Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
Picture by Rachel Nigh
Whether you’re renting a car for the weekend, taking the train or bus, or have your own car to tool around in, Scotland is a wonderful place to castle hunt. Scotland has the largest concentration of castles in western Europe and Aberdeenshire is host to some of the most beautiful on the list.
There are two primary organizations that own and maintain the majority of the castles, ruins, and other historical sites in Scotland: the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) and Historic Scotland. You may consider buying a year membership to one or both of these organizations and, if you’re going to be visiting more than three castles while you’re here, I suggest you buy both.
The National Trust for Scotland, or NTS as I’ll refer to it ever after, is a non-profit organization and they typically maintain all sites that have been lived in up until recently. NTS operates all over the country but has the largest concentration in Aberdeenshire and therefore is a better organization to start off with if you’re trying to budget out family memberships.
Historic Scotland is run by the UK and, yes, there is a Historic England membership, too. Their slogan is loosely: we don’t do windows and roofs, and they primarily run all the ruined sites. Since this organization is run by the UK, it has the benefit of giving you a discount on their gift shops (20% off to members) and you get into their events for free and with different queues. This membership is an absolute must if you plan on going to Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Linlithgow Palace, Urquhart Castle, or any of dozens of other major places to visit. The reason for this is simple. Edinburgh costs (at the moment in 2010) something like £14 to enter. Stirling is around £10 as are the other large castles. The membership for a single adult for one year is in the neighborhood of £30. So, if you’re planning to go anywhere more than once, this membership will pay for itself quickly and comes highly recommended by the AWF.
I have also made an interactive map of the castles in Aberdeenshire and, indeed, the entirety of Scotland. While you may find more comprehensive and complete maps elsewhere, this one has been tried out by our family as we travel the country looking for castles. I am discriminating in my search–I don’t go for really ruined sites, burns, or random rocks sticking out of the ground. You may rest assure that the castles on our map are the real thing. Also, I’ve written a short blurb on each one we’ve visited (some we haven’t been to yet but are on the list for further traveling). Just click on the pin on the map and it will pull up my scale of 1-10 on each castle. Be warned, a few of these are not part of either of the two aforementioned organizations. Many castles in Scotland are still privately owned but are shown throughout the tourist year. These castles are a joy to visit but cost a pretty penny, so make sure which kind of castles you are visiting before heading out, membership in hand. Also on my personal blog-page I have begun writing more in depth reviews of some of the castles and you can check them out here.
Go here to visit the google map, “Scotland, According To The Nighs”
Thanks for reading and happy hunting!
Dunnottar Castle on the cliffs of Stonehaven
Picture by Rachel Nigh