In the bluff of a Scottish highland, a castle stands staunch and regal on the edge of a fragrant grove of pine trees.
Wind rolls in swiftly from the Atlantic and boughs dance brightly, creating a whisper of voices echoing those of ancestors from long ago. A time when lords and ladies decorated the dimly lit hallways with their festive and elegant dress, their mark lingering as the grand castles stand still and majestic, stirring memories of life from centuries ago.
Exploring Scotland’s History
In just under 79,000 square kilometers with almost 790 islands, Scotland is host to more than 250 castles, towers and manor houses. Each of them holds the gift of memories and long-ago tales of this tiny nation.
The history of Scotland has decorated the landscape of the country with such impressive castles as Edinburgh and Stirling. Edinburgh, located atop an ancient volcano in Scotland’s capital, has evolved over the centuries to the massive campus of today and houses such important historical pieces as the Scottish Crown Jewels and Stone of Destiny. Other castles such as Dunvegan, stronghold of the Macloed Clan for nearly 800 years, and Balmoral, owned by the British Royal Family, are not to be overlooked, equally as steeped in a rich and colorful history and worth exploring.
The authentic stone castles that have stood the test of a few hundred years of time, rather than a manor house or tower house that came later, were built from the 12th century for political and military purposes. Over the centuries, changes in design were dictated by changes in weaponry, and the defensive or offensive needs of the inhabitants. Then, by the 18th century, castles were built and used as luxurious residences for the elite and took on a more sophisticated flair.
Grandeur and Romance of Scottish Castles
Entering into a Scottish Castle is to step out of modern day and be transported back to a medieval time. Although they look impressive, many castles originally had narrow halls, windy staircases and tinier rooms than one would expect from a grand residence. Thus, numerous castles and manor houses have been renovated and transformed into beautiful and elegant, modern day lodgings providing quite a lavish stay for the discerning traveler.
Dalhousie castle, a fortress from the 13th century, offers luxury accommodations, an extensive library, a world class spa and fine dining. Stirling Castle offers a unique venue for an authentic medieval wedding or corporate gathering. Inns and smaller manor houses offer well appointed rooms for those preferring a more intimate stay during their visit.
Touring Through Tradition
Traveling Scotland is enhanced by tours through these historic monuments. Guided visits by companies like Scottish Tours are available, then there’s the thrill of planning your own Celtic adventure. Websites such as VisitScotland.com help with every detail from booking the perfect hotel, listing annual events and creating themed itineraries. Many castles offer more than just a tour or place to stay. Plan to take in an authentic Highland Game or enjoy a bagpipe and Highland Dance competition. The rich traditions and cultural heritage of Scotland run deep throughout the country. The castles of this great nation offer the perfect conduit through which to explore and enjoy them.
by Lee Anne Michayluk