These magnificent castles combined with the rolling hills and lochs show the beauty of Scotland
Historic Environment Scotland, which manages some of Scotland's most important historic sites, has revealed that the country's heritage attractions have recently enjoyed record-breaking visitor numbers— more than five million visitors in a single year. Many of these made a beeline for the country's castles, and if you're planning on doing the same, we've found the ones to put at the top of your hit list.
Culzean Castle, Ayrshire
This beautiful castle was designed by eighteenth century neoclassical architect Robert Adam, castle designer extraordinaire.
An exploration of its grounds will reward you with breathtaking views across the sea to the island of Arran, and you can spend the night in a hotel on the upper floors.
The name of the hotel—The Eisenhower at Culzean Castle—is a nod to its former resident, none other than former US president General Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Craigievar Castle, Aberdeenshire
This pink-hued fortress is certainly fit for a princess, and many believe it was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle logo. And if you've ever moaned about builders working painfully slowly, we guarantee they've got nothing on the team behind this castle—they started work on it in 1576 and only finished 50 years later.
The former owner insisted that artificial light should never be installed on the upper floors so the property's original furnishings and antiques (including various weapons and items of armour) are all in fantastic condition.
Now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, the castle can be explored on guided tours and there are also cottages in the grounds which can be rented for overnight stays.
Fonab Castle Hotel, Perthshire
Channel your inner lord of the manor by booking a night at Fonab Castle Hotel and Spa, perched on the banks of Loch Faskally.
It's just a 90-minute drive from Edinburgh, and the pretty town of Pitlochry, with its pubs and quaint boutiques, is just a short walk away. Our advice? Keep the riff-raff at bay and stay put. Start with the gin-themed afternoon teas in the Brasserie before heading over to the spa for a hot stone massage.
For dinner, raise a toast to your surroundings with dinner at one of the hotel's many restaurants. Our favourite is Sandemans, where there's a seven-course tasting menu filled with local delicacies such as Perthshire lamb.
Ackergill Tower, Wick, Scotland
Say hello to the UK's most northerly Grade A listed building, and one of the world's most beautiful castles.
Spend the night at this fifteenth-century fortress and you can choose from rooms in the main building or cottages and tree houses dotted throughout the 3,000-acre estate.
But a word of warning—Ackergill is said to be haunted by the ghost of a local woman abducted on her wedding night and held prisoner. She escaped by throwing herself from the battlements and a stone plaque marks the spot where she died.
Several visitors have reported sightings of her ghost in the rooms on the castle's upper floors. Suddenly that tree house looks rather appealing…
Inverlochy Castle, Fort William, Scotland
Inverlochy is ideal if you're a fan of mountains but prefer admiring their beauty rather than risking life and limb by climbing them.
The castle, which has fantastic views of Ben Nevis and was built in the nineteenth century, has acquired a rather impressive list of admirers and guests, including a former King of Norway (look carefully and you'll spot some of the furniture he left as a present) and Queen Victoria, who visited the estate while staying at nearby Balmoral in 1873.
Describing the landscape in her diaries, she wrote: "I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot."
Alloa Tower, Alloa, Scotland
This is the largest surviving keep (a single, fortified tower) in Scotland. It may look somewhat basic from the outside, but venture inside and you'll discover opulent eighteenth-century furnishings and the so-called solar room, with its beautiful oak roof timbers and huge windows looking out across nine counties.
You'll enjoy even better views if you clamber to the top of the tower. The buildings dates back to the 1300s and one of its most famous former residents was the 6th Earl of Mar, the man behind 1715's Jacobite Rising.
Glengorm Castle, Isle of Mull
Not a fan of neighbours? This castle's for you.
Perched on the northernmost tip of the Isle of Mull and overlooking the breathtaking Ardnamurchan Peninsula and Outer Hebrides, this nineteenth-century castle has been transformed into a luxury hotel, complete with a wood-panelled library and one of the largest log fires we've ever seen.
Curl up next to it with a wee dram (the hotel's famous for its huge selection of whiskies) or explore the surrounding landscape on foot—it's highly like the owners' ridiculously cute spaniels will join you.
Dalhousie Castle, Bonnyrigg
This Scottish castle hotel, just a few miles from Edinburgh, makes Downtown Abbey look positively modern. It's Scotland's oldest inhabited castle and was certainly built to last—in 1400 it withstood an attack led by Henry IV, although it was captured by Cromwell two centuries later, shortly after Mary Queen of Scots spent the night here.
First impressions are fantastic, thanks to a gothic, vaulted entrance hall. Former storage vaults are now home to a beautiful spa, although if you fancy something more taxing you can head into the gardens and learn about falconry with the help of the resident eagles.
Borthwick Castle, Gorebridge, Scotland
This beautifully preserved fifteenth-century castle, nestled in a forested valley on Edinburgh's outskirts, has it all: secret passageways, spiral staircases and dingy dungeons.
Former guests include Mary Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell, and in the 1970s it was transformed into a luxury hotel. There are just 11 bedrooms and although exclusive hire is required during busier periods, visit the website to find out when it's open for single-room bookings.
Bag a room and you'll drift off to the land of nod in antique four-poster beds under huge chandeliers and vaulted ceilings.
Seduced by the charms of bonnie Scotland? Here are 15 reasons to head north…
To keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter
Loading up next...