Eight beautiful but lesser-known Scottish castles

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe. Picture: Neil Barr

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe. Picture: Neil Barr

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IF you’ve only ever been to Edinburgh Castle, then it’s time to broaden your horizons, writes Matthew Dunne-Miles

Blackness Castle, West Lothian

Floors Castle in Kelso. Picture: TSPL

Floors Castle in Kelso. Picture: TSPL

Blackness Castle is referred to as “the ship that never sailed” due to its narrow triangular shape and its location on the banks of the Forth. It was constructed in the 1440s by Sir George Crichton and has been a port, a military stronghold and a state prison.

The castle is now a Historic Scotland site open to visitors, whose numbers have increased following its appearance on Starz TV show Outlander.

READ MORE: The iconic castles from Outlander

Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries and Galloway

The graffitied exterior of Kelburn Castle. Picture: Robert Perry

The graffitied exterior of Kelburn Castle. Picture: Robert Perry

With its surrounding moat and twin-towered gatehouse, the ruin of Caerlaverock Castle still retains much of its former glory.

Once you’re through the grand entrance, there’s lots to explore: from the unique ground floor layout and narrow sandstone walkways to the accompanying tearoom for weary tourists.

Caerlaverock’s formidable structure was not just for show – the castle’s proximity to England often invited invaders to lay siege to it.

Culzean Castle, South Ayrshire

Blackness Castle. Picture: Dennis Connolly

Blackness Castle. Picture: Dennis Connolly

Located on the Ayrshire coast with panoramic views of the Firth Of Clyde, Culzean Castle is a historic gem with strong ties to Scotland’s past.

The castle is the former home of Clan Kennedy, who can trace their ancestry back to Robert The Bruce himself.

Culzean Castle’s neo-classical conversion – including its delicate plasterwork and oval-shaped spiral staircase – was overseen by Robert Adam, who died just before its completion in 1792.

Culzean Castle has a number of historical footnotes. There are the medieval smuggler’s caves on the cliffs below; the story of Clan Kennedy’s African slave, Scipio Kennedy, who was freed aged 28 and remained with the Kennedys as he started his own family; and the suite at the very top which was gifted to Dwight D Eisenhower after World War II.

Dumbarton Castle, Dumbartonshire

An ancient fort built into volcanic rock, Dumbarton Castle’s 500 steps lead visitors to a very distant past.

Built on Dumbarton Rock at the mouth of the River Leven, the stronghold has been involved in battles dating back to at least the fifth century, when it was home to the medieval Kingdom of Strathclyde and sacked by Viking invaders from Dublin.

Now restored, Dumbarton Castle is one of the country’s finest examples of Georgian architecture, with the White Tower Crag provides breathtaking views of Ben Lomond.

Floors Castle, Borders

A castle in name but more of a country estate, Floors Castle is a decadent 18th century pile. The building was constructed by architect William Adam, with a main central house accompanied by two symmetrical wings that branch out.

While the exterior, grounds and gardens are grand enough, Floors Castle’s interior houses lavish works of art, tapestries, antiques, a ballroom and even a snooker room.

The nearby riverside walk down the banks of the Tweed also has a historical claim. A holly tree marks the site at which King James II of Scotland was killed when a cannon backfired during a siege of Roxburgh Castle in 1460. The ruins of that castle can now be found in the grounds of Floors.

Kelburn Castle, North Ayrshire

Kelburn Castle, near the village of Fairlie, is a historic property with a 21st century flourish.

The brightly-coloured mural that adorns the exterior walls was commissioned by Patrick Boyle, 10th Earl Of Glasgow, who invited Brazilian artists to cover the castle’s concrete facing with graffiti. The mural has been up since 2007, but it may not reach its 10th anniversary – the paint is eroding the wall, and is scheduled to be removed.

Kelburn Castle is surrounded by spectacular scenery – within the 3,500 acre estate is The Kelburn Glen, a vast area of natural beauty.

Kilchurn Castle, Argyll and Bute

Often seen plastered on tourism campaigns across the world, the ruins of Kilchurn Castle are as spectacular as they look in the photographs.

The castle was built on the edge of Loch Awe in the 1400s by Sir Colin Campbell, 1st Lord of Glenorchy. Having begun life as the ancestral home of Clan Campbell, by the 18th century it had become a garrison and housed soldiers during the Jacobite uprisings.

A violent thunderstorm sometime in the 1760s saw the castle struck by lightning, and the resulting damage was deemed too far gone to repair. It has lain in ruins ever since.

Still, the site attracts visitors to this day, drawn to the dramatic setting from the top tower overlooking the loch.

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