seem to go on forever- it doesn’t get dark until after 10pm!
Consider purchasing a Historic Scotland Explorer Pass. A one price admission ticket to 78 of their properties, an Explorer Pass can save you money on entrance fees to many castles. It even allows you to skip the queues at Historic Scotland’s busiest attractions, Edinburgh and Stirling Castles. Also, touring parks can be busy in the peak months, so we suggest booking to avoid disappointment.
For an epic 14-day holiday, we’ve added a northern and western leg, taking you on a journey through some of Scotland’s most beautiful landscapes and most legendary castles.
Drive to Fife for two nights
Falkland Palace and Castle
It’s a 40 minute drive from St Andrews to Falkland Palace, the country residence of the Stuart monarchs for two centuries. Located in the heart of charming Falkland conservation village, this Renaissance palace complex consists of both ruins and original and remodelled rooms full of 17th century Flemish tapestries, antique furniture and delicately painted ceilings. Make sure you leave time to experience the tranquillity of the beautiful grounds and gardens, including an ancient orchard and wildflower meadow, and the ruins of the 12th century castle.
Fife may be the home of golf and the famous university, but it’s also known for its picturesque castles. Spend the morning strolling through St Andrews’ cobblestone streets teeming with students and stylish cafés, brew pubs and curio shops, then visit the scenic ruins of St Andrew’s Castle. Sitting on a rock promontory overlooking the North Sea, the castle, dating to the 12th century, was an important religious centre in Scotland. There is an informative visitor centre featuring displays of fine stone carvings. Explore the ruins of the huge medieval Norman cathedral- at one time the largest in Scotland and one of the most famous in all of Europe. Later, the site would see the darker side of the church- look for the Martyr’s Monument, which commemorates four men burned at the stake in the 16th century for their Protestant beliefs.
Drive to Angus
Named best attraction in the UK for 2015, the history of legendary Glamis Castle in Angus dates to the 11th century, and the castle itself was built in the 14th century. Home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, it was here that Shakespeare set Macbeth. The castle has a close association with the current royal family. The Queen Mother spent much of her childhood here and Princess Margaret was born here. Spend the entire day exploring the estate’s 57 square kilometres, admiring the architecture and gilt rooms, discovering the history and myth and enjoying the beautiful grounds. Take time out for a picnic and a stroll. You might just see one of the castle’s mythical ghosts- after all, it’s said to be one of the most haunted in Britain!
Drive to Pitlochry, overnight
Blair Castle and House of Bruar
Nestled amongst mountains and lochs, the landscape of Highland Perthshire will simply take your breath away. 13th century Blair Castle rises up against this backdrop as if from a fairy-tale. Historic home of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, this unique castle was the scene for many important set pieces in Scottish history, including a visit from Bonnie Prince Charlie. You’ll learn how a famous visit from Queen Victoria was the impetus for the creation of Europe’s only private army, the Atholl Highlanders. Its 30 elegant rooms feature period furnishings and displays.
If you fancy a bit of ‘shop ‘til you drop’, head to nearby House of Bruar, Scottish country clothing specialists, and get kitted out in fine tartans, cashmeres and sportswear. Hike the trails along the waterfalls- breath-taking! Be sure to hit the food hall and stock up on delicious local cheeses, speciality meats and game, fresh baking, sweets and a range of gourmet foods that are ready made or ready to prepare in the comfort of your luxury campervan. It’s a true taste of the Scottish Highlands!
Pitlochry to Royal Deeside (through the Cairngorms National Park)
Camp near Royal Deeside
You’ll drive through the Cairngorms National Park, featuring some of the most gorgeous Highland scenery in the country. As befitting its name, Royal Deeside has deep regal connections, including Balmoral Castle, the royal family’s Scottish residence. This area has more castles per square mile than almost any place in Scotland! From early medieval ruins to Victorian opulence, there is so much to tickle your castle fancy. You’ll want to spend a couple of days here exploring the various castles, gardens, kirks and villages- and be sure to nip over to the Royal Lochnagar Distillery for a wee dram! For a bit of Highland culture, pop into any one of the delightful pubs for a chin wag with the locals and traditional music.
Day 6 and 7
Balmoral Castle is definitely a highlight of a visit to Royal Deeside. Called “my dear paradise in the Highlands” by Queen Victoria, you will find your own paradise among the splendid grounds, gardens and exhibitions. (Note: some portions of the castle are closed from August to early October when the Royal family is in residence.)
Choose from several other beautiful castles and gardens in the area-visit one, two, or all of them if you care to!
- Drum Castle
- Braemar Castle
- Craigievar Castle
- Crathes Castle, Garden and Estate
- Balmoral Castle
Drive from Royal Deeside to Inverness for the night
Look for Nessie as you drive along famous Loch Ness to Urquhart Castle. One of Scotland’s most impressive medieval ruins, Urquhart is very popular with visitors. The visitor centre features fascinating displays of artefacts- history buffs could spend hours hearing stories about the castle’s tumultuous past. Climb Grants Tower for an unbeatable view of Loch Ness and the Great Glen. Take some time in Inverness for some fine local dining and shopping.
One of the most photographed and filmed castles in Scotland, wild and magical Eilean Donan castle will capture your heart. Set on a rocky island at the spot where three lochs meet, it was built in the 13th century for Alexander II as a defence against Vikings; however, Pictish forts probably existed here since the 7th century. Eilean Donan’s story is as romantic as its setting- Robert the Bruce is said to have taken refuge from the British here, and stories abound of a ghostly Spanish soldier who fought at a battle here in the 1700s. Leave plenty of time for exploration and picture taking, as well as soaking up the beauty of the Highlands, one of the most fabulous landscapes in the world before heading to your campsite in Inveraray for two nights.
Inveraray Castle and Kilmartin Glen/Carnasserie Castle
Truly as if out of an enchanted fable, Inveraray Castle has been the ancestral seat of the Dukes of Argyll since it was built in the 18thcentury, and the current Duke and his family still reside there. Overlooking scenic Loch Fyne and handsome gardens, the castle has been turned into a museum, where you can explore an impressive collection of historic weaponry, magnificent tapestries and priceless artworks along with other family heirlooms. Stay for a refreshment in the tea room (the scones are lovely!) and if you have time, explore the Royal Burgh of Inveraray, with its quaint shops, woollen mill and historic sites.
Kilmartin Glen and Carnasserie Castle (45 minutes)
Kilmartin Glen is one of Britain’s most significant archaeological sites, where you can walk in primeval stone circles and climb the ancient fortress of Dunadd- stand on the very stone footprint where kings of Dalriada were crowned. Within a six mile radius of Kilmartin village, there are over 5,000 prehistoric monuments dating back to the Neolithic and Bronze Ages, with a walk through the tranquil Highlands linking them. Or you can easily park and walk to the most important sites- the stone circles and the fortress. Don’t miss the museum and café, where ancient artefacts are on display and a hot cup of tea is on offer. This magical landscape will linger in your memories forever!
A five minute drive from the museum will take you to Carnasserie Castle- technically, a ruin, but remarkably well- preserved. Built in the 16th century overlooking Kilmartin Glen by an important clergyman, its Renaissance stone work can still be seen, despite having been partially blown up by Royalist forces during the Monmouth Rebellion. You can climb the five-story stone tower via the narrow winding staircase (bring a torch!) and enjoy the sweeping view over the glen. A perfect place to watch the sunset.
Drive to Edinburgh via Lochleven Castle and Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument Lochleven Castle
You’ll park and take a passenger ferry to the island where Lochleven Castle stands- leave the stresses of modern life behind as you take the very same boat trip made by famous names such as King Robert Bruce, Robert the High Stewart and Mary Queen of Scots. The doomed queen was imprisoned here in 1567 and forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son, James. In less than a year, she would make a dramatic escape across the loch, after which she lived in exile in England, never to see her beloved Scotland again.
Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument
A visit to Stirling Castle truly is like stepping back in time. One of Scotland’s grandest castles, it is also one of its most popular attractions, looming an imposing 250 feet above the plain below on an extinct volcano. Learn how the castle was of vital military importance during the Wars of Independence in the 13th and 14th centuries and see artefacts from the many Stuart Monarchs who enjoyed it as their favourite royal residence. Plan at least two hours to see the sights and enjoy coffee or a bite in the café. Don’t miss the National Wallace Monument nearby, celebrating Scotland’s favourite hero.
Arrive in Edinburgh for the night
Day 12 and 13
Edinburgh Castle and city, and Holyrood Palace
Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline of this magnificent city from its perch on Castle Rock, where a fortress has stood since at least the 12th century. The site has not been a royal residence since the Union of the Crowns in 1603, but is now one of Scotland’s top tourist attractions. Plan for at least a morning to explore this large complex, including St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh, the Royal Palace, the Great Hall, as well as the National War Museum. View the Scottish Regalia and Honours of Scotland, including the crown jewels and the legendary Stone of Destiny. If you go in August, don’t miss the Edinburgh Royal Tattoo, a spectacle of music and dance held annually at the castle (pre booking tickets is almost a must!)
Palace of Holyrood House
Located at the end of the Royal Mile, here you can explore the 14 historic state apartments and the ruins of the 12th century Holyrood Abbey and royal gardens. Learn about the dramatic historical set pieces that the palace witnessed during the tumultuous reign of Mary, Queen of Scots and browse the ever changing programme of exhibitions from the Royal Collection. Enjoy the adjacent nature trails and if you feel adventurous, hike up nearby Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano 251 metres above sea level, for a stunning view over the city.
Linlithgow Palace and Rosslyn Chapel and Castle
Rosslyn Chapel and Castle
Birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and James V, medieval Linlithgow Palace is one of the most stunning ruins in the country. Set on a loch of the same name and surrounded by a beautiful park, this is a lovely spot to while away the morning. Photography buffs, go wild! Linlithgow Palace is absolutely spectacular- no wonder parts of the television series Outlander were filmed here.
If you have time, do visit the amazing Rosslyn Chapel. Made famous as a set piece in Dan Brown’s ‘The da Vinci Code,’ Rosslyn Chapel is steeped in mystery and legend. Dubbed a ‘medieval treasure in stone’ you’ll be astonished by the thousands of intricate carvings on every stone surface of the chapel- there are more than 100 little green men alone! Excellent tour guides offer fascinating insights into the myth- and reality- of the chapel in several languages. Make the 100 yard walk to the brooding castle ruins dating to the 14th century- all but invisible until you come upon the seemingly enchanted bridge over the River Esk leading to it- you just might expect a troll to jump out from under it!
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