Here's the Top 6 castles to visit in and around Inverness, but you'll find lots more scattered around the Highlands.
Dominating the riverside, the first castle in Inverness on the site of the present Victorian building (1835) was in the 12th century and over the centuries was replaced by newer versions. Until 2020, it housed the Sheriff's Court, but it is now going to be developed as a major tourist attraction with museum, galleries, shops, etc. which will open in 2025. The viewpoint at the top of the castle tower is currently closed.
The nearest castle to Inverness is Cawdor Castle, built in 1454 and even mentioned, albeit incorrectly, in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth”. It is still lived in today by the Campbell Earls of Cawdor and is fascinating to visit with all the features that castles are supposed to have – drawbridge, moat, turrets, dungeons and spiral stone staircases. Outside are lovely gardens, a small golf course, café, gift shop and access to Cawdor woods with marked trails through the beautiful beech trees. In autumn the colours are particularly magnificent. Cawdor is about 15 minutes drive to the east of Inverness.
Open daily from 29 April to 1 October 2023. Visitor info.
Urquhart Castle (Historic Scotland) overlooking Loch Ness is 25 minutes drive from Inverness on the A82 Fort William road. Now a ruin, there was a fort on this strategic site as long ago as the 12th century. The stone castle was built and added to over many years before being blown up after the Jacobite Uprising of 1689. There is a very interesting Visitor Centre with exhibits, a film, café and shop.
Open daily - book tickets online.
Brodie Castle (National Trust for Scotland) is just off the A96 Aberdeen road about 8 miles beyond Nairn and 40 minutes drive from Inverness. Brodie is a very large fortified house in wooded ground, which are beautiful in spring with thousands of daffodils blooming. The castle is open daily from May to August, and open weekends in March, and from Wednesday to Sunday in April, September and October. There is a new Playful garden for children (separate admission charge). The grounds are free to explore all year round.
Dunrobin Castle is home to the Dukes of Sutherland and could easily be the inspiration for a Disney castle with its clusters of French style pointed turrets. It has a magnificent setting on the seashore near Brora, about 1 hour's drive north of Inverness. There are formal gardens dating back to 1850 in the style of those at Versailles and each day there are displays of falconry in the grounds. Gift shop and tearoom.
The Castle is open daily from 1 April - 31 October.
has been the home of the Macpherson-Grants since 1546 and they are still living here today and managing the estate. Open from 4 April – 28 September 2023.
You can also get a round (9 holes) at the Ballindalloch Golf course on the estate on a Pay and Play basis.
Ballindalloch is 50 miles from Inverness in Speyside (approx. 14 miles from Grantown on Spey on the A95).