The castles in Glasgow are well worth a visit on vacation. With access to an excellent road network and public transport system, it’s also easy for travelers to visit some of the country’s other castles further afield, such as Edinburgh and Stirling, that lies a short commute from Glasgow.
Between sampling Scotland’s amber-hued libations and musing works at modern art galleries, visit these nine beautiful castles in Glasgow and beyond to experience soul-stirring ruins, storied residences, and legendary citadels.
Stirling Castle was the setting for the young Mary, Queen of Scots’ 1543 coronation, just 30 miles northeast of Glasgow.
You can’t fail to miss Stirling’s looming medieval castle, perched on a craggy ledge on a green-covered rock formation near the Serpentine River Forth and the famous Stirling Old Bridge.
You’ll want to dedicate a full day to exploring this fascinating landmark and its grounds. Start by gazing at the Robert the Bruce statue outside, before wandering through the main gate towards the inner walls, which have survived multiple sieges. Take a seat near the black cannons that peer through the outer wall’s battlements.
Stirling Castle is one of the finest castles that Scotland is known for and Mary was just one of its former royal residents. James IV was born here in 1473 and oversaw the build of the castle’s magnificent Great Hall, once used to host lavish banquets and harlequin dances.
A focal point of the castle is the extravagant Royal Palace, where Mary spent much of her childhood, today styled to resemble how it would have looked in the 1500s. Pry around the royal chambers, home to ornate tapestries.
There’s also the elegant Chapel Royal, next to the Great Hall, the Regimental Museum, and Queen Anne Gardens to admire.
In 2008, the discovery of nine skeletons dating from the 1200s to the 1400s was made within a long-forgotten royal chapel. Two of the skeletons are on display at the castle’s exhibition.
There’s shopping to be done at Stirling Castle, too, with gift shops for Scottish souvenirs, from puzzles to gin and soft tartan scarves.
Lying on the River Forth near the town of Linlithgow in West Lothian, some 50 minutes’ drive from Glasgow, Blackness Castle was built by a powerful Scottish family, the Crichtons, in the 15th century before being used as a military base by James V, King of Scotland.
This former royal abode and garrison fortress has also been used as a state prison and, more recently, as a movie set.
Blackness Castle is defined by its pointed bow-shaped walls that jut into the water, earning the castle the nickname of “the ship that never sailed”.
Trace the castle’s illustrious history, including gun-battle scars that remain visible from the Wars of the Three Kingdoms’ 1650 besiegement by England’s Oliver Cromwell.
You could also learn about famous former inmates of Blackness, including Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop of St. Andrews, a prominent figure who was also appointed Chancellor of Scotland during the 1500s.
Scale Blackness’s three towers and curtain wall for unending views of the Firth of Forth and Fife. Gaze to the east and you will see the impressive vermillion-red Forth Bridge, a one-and-a-half-mile structure that has straddled the estuary since 1890. There are regular guided walks along the foreshore next to Blackness Castle, too.
After exploring this dreamy Scottish castle, dine at The Lobster Pot in Blackness on Sea for a memorable lunch of haggis fritters, lobster and chips (fries), or a cocktail of crayfish, shrimp, and hot-smoked salmon.
Crookston Castle is the only surviving medieval castle in Glasgow. This ruined stronghold was built around 1400, by the Stewarts of Darnley, a notable Scottish family, within earthworks constructed centuries earlier.
The castle’s architecture features four square corner towners with a taller central tower. A 1489 siege saw damage to all but the northeast tower, which you will see is still intact.
Climb the tower to gaze at the green hills around Glasgow and spot Glasgow Cathedral’s spire piercing the skyline in the distance. Crookston Castle is one of the oldest buildings in Glasgow, second only to the medieval cathedral, which was built in the late 12th century.
One of the many great things about visiting Crookston Castle is that a trip here can easily be paired with time spent at other Glasgow sights. Consider a visit to the Gallery of Modern Art, the Zaha Hadid-designed Riverside Museum, or a trip to the Clydeside Distillery to sample local Scotch.
Located on a grassy South Ayrshire hilltop, 30 miles southwest of Glasgow center, Dundonald is a 14th-century ruined fortress that is among the most beautiful castles in Glasgow. Dundonald Castle was built on the site of former castles as the home of King Robert II, grandson of the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce.
The castle’s slightly off-the-beaten-path feel means it’s lesser known, though it’s no less glorious. Follow a local guide into the barrel-vaulted castle and within the towering arched stone walls of the great hall.
There’s a small museum within Dundonald Castle Visitor Centre right outside the castle. The exhibition shows how the castle evolved from an Iron Age hill settlement to a regal manor and offers a sense of what this behemoth would have looked like in its prime.
Archeological digs around the castle have uncovered coins dating from the 14th to the 17th centuries, as well as prehistoric and medieval pottery, and stone blades, among other long-lost items.
Outside the castle, explore the ancient woodlands. You could follow the Smugglers’ Trail walking route to Old Auchans Castle or head to the bracing Barassie Beach, where a long sweeping blond stretch of soft sand is revealed at low tide.
Enjoy a jaunt to the tip of Loch Lomond to visit Balloch Castle & Country Park within the dazzling Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, home to some of the best hikes in Glasgow and the nearby areas.
The existing castle was built in the early 1800s, making it far newer, all things being relative, than other castles in Glasgow and the surrounding countryside. It was, however, built on the site of a former castle that was constructed in the 13th century.
When John Buchanan of Ardoch—whose portrait hangs in Edinburgh’s National Portrait Gallery—took ownership of Balloch, he had the ruins of the previous building demolished to make way for a new, modern castle.
The Tudor Gothic-style building was designed by architect Robert Lugar, a prominent engineer in the Industrial Revolution who also designed Cyfarthfa Castle in Wales.
Today, though the house lies empty, its grounds are often used to host summer music concerts and the Loch Lomond Highland Games are held nearby, in the local village, every July.
Take in the castle’s gorgeous leafy grounds and the serene views of Loch Lomond, known as one of the best lakes in Europe. The park, 20 miles north of Glasgow, offers 200 acres of formal gardens, a wild meadow, and woodland on what was part of Balloch’s private estate. For families, there’s also a tree-stump Fairy Trail.
Stroll through the photogenic Walled Garden and to the shore of Loch Lomond to reach the center of Balloch, where a number of pubs, restaurants, and cafés beckon.
Port Glasgow’s late-medieval Newark Castle lies on the south bank of the River Clyde, close to the city’s historic shipyards.
The oldest part of the existing castle was built in 1478 by Sir George Maxwell, whose handiwork includes the west-facing gatehouse and the lofty tower to the southeast corner.
The Maxwells welcomed many notable guests to Newark Castle, including Scotland’s King James IV, who visited in 1495. A century later, in the late 1500s, the castle was remodeled by the new laird of the manor, Sir Patrick Maxwell.
Peek at the Renaissance touches added by the later Maxwell, including a self-contained residence in place of the castle’s former great hall. Take a look below stairs, where servants once lived and worked, and view the late 16th-century bed chamber.
Split your time between admiring the handsome castle and the nearby Coronation Park. Just a short walk west, you’ll get a glimpse of the park’s new jaw-dropping stainless-steel Shipbuilders of Port Glasgow sculpture.
The huge, 33-foot public art, also known as The Skelpies, was designed by sculptor John McKenna to celebrate the shipbuilders of Port Glasgow and the Lower Clyde region.
The ochre-hued Bothwell Castle in South Lanarkshire is spread over 1.5 acres on a steep bank above the River Clyde, just 10 miles southeast of Glasgow.
What makes the mighty Bothwell one of the most beautiful castles in Glasgow? Its dramatic ruins cast an enchanting vision against the Clyde. Built by the Moray family in the late 13th century, it wasn’t long before the castle came under siege.
In 1301, during the raging Wars of Independence, 6,800 English soldiers descended on the castle on the orders of Edward I of England.
Bothwell’s late-medieval chapel and great hall, built by the Black Douglas family in the 14th century, still exist, though most impressive is the castle’s circular keep tower.
Today, the best way to access Bothwell Castle is via a walk on the riverside path below. During August, brambles thick with blackberries line the pretty path.
In fact, a popular Highland walk cuts directly by Bothwell Castle, following the curving river. The 40-mile-long Clyde Walkway stretches from New Lanark in the south to Patrick in Glasgow in the north, with Bothwell Castle a highlight of the route.
One of the best ways to scope out the breathtaking River Clyde estuary is on a visit to Dumbarton Castle, sitting atop the 240-foot Rock of the Clyde that was formed around 340 million years ago.
This soaring spot has been home to Iron Age settlers, a Dark Ages Citadel, and was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Strathclyde.
The first iteration of the castle was built in the early 1200s by Alexander II of Scotland as a strategic fort, looming over the town of Dumbarton at the junction of the Clyde and Leven rivers.
It was here that William Wallace was brought in 1305 having been captured by Sir John Menteith and handed over to the English, who subsequently tried and executed him for treason. Later, when Mary, Queen of Scots left Scotland for France in 1548, she sailed from Dumbarton Castle, where she had been lodging at the time.
While few remnants of the original castle survive, there’s an attractive 16th-century guard house, the elegant 18th-century Governor’s House, and some defensive structures. You can also visit White Tower Crag, reached by scaling over 500 steps.
Climbing the tower is not for the faint-hearted. It’s worth every stride, though, with views reaching as far as Loch Lomond.
The formidable Edinburgh Castle, sprawling over Castle Rock, is one of the most famous in the world, offering an unforgettable real-life history lesson for travelers.
Like many Scottish castles, Edinburgh Castle is built on the site of a former fortress that had stood here long before the oldest part of the existing structure was built in the 12th century.
Enter via Castlehill to begin your exploration of Edinburgh Castle’s warren of walls, gates, monuments, rooms, and museums. Walk beneath the spiked Portcullis Gate and follow the 70 steps of Lang Stairs.
Study beautiful Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth from the castle’s battlements. Stick around for the One O’clock Gun salute, with the tradition performed every day of the year (apart from Sundays, Christmas Day, and Good Friday) from Mills Mount Battery.
Step inside the oldest building in Edinburgh, St. Margaret’s Chapel, and the Royal Palace’s Royal Apartments, where Mary, Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI.
A highlight of Edinburgh Castle is the 1511-built Great Hall. Located in Crown Square, the Great Hall is one of the grandest rooms in Scotland, featuring a dramatic timber roof and scarlet walls.
When the castle was captured by Oliver Cromwell in 1650, he turned the Great Hall into a military barracks. Today, chandeliers dangle from a great height, while military weapons and silver suits of armor add to this remarkable room’s grandeur.
Don’t leave the castle without viewing the Crown Jewels—the oldest in the British Isles—in the Crown Room. The collection includes pieces used for the coronation of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Stone of Destiny, used for centuries to anoint Scottish monarchs.
Finish up by sipping the velvety single-malt Edinburgh Castle Whisky at the Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile, just outside this spectacular castle.
Scotland is a majestic destination of wild, heathery hills, inky lochs, and a landscape scattered with historic castles. Explore Celebrity Cruises’ cruises to Glasgow to learn more about this proud country.