By Graham Grieve
Scotland is steeped in medieval history. The great thing about a visit to this magical country is that you’re never too far from a famous medieval site. It’s a country well known for its rolling green hills, fields, lochs, and magical castles that were once the ground for bloody battles. Today, the remains of many of the castles still stand. Once home to kings, queens, and knights you can almost feel the magic as you walk the grounds.
Scotland is bursting with a history that will leave your breathless. Here is our top pick of medieval places to visit in Scotland….
On the magical Isle of Skye, you will find the legendary Dunvegan Castle and its gardens.
The impressive castle is built on a rock overlooking Loch Dunvegan, the surrounding area is idyllic. You would be welcome to take a boat trip around the loch from the castle with views of seals almost guaranteed.
Dunvegan Castle is still home to the Clan MacLeod who has lived here throughout for eight centuries. Other than a brief gap during the potato famine, the family has owned and lived in this spectacular piece of history continuously. It is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. Visitors are still welcome to explore inside the public rooms and have been able to do so since 1933. Inside you will find the family’s most prized possession, Am Bratach Sith (The Fairy Flag of Dunvegan). Legend has it that this silk woven in 4th century AD has magical powers that helped secure victories in the family’s battles.
If you are visiting this area check out this Isle of Skye Accommodation guide.
Do not leave your camera at home when you visit Dunnottar Castle. This medieval fortress stands proudly on the rocky headland looking out to sea. It is surrounded by steep cliffs that have a sheer drop into the North Sea below. The ruins of this clifftop wonder draw in tourists due to their dramatic appearance in a beautiful location.
Looking back at the castle’s history the rock on which the castle is built is 440 million years old. It has played a pivotal role in Scottish legacy. Evidence shows that a Pictish fort stood in this prime location as far back as the 4th century. It has been seized by Vikings, destroyed in the Wars of Independence, and visited by Mary Queen of Scots. All of this and it still stands gloriously today. Some even say that when they gaze out to sea from the castle they can feel the Viking ships approaching.
This castle is situated on the northeastern coast of Scotland a few short miles away from Stonehaven, near Aberdeen
Scone Palace is one of Scotland’s most important homes. It stands proudly as one of the finest examples of the late Georgian Gothic style. Visitors can stroll around inside the palace and take in its glory. Inside you will find an outstanding collection of antiques, paintings, and rare artifacts. Outside you will find gorgeous gardens, grounds, and impressive woodland for you to explore.
Once home to the Stone of Scone, known as the Stone of Destiny. It was the crowning location for Scottish Kings, 42 Scottish Kings were crowned at the palace including Macbeth, Robert the Bruce, and Charles II.
Scone Palace is located in Perthshire, with the Grampian mountains overlooking in the distance. It is one of Scotland’s most visited attractions.
If you are in the area check out this guide of things to do in nearby Perth.
Stirling Castle, the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots, is one of the most famous and important historical sites in Scotland. The castle stands magnificently at the peak of a towering volcanic rock making it visible for many miles in every direction. From that castle, you can enjoy stunning views of Stirling, the Forth, and the Ochil Hills. Situated on the main route connecting the Highlands with the Lowlands of Scotland this site has been home to some of the bloodiest battles in Scottish history. The location of this castle made it the gateway to the Highlands and the heart of Scotland. To own Stirling castle was to own the country which resulted in over 16 historic attacks. The oldest part of the castle is The King’s Old Building which is over 500 years old.
Today the castle has been refurbished so that you can explore and enjoy an authentic medieval experience when you visit. Home to the largest medieval banqueting hall ever built in Scotland. Visitors can stand it and imagine a world 500 years ago, filled with kings and queens having grand celebrations. Inside you will find the staff dressed in clothes of the old times to help you enjoy a magical, historical experience.
Bannockburn is a small town south of the city of Stirling. It is named after the Bannockburn, a burn running through the town. This little town has a magnificent past. The legendary battle of Bannockburn in 1314 is a tale that every Scottish person knows. Robert the Bruce, the warrior King of Scotland, defeated the English under the rule Edward II during this infamous first war of Scottish independence. It was the largest army ever to invade Scotland, they were defeated despite Scotland only having around 6000 men. King Edward II was of course coming to conquer Scotland and claim its heart, Stirling Castle.
Today you can stand on the battlegrounds in Bannockburn and imagine the carnage that unfolded beneath your feet. If you would like to take things a step further the national trust of Scotland visitor center offers a Bannockburn experience. The Bannockburn experience is a digitally recreated version of the battle. Technology lets you submerge yourself in the action. Outside the centre, you can take in the landscape where the battle took place. There are also commemorative monuments onsite including the iconic bronze statue of Robert the Bruce. You will find him mounted on his war horse wielding an axe in this imposing piece of art.
Graham Grieve is a Scottish travel blogger. Please visit his website My Voyage Scotland