Learn more about the most wonderful castles around Inverness
Top 10 Castles in the Inverness Area
Published: Wed Mar 4
History, mystery, and a little bit of magic… Scottish castles have it all. From formidable fortresses like Inverness Castle to embattled ruins such as Urquhart Castle, there’s much more to learn about the Highland’s castles than you might think.
Whether you’re planning a getaway to the Scottish Highlands or are just looking for the perfect excuse for an adventure, our top 10 list of castles in the Inverness area is sure to give you the inspiration you need to get out and experience some of the greatest historical sights and experiences the Highlands have to offer. And if you’re really keen, why not check out one of our fantastic private tours, where you can check out these beautiful castles in the company of one of our friendly, local guides.
Starting small we first look north to the Black Isle and Kilcoy Castle, situated just outside of Muir of Ord. Kilcoy Castle is an excellent example of a Z-plan tower house, dating back to 1580. Kilcoy Castle was built initially by the Stewart family but later completed by a son of the Mackenzies around 1618. At some point in the 18th or 19th century, its roof was removed in order to avoid taxes; this caused Kilcoy Castle to become a ruin. It wasn’t until 1891 that two Inverness architects restored the castle to its former glory, adding the four-storey north wing in the process.
Kilcoy Castle is home to some beautiful and varied Scottish gardens that visitors can see in the summer months, check out the Kilcoy Castle page on Scotland’s Garden Scheme. If you’re interested in more history around the Black Isle, you might also wish to check out our Outlander tour.
Loch an Eilein Castle
Loch an Eilein Castle is truly mysterious and picturesque ruin, located around 35 miles south of Inverness near the town of Rothiemurchus. With access only by canoe or kayak, Loch an Eilein Castle entices thousands of visitors every year – but few ever get to step foot on the island it’s perched on.
Loch an Eilein Castle is thought to date back to the 14th century when it was used as a refuge from thieves, robbers and cut-throats – indeed one of the loch’s shores is known locally as ‘Robber’s Way,’ an echo of the time of cattle rustlers and raiders who used to plague this area. The loch is surrounded by beautiful woodland walks and picnic spots – why not discover it on your next Highland adventure?
While Fort George isn’t technically a castle, it is one of the most impressive fortified structures in the Highlands and one of the most historic working garrisons to be found anywhere in Scotland. Fort George was built in 1769 in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising, to replace another fort (also called Fort George) in Inverness that was seized and then blown up by the Jacobites.
There’s plenty to do at Fort George, including the barrack rooms where soldiers hold recreations of life at the fort in the 18th century and the expansive Highlanders Museum which houses an impressive collection of military artefacts.
Outlander fans will love Castle Leod, the official seat of Clan Mackenzie and the real-life “Castle Leoch” as seen in the TV show. Located just north of Inverness outside the town of Strathpeffer, Castle Leod is in easy driving distance of the city and offers visitors a chance to see an excellent example of an authentic 17th-century L-plan tower house.
Castle Leod hosts a number of open days and private tours where guests can view the inside of the house, which is still the official residence of the present-day Mackenzie Clan Chief, as well as the gardens which are home to a number of exotic trees planted by the Mackenzies over the generations.
Perhaps one of the most famous castles in Scotland despite it’s ruined appearance, Urquhart Castle paints a stark silhouette on the banks of Loch Ness. Urquhart Castle has a fascinating history that spans as far as 1000 years into the past when it started life as a Pictish fort. Since then it has been captured, re-captured, rebuilt and eventually destroyed by the British Army during the Jacobite risings – leaving the broken but beautiful ruin we see today.
Visitors can climb the iconic Grant Tower and take in the views over Loch Ness, learn more about the castle’s history at the visitor centre, or grab a quick bite at the cafe – did we mention Urquhart castle is one of our stops on our Loch Ness & Culloden Battlefield Tour?
Just a few miles west of Inverness outside the town of Beauly lies Beaufort Castle, truly an impressive castle and one of the few Baronial style mansions in the Highlands. Beaufort Castle was once in the hands of the Frasers of Lovat after being inherited by Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat (known as the ‘Old Fox’,) who became deeply involved in the Jacobite cause.
Today Beaufort Castle is a private residence – access to the castle and its estate are restricted, however, events are sometimes held on its grounds – if you are lucky you may be able to catch a glimpse of this spectacular castle for yourself.
A list of the best castles around Inverness wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Inverness Castle! Visitors to Inverness won’t be able to miss the pink-sandstone structure overlooking the River Ness in easy reach of the city centre. The castle as it stands today is a relatively modern construction, having been built in the 19th century by a succession of local architects, however many castles have stood on this site since 1057.
Inverness Castle is still a working Sherrif Court, so large parts of it are not open to the public, however, visitors can climb the north tower and take in great views of Inverness. The nearby Inverness Museum and Art Gallery boasts a huge range of exhibits and artefacts that may be of interest to visitors to Inverness Castle – definitely worth checking out during your visit!
Brodie Castle is located east of Inverness along the A96, perfectly situated for visitors travelling from the city towards Scotland’s Whisky Country. With a history dating back to 1567, the castle is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public throughout the year. Brodie Castle boasts expansive gardens – ideally visit in Spring when the grounds are carpeted by over 100 species of daffodil.
There’s plenty for families to see and do here – kids will enjoy the colourful Playful Garden, home to many quirky characters and sculptures. There’s also a soft play area and a cafe too.
No visit to the Highlands would be complete without seeing the stunning Cawdor Castle and Gardens, located just east of Inverness outside the picturesque village of Cawdor. Cawdor Castle is famous for its connection to the Shakespeare play Macbeth and holds many secrets that visitors will want to discover. Cawdor Castle’s history goes back as far as the 14th century when it was a fortified medieval tower, but soon expanded into the varied structure we see today.
Visitors can enter the castle to see it’s beautiful historic interior and precious artefacts, as well as wander the famous gardens, where many unique and exotic species of plants have been collected. The Courtyard Cafe is situated in the old servant’s quarters and offers up a range of tasty snacks and light meals, perfect for rounding off your adventure!