Here's the Top 6 castles to visit in and around Inverness, but you'll find lots more scattered around the Highlands.
Covid update: see our Latest News page for what's open (October 2020)
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 a few years. The viewpoint at the top of the castle tower (95 steps to the top) has magnificent views over the city.
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, souvenir 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.
Covid update: the castle is closed but the gardens are open daily (July - October).
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.
Covid update: Open daily but Pre-booking required
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 grounds are free to explore all year round. There is a new Playful garden for children (admission charge).
Covid update: the castle is closed but the gardens and cafe are open.
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.
Covid update: the Castle is open daily until 31 October 2020.
has been the home of the Macpherson-Grants since 1546 and they are still living here today and managing the estate.
You can visit the extensive grounds including the walled garden from 8 July to 30 September 2020 from Sunday to Thursday (closed Friday and Saturday) from 10am to 5pm (last admission 4pm). Admission charge.
You can get a round (9 holes) at the Ballindalloch Golf course on the estate on a Pay and Play basis.
Due to Covid restrictions, the castle itself is currently closed (usually open Easter - September) and the distillery is also closed. Ballindalloch is 50 miles from Inverness in Speyside (approx. 14 miles from Grantown on Spey on the A95).