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The Best Castles to See In or Near Edinburgh

Destination(s): Edinburgh

Enjoy our guide to the most majestic and impressive castles, palaces and monuments in or near Edinburgh.

The first three are located in Edinburgh. We then encourage you to take day trips to the beautiful cities of Stirling and North Berwick to see the rest. The driving times are short, and It's a journey you won't regret.

For more information on each castle, visit our blog posts:

http://www.nileguide.com/destination/blog/edinburgh/2010/08/18/must-see-scottish-castles-part-1/

http://www.nileguide.com/destination/blog/edinburgh/2010/08/19/must-see-scottish-castles-part-2/ read more about The Best Castles to See In or Near Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

  • Castlehill
  • Castlehill
  • tel:+44 (0)131 225 9846
  • Visit website
  • Edinburgh, EH1 2NG

Information from Historic Scotland.

No trip to Scotland would be complete without a stop at the magnificent Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock. First erected in the 12th century, the fortress sits on top of an extinct volcano and is the most breathtaking part of the city's skyline. Within the castle walls you see impressive views of most of the New Town, including the Princes Street Gardens, Arthur's Seat and the Salisbury Crags, the famous Balmoral Hotel and more. You can also explore the various rooms, chapels and compartments of the fortress and through interactive displays discover what living and working there might have been like during the medieval era.

The highlight of any tour of the castle is the Honours of Scotland (the crown jewels), on display in the Crown Room of the castle's Royal Palace (built in 1617). These include the ancient crown, sword and scepter, which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Here you can also see Scotland's most prized treasure: The Stone of Destiny, otherwise known as the Coronation Stone. This has been used in the crowning of Scottish and English monarchs (much to dismay of many Scottish nationalists) for hundreds of years.

Be sure to arrive before lunch, so you can watch the master gunner fire the castle's canon at 1pm (except Sundays, Good Friday and Christmas Day.); it is a tradition that dates back to1861 when the firing of the gun was used to signal for ships in the Firth of Forth and the port of Leith.

A popular visitor attraction and a World Heritage Site, Edinburgh Castle is now proud host to modern day events including rock gigs and the famous Edinburgh Tattoo.

Ticket Prices:
Adult: £13.00
(aged 16 to 59)

Child: £7.00
(aged 5 to 15)

Concession: £10.40
(aged 60 and over, unemployed)

Child under 5: FREE

Opening times:

Summer
9:30am - 6pm
1 Apr - 30 Sep

Winter:
9:30am - 5pm
1 Oct - 31 Mar
read more about Edinburgh Castle

Holyroodhouse Palace

Holyroodhouse Palace

  • Holyrood Road
  • Canongate, at the eastern end of the Royal Mile
  • tel:+44 20 7766 7300
  • Visit website
  • Edinburgh, EH8 8AE

Situated at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse Palace is today the official residence of The Queen when visiting Scotland. Guests are welcome all year round to visit the gallery and take guided tours of the magnificent décor of Holyroodhouse Palace. The tapestries and ornate furniture still used to this day are highlights of the tour and offer the Edinburgh tourist a chance to wander around a modern day palace.

Ticket information: 

Palace of Holyroodhouse
(includes an audio tour)

Adult £10.25
Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £9.30
Under 17  £6.20
Under 5 Free
Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £27.00

Joint Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Queen's Gallery

Adult £14.30
Over 60/Student (with valid ID) £13.00
Under 17 £8.30
Under 5 Free
Family (2 adults, 3 under 17s) £38.50
read more about Holyroodhouse Palace

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar is one of Scotland's most perfectly preserved castles. It began as a simple tower-house residence. Gradually, over time, it developed into a complex of structures and spaces, as subsequent owners attempted to improve its comfort and amenity. As a result, there are many nooks and crannies to explore. Of equal importance were the surrounding gardens and parkland, and the present-day Craigmillar Castle Park has fascinating reminders of the castle's days as a rural retreat on the edge of Scotland's capital city.

At the core lies the original, late-14th-century tower house, among the first of this new form of castle built in Scotland. It stands 17m high to the battlements, has walls almost 3m thick, and holds a warren of rooms, including a fine great hall on the first floor, and the so-called 'Queen Mary's Room' beside it, where Mary is said to have slept when staying there as a guest of the Prestons. In all probability, Mary resided in a multi-roomed apartment elsewhere in the courtyard, probably in the east range.

Also here is a labyrinth of dark spaces, including a grim basement prison where an upright skeleton was found walled up in the early 19th century. The west range was rebuilt as the Gilmour family's residence after 1660. Beyond the well-preserved 15th-century courtyard wall, complete with gunholes shaped like inverted keyholes, lie other buildings, including a private family chapel.

Highlights include:

  • The tower house – one of the oldest in Scotland, and with fascinating features, including a fine great hall and the so-called 'Queen Mary's Room'.
  • The views from the tower – over the city of Edinburgh, including Holyrood Park and Edinburgh Castle.
  • The nooks and crannies – a great castle to explore because of the many dark and mysterious chambers.
  • The grounds – including the remains of an unusual fishpond laid out in the shape of a letter P, for Preston.
read more about Craigmillar Castle

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

  • Stirling Old Town
  • tel:+44 (0)1786 450 000
  • Visit website
  • City of Edinburgh
Wallace Monument

Wallace Monument

  • Abbey Craig
  • tel:01786 472 140
  • Visit website
  • Hillsfoot Rd, FK9 5LU
Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle

Information from Historic Scotland.

Situated by the sea, mighty Tantallon Castle was built in the 1350s by a nobleman at the height of his power. In 1354, William Douglas came into possession of all his father's lands, as well as those of his uncle, 'the Good Sir James of Douglas', a close friend of King Robert Bruce. The estates included the barony of North Berwick. In 1358 William was created Earl of Douglas, by which date the builders may already have begun to build his new stronghold. In the 1380s the dynastic house of Douglas split into two branches, known as the 'Black' and the 'Red'. Tantallon passed to the junior line, the 'Red Douglases', Earls of Angus. For the next 300 years, the earls of Angus held sway at the castle, acting out their role as one of the most powerful baronial families in Scotland. During that time it endured three great sieges, in 1491, 1528 and 1651. The last, by Oliver Cromwell's army, resulted in such devastating destruction that the mighty medieval fortress was abandoned to the birds.

Tantallon was the last truly great castle built in Scotland. Its architecture harked back to the mighty stone castles of enclosure of the 13th century, such as Bothwell Castle. These were characterized by enormously thick and high stone walls enclosing large closes, or courtyards. Lofty stone towers projected from the great curtain, wherein the noble life was lived.

Tantallon's plan differs from most great 13th-century enclosure castles only because of its situation, at the edge of a promontory. Although the curtain wall enclosed the entire site, the castle only needed formidable defenses along the landward side. That great curtain wall of red sandstone still stands remarkably entire, as do the three towers in which the mighty earls of Angus and their henchmen lived their lives.

Visitors can enjoy wild flowers in season and touch the replica cannon. Refreshments are available in the visitor center.

The castle is haunted as well - a ghost was snapped in a tourist's picture here in May 2008!

Opening hours:

1 April - 30 September, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat. Sun, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

1 October - 31 October, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat. Sun, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm

1 November - 31 March, Mon Tue Wed Sat Sun, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm

Tickets:

Adult £4.70, Child £2.80, Concession £3.80

read more about Tantallon Castle