From picturesque ruins perched high on craggy cliffs to majestic castles set on the shores of some iconic lochs, the fascinating medieval structures of Scotland evoke not only the country’s stormy past, but also its beauty and romance, its spirit and unique identity.

Here are some of the most spectacular Scottish castles:

Urquhart Castle

Perched atop a rocky promontory overlooking the Loch Ness, the 13th century Urquhart Castle is no doubt one of the most romantic and impressive castles in the Scottish Highlands. Moreover, the almost palpable history of the place along with the dramatic views from the well-preserved five-story Grant Tower makes it one of the country’s most beloved landmarks.

The Urquhart Castle lies near the village of Drumnadrochit, on the A82 road between Inverness and Fort William, and boasts a modern visitor center where you can shop delightful local crafts, relax in the café or learn about its tumultuous past through exhibits and audio-visual displays.

Edinburgh Castle

An important symbol of Scotland’s national heritage and an iconic structure on the capital’s skyline, Edinburgh Castle is the most visited paid-for tourist attraction in the country.

Situated on top of the volcanic Castle Rock, in the Old Town of Edinburgh, the world-famous historic fortress features a number of remarkable buildings from different eras, including the 12th century St Margaret’s Chapel - Edinburgh’s oldest surviving building, the Royal Palace with its sumptuously decorated rooms, the magnificent Great Hall, and the Prisons of War - a series of stone vaults below the Great Hall and the Queen Ann Building, used as cells for foreign prisoners during the war.

Other items of interest in the castle comprise the Crown Jewels and the enigmatic Stone of Destiny in the Royal Palace, the Mons Meg - one of the oldest cannons in the world, and the One o’clock Gun, which is fired at precisely 13:00 every day but Sunday, ever since 1891.

Additionally, the magnificent Edinburgh Castle houses three museums: the National War Museum, the Royal Scots Museum and the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Museum.

Dunnottar Castle

Scotland has many enchanting coastal fortresses, but no other has the charm and the colorful past of the mighty Dunnottar Castle. Stunningly located on a headland jutting into the North Sea, about 3 km south of Stonehaven, this spectacular medieval stronghold is almost entirely surrounded by 160ft sheer cliffs and connected to the mainland through a narrow strip of land.

Some time ago, the 16th century Palace, the 14th century Tower House and the other buildings and ruins that make up the scenic Dunnottar Castle have been chosen among the last 10 finalists in the race for the 8th Wonder of the World. Unfortunately, shortly after the announcement was made, authorities decided to close the castle for safety reasons.

Eilean Donan Castle

The most romantic and photographed castle in Scotland is none other than the Eilean Donan - a strikingly restored 13th century monument situated on its own tiny island looking over the Isle of Skye.

In the West Highlands of Scotland, at the confluence of three lochs, Eilean Donan rises majestically from the water, offering visitors a magical view and a glimpse of centuries gone by. And although today’s castle is a 20th century reconstruction, its lovely interiors still retain the flavor of its glorious past, putting on a display of a fabulous collection of period furniture, medieval weapons and Jacobean artifacts. Additionally, the Eilean Donan Castle is extremely popular for wildlife watching and wedding receptions.

Glamis Castle

Entwined with many legends, tales and ghost stories, the beautiful Glamis Castle in Angus is one of Scotland’s most haunted residences, but also one of its noblest and most exquisite. Famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and the childhood home of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother), the castle has been the property of the Lyon family - now the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne - since 1372.

Among the most attractive features of the Glamis Castle are its marvelous French chateau style architecture, the superb landscaped gardens that surround it and the wonderful exhibition rooms, where refined furnishings, paintings and armor tell the story of an opulent life. The castle has its own shop and elegant restaurant that serves dishes from award-winning caterers.

These are just some of Scotland’s fabulous castles, and although it’s difficult to visit them all in one single trip, you can still find one or two that are close enough to get by. Because as clichéd as it may sound, no Scottish experience would be complete without seeing a castle or having a glass of good old whiskey. And speaking of Scottish experiences, Small Luxury Hotels of the World delivers some that are not only enriching, luxurious and true to the brand, but also unique, customer-centered and memorable.

Three outstanding properties make up SLH’s short, but oh-so-exclusive collection of luxury boutique hotels in Scotland. One is a charming country retreat with vintage-flavored interiors and a sensational spa near the city of Aberdeen; the other is a spectacular Victorian mansion built on the site of a former castle in rural Perthshire, and the last one resembles a grandiose Georgian townhouse with a quirky mix of old and new in Edinburgh’s master-planned New Town. Have we already sparked your curiosity?

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