The 15 Best Castles in Edinburgh

Castles, representing mysterious legends, turbulent history, and striking architecture, are undoubtedly among the best attractions in Scotland. A visit to at least one of them is a must for anyone traveling to Edinburgh and its surroundings. Ruined and well-preserved, converted into museums and luxurious hotels, there are castles for every taste.

Edinburgh Castle

The first castle you shouldn't miss on your trip to the Scottish capital is the iconic Edinburgh Castle, considered one of the most famous castles in the world. Standing on top of an extinct volcano right in the middle of the city, it has witnessed epic battles, sieges, and royal intrigues.

The oldest parts of the fortress date back to the 12th century, and you can immerse yourself in its dramatic medieval atmosphere while exploring this place with your personal in-app audio tour. The voice of a professional guide will lead you through the most exciting spots inside the castle and make you feel like a participant in historical events.

Dirleton Castle

Situated about 20 miles east of Edinburgh, the ruined yet impressive Dirleton Castle looks like something straight out of a fantasy book. Its thick-walled round tower dates back to the 13th century, making this majestic fortress one of Scotland's oldest remaining castles. This architectural marvel is surrounded by magnificent landscaped 19th-century gardens you can wander through.

All in all, this picturesque landmark is a great destination for a family outing and the ideal place to introduce castles to kids, thanks to its fairytale-like appearance.

Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle, standing right on a cliff's edge and overlooking the North Sea, is one of the most spectacularly located castles near Edinburgh — and one of the most magnificent ruins in Scotland.

Due to the fortress' strategic position, only one massive curtain wall was needed to protect the inhabitants. Today, you can admire the remains of this 14th-century red sandstone wall, climb the battlements, enjoy the breathtaking sea views accompanied by the cry of seagulls and strong coastal wind, and feel like you are in your very own movie or novel.

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Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle, situated just 3 miles from the city center, is the lesser-known of the castles in Edinburgh — and a real gem. Looking like a fortress straight out of the Middle Ages, it allows you to walk in the footsteps of Mary, Queen of Scots, get lost in its mazelike corridors, and even have a picnic in one of its courtyards.

The castle, built in the 14th century, is among the best-preserved of its period, and its tower is the second oldest in Scotland. You can climb it up and enjoy amazing views over Holyrood Park, the city center, and Edinburgh Castle.

Lauriston Castle

Lauriston Castle, looking into the Firth of Forth, is not a typical historic site but a real treasure for architecture enthusiasts. It is a 16th-century tower house turned into a country manor and then converted into a museum. You can explore it to admire classic Edwardian interiors and discover what life was like in a middle-class home in the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

Another reason to make a trip to this castle is its charming and tranquil Japanese Garden with cherry blossom trees and mesmerizing scenery. Overall, it is a great place for a day out with your family.


Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle, situated about 20 miles west of the Scottish capital, is one of the most impressive historic castles around Edinburgh. This fortress, built on the south shore of the Firth of Forth in the 15th century, was named 'the ship that never sailed' due to its long, narrow ship-like shape and its position by the water.

Blackness has been a royal castle, prison, armaments depot, and even a film location for Hamlet. Today, it is a popular tourist attraction. You can explore the rooms to learn about the history of this site and climb the towers to enjoy great views of the typical Scottish landscape.

Rosslyn Castle

The partially ruined Rosslyn Castle, surrounded by the ancient woodland of Roslin Glen, is famous for being used as a filming location in The Da Vinci Code, but it is not the only reason to get there. The imposing historic site about 10 miles south of Edinburgh gives you a chance to spend the night in its extraordinary setting. All you need to do is to rent one of the rooms in a restored five-story mansion constructed from its remains inside the castle.

If you stay for a couple of days, be sure to explore the picturesque village of Roslin and visit Rosslyn Chapel, considered one of Scotland's most remarkable buildings.

Crichton Castle

Crichton Castle stands out from the wealth of ruined castles around Edinburgh because of its rich history mixed with legends, eye-catching Italian-style architectural features, and breathtaking views in every direction.

The castle, situated just a 30-minute drive outside the capital, stands in total isolation among farmlands and rolling hills above the River Tyne and invites you to soak in the tranquil atmosphere. You can wander around these picturesque ruins, enjoy the sweeping views, and marvel at the dramatic diamond-patterned facade inspired by one of the Italian Renaissance palaces.


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Dundas Castle

The 15th-century Dundas Castle, expanded and reconstructed in the 1800s, is one of the most spectacular and famous castles near Edinburgh and one of the best 5-star exclusive locations in the UK. This majestic historic venue with 17 bedrooms is mainly used for glamorous, elegant weddings and private parties, but it also offers plenty of excursion activities.

You can stroll through the castle's gardens, have a tour of the Auld Keep including fantastic rooftop views, and participate in a variety of additional activities, including highland games and falconry.


Craigcrook Castle

Craigcrook is a well-preserved historic castle, standing just a few miles west of the Scottish capital. This 16th-century tower house, redeveloped extensively in the Victorian era, became notable in the 19th century due to literary soirées held at the castle, which attracted famous guests, such as Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Hans Christian Andersen.

The castle is not open to the public, but you can admire its handsome round turrets from the outside, walk around the castle's garden, and explore a roll-molded arched gateway with a pediment dated 1626.


Borthwick Castle

The magnificent and authentic Borthwick Castle, dating back to 1430, is notable for its twin towers and is considered one of the largest castles near Edinburgh. Stepping through its historic arched entrance, you will truly travel back in time and immerse yourself in medieval grandeur and charm.

Today, this carefully refurbished fortress is mostly used as an events venue, but you can catch an opportunity to explore it on one of the open days. Otherwise, you can admire the castle's intricate architectural style from the outside — and take in the captivating Scottish scenery.


Dalhousie Castle

Dalhousie Castle, situated 8 miles south of Edinburgh on the picture-perfect banks of the River Esk, is said to be one of the oldest inhabited castles in Scotland. This historic landmark has been turned into a luxurious spa hotel, allowing you to escape from the city's hustle and bustle and relax in a spectacular setting that belongs in a fairy tale.

During your stay, you can try your hand at traditional noble activities, such as falconry and archery, or enjoy reading while sitting back in a plush chair in the library by the fire.


Fa'side Castle

Fa'side Castle, standing dramatically on a high ridge and visible from miles around, is a big draw for tourists who want to experience a Scottish castle firsthand. This 15th-century keep, located just a 20-minute ride from Edinburgh, is now inhabited by a family that rents out the castle tower as a B&B — with exclusive use of the Grand Hall with a log-burning stove.

When staying there, you will experience what it is to live like a royal in a charming castle in the Scottish countryside. As a bonus, you will enjoy fascinating views of green landscapes and the Firth of Forth.


Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle is a ruined castle, sitting on an island about an hour north of Edinburgh on Loch Leven. This castle, built around 1300, is believed to be one of the oldest in Scotland and is best known as the place where Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned before she managed to escape the country.

This castle is not easy to reach because it is accessible only by boat, but your efforts will be rewarded with the peaceful setting you can enjoy and the rich history you can come face to face with.

Hawthornden Castle

Hawthornden Castle, located just about 8 miles south of Edinburgh, is a 17th-century L-plan house built around a ruined 15th-century tower in an extremely picturesque, romantic setting. Entirely surrounded by woods, it stands on an isolated rock above the gorge of the river North Esk.

This castle was home to the famous Scottish poet William Drummond of Hawthornden. Today it is operated as a writer's retreat and offers residencies to writers from all around the globe. If you are not a poet or novelist, you can stroll around — and visit the castle by appointment.

  • 1
    What are the most popular castles near Edinburgh?
    Except for Edinburgh Castle, which is the most famous and visited castle in Scotland, the most popular castles around Edinburgh are:
    • Dirleton Castle
    • Blackness Castle
    • Tantallon Castle
  • 2
    What are the best family-friendly castles in Edinburgh?
    • Edinburgh Castle
    • Lauriston Castle
    • Dirleton Castle
  • 3
    What are the best free castles in Edinburgh?
    Many castles near Edinburgh offer free admission to the grounds. Here are some of them:
    • Lauriston Castle
    • Tantallon Castle
    • Crichton Castle

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