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Exploring Dunnottar Castle In Scotland


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Renee Culpepper



Nestled on the rugged coastline of Aberdeenshire, Dunnottar Castle stands as a magnificent testament to Scotland’s rich history and breathtaking natural beauty. With its dramatic cliff-top location and iconic medieval ruins, this ancient stronghold has captivated visitors for centuries. From its fascinating history to its stunning architecture, Dunnottar Castle offers a mesmerizing experience that transports you back in time.


Perched atop a sheer cliff overlooking the North Sea, Dunnottar Castle is steeped in legends and renowned for its strategic importance. It has seen it all, from bloody battles and royal visits to periods of abandonment and restoration. Today, it stands proud as one of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks, attracting thousands of visitors each year.


As you explore the castle’s ruins and take in the awe-inspiring views, you can’t help but feel a sense of wonder and admiration for the people who built and inhabited this incredible fortress. The centuries of history that unfolded within its walls have left an indelible mark on Scotland’s past, making Dunnottar Castle an essential destination for history enthusiasts and lovers of Scottish heritage.


Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply seeking a memorable experience, a visit to Dunnottar Castle promises to be a journey into Scotland’s captivating past. From the moment you set foot on its grounds, you’ll be transported back in time and immersed in the stories and legends that have shaped this enchanting corner of the world.


In the following sections, we’ll delve into the rich history of Dunnottar Castle, explore its fascinating architecture, learn about the legends and stories associated with the site, and discover the various attractions and activities that await visitors. So let’s embark on this virtual journey and unlock the secrets of Dunnottar Castle.


History of Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle has a storied past that spans over a thousand years. The exact origins of the castle are not known, but it is believed to date back to the Early Middle Ages. The site upon which the castle now stands may have been fortified even earlier, as it offered strategic advantages with its commanding views of the coastline.


In the 9th century, Dunnottar Castle was part of the Pictish Kingdom. It later fell into the hands of the Scottish Crown and served as a residence for kings and queens. The castle became particularly significant during the Wars of Independence in the 14th century when it played a vital role in defending Scotland against English invasions.


One of the most significant events in the castle’s history took place in 1297. It was during this time that Sir William Wallace, a prominent figure in Scotland’s fight for independence, captured the castle from the English. The castle became a symbol of Scottish resilience and the fight against oppression.


In the following centuries, Dunnottar Castle changed hands multiple times and witnessed numerous notable events. It was besieged, destroyed, and rebuilt several times, each time reinforcing its defenses and expanding its structures. The castle played a pivotal role in the religious conflicts of the 16th and 17th centuries, as well as in the Jacobite uprisings of the 18th century.


Eventually, the castle fell into disrepair and was left abandoned. However, in the late 19th century, a restoration project began, aimed at preserving the castle’s unique history and ensuring its survival for future generations. Today, Dunnottar Castle stands as a testament to Scotland’s turbulent past and offers a glimpse into the remarkable events that shaped the nation.


Visiting Dunnottar Castle allows you to step back in time and walk in the footsteps of kings, warriors, and revolutionaries. The castle’s rich and varied history is brought to life through guided tours, informational displays, and interactive exhibits. From the strategic battles fought within its walls to the stories of the people who lived there, Dunnottar Castle offers a unique window into Scotland’s captivating past.


Location and Accessibility

Dunnottar Castle is located on the east coast of Scotland, just south of the city of Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. Its breathtaking cliff-top position offers stunning views overlooking the North Sea and the surrounding rugged coastline. The castle’s remote and dramatic setting adds to its allure and makes it a must-visit destination for travelers exploring Scotland.


Reaching Dunnottar Castle is relatively straightforward, with various transportation options available. If you’re driving, there is a car park near the site where you can leave your vehicle. From there, it’s a leisurely stroll along a well-maintained footpath to reach the castle. The walk takes approximately 15 minutes, and the path offers picturesque views of the castle from a distance.


For those relying on public transportation, trains and buses provide convenient access to Stonehaven. Stonehaven railway station is well connected to major cities in Scotland, including Edinburgh and Aberdeen. From the station, it’s a short taxi ride or a scenic 30-minute walk to Dunnottar Castle. Buses also run regularly between Stonehaven and Dunnottar Castle, making it easily accessible for those without a private vehicle.


It’s important to note that due to the castle’s cliff-top location, there are some steep and uneven steps and paths within the site. While this adds to the castle’s charm, it may pose challenges for individuals with mobility issues. However, there are accessible routes available, and the staff at Dunnottar Castle are always ready to assist visitors with any accessibility requirements.


One of the advantages of Dunnottar Castle’s location is its close proximity to other popular attractions in Aberdeenshire. If you have more time to explore the area, you can easily combine a visit to the castle with other nearby sights, such as the picturesque fishing village of Stonehaven, the stunning Dunnottar Woods, or the fascinating Stonehaven Tolbooth Museum.


Whether you’re traveling by car, train, or bus, reaching Dunnottar Castle is a memorable journey that sets the stage for the captivating experience that awaits within its ancient walls. The stunning coastal scenery, combined with the rich history and remarkable architecture of the castle, make it a must-see destination in Scotland.


Architecture and Design

The architecture of Dunnottar Castle is a testament to the ingenuity and skill of the builders who constructed this formidable fortress. Perched on a rocky outcrop, the castle’s design takes full advantage of its natural setting, creating a structure that seamlessly blends with the rugged landscape.


The castle is made up of several distinct buildings, each serving a specific purpose. The main residential area, known as the keep, housed the lord and his family. It features a 14th-century tower, which provides commanding views of the surrounding area. The keep is surrounded by a series of defensive walls and towers, with narrow passageways and hidden chambers adding to its defensive capabilities.


One of the most impressive architectural features of Dunnottar Castle is the entrance gatehouse. This grand structure, adorned with intricate stonework and majestic archways, sets the tone for the castle’s imposing presence. As you pass beneath the gatehouse, you’re transported into a world of medieval splendor and intrigue.


The castle’s design also includes a chapel, which served as a place of worship for the inhabitants. The chapel’s remains still stand, showcasing stunning examples of Gothic architecture. Despite the passage of time and the castle’s turbulent history, the intricate detailing and craftsmanship of the chapel’s stone carvings can still be admired.


In addition to its defensive and residential structures, Dunnottar Castle is also home to expansive gardens and courtyards. These green spaces were not only aesthetically pleasing but also served practical purposes, providing a source of fresh produce and a peaceful retreat within the castle walls.


Over the centuries, Dunnottar Castle has undergone various changes and additions, reflecting the evolving needs and tastes of its inhabitants. From medieval fortress to Renaissance palace to its eventual decline and abandonment, the architecture of the castle tells the story of the people who lived within its walls and the turbulent times they experienced.


A visit to Dunnottar Castle allows you to marvel at the impressive architecture and innovative design that has withstood the test of time. As you explore the castle grounds, you can’t help but be in awe of the structures that have witnessed centuries of history unfold. It’s a remarkable experience that transports you back to a bygone era and ignites your imagination.


Legends and Stories

Dunnottar Castle is steeped in legends and stories that have been passed down through generations. These tales add an air of mystery and enchantment to the castle’s already captivating atmosphere. From tales of noble knights to ghostly apparitions, the castle’s rich folklore adds an extra layer of intrigue to its history.


One of the most famous stories associated with Dunnottar Castle is the tale of the Honours of Scotland, also known as the Scottish Crown Jewels. During the midst of the Covenanting Wars in the 17th century, the Honours were hidden within the castle to prevent them from falling into the hands of Oliver Cromwell’s forces. Legend has it that a servant girl named Betty Granger bravely smuggled the Crown Jewels out of the castle in a bag of laundry, ensuring their safekeeping.


Another legendary figure connected to Dunnottar Castle is the Green Lady. It is said that this ghostly apparition, dressed in green robes, haunts the castle’s grounds. The Green Lady is believed to be the spirit of a young woman who was imprisoned in a sea cave beneath the castle by her father, after falling in love with a man he deemed unworthy. Visitors have reported encountering her ghost, often accompanied by a sense of unease or an inexplicable chill in the air.


The castle’s turbulent past also gives rise to stories of battles, sieges, and dramatic escapes. During the siege of Dunnottar Castle in 1652, a small group of Covenanters managed to escape the castle by scaling down the cliffs during a stormy night. Their brave and daring escape became the stuff of legend and a symbol of hope for those fighting for their beliefs.


These legends and stories, woven into the fabric of Dunnottar Castle, not only entertain visitors but also provide a glimpse into the lives and struggles of those who lived within its walls. As you explore the castle and listen to the tales, you can’t help but feel a connection to the past and a sense of wonder at the enduring power of these narratives.


Whether you believe in the supernatural or not, the legends and stories associated with Dunnottar Castle add a touch of magic to the visitor experience. They spark the imagination and create a sense of intrigue, turning a visit to the castle into a memorable journey into Scotland’s rich folklore and heritage.


Visitor Experience

A visit to Dunnottar Castle offers a truly immersive and memorable experience for all who step foot within its ancient walls. From history enthusiasts to casual tourists, the castle has something to captivate and educate every visitor.


As you approach Dunnottar Castle, the breathtaking views of the castle perched atop the rugged cliffs will leave you in awe. The sight of the medieval ruins against the backdrop of the North Sea creates an unforgettable first impression.


Once inside the castle grounds, you can embark on a self-guided tour or join a guided tour to learn more about the castle’s history and architecture. The informative displays and exhibits throughout the site provide insights into the castle’s past and the people who inhabited it. You can explore the ruins at your own pace, imagining what life was like within these ancient walls.


Photography enthusiasts will find plenty of opportunities to capture stunning shots of the castle and the surrounding coastal landscape. The impressive architecture, dramatic cliffs, and sweeping views make for unforgettable photos.


For a deeper dive into the castle’s history, be sure to visit the informative visitor center. Here, you can learn about the castle’s origins, its role in Scottish history, and the restoration efforts that have preserved it over the years. Knowledgeable staff members are always ready to answer questions and provide additional details about the castle and its significance.


A visit to Dunnottar Castle allows you to walk through centuries of history and immerse yourself in the stories of the past. From the grand entrance gatehouse to the intricate chapel ruins, every corner holds a piece of history waiting to be discovered.


The castle grounds also offer opportunities for relaxation and contemplation. You can take a leisurely stroll along the cliff-edge paths, enjoying the panoramic views of the North Sea and the rugged coastline. The peaceful and picturesque surroundings provide a serene atmosphere to unwind and soak in the natural beauty.


Before leaving, don’t forget to visit the castle gift shop, where you can find unique souvenirs, local crafts, and books about Scottish history. It’s the perfect place to find a memento to remind you of your visit to this remarkable castle.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking an unforgettable experience, a visit to Dunnottar Castle will leave a lasting impression. From the moment you enter the castle grounds to the time you reluctantly depart, you’ll be transported to a different time and place, immersed in the rich history and awe-inspiring beauty that defines this remarkable Scottish landmark.


Activities and Attractions

Dunnottar Castle offers more than just a glimpse into Scotland’s captivating past. The castle and its surrounding area provide a host of activities and attractions that ensure a memorable and well-rounded experience for visitors.


One of the highlights of a visit to Dunnottar Castle is exploring the castle grounds and ruins themselves. As you wander through the ancient walls and corridors, you’ll be transported back in time, imagining what life was like for the castle’s inhabitants. The castle’s strategic position on the cliff edge offers breathtaking views of the North Sea and the rugged coastline, providing the perfect backdrop for photos and moments of tranquility.


For those seeking a more immersive experience, guided tours are available to provide deeper insights into the castle’s history and the stories surrounding it. Knowledgeable guides share fascinating tales of the castle’s past, bringing the ruins to life with their storytelling skills and expert knowledge.


Nature enthusiasts will find plenty to explore around Dunnottar Castle. The castle is surrounded by stunning coastal landscapes, with walking trails that lead to secluded beaches and picturesque viewpoints. Take a leisurely stroll along the cliff-top paths, breathing in the fresh sea air and marveling at the rugged beauty of the Aberdeenshire coastline.


If you’re visiting during the spring and summer months, you may be fortunate enough to witness the vibrant wildflowers that bloom in the castle gardens and surrounding areas. The colorful displays of flora create a stunning contrast against the backdrop of the ancient stone ruins, making for remarkable photo opportunities.


Dunnottar Castle also hosts several special events throughout the year, adding an extra dimension to your visit. From historical reenactments to outdoor concerts, these events offer a unique opportunity to experience the castle in a different light. Check the castle’s website or local event listings to see if any events coincide with your visit.


After exploring the castle, take a trip to the nearby fishing village of Stonehaven. Here, you can indulge in delicious seafood at one of the local restaurants or enjoy a stroll along the charming harbor. Stonehaven is also home to the popular Stonehaven Open Air Swimming Pool, where you can take a dip in the heated saltwater pool while enjoying stunning sea views.


If you have extra time to spare, embark on a scenic coastal walk from Dunnottar Castle to the neighboring town of Montrose. The walk offers breathtaking views and allows you to experience the natural beauty of the Aberdeenshire coast in all its glory.


Dunnottar Castle and its surrounding area provide a range of activities and attractions that cater to different interests and preferences. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or local culture, you’ll find something to engage and entertain you during your visit to this remarkable Scottish landmark.


Nearby Attractions

In addition to its own captivating allure, Dunnottar Castle is surrounded by a variety of attractions and destinations that are worth exploring during your visit to the Aberdeenshire region of Scotland. From picturesque coastal towns to natural wonders, there is something for everyone in the vicinity of Dunnottar Castle.


Located just a short distance from the castle, the charming fishing village of Stonehaven offers a delightful combination of history, stunning scenery, and delicious seafood. Take a stroll along the harbor, visit the historic Tolbooth Museum, or indulge in some local delicacies at one of the seafood restaurants. Stonehaven is also renowned for its annual Fireball Ceremony, a unique event held on Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) where participants swing flaming fireballs to ward off evil spirits.


If you’re a nature lover, a visit to Dunnottar Woods is a must. This tranquil woodland area is located near the castle and offers a network of walking trails that wind through ancient woodlands and along the banks of the River Carron. The woods are particularly beautiful during the spring and autumn, when the vibrant colors of the flora create a breathtaking spectacle.


For those seeking a dose of history and culture, a visit to the nearby town of Montrose is highly recommended. Montrose is home to attractions such as Montrose Museum, which houses a fascinating collection of historical artifacts and artworks, and Montrose Basin Nature Reserve, a haven for birdwatching with its diverse range of migratory birds.


If you’re interested in exploring more castles, the region offers a wealth of options. Just a short drive from Dunnottar Castle is Crathes Castle, a stunning 16th-century tower house surrounded by beautiful gardens. Further afield, you can visit the grand and imposing Glamis Castle, childhood home of the late Queen Mother, or explore the ruins of Huntly Castle, once a powerful stronghold of the Gordons.


For whisky enthusiasts, a visit to the Fettercairn Distillery is a must. Located in the picturesque village of Fettercairn, the distillery offers guided tours where you can learn about the whisky-making process and sample some of their renowned single malts.


If you’re willing to venture a bit further, the Scottish city of Aberdeen offers a vibrant mix of history, culture, and entertainment. Explore the historic Aberdeen Harbour, visit the impressive Aberdeen Art Gallery, or take a stroll along the sandy shores of Aberdeen Beach. The city also boasts a range of shops, restaurants, and nightlife options to suit every taste.


With its convenient location, Dunnottar Castle serves as an excellent base for exploring the stunning Aberdeenshire region and its myriad attractions. Whether you’re interested in history, nature, or simply soaking in the Scottish charm, there’s no shortage of nearby attractions to enhance your visit to this captivating corner of Scotland.



Dunnottar Castle in Scotland is a remarkable destination that offers a captivating blend of history, natural beauty, and enchanting legends. Set on a dramatic cliff overlooking the North Sea, the castle’s rugged charm and medieval ruins transport visitors back in time to a bygone era. From its strategic significance during the Wars of Independence to its role in Scottish folklore, Dunnottar Castle has played an integral part in shaping Scotland’s story.


A visit to Dunnottar Castle promises an unforgettable experience. The castle’s impressive architecture, with its majestic entrance gatehouse and intricately carved chapel ruins, showcases the remarkable craftsmanship of the past. Exploring the castle’s grounds offers an opportunity to immerse oneself in centuries of history and delve into the tales of kings, warriors, and ghostly apparitions.


Not only does Dunnottar Castle provide a glimpse into the past, but the surrounding area offers an array of attractions to enhance your visit. From the charming fishing village of Stonehaven to the tranquil Dunnottar Woods and the historical town of Montrose, there is something for everyone to enjoy. The Aberdeenshire region is also home to a plethora of other castles, distilleries, and natural wonders, ensuring a well-rounded and enriching experience.


Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking an immersive cultural experience, a trip to Dunnottar Castle is a journey into Scotland’s captivating heritage. The breathtaking views, fascinating stories, and the sense of connection to the past make it a destination that truly leaves a lasting impression.


So pack your camera, lace up your walking shoes, and get ready for an adventure into the heart of Scotland’s history. Discover the rugged beauty, immerse yourself in the legends, and create memories that will last a lifetime at Dunnottar Castle.