Edinburgh & Lothian
Historic Scotland Castles Itinerary
Historic Scotland is run by the Scottish government and they manage hundreds of property’s and sites throughout Scotland. There are various membership options available, the annual option allows you access to all the property’s for free for a yearly payment (ideal for UK residents) and the explorer pass offers free short term access with a three day and week pass available (ideal for tourists).
The itinerary below is set over 3 days and is based in Edinburgh and Inverness, this is not a requirement of the itinerary just use it to suit your needs best. We focus mainly on the top castles which are owned by Historic Scotland and if you complete the itinerary you can enjoy fairly substantial savings with an explorer pass (almost 50%).
If you wish to find more information on Historic Scotland attractions then visit our attractions in Scotland page and use the filter search to view only HS properties.
Total Cost Without Pass: £57.30 (Adult)
Total Cost With 3 Day Explorer Pass: £29 (Adult)
Day 1: Edinburgh Castle / Linlithgow Palace (Edinburgh)
The day begins at Edinburgh Castle which is situated at the top of the Royal Mile overlooking the city centre. The castle gets busy during the peak (summer) seasons so an early start is advisable. There are complimentary tours which leave from just inside the castle entrance (a sign will tell you when the next tour departs), these are good for getting more information on the history of the castle and also the best things to see inside.
The castle should take a few hours to fully explore and if you are there around lunchtime then the red coats cafe offers the chance to enjoy lunch with a fantastic view of the city centre.
The next stop is Linlithgow Palace which is 20 miles west of Edinburgh, this should be a short 30 minute drive if you have a car or half hour train ride. If you have a car then take the A90 West and then exit onto the A904 just before the Fort Road Bridge and this will take you to Linlithgow. If you want to travel by public transport then take the train towards Glasgow from Edinburgh Waverly and alight at Linlithgow railway station. The palace is only a few minutes walk from the station (walk down the High St and turn right onto Kirkgate).
The ruins have a fantastic location by a loch and you should take a 2.5 mile walk around the loch which is well worth taking. The ruins include the now roofless but still spectacular great hall and numerous sculptures scattered around the site.
Day 2: Stirling Castle / St Andrews Castle / St Andrews Cathedral (Edinburgh)
Today is spent outside Edinburgh with visit to both Perthshire and Fife and therefore an early start is advisable. The first stop is Stirling which is around an hours drive from Edinburgh. If you are travelling by car the quickest route is to travel along the M9 (take the A8 west from the city) and follow the signs for Stirling. If you wish to travel by public transport then catch a train towards Dunblane from Waverly Railway Station, alighting at Stirling. Then from the train station it is only a 15 minute walk to the castle, just head towards the city centre and follow the signs.
Stirling Castle is one of the biggest and most popular castles in Scotland and there are usually multiple "characters" dressed in full period gear who act out small sketches in the castle, these include the likes of Mary Queen of Scots, James V and Mary of Guise. The castle grounds are quite extensive and it should take a few hours to explore the property fully.
The next stop is St Andrews which is just over 50 miles away and just take around 90 minutes to reach by car (take the A91 east from Stirling). If you want to travel by public transport it is possible but it does take slightly longer, take the N23 bus from Stirling bus station to St Andrews bus station. It is then around a 15 minute walk to the castle (walk downhill from the station onto golf place and then turn right onto the scores which will take you to the castle).
The castle is mostly in ruins but it enjoy a fantastic location on the coast looking out towards St Andrews Bay, you can explore the ruins and a small information centre inside. The highlights include a bottle dungeon which was one of the most infamous prisons in Scotland and underground passages.
The final stop today is St Andrews Cathedral, the actual cathedral is now in ruins and you can walk around and get a good idea of the former scale of the building. The top highlight is St Rules tower which you can climb to the top of via a narrow winding staircase. At the top there is an observation deck which gives you some terrific panoramic views of St Andrews.
Day 3: Fort George / Urquhart Castle / Loch Ness (Inverness)
The day begins at Fort George which is just outside of Inverness in Arderdier which is about a 30 minute drive. If you have a car its pretty simple to find just head along the A96 and then turn left onto the B9039 at Newton of Petty. If you wish to take public transport then you can catch the 11A bus to Ardersier. Unfortunately there is no direct bus to Fort George but you can get a taxi from the town centre which will take a few minutes.
The Fort has a very picturesque location and it is one of the best military fortifications in the UK, explore the regimental museum and learn about the forts rich history.
The next stop is Urquhart castle and to get there you have to go back through Inverness, this might be a good time to stop off for lunch as there are a number of good restaurants in the city. The ASH restaurant next to the railway station often has good specials on and it offers a varied lunch menu.
To get to Urquhart castle by car is a simple drive down the A82, its a straight road and you will find the castle appearing on your left after 30 minutes. There is also a bus that goes direct to the castle, depart Inverness bus station on the 919 to Fort William. The bus will actually pull into the car park outside the castle, its also advisable to book your ticket online as its often cheaper (go to www.citylink.co.uk).
Urquhart Castle is now in ruins after being destroyed during the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745, it still looks quite impressive though and the location is one of the best of any castle in Scotland with Loch Ness on its doorstep.
After visiting the castle you have the option to also pay a visit to Loch Ness, there are cruises that go on Loch Ness from Inverness or you can venture further down the A82 to Fort Augustus which is a charming little village that offers some great views (and cruises) of Loch Ness.