The Best and Most Famous Castles in Scotland
Argyll and the Isles is home to 60 castles. Discover romantic ruins and terrific tower houses in enchanting locations across the region. But where to start? We made a list of the most scenic castles and historic sites in Argyll & the Isles. So, grab your camera and start exploring these fascinating parts of Scotland.
Historic Environment Scotland have the option to purchase a membership card which gives you free access to hundreds of castles, heritage centers and museums across Scotland, making family activities and exploring more accessible and cheaper, be sure to check it out!
Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull dates back to the 14th Century and is the ancestral home of the Clan Maclean. It is still lived in by the current Chief. Its location overlooking Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull provides breathtaking views from the battlements. Open to visitors from April to October, find out about the history of the clan as you explore the keep and dungeons, magnificent banqueting hall and Edwardian staterooms. Visit the tearoom and gift shop and wander the grounds and Millennium Wood. Throughout the summer, the castle plays host to a number of events.
No list would be complete without this iconic Scottish landmark! Look out over Loch Awe from the powerbase of the Campbells of Glenorchy and one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. This marvellously evocative ruin sits on the shore of Loch Awe. Kilchurn’s dramatic situation – at the head of the loch with the peak of Ben Cruachan visible behind – makes it one the most photographed castles in Scotland. Whether it’s bright and sunny or wild and wintry, you can’t fail to take a sensational snap for Instagram. Head up to the tower house’s battlements for a striking view out across Loch Awe. Plan your perfect shot of Kilchurn Castle here.
Kilmartin Glen: Dunadd Fort
The view from the top of Dunadd Fort is sure to set your Instagram feed on fire! It’s a short climb to the top of this rocky outcrop, but it’s well worth the effort. Moine Mhor, the great moss, extends below you and on a clear day, the view across Mid Argyll is breathtaking. Dunadd was the capital of the Ancient Kingdom of Dalriada, and legend has it that the first Kings of Scotland were crowned here. At the top, a footprint - size 8 - is carved into the stone, which is thought to have been part of the coronation ceremony for the kings. Have a nose around and you’ll also find some ogham text, an early Irish writing format, carved into stone.
While you’re here: Kilmartin Glen is not only stunningly beautiful, it’s also one of Scotland’s richest prehistoric landscapes and packed with ancient monuments, including cairns, standing stones and stone circles. Take a walk through the glen and pick your shot!
Over a thousand years ago, an Irish holy man called Fintan Munnu started one of the first Christian communities in the west of Scotland here. The cell or chapel of Munnu gave the village its name: Kilmun. Hundreds of years later, a new church was built to house the tourists who came to Kilmun for its beauty and fresh air. Rich people supported it by paying for colourful stained glass windows instead of prayers. In the churchyard, intriguing gravestones bear witness to the loves, hopes and work of the people who have lived here through the centuries.
Go for a walk across the churchyard and take in stunning views over St Munn's Church and the Holy Loch.
Recognise it as Castle Aaaaaaargh from Monty Python's cult classic The Holy Grail? Castle Stalker is a renowned Scottish landmark. It's a picturesque castle surrounded by water and located 25 miles north of Oban. The castle is privately owned but they do run a very limited number of tours each year – these can be arranged by prior appointment. In the Gaelic, Stalcaire, meaning Hunter or Falconer – is believed originally to have been the site of a Fortalice (a small fortified building) belonging to the MacDougalls when they were Lords of Lorn, and built around 1320. Castle Stalker, much in its present form, was built by the Lord of Lorn, Sir John Stewart.
The handsome town of Inveraray is home to the iconic Inveraray Castle. This magnificent building is the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell. A visit to Inveraray Castle gives an incredible insight into the history of the Campbells, once the most powerful clan in the Highlands. The castle’s imposing size and impressive turrets are visible for miles around. Inside, view the lavish State Dining Room, the tapestries and the Armoury Hall with its walls adorned with muskets, pole-arms and axes. There’s art everywhere, from the displays of Campbell family portraits through history to the lavishly painted interiors. The castle’s beautifully maintained garden and estate offer wonderful walking. And when you’ve worked up an appetite, the Castle Tearoom serves up a mouth-watering menu. If you have time, check out the other historic attractions in Inveraray, including the famous Inveraray Jail.
The ruined Tarbert Castle sits high above the bustling fishing village of Tarbert, overlooking both the beautiful natural harbour and Loch Fyne. Robert the Bruce played an important role in its reinforcement and enlargement in 1325. The castle location is an excellent spot for a family picnic and there are waymarked walks further up the hillside, including the first section of the Kintyre Way. Look out for the resident lawnmowers - a flock of Hebridean black sheep who provide conservation grazing on the site. Tarbert has some lovely cafes, restaurants, shops and galleries to visit, and is a cracking place to spend an afternoon. The castle is free to visit and open all year round.