Castles and Historic Sites Across the Highlands

The Highlands of Scotland is steeped in history and cloaked in legend and folklore.  From prehistoric settlements to castles ruins, historic sites lie almost around every corner and Scotland’s rich heritage is part of what makes it a must-see destination.

Whether you are a history enthusiast or simply looking for a great family day out, there is plenty of fascinating sites to discover – here are just a few ideas.

Prehistory

The Highlands are home to an incredible tapestry of prehistoric, with Pictish and Celtic remains going back nearly 8000 years.

Clava Cairns, located above the River Nairn, near Inverness is a well-preserved Bronze Age burial site (around 4,000 years old).  Each of the three burial cairns are enclosed by a stone circle (and the site is often linked to the Diana Gabaldon ‘Outlander’ series).

Sueno’s Stone in Forres is the largest surviving Pictish Symbol Stone in Scotland (standing at more than 6.5 metres high).  The stone, which was carved more than 1200 years ago, was rediscovered in the 1800s and is now encased in glass to protect it.  There is a cross, adorned with knots, on one side of the stone and a battle scene on the other.  It is thought that it may commemorate a battle fought in the town in AD 966.

Close to Forres, the coastal town of Burghead is thought to have once been the largest Iron Age fort in Britain.  Thirty carved Pictish bull stones were discovered when the present town was built in the 19th century (known as the ‘Burghead Bulls’) but only six remain.  Two of these 7th century stones can be viewed in Burghead’s Headland Visitor Trust Centre and you can also visit the Burghead Well.

The Jacobites

The Glenfinnan Monument was erected in 1815 at the head of Loch Shiel as a tribute to the clansmen who fought and died for Prince Charles Edward Stuart.  The Jacobite cause sought to reinstate the exiled Stuarts onto the British throne and it was at the head of the loch that the raising of the Prince’s standard took place in August 1745.  You can learn more about the Jacobite uprising through the displays and an audio programme in its Visitor Centre.

Just outside the Highland capital of Inverness, the moorland of Culloden is where the hopes of Prince Charles Edward Stuart and the Jacobite army ended in 1746; the last battle fought on British soil.  Now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, Culloden has an excellent Visitor Centre which brings the battle to life before you, telling the story of the battle in an interactive way.

Castles to Visit in the Highlands

No holiday in the Scottish Highlands would be complete without visiting a castle or two, and with so many strewn across the landscape in the North of Scotland you’ll be spoilt for choice.

The list of enchanting castles you could visit in the Highlands include: atmospheric Urquhart Castle, perched above Loch Ness; the spectacular Eilean Donan, Scotland’s most photographed castle, near Kyle of Lochalsh; magnificent Dunrobin Castle, two miles from the Sutherland town of Golspie; the 14th century Cawdor Castle near Nairn, home to the present Cawdor family and famously linked with the Shakespearian play Macbeth; and Dunvegan Castle, on the Isle of Skye,  the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland.

Five Castles in the Highlands That Everyone Should See