Tourism chiefs have urged visitors to get “castle-bagging” after research revealed almost half of British people have never visited a Scottish castle.
A VisitScotland poll revealed Edinburgh Castle is the best known castle (80 per cent) followed by the Queen’s holiday home, Balmoral Castle (53 per cent).
However, 49 per cent of those quizzed by researchers in the online survey had never visited a Scottish castle.
Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland was voted the “most romantic-looking” location with more than a quarter (29 per cent) of the votes, followed by Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire (16 per cent) and Eilean Donan Castle in the Highlands (12 per cent).
Slains Castle in Peterhead was “most likely to be haunted” with almost a quarter of votes (22 per cent), followed by Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven (19 per cent) and Brodick Castle (12 per cent) on the Isle of Arran.
The accolade for the best castle in Scotland went to Edinburgh Castle with 39 per cent of the votes ahead of Stirling (5 per cent), Urquhart (2 per cent) and St Andrews Castle (2 per cent).
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Seven out of ten people (72 per cent) questioned in he poll of 2194 adults in February said they would like to stay overnight in a castle while on holiday.
Scotland is thought to have around 3000 standing castles, ruins and documented sites.
Tourism chiefs say about 1050 are merely sites, including places where a house has been built on the location of a former castle, and about 825 are standing ruins.
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Around 660 were in use as a private house, hotel or wedding venue and around 469 were open to the public for at least a couple of weeks a year.
Aberdour Castle in Fife and Castle Sween in Argyll are thought to be two of the oldest standing castles in Scotland, dating from around 1200, and the youngest is thought to be Carbisdale Castle - built in 1907.
The history of the sites, stories and legends have been celebrated at 270 events during the 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology.
Malcolm Roughead, chief executive of VisitScotland said: “Castles are an iconic and integral part of Scotland’s history and culture.
“From the grandiose castles of Stirling and Edinburgh to the remote charms of Eilean Donan and Castle Stalker - there is something unique and special about every single one and each has their own significant story to tell.
“Everyone should have the opportunity to experience a Scottish castle in their lifetime, so we would encourage everyone to make it their mission - to bag a Scottish castle alongside a Munro on their visit here.”