The Great Scottish Castle Trail – Part Three
–A Battlemaster’s Guide to Doing Scotland Right–
(Continued from Part Two)
A number of other castles owned by the Trust are a short drive away, including Drum, Fraser and Craigievar, all exhibiting unique styles from early medieval to 17th century baronial. Trekking west from Aberdeenshire towards Scotland’s world-famous Western Isles takes you through some of the best Highland scenery that Scotland has to offer. Along the way, it is well worth a stop at Castle Urquhart on the shores of Loch Ness (HS, All Year). Nessie spotting aside, this is one of Scotland’s most atmospheric ruins.
From there, any list of Scottish castles would be remiss if it did not include Eilean Donan Castle near the otherworldly Isle of Skye, one of the most photographed castles in the world alongside international treasures such as Germany’s Neuschwanstein or Spain’s Alhambra (Independent, All Year). A Jacobite stronghold, it was devastated by English ship gunnery in the 1740s and remained so until being lovingly restored in the early 20th century.
After meandering down the west coast to Oban, take the ferry across to the Isle of Mull and catch, en route, the unforgettable view of Duart Castle, arising on a rocky crag like a sentinel overlooking the channel (Independent, April to October). Home to Clan MacLean, Duart sat at the heart of the Lordship of the Isles, the Gallic kingdom that struggled for supremacy with Scotland’s kings until the 15th century. The isles, despite their remote reputation today, were superhighways for trade and warfare until their utter suppression following the Jacobite rebellions of the 18th century. Here the staff are on a first-name basis with the castle’s laird (Scots for lord), and are a mine of information and local tales.
The circuit now completed, you find yourself at the gateway to the majestic Western Isles, and the train journey from Oban to Glasgow or Edinburgh is unforgettable for its rugged beauty. However, with between 750 and 2,500 castles (depending on how you count them) these are just the tip of the Scottish castle iceberg. Nonetheless, their architectural distinctiveness, historical richness and lingering sensation of timelessness make this castle trail a fine introduction to the real Scotland.
Article contributed by: David Weinczok
Picture of Duart Castle supplied by David Weinczok