The best Scottish castles to visit in springtime
Enjoy a trip to a Scottish castle during Spring, with our pick of castles around Scotland, as voted for by History Scotland followers.
1 Brodie Castle, near Inverness
If daffodils herald the start of spring for you then Brodie Castle is the place to be. There are more than 100 varieties of daffodils bringing the gardens to life at Brodie, and they provide a splendid backdrop to the castle, which has been the ancestral home of the Brodie clan for over 400 years.
At the time of writing plans are underway to create a ‘playfulness garden’ in the grounds which draws inspiration from the history of the castle and the story of its former inhabitants.
Brodie Castle, Brodie, Forres IV36 2TE; tel: 01309 641371; Website.
2 Hailes Castle, East Lothian
With links to Mary Queen of Scots, 14th-century Hailes Castle stands close to the banks of the River Tyne and is a substantial ruin which in springtime, offers a great base for walks along the nearby riverbank, with its displays of snowdrops. The building is one of the country’s oldest stone castles and its Mary Queen of Scots link comes through the Earl of Bothwell, Mary’s third husband, who may have been born here. Mary and Bothwell also said to have stayed here for two nights in 1567 when fleeing from Dunbar following their marriage.
Hailes Castle, Haddington, East Lothian EH41 4PY; website.
3 Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire
Explore seven centuries of history in one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses, which is set in pretty grounds which include a Garden of Historic Roses. The Tower of Drum was granted to the Irvine family by Robert the Bruce in 1323 and subsequent buildings have been added over the years, including a Jacobean manor house and a Victorian library, demonstrating the different uses to which the castle has been put over the years. Nearby Old Wood of Drum is a pretty sight in springtime, with its centuries-old oak trees.
Drum Castle, Drum Oak, Banchory AB31 5EY; website.
4 Falkland Palace, Fife
Once a royal palace of the Stewart kings and a particular favourite of Mary Queen of Scots, Falkland Palace has more recently become known for its status as a filming site in the Outlander TV series. The palace was built between 1501 and 1541 for King James IV, with work continued by his son James V. Mary Queen of Scots is said to have loved the palace because it reminded her of the French chateaux of her childhood and indeed, strolling the grounds on a sunny day, it’s easy to imagine why the Stewart monarchs loved to escape from the cares of state in this rural retreat.
Falkland Palace, East Port, Falkland, Cupar KY15 7DA; website.
5 Eilean Donan Castle
Until recently, Eilean Donan Castle closed its doors for the winter months but is now open year-round, allowing visitors to enjoy seeing the historic building and its spectacular surroundings during the changing seasons. Apple blossom and daffodils provide a pretty seasonal backdrop for photograhpers, whilst visitors to the thirteenth-century castle can enjoy exploring the many rooms and look out from windows and battlements onto the tiny island where three sea lochs meet. You can also watch via the live web cam from anywhere in the world.
Eilean Donan Castle, Dornie, by Kyle of Lochalsh IV40 8DX; tel: 01599 555202; website.
6 Boyne Castle, Aberdeenshire
This sixteenth-century ruin stands close to the town of Portsoy and is set in pretty woodland surroundings. The original structure comprised four storeys, with a tower set at each of the four corners, and was the home of the Ogilvies from its construction in 1580 until the 1720s, after which it fell into ruins.
Care should be taken when visiting this Ancient Scheduled Monument, as the building is surrounded by thick vegetation, but the castle has a real ‘fairytale’ feel in its abandoned state. This walk report from Walk Highlands has a helpful photo gallery for finding the building.
Boyne Castle, Portsoy, Aberdeenshire.
7 Gylen Castle, Argyll & Bute
Set on a crag overlooking the Firth of Lorne, Gylen Castle is a ruined tower house built in 1582 by the Macdougalls. The castle was burnt down in 1647 during the war of the three kingdoms, however the ruins are substantial and the building’s spectacular situation makes up in scenery what it lacks in remains.
Gylen Castle, Kerrera, Oban PA34 4SX
8 Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire
This pretty 16th-century castle has a fairytale look thanks to its turrets, gargoyles and pale pink harling. The lovely grounds are dominated by ancient yew hedges and the gardens are divided into eight distinct sections, including a walled garden with herbaceous plants. After exploring the castle enjoy a springtime walk around nearby Croy Burn.
Crathes Castle, Crathes, Banchory AB31 5QJ; tel: 01330 844525; website.
9 Drummond Castle, Perthshire
Famous for its formal terraced gardens, which look different in every season, Drummond Castle’s gardens were re-planted in the 1950s to preserve the features of the original 19th-century designed landscape. The castle was built around 1490 by John, 1st Lord Drummond, and was substantially restored and remodelled in the 1890s. The grounds of the castle have featured in several films and TV shows, including Rob Roy and the Outlander TV series.
Drummond Castle, Crieff PH7 4HZ; tel: 01764 681433; website.
10 Lauriston Castle, Edinburgh
With its lovely views across the Firth of Forth, Lauriston Castle contains thousands of historic objects collected by the Reid family of Edinburgh, members of the city’s merchant class in the early 20th century. The family ran Morison & Company, a cabinet making business, and many fine examples of their workmanship are on display in the castle.
Outside, visitors can explore the woodland and the award-winning Japanese garden.
Lauriston Castle, 2 Cramond Road S, Edinburgh EH4 6AD; tel: 0131 336 2060; website.
11 Craigmillar Castle, Edinburgh
Once a place of refuge for Mary Queen of Scots, Craigmillar Castle might be lesser known than mighty Edinburgh Castle, but it has history aplenty and lots of tales to tell. The building centres around an early 14th century tower house which has three-metre-thick walls and stands an impressive 17 metres tall. The tower offers far-ranging views across the city – see if you can spot Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. There is also an unusual p-shaped fishpond created in memory of the Preston family who once lived here.
Craigmillar Castle, Craigmillar Castle Road, Edinburgh EH16 4SY; tel: 0131 661 4445; website.
(with thanks for suggestions from @travelwithakilt, David Weinczok, Sadie Brown, Pol Balla Gall-chno, Marina Dossen, Margaret Ann Fletcher, Wendy Ford )
Images – Brodie Castle © Mihael Grmek; Hailes Castle © Tormentor4555; Drum Castle © Alan Findlay; Falkland Palace © Immanuel Giel; Eilean Donan Castle © Wandernder Weltreisender; Boyne Castle © J Thomas; Gylen Castle © Prosthetic Head; Crathes Castle © Alan Findlay; Drummond Castle © Dr Richard Murray; Lauriston Castle © Supergolden; Craigmillar Castle © Luca Sironi.