Playing 'I spy' in Scotland? Well, the chances are that you'll mention a castle, stately home or country house at some point - they're literally everywhere. And we’re definitely not complaining, they’re absolutely stunning – not to mention that they make for an excellent day out.
Without further a-do, we’ve put together a list of the best stately homes in Scotland (in our humble opinion).
If you’re big on history and literature, you’ll probably know Abbortsford as the home of Sir Walter Scott – and where he became the best-selling author of his time. This epic stately home truly looks like something out of Bridgerton – though you won’t see Regé-Jean Page lingering around (aw shucks). And if the glamour of this house wasn’t clear enough from the outside, the interior really screams ‘ohhh, you’re rich rich’. P.S you literature lovers simply have to visit the library, it’s a thing of dreams.
Address: Abbotsford House, Melrose TD6 9BQ
This amazing castle, based on the Isle of Mull, looks over sea cliffs and has some of the best views on offer. Even on a rainy day (which are rather common, if you hadn’t heard...) this castle looks simply epic. Oh, and history buffs will love learning about Duart Castle’s 800 years of history and one of Scotland’s oldest Clans, The Macleans.
Address: Isle of Mull, Argyll, PA64 6A
Completed in 1817, this stately home in Scotland is just west of Edinburgh and sits on some scenic rolling parkland. From the house expect to see some pretty impressive views, including a look at the Firth of Forth estuary (try saying that three times fast). Although Dalmeny House is still a family home, it’s often open for viewings (and the occasional corporate event) - aka the perfect opportunity to nosey at the antique furniture and artwork inside.
Address: South Queensferry EH30 9TQ
This is one for nature lovers, the grounds of this Scottish country house are practically a maze of reeling gardens. The house itself is quite contrary to the dreamy, light gardens, being one of the more gothic country homes on the list. Designed for the 3rd Marquess of Bute, the 19th-century neo-Gothic building photographs beautifully and don’t worry, it's gothic in the dark and endearing way – not in the spooky way. Back in the day, Mount Stuart was known for being tech-savvy and was rumoured to host the world’s first ever heated swimming pool.
Address: Mount Stuart Dr, Rothesay, Isle of Bute PA20 9LR
Visit this 90,000-acre estate during colder months and find yourself in the ultimate winter wonderland. Drumlanrig Castle is tucked in a landscape of rolling hills and mountains – it really looks like something out of a movie (and it was actually used as a set in Outlander). The castle is often referred to as the ‘Pink Palace’, thanks to the cut red sandstone it is constructed from. With 17 turrets, 4 towers and 120 rooms, it truly is a magnificent sight to see.
Address: Thornhill DG3 4AQ
History-buffs rejoice, this is the place for you. This well-preserved castle has a Pele tower (used as a watchtower and display of status back in the day) but was extended into a comfortable home in the 17th-century. Today, you’ll find the Dukes of Hamilton collections of pictures and furniture – as well as the death mask, famous letter casket and other mementoes of Mary Queen of Scots. This Scottish stately home is dripping in awesome-gruesome history. If you fancy learning even more about Lennoxlove, head out on one of the house tours (at 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm).
Address: Haddington, East Lothian, EH41 4NZ
Tucked along the East Lothian coast, Gosford House serves up some stunning scenery. The grounds of the house span an impressive 5,000-acres (of combined nature-filled parkland and amazing coast). The house itself is a masterpiece to say the least – I mean, look at it. It looks grand enough for the Royal family – and it acts as host to a plethora of exclusive Gala dinner parties.
Address: Gosford House, Longniddry EH32 0PX
If you’re in the market for an opportunity to see some rather spectacular gardening, Portmore House is the country home for you. At its best from mid-July to August, the walled garden has herbaceous double borders, a rose garden and ornamental fruit cages. The site has been cared for by the current owners, Mr and Mrs David Reid, for the past 30 years – and quite the job they’ve done indeed. Visitors can also check out the large Victorian glasshouses, including an Italianate Grotto (Google it if you don’t know it, they’re pretty darn cool).
Address: Eddleston, Peebles, EH45 8QU
This picturesque castle looks like it was plucked right out of a Disney princess movie – and we’re certainly not complaining about that. Based pretttyyyy far North, Dunrobin Castle is a great one to visit if you’re on a proper Scottish tour (we’re talking about the tours that go waaaay up Scotland). The castle dates all the way back to the 1300s – and has remained inhabited for most of that time. Home to Earls and Dukes of the past, the castle was then used as a naval hospital during WW1 and a boys’ boarding school from 1965 to 1972 – with 189 rooms to use, it’s not hard to see why.
Address: Dunrobin Castle Limited, Golspie, Sutherland, KW10 6SF
Now, this stately home in Scotland looks a little different than most others on our list. The home was designed during the Georgian period by renowned architect trio, John, Robert and James Adam, and built between 1754 and 1759. Having opened as a visitor attraction in June 2008, the building was unseen by the public for 250-years – so you best get a good ol’ nosey at the house for yourself.
Address: Cumnock, Ayrshire, KA18 2NJ
If you’re travelling Scotland with kids, you simply must visit this castle. Young’uns will just love the murals on the castle’s exterior, they definitely won’t forget a trip to Kelburn. There’s plenty to get up to too, with their Secret Forest – a fairy tale inspired maze with giant’s castle and witch’s cottage (amongst a load of other fun sights). Hmm, a maze doesn’t tickle your fancy? Handily, there’s an Adventure Course and woodland glen to explore through winding trails and paths – make walk up to the top and you'll be rewarded with the best views of the Firth of Clyde and the Isle of Arran.
Address: Fairlie, Ayrshire, KA29 0BE
Known as one of the last great country houses, Manderston is the picture of luxury – with fine interiors and a silver (yes, silver) staircase, it's not hard to see why. And if visiting wasn’t enough, why not have your wedding there? It’s a sure-fire way to feel like a royal on your special day. Okay okay, maybe we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The country house is open to the public (when it’s not being used for private events) and you can even get a guided tour of Manderston. Thought it couldn’t get any better? Inside you’ll find Britain’s first privately-owned Biscuit Tin Museum. Oh, and if you're big on Netflix cheesy rom coms, you may recognise that Princess Switch 2 was filmed here - AKA Vanessa Hudgens has been at the estate. Sold.
Address: Duns, Berwickshire, TD11 3PP
If you know anything about the Royal Family, you’ll probably already know that Balmoral is the Scottish residence of all monarchs since Queen Victoria. The history of this castle is immense, starting with the day that the foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria herself in 1853 – you can still find this stone at the foot of the wall adjacent to the West face of the entrance porch. As this epic castle hosts the King, it’s worth checking opening dates before you visit this Scottish stately home. FYI, the grounds, gardens, exhibitions and restaurant are closed to the public during August, September and early October.
Address: Balmoral, Ballater, Aberdeenshire, AB35 5TB
This spectacular castle is known as Scotland’s largest inhabited castle (home to the 11th Duke of Roxburghe) and we’re a tad jealous, to say the very least. Built back in 1721 by architect William Adam, this castle is simply massive. Oh, and it’s not just the house itself which is so amazing – inside lays a collection of fine art, with works from the likes of Matisse and famous Belgian tapestries. We can’t forget to mention the gardens on offer to explore too, with herbaceous borders, loads of fruit trees and a great opportunity to wander.
Address: Kelso, Roxburghshire TD5 7SF
Acting as the principal home to the Scotts of Buccleuch for over two centuries, you can probably imagine how many stories this house can tell. Bowhill House is also home to one of the world’s greatest private art collections (humble brag), including the works of Canaletto, Raeburn, Reynolds and Gainsborough. And as if that wasn’t enough to explore, there’s also an exhibition which opened in 2017, Love and Respect in the Victorian Age, dedicated to displaying items from the renowned collection.
Address: Selkirk, TD7 5ET
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