Castles in the Cairngorms

Castles & Historic Sites

From Royal feuds to bloody Jacobite battles, Castles in the Cairngorms’ rich, chequered past are reflected in many of the sites you can visit today…

With castles and historic sites dotted all over the National Park, it is a treasure trove for the seasoned history buff, as much as for the visitor with a passing interest. Whether you want to delve into your imagination observing an ancient ruin, or witness a working castle and Royal residency in action, the Cairngorms has it all.

Castles in the Cairngorms
Castles in the Cairngorms
As the name ‘Royal’ Deeside suggests, the Cairngorms National Park has a rich, regal heritage which is apparent in many landmarks from distilleries to monuments.

Queen Victoria was a huge fan of this area as a holiday destination, first apparently falling in love with the Balmoral Estate in 1848. The current Royal family shares this love and visitors can see why, too, by touring the castle and gardens themselves. Nearby Fife Arms Hotel is also full of Royal historical artefacts, such as drawings penned by Queen Victoria herself, as is Braemar Castle (right).

Ruthven Barracks
Ruthven Barracks
If you’re more interested in Scotland’s bloodthirsty past and the Jacobite Risings in the 17th Century, then you’ll also find much to whet your appetite throughout the Park. 

The clan way of life was dismantled after the unsuccessful Jacobite uprising and, consequently, military barracks and roads were built to ensure order; landmarks you can still see today such as the stunning Ruthven Barracks. Similarly, castles like Corgarff were then commandeered as military garrisons. For an indepth insight into Clan culture, Newtonmore’s Clan Macpherson Museum is a must-see.


What are the best castles to visit in the Cairngorms?

It completely depends on what kind of castle you want to see, as the Park has a wide range of different types. For instance, there are castles that are still used today – such as Balmoral Castle, which is the much loved modern day holiday retreat of the Royals – but there are also ruins – such as Ruthven Barracks and Loch an Eilein Castle. There are castles, too, that hark back to Scotland’s bloody past during the Jacobite era, as well as many others associated with Royal feuds.

Is there a particular area in the Cairngorms where castles are located?

No. There are castles and historic sites dotted all over the National Park.

Are castles open to visit all year round?

No. No. Often castles are shut over the winter period, so it is advisable to double check opening hours directly with the venue. However, there are some non-ticketed historic sites – such as the ruins at Ruthven Barracks and Loch an Eilein – which are open all year round.

Do you have to book to visit castles in advance?

For some castles, particularly in light of Covid restrictions, booking is advisable. For others, entry is free and available all year round. Some also put on occasional special events which require booking. It is best to check directly with each venue before you visit.

Can you eat and drink at the castles?

Some castles, such as Balmoral, have an on-site café (currently closed, however, due to Covid-19 restrictions). Blair Castle has its ‘Tullibardine Restaurant’ which is currently operating a takeaway service including sandwiches and cakes. Others, however, such as Corgarff and Braemar, do not have any hospitality on site.

#VisitCairngorms to join locals and visitors on their own journey of discovery!

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