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Three Scottish Castles You Gotta Stay in

Scotland’s Castles Mark the Spot

For me, the essence of Scotland is in it’s beautiful landscapes and it’s castle-icious history. From the Orkney Islands in the north through the Highlands to Hadrian’s wall in the south, historic castles sit lochside and hillside in some truly spectacular locations.

Historic clans like the MacDonalds, the Stewarts, the MacKenzie’s or the Robertson’s, just to name a few, cover the countryside with their clan lands. The clan chieftains castle is Clan Regions of Scotland (click any to enlarge)always the grandest estate on these family lands perched majestically on a beautiful loch or amongst amazing mountainous views. 

Most stone castles have their roots in the 1300-1600’s as fortified clan strongholds. As technologies and workmanship improve, renovations, refurbishments or expansions happening til the mid-1700’s. At this point in history clans and castles sympathetic to the Jacobites were seized and destroyed by the opposing British so it couldn’t be used as a stronghold against them into the future. Many still sit in ruins today – some have been purchased and painstakingly restored. Some have even been slept in by Bonnie Prince Charlie or Mary Queen of Scots!

Eilean Donan - destroyed and rebuilt stone by stoneFor those that were not destroyed, the 1800’s brought a change in castle perspective and architecture. As the Industrial era was changing the global landscape, these centuries-old stone castles (draughty, small winding staircases, not warm and inviting – more strongholds) were now considered ‘brutish” and more elaborate Georgian, English-style “modern” castle homes were built.

For a north American with a much shorter history span, it’s hard to think that modern castles built in the 1800’s (still nearing 200 years old) are young by castle standards!

Why want to stay in a Historic Castle in Scotland?

Barcaldine's medieval "bottle dungeon" under 6 feet of stoneScottish castles are historic, grand structures we just don’t have in North America – so they are a novel, unique stay experience. The romantic historian in me dreams of 3’ thick castle walls of fortified stone with arrow-slit windows, grand fireplaces, exposed beam ceilings and creaky ancient oak floors. I think hidden passages that concealed trysts or enemy murder plots – and ghosts! Add dungeons under the castle, battlement walkways along the top of the castle, stone spiral staircases (not luggage friendly) connecting the two, great halls for meeting and eating and rich wood libraries.

Have I painted an epic, romantic picture of a castle stay yet? Here are 3 amazing castles the GoGirlfriend team stayed at recently while touring Scotland.

3 Incredible Castles to Stay at in Scotland

1. Dalmunzie Castle

Dalmunzie Castle, Glenshee, ScotlandWe were extremely excited for our first of 3 castle stays in Scotland and Dalmunzie Castle did not let us down. Our first foray into the Scottish Highlands from Edinburgh brought us into the southern edge of Cairngorms National Park and the start of mountainous hills framing green valleys. Dalmunzie Castle has sat beautifully on 7 acres of land nestled in a valley with rolling streams and fertile lands for over 400 years.

Dalmunzie Castle's Michelin recommended diningThe Dalmunzie Castle estate has 17 luxurious rooms, Michelin recommended dining, library, fireplace lounges and bar, a 9-hole golf course amongst mountainous hills and rolling streams that included miles of great walking trails. The rooms are richly appointed with antiques and effects to enhance their importance in Dalmunzie’s history. Tower rooms, 4-poster rooms and double rooms are available to suit your preference – you won’t be disappointed with any selection. Breakfast is included in the Michelin recommended dining room, suppers can be included in some packages or ordered a la carte as your schedule flexibility allows.

Laird's Tower room (Stewart Room)We enjoyed the Lairds room (Stewart Room) in the Tower with it’s turret outlooks over the property, antique 4-poster bed, luxurious carpets and antique décor … and a super huge bathtub to soak and relax and a great bottle of red wine from the Michelin AA Notable Wine List selection.

A delightful first castle stay that has us thinking this 19th century “brutish” mindset was greatly misplaced.

More info on Dalmunzie Castle:

2. Barcaldine Castle

Barcaldine Castle, Argyll, ScotlandOur second castle stay found us crazy exhausted after a record-breaking (for us) hike of Ben Nevis followed by two additional hikes on the Isle of Skye (The Old Man of Storr and the Quairaing Circuit). We were beat and needed a good night to relax and recuperate. Nearing the iconic Scottish town of Oban sits Barcaldine Castle – a luxury Bed & Breakfast Guest House in the historic Black Castle – exactly the respite we needed.

Barcaldine's luxurious Caithness room (courtesy Barcaldine Castle)Built in 1609 by “Black” Duncan Campbell, this tower house castle has maintained its authentic castle feel while upgrading the “brutish” to comfortable luxury. Built imposing with straight tall stone walls 4 feet thick and upwards of 45 feet tall, upon entering the reinforced original castle door sits a spiral stone staircase to take you up to the Great Room and the upper rooms. Off the entry also sits the vaulted stores, kitchens and medieval, well-used so the stories go, “bottle dungeon” with ancient grill cover in the middle of the floor (creepy!).

luxury bathroom with claw foot tun and a viewAs a luxury bed and breakfast guest house, six lavish, historically decorated rooms wait on the upper floors. King beds center the rooms with luxurious fabrics, period furniture (The Locknell Room has a 17th century Jacobite era 4-poster bed), sumptuous ensuite facilities (Caithness has a claw foot tub, double sinks and a tub view of Loch Creran and the Glencoe mountains in the distance) and a mix of expected castle features like turret dressing rooms, secret passage accessways, old fireplace mantels and maybe a hint of haunted if you believe.

Breakfast is included in the magnificent 400-year-old Great Hall. Walking in to the Great Hall is a breath-taking “WOW”. Warm, richly colored wood panels (matching the high ceiling and exposed beams) trim the room and lead your eye to a gigantic (almost walk-in) fireplace that sets the hospitable tone of the room. Comfortable leather couches becon you to sit and stay, Barcaldine Great RoomBlack Duncan Campbell’s wood armchair is in the corner and 8 coupled tables are set for the breakfast meal. This is a room to spend time in and soak up the castle ambiance. Make sure to grab a complimentary scotch nightcap and relax with a hearty warming fire. Oh, there are 2 secret passages from the great room – they encourage you to see if you can find them!

Have I got you hooked yet? We were and with the upcoming addition of dinner also available in the Great Hall, any reason we needed to visit again was just notched higher.

More info on Barcaldine Castle:

3. Castle Levan

Castle Levan, Gourock, ScotlandOur last castle stay was a bitter-sweet treat – we were leaving Scotland at the end of our adventures, but since Castle Levan sits only about 30 minutes from Glasgow Airport, it was a gem of a find to end our travels. A perfect end to our tour recommended for anyone departing GLA on a return flight home.

A fortified tower house castle in L-formation, Castle Levan’s origins date back to the 1400’s although the main building structure is much newer being expanded in the 1540’s (and modified throughout the centuries). Walls are tall and straight with multiple levels, arrow slit windows, parapet walkways, turrets, and 4 ½ foot thick walls. Castle Levan's lower vaulted roomsViews from the rooftop parapet walkways overlook the Firth of Clyde and surrounding lands. Whereas this fortified castle sat probably alone on a point of the narrows, in the same spot, it is now oddly part of a modern 21st century neighborhood.

Entering the castle on the lower level are two crazy-unique stone vaulted bedchambers and common sitting area. A turnpike staircase winds it’s way to the Great Room on the second level and upwards further to the Lairds chambers on the entire third level and top-level owners’ quarters.

Castle Levan's Laird's 4-poster King Luxury roomThree true castle rooms – the Laird’s four-poster King Luxury room with private bathroom (that takes up the entire third level), the Archers Bedchamber and the Knight’s Bedchamber (both double rooms with ensuite below) give you options for your stay. I love the romantic, cave-like, true-castle-experience rooms that make up the two vaulted chambers on the main level but let me gush a moment on the third level Lairds chambers.

luxury bathroom fit for a LairdThe Laird’s room is an expansive space with a king 4-poster bed centering the room. Sitting areas, with couches and tapestries warm the experience, and a 5’ fireplace (ingeniously inlaid with flameless candles) adds a romantic touch at night. Doorways are shorter (about 5’ tall – it WAS built in the mid-1500’s) and the ONLY drawback is that you have to cross the hall to your own private bathroom, but OMG, it is a divine bathroom – luxuriously tiled floor with arch recessed clawfoot bathtub, modern double sinks, stone mirrors, and the walk-in shower with brown stone-work façade – worthy of a Laird!

Castle Levan Great RoomWith all rooms, breakfast is included and a meal in the Great Room is another treat. High exposed wood beam ceiling with clan painted motifs draw your eyes upwards. Suits of armour, medieval flails, battle axes, tapestries and iron chandeliers help castle-ize the great room. Oh, and there’s a scrumptious Scottish breakfast to enjoy while your eyes explore the room. And if you’re brave enough, ask the hosts about the ghost of the white lady and her story!

As a castle so close to Glasgow that can start or end your Scotland adventures, I’d be torn as to which room I’d rent next time. The Lairds room and its fantastic bathroom was amazing, but the romantic stone vaulted lower chambers with some flickering firelight might be a delightful treat to experience as well … next time!

More info on Castle Levan:

Scottish Castles to Stay in

Over the millennia in which castles really existed, known castles in Scotland numbered in total about 2000. Historic Environment Scotland now list around 500 castles … parapets, turrets, 3 foot thick walls (Castle Levan)!only about 96 castles you can stay in. If you have a romantic aspiration to stay in a very old castle, Scotland should certainly be high on that bucket list!

If you’re looking to book a stay in a Scottish castle, book early as spaces are limited. A selection of Castle options can be found on:

Follow our Scotland travel journey with our other post highlights:

Tell us about a historic castle you’ve stayed in and where it was? We’d love to add a new castle stay to our future list. Drop a comment below and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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