Castles and Gardens of Scotland
23rd February 2023
Touring Scotland is an exhilarating experience; the rugged landscapes are unlike anything you'll see anywhere else in the world. But what really sets Scotland apart is its rich history, told by the hundreds of ancient castles found across our lands.
Here at Best Scottish Tours, we listen to what types of tours our guests are interested in and strive to provide the very best experience for you. Some of you want to visit as many castles as possible during your tour and have told us that you love spending time strolling through their beautiful gardens.
We were therefore excited to launch the 10 Day Spectacular Castles and Gardens Tour ahead of the 2023 season. We think it’s going to be very popular!
Considering it? Then let’s take a deep dive into the itinerary.
Loch Lomond and Inveraray Castle
The first stop on our castle tour of Scotland is Inveraray Castle, a magnificent 18th-century baronial home resting on the banks of Loch Lomond. This is one of Scotland’s modern castles, still lived in today by the head of Clan Campbell, the Duke of Argyll. The Duke has maintained the castle to an impeccable standard. Surrounding the castle, you’ll encounter a mixture of formal and informal gardens including a walled garden filled with fruit trees, flowers, and herbs.
While exploring the interiors of this grand home, you will find collections of antique weapons, furniture and paintings. Enjoy reading tales of the many generations of Clan Campbell who have resided in Inverary Castle for over 600 years.
During this trip, you will have some time to stroll through the conservation village of Luss, with a reviving coffee break at the Coach House Coffee Shop of course! We also recommend you pop into the Loch Lomond Trading Company. and enjoy Rowena’s “quirky eclectic mix of colourful items”.
After this we will journey over the ‘Rest and Be Thankful’ and into the magnificent Glencoe.
Old Inverlochy Castle and Glenfinnan
Next, we will visit Old Inverlochy Castle, a historic fortification built around 1280 to command the southern end of the Great Glen. In contrast to Inveraray’s modern splendour, Old Inverlochy Castle’s ruins give you a real sense of Scotland’s turbulent history.
After the castle, we will head off along the “Road to the Isles”, with a stop at Glenfinnan along the way. The amazing views from above the Glenfinnan Monument are some of the best in Scotland, including the iconic viaduct used in the Harry Potter films. If you are lucky, you may even see the Jacobite Steam Train puffing by!
Armadale Castle, Dunvegan Castle and the Isle of Skye
Before we head over to Skye, we will enjoy a spot of lunch in Mallaig, a small fishing village and the ferry port (our favourite spot is the Tea Garden.)
The castles of Skye are surrounded by the most by breathtaking scenery and the castles themselves are impressive.
First up is Armadale Castle, a beautiful and well-preserved ruin built in the early 19th century, once the seat of the MacDonalds of Sleat. It overlooks Sound of Sleat (a sea channel) and is surrounded by 40 acres of magnificent woodland gardens - a haven of scent and colour.
The sheltered location of the gardens has created a microclimate which gives a huge range of exotic flowers and plants the chance to thrive. Highlights include the waterlily ponds, herbaceous borders and an abundance of bluebells and orchids during the spring and summer months. They even have a Victorian arboretum filled with flowers and shrubs planted in the 1870s.
The following day we will tick off some of the ‘must do’ sites on the Isle of Skye. We will take you from the scary Cuillin Mountains, to the cute and colourful Portree harbour, to the epic Kilt Rock Falls, The Old Man of Storr, and the bizarre landscape of the Quiraing.
Of course, we will finish the day off with a castle! This time it’s Dunvegan Castle, the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland. The MacLeod clan has occupied Dunvegan Castle for over 800 years. Learn the castle’s fascinating history and discover a wide variety of plants and wildlife in the castle gardens. Enjoy the carefully curated Water Garden, Rose Garden and Walled Garden which all have their own special charm.
Eilean Donan Castle and Glen Shiel
Back on the mainland, our first top is the magnificent Eilean Donan Castle dating back to the 13th century. You have may have seen many pictures of this castle, but trust us, your eyes will be wide with wonder when you first lay eyes on this spectacular fortress. The castle is surrounded by stunning scenery, including three lochs and the Five Sisters of Kintail mountains.
Enjoy a drive through Glen Sheil’s captivating landscape, before arriving in the charming village of Fort Augustus on the shores of Loch Ness.
When visiting this part of Scotland, we often stay at Coul House Hotel, a stunning and historic building with extensive grounds and beautiful views.
Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
Loch Ness is most famous for Scotland’s legendary sea monster, Nessie but it’s also home to the commanding Urquhart Castle. This historic fortress, which dates back to the 13th century, offers breathtaking views of Loch Ness and the surrounding hills. This is a great castle for anyone interested in learning about the Scottish Wars of Independence.
Dornoch and Dunrobin Castle
On our fifth day, we visit Dornoch, a quaint coastal town home to Dunrobin Castle and Gardens. This magical castle with its fairy-tale spires and turrets dates back to the 13th century. Discover the history of the Sutherland family, who still reside there today.
Dunrobin Castle’s gardens were designed by architect Sir Charles Barry in 1850 (he also designed the Houses of Parliament!). He took inspiration from the gardens of the Palace of Versailles in Paris. One of the most striking sights is the huge display of the South American native rhubarb, Gunnera manicata which boasts leaves that span eight feet!
Cawdor Castle and the Cairngorms
Cawdor Castle, built in the 14th century, is located in the heart of the Cairngorms and is surrounded by lush gardens and beautiful countryside. Highlights include grand displays of rhododendrons, azaleas, lilies and galtonia, along with magnificent rose and laburnum archways. It is also famous for its sculptures, including the Minotaur at the centre of the maze.
After a tour of the castle, it’s time for some relaxing retail therapy at Brodie Countryfare.
We will also visit the Glenfiddich Distillery, the only distillery in Scotland to use a single source of water throughout the entire whisky-making process. You will learn about the history of Scottish whisky-making and sample some of the country's finest spirits. Sláinte!
Castle Fraser and Royal Deeside
Castle Fraser is one of Scotland's finest stately homes, home to the Fraser family for over 400 years. Tour the castle filled with historic antiques and then explore the beautiful gardens. A joy to stroll around!
After the castle, we will spend time in the peaceful harbour town of Stonehaven before making our way to the majestic Royal Deeside.
Balmoral Castle and Glamis Castle
Our next stop is the summer residence of the British Royal Family, Balmoral Castle. Enjoy a fascinating visit with privileged entry to the castle and grounds. The gardens, adored by the late Queen Elizabeth II, were first commissioned by Prince Albert, and have been developed by each generation of the Royal Family since.
They have been planted specifically to be enjoyed by the Royal Family, meaning August to October is the best time to visit while the family are in residence. Along with their grand outdoor offering, you can visit a number of glasshouses and a conservatory.
After a drive through the rugged, heather-clad mountain slopes of Braemar and Glen Shee, we reach Glamis Castle; reputedly one of Scotland's most haunted places! Learn about the castle’s fascinating history, including tales of ghosts and supernatural beings. Its stunning gardens are perfect for a walk and a good antidote to its spooky interiors!
Highland Perthshire and Blair Castle
Highland Perthshire is one of Scotland's most picturesque areas, with rolling hills, crystal-clear lochs and leafy forests. Spend some time wandering through the Victorian town of Pitlochry before heading to Queen’s View - a remarkable viewpoint above Loch Tummel.
Blair Castle is a grand white building in the Scots Baronial architectural style. Tour the castle's 30 rooms which showcase stunning 18th century interiors. Politicians, soldiers, agriculturalists and entrepreneurs have all resided within Blair Castle, and it has been the home of the Atholl family for over seven centuries.
On the grounds, you will find a nine-acre walled garden, home to red squirrels, red deer, highland cattle and peacocks. Our favourite section is Diana’s Grove, a tranquil woodland of tall, elegant trees.
Drummond Castle Gardens, Dunkeld and Stirling Castle
Our final day begins with a walk through the highland village of Dunkeld, with its historic Cathedral and quaint 18th-century ‘little houses’. Coffee and cake at the Clootie Dumpling Café is not to be missed!
The nearby Drummond Castle Gardens are a must visit for anyone interested in horticulture. Explore the extensive formal gardens with a wide variety of plants and flowers.
Finally, we will make our way to Stirling Castle, which is one of Scotland's most iconic landmarks and the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots - the infant queen. Mary was born in Linlithgow palace in 1542 and became the queen at just 6 days old! Soon after her birth, she was escorted by a 3500-strong guard of soldiers to Stirling Castle, where she was formally crowned six weeks later.
When visiting Stirlingshire, we love to stay at The Woodside Hotel, a cosy place to rest your head with delicious food and a selection of local wines, beers and whisky.
Castles and Gardens of Scotland
From the jagged coastlines of the Isle of Skye to the rolling hills of Royal Deeside, Scotland is home to some of the most amazing castles in the world. Our fascinating history draws visitors from all corners of the glob, and we would love to welcome you on our 10 Day Spectacular Castles and Gardens Tour!Recent articles