VisitScotland recently released the results of a survey about castles. The headline figure was 49%, the percentage of people from the UK who haven’t been to a castle in Scotland. Of those who had been to a Scottish castle, Edinburgh was voted the most recognisable, closely followed by Balmoral. The best castle in Scotland is apparently Edinburgh, followed by Stirling then Urquhart. I’m only sharing this just so I can dismiss it. Edinburgh is a recognisable place, fine. A fair proportion of people in these islands have never been to Scotland. Probably even more haven’t been to a castle in Wales, for example, or even England. Big wowsers.
The big one for me is best castle. My favourite big castle in Scotland is Stirling. Edinburgh Castle (shown above, from Craigmillar) is busy and not really that interesting. Urquhart is perfectly fine but there are nicer lochs in Scotland than Loch Ness. There are certainly nicer castles. Instead of Edinburgh, go to Craigmillar; swap Stirling for Doune; instead of Urquhart, how about Inverlochy Castle? That’s without trying. Craigmillar has lots of ways round it. Doune has been in a Monty Python film and Outlander as well as being beautiful. Inverlochy sits in the shadow of Ben Nevis.
As a public service, here is a list of some amazing castles you should go to in Scotland instead of Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart:
These are of course ruined castles, the kind I like. Boring National Trust castles with scones and tartan tat and that, they are the kind that tend to be more popular. A lot of our ruined castles are also in nicer settings than a lot of the NTS ones, with the notable exception of Culzean, which is rather stunning.
Of the list I gave above, Caerlaverock (shown above) is probably my favourite, despite three of the others being in East Lothian. Caerlaverock just looks like a castle. It has loads of towers, different lodgings, interesting decorative architecture, a moat, an old bit in the woods. It’s not far south of Dumfries. It is quite reachable from most places in this country, especially from Englandshire. I’ve been there a few times, most recently in 2016. It is the closest castle in Scotland to something out of Disney, with the possible exception of Kilchurn or Eilean Donan.
Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart aren’t bad places. It’s just that there are better castles in Scotland, beyond the Central Belt and beyond the A9. Go out and see some. You’ll be glad you did.