15 Best Aberdeenshire Castles to Visit in 2023

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Aberdeenshire Castles

There is no shortage of whisky or castles in Aberdeenshire. In fact, it is home to no less than 263 castles, with more per acre in Aberdeenshire than anywhere else in the UK, giving it the nickname Scotland’s Castle Country.

Having lived in Aberdeen for over a year, we visited many Aberdeenshire Castles. In this article, we’ve included our favourites along with the most popular castles in Aberdeenshire.  Here you’ll find a mix of ancient clifftop ruins, Medieval fortresses, Scottish baronial castles, Jacobean mansions and stately homes.

If you are interested in castles outside of Aberdeenshire, do check out our Scotland Castle Tours article.

Aberdeenshire Castles Map

In this map of castles in Aberdeenshire, we’ve labelled the ones we have visited in dark red, those others that you may like to explore are marked in orange, and those castles you can stay in are marked in yellow.

If you click on the box marked Scotland’s Castle Trail, you can see all the Aberdeenshire castles signposted with the brown and white Castle Trail road signs.

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Castles Near Aberdeen

The first few castles listed below are all within about a 30/40 minute drive from Aberdeen, so are easy to visit if you are staying in the city.

They Include:

  • Dunnottar Castle — A dramatic ruin on a lone rocky outcrop
  • Drum Castle — Has a Medieval Castle Tower and Historic Rose Garden
  • Crathes Castle — A 16th-century castle with designer gardens and Highland coos
  • Castle Fraser — A 15th-century castle with an inner courtyard and flower and fruit-filled gardens
  • Craigievar Castle — A beautiful Disneyesque pink-hued Castle

You’ll also find the best day trips and guided tours listed below, with meeting points or hotel pick-ups from Aberdeen.

Visiting castles is just one of the many things to do when visiting Aberdeen, click here for more ideas on things to do in Aberdeen.

Explore 15 of the Best Castles to Visit in Aberdeenshire

1. Dunnottar Castle

Distance from Aberdeen: 18 miles ( 25-minute drive)

one the best Aberdeenshire castles Dunnottar Castle sits on a rocky promontory
Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle is just south of Aberdeen City and was one of the first castles we visited. Its ancient ramparts sit proudly on a rocky outcrop, with steep drops to the sea below.

The castle was once home to the Earls of Marischal, one of the most powerful families in Scotland.

Whilst living in Aberdeen and tracing my Scottish ancestors I discovered that the Marischal family also happened to be part of my family tree, which was an intriguing find —especially as we were living just a stone’s throw away.

Dunnottar Castle is an iconic castle in Scotland and is linked to the historic fishing village of Stonehaven by a magnificent coastal path. If you have time, we’d recommend a visit to Stonehaven, or you may like to take a guided walking tour which includes an hour tour around Dunnottar Castle.

Mel Gibson also filmed his version of Hamlet here in 1990, and the Dunnottar location set was also used in the films Brave (2012) and Victor Frankenstein (2015).

➡️ Looking for a tour including Dunnottar Castle? This Dunnottar Castle and Royal Deeside 1-Day Tour from Aberdeen has free cancellation, and you can reserve now and pay later | ⭐️ 4.8/5 | 9 hours |

Loved the tour! We learnt so much about the history of Scotland with interesting fun facts and local background.

⭐️ 5 Star Review from Italian Traveller

Went on a day tour to the Dunnottar Castle and Royal Deeside. Amazing service from Rabbie’s! No hassle, no complaints.”

⭐️ 5 Star Review from UK Traveller

2. Drum Castle

Distance from Aberdeen: 11.6 miles ( 25-minute drive)

Drum Castle is one of the oldest castles in Scotland that isn’t a ruin, and dates back to the 13th century. The castle was given to the Irvines by Robert the Bruce in the early 14th century.

There are several walks around the castle and if you visit in spring and summer make sure you take a stroll around the Garden of Historic Roses.

Just to the side of the castle is a small chapel nestled between the trees, which was an older church modified from the 1500s.

Castle in Aberdeenshire — Drum Castle in the warm afternoon sun
Drum Castle
red tree over a pond at Drum castle gardens
Drum Castle Gardens in Autumn
Drum Castle chapel in the midst of trees
Drum Castle Chapel
Castle near Aberdeen — Drum Castle gardens with arch ways of green vines
Drum Castle Gardens

Drum Castle is now owned by the National Trust of Scotland, but it was home to the Irvine lairds for over 650 years.

The Tower of Drum, one of the oldest in Scotland, is thought to have been designed by Richard Cementarius, who built the medieval Brig O’ Balgownie in Aberdeen. A large wing was added in 1619 and more alterations were made in the Victorian era. Guides on hand in the castle can point out the various timelines of the castle renovations and additions.

3. Crathes Castle

Distance from Aberdeen: 17.1 miles (30-minute drive)

Castle in Aberdeenshire — Crathes-Castle in morning light
Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle’s turrets and towers give it all the elements of a fairy-tale castle and, along with its gorgeous walled garden, this 16th-century castle is a delight to visit.

It has beautifully painted ceilings throughout, added by the Burnett family that lived there for 350 years.

Just to the right of the entrance driveway, you’ll see some iconic Scottish hairy highland cows, or coos as they’re referred to in Scotland.

Aberdeenshire castle, Crathes-Castle-Gardens seen from the gardens
Crathes Castle Gardens
Highland cow with calf at Crathes Castle Aberdeenshire
Find the Highland cows at Crathes Castle

➡️ This Aberdeen & Shire Castle & Distillery Private Group Day Tour, includes a tour of Aberdeen, Dunnottar Castle, Crathes Castle and the world-famous, Royal Lochnagar distillery, a single malt Scotch whisky producer near Balmoral Castle. | ⭐️ 5/5 | ⏰ 7-8 hours

4. Castle Fraser

Distance from Aberdeen: 17 miles ( 35-minute drive)

Aberdeenshire castle, Castle-Fraser-entrance
Castle Fraser entrance

Castle Fraser dates from the 15th century and has a large great hall with period furniture and classic paintings.

On a tour around the castle, you can visit the Laird’s Lug which is believed to have been a “secret” room where the king could eavesdrop on conversations in the Great Hall.

Castle Fraser grounds have several woodland walks and also have a beautiful flower and fruit-filled walled garden.

Castle-Fraser seen from the grounds
Castle Fraser seen from the grounds
Castle in Aberdeenshire — Castle-Fraser seen from the castles gardens
Castle Fraser gardens

Why not enjoy this Taste of Scotland Tour, let someone else drive and visit Glen Garioch Distillery, Tolquhon Castle and Castle Fraser Garden & Estate? | ⭐️ 5/5 | ⏰ 7 hours

Excellent tour of the castles and the Glen Garioch distillery. It was good to see a restored castle and one in ruins. The one in ruins left a lot for the imagination. Jacqueline also provided snacks along the way for a taste of the local fair.

— 5 Star Review by Thomas

5. Craigievar Castle

Distance from Aberdeen: 28 miles (50-minute drive)

You’ll find Craigievar Castle in a woodland hillside setting with tree-lined avenues.  It was built in the mid-1500s by the Mortimers of Craigievar. The Disneyesque turrets and towers were added about 50 years later.

Aberdeenshire castle, Craigevar Castle with its many turrets
Craigevar Castle

It isn’t a large castle and felt quite small in comparison to others we’d visited. Instead of being extended, as many of the Aberdeenshire Castles were, Craigievar Castle was repaired and restored when it was made into a home for the Forbes family in 1823.

Craigievar Castle with a different perspective
Craigevar Castle and the surrounding views

The castle has remained much the same since then and is a classic example of Scottish baronial architecture.

Craigievar Castle is owned by the National Trust of Scotland and guided tours take place which give an insight into the past 400 years of life in the castle.

There are also two walking trails at the castle,

  1. The Woodland Trail: ¾ mile (1.2 km)
  2. The Hill Trail: 2 miles (3.2km) 

Castles in Aberdeenshire Further Afield

These castles we recommend visiting are a little further from Aberdeen, but we’ve noted their distance from the city to give you an idea of travel times.

All of these Aberdeenshire castles are able to be visited on a day trip from Aberdeen. We would, however, recommend planning to see no more than two that have rooms and gardens to explore in one day, so you aren’t rushed.

Castle ruins normally take less time to visit though so take this into account in your planning.

6. Fyvie Castle

Fyvie-Castle in Aberdeenshire
Fyvie Castle

Fyvie Castle has one of the finest stone-wheel staircases in Scotland. Built by the First Earl of Dunfermline the staircase is ten feet wide. Most castles we’ve visited have narrow staircases that can feel quite claustrophobic, but these felt elegant and grand. The staircase was wide enough for horses to be ridden up the staircase to the Grand Hall.

The castle has many impressive portraits, including works by Raeburn, a Scottish artist who painted portraits of the rich, famous and influential people of his day.

Along with many other castles, Fyvie has its share of ghost stories, but historical records tell us that William the Lion was at Fyvie around 1214 and later Robert the Bruce and Charles I were royal guests at the castle.

Fyvie Castle also boasts a gorgeous lake, and a flower and fruit and vegetable walled garden.

Guided tours are included with the ticket price (National Trust of Scotland) and occur every 45 minutes.

Fyvie Castle gardens

7. Huntly Castle

Huntly Castle is one of the most visited castles in Aberdeenshire. The ruins of the stone castle that remain today have undergone several transformations, from their humble beginnings back in the 12th -century.

Aberdeenshire castle — Huntly-Castle-in the snow
Huntly Castle in the snow

Interpretative displays throughout the castle bring its history alive and you can still see its heraldic sculptures and stone friezes.

Huntly Castle is famous for harbouring Robert the Bruce in the early 14th century.

Huntly-Castle-frontage in the snow
Huntly Castle

History Snippet: Robert the Bruce is regarded as a national hero in Scotland

He was King of Scots (from 1306 to his death in 1329) and fought for Scotland’s independence from the English rule of Edward II, King of England who claimed sovereignty over Scotland.

After much bloodshed, the Pope recognised Robert I (Robert the Bruce) as king of an independent Scotland and in 1328, the new king of England, Edward III, renounced all claims to sovereignty over Scotland.

8. Kildrummy Castle

One of Aberdeenshire castles — Kildrummy-Castle-ruins
Kildrummy Castle ruins

Kildrummy Castle was abandoned in 1715 but was once the stronghold of the Earls of Mar. Although now a ruin, you can still see the four round towers, hall, chapel and curtain wall of this 13th-century castle.

It is now under the protection of the Historic Environment Scotland, and they call, it the noblest of northern castles. This is because, although now a ruin, you can still see the four round towers, hall, chapel and curtain wall of this 13th-century castle.

Note – Kildrummy Castle is only open in the summer months

Kildrummy-Castle ruins
Kildrummy Castle

9. Slains Castle

The expansive Slains Castle

Slain Castle is said to have inspired the author, Bram Stoker, to write ‘Dracula‘ and was also used as a double for Castle Mey in the hit Netflix series, the Crown in season one.

It hovers on the Aberdeenshire Coast and from a distance seems impressive. However, when you approach it you can see the breeze blocks that have been used to reconstruct parts of it which tend to detract from the remaining authentic parts.

Aberdeenshire castles — Slains-Castle- with crows flying around.
Slain Castle crows

Surprisingly, you can enter the castle ruins, but be aware because there are huge unprotected drops and stairs that lead to upper landings that simply drop off to the storey below.

Slains Castle’s seafront views

If you venture down the steep spiral staircase from ground level, you head into the darkness and need a torch. Be wary of low granite passageways though or you might end up with a throbbing bump on your head — yes, I walloped my forehead with some force and had an impressive egg on my head for quite some time.

Extra Aberdeenshire Castles to Visit

We’ve included these Aberdeenshire castles, and although we haven’t visited them if you have time you may like to include them on your itinerary.

10. Corgarff Castle

Nestled in amongst the Cairngorms, you’d be forgiven if you mistook Corgarff Castle for being simply a large white house.  It is under the care of Historic Scotland now but was once a noble residence, and later it became an army base for hunting down Jacobite sympathisers and, later, whisky smugglers.

Closed: Oct to 31 Mar

Corgarff Castle

11. Tolquhon Castle

Tolquhon Castle ruins are managed by Historic Scotland. Among its attractions are fine carvings of Sir William Forbes and his wife, the impressive gatehouse, which was built to impress, and rare initials of the architect on the outside of the castle.

Note – only open in the summer months

12. Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is one of the most famed castles in Aberdeenshire and has been the summer holiday home of The Royal Family since the early 19th century. It was bought in 1852 as a gift for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert. She famously called her holiday home “my dear paradise in the Highlands”. It has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family ever since.

Its significance was at its most poignant when Queen Elizabeth II passed away there in September 2022 at age 96, having been on the throne for 70 years.

Balmoral Castle

She was the longest reigning British Monarch and there was an outpouring of grief around the world when she died, what was special though was that she had spent her final days in her beloved home in the highlands, Balmoral Castle.

Balmoral Castle is open from April to late July, but note that you only have access to one room in the castle.  You have access to the gardens, and exhibitions and the entrance fee includes an audio guide.

13. Braemar Castle

Braemar Castle can be found along the Snow Roads route and the NE250 and is Scotland’s only community-run castle. The castle was originally built in 1628 by the Earl of Mar.  

 The castle was once home to the Farquharson clan and is rich with ghost stories and historic tales of the Jacobites.

Opening Times: Apr-Oct

14. Kinnaird Head Castle

Kinnaird Head Castle, Fraserburgh, is now a museum but was once a castle, built for the Fraser family in the 1500s. In 1787 however, it was altered to contain the first lighthouse built by the Northern Lighthouse Board, which was the first lighthouse on mainland Scotland.

The site is managed by the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses.

Kinnaird Head Castle Lighthouse
Museum of Scottish Lighthouses

15. Delagatie Castle

Delgatie Castle dates from around 1049 and is interesting because it houses a Mary Queen of Scots bed chamber. This castle also has its ghost stories. It is said that a red-haired woman called Rohaise appears only to men who stay in one of the bedrooms. In WWII a military unit apparently left the castle because they were being haunted by the ghost.

The castle has won awards as the best visitor attraction and its ‘Laird’s Castle’ has won awards for its Scottish home baking. Stop by here for delicious scones and homemade cakes.

Opening Times: All year 10 am -5 pm daily.

About the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail

Scotland’s Castle Trail is in Aberdeenshire and the brown and white Castle Trail road signs guide you through the county to 19 of its most well-known castles.

Click the Aberdeenshire Scotlands Castle Trail box in the map above to view the 19 castles on the Scotland Castle Trail. Many of these castles are included above and on the map, they are numbered in the order that Visit Scotland suggests as a 6-day itinerary of visiting these Aberdeenshire Castles.

Castles on Scotland’s Castle Trail

  1. Dunnottar Castle
  2. Crathes Castle
  3. Drum Castle
  4. Castle Fraser
  5. Tolquhon
  6. Haddo House
  7. Fyvie Castle
  8. Delgatie Castle
  9. Kinnaird Lighthouse Museum
  10. Duff House
  1. Huntly Castle
  2. Spynie Palace
  3. Balvenie Castle
  4. Kildrummy Castle
  5. Corgarff Castle
  6. Leith Hall
  7. Braemar Castle
  8. Balmoral Castle
  9. Craigievar Castle

Castles to Stay in Aberdeenshire

Stay in A Castle

This section includes some of the castle rooms available to book as individuals.

There are other castles to stay in Aberdeenshire but many are only available for weddings and events with accommodation options, such as Cluny Castle, or are able to be booked out for family groups such as the Fyvie Castle Preston Tower which can be booked out for 16 people.

Therefore, below we have focused on those castles in Aberdeenshire that can be booked for individual stays.

Drum Castle Cottage

Drum Castle Courtyard Cottage

Situated within Drum Castle’s inner Courtyard, this one-bedroom apartment has a TV, an equipped kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a washing machine, and one bathroom with a shower.

Address: Drum Castle, Drumoak, Banchory, Aberdeenshire

⭐️ Click here to book Drum Castle Room with a view or to find out more | Rating 8.8/10

Delgatie Castle accommodation

Delgatie Castle Estate – Hayfield Suite

The Hayfield Suite, a self-service apartment is located in the Delgatie Castle with gorgeous views of the castle grounds. The suite provides accommodation for up to 6 people, there is a fully equipped kitchen, sitting room and three bedrooms.

Address: Delgatie Castle, Delgaty, Turriff, Aberdeenshire

⭐️ To find out more about the Hayfield Suite at Delgatie Castle click here | Rating 9/10

Craigievar Castle Steading Cottage

Craigievar Castle — North Mains Cottage,

This country-style cottage with period furniture was originally built as a home for the workers of the National Trust for Scotland’s 18th-century Craigievar Castle estate. The cottage has two twin bedrooms and can sleep four people.

Address: Craigievar Castle Estate, Alford, Aberdeenshire

⭐️ Book Craigievar’s North Mains Cottage here | Rating 8.7/10

Craigievar castle Steading Cottage

Craigievar Castle Estate — Steading Cottage

Steading Cottage is an L-shaped detached cottage on the grounds of Craigievar Castle. The cottage includes a double bedroom and a twin, sleeping up to four guests. It has a kitchen and a living/dining room with an open fire.

⭐️ Book a Stay in the Craigievar Castle Estate at Steading Cottage here | Rating 7/10

Leslie Castle Guesthouse

Stay in the Leslie Castle Guesthouse on a bed and breakfast-basis from March/April to October. Leslie Castle is one of the last great Baronial Castles built in Aberdeenshire in the 1600s. 

⭐️ Book a room at Leslie Castle here

Lickleyhead Castle accommodation

Lickleyhead Castle — East Wing

The East Wing has two large double bedrooms and a sofa bed so it can accommodate up to 6. There are two bedrooms, a kitchen with a dishwasher and a microwave, a flat-screen TV, a seating area and 2 bathrooms fitted with a shower. Additionally, there is a large patio with a barbecue and 11 acres of castle grounds to explore.

⭐️ Find out about staying at Lickleyhead Castle East Wing here

Wardhill Castle Camping Bothy

Wardhill Castle Estate

Wardhill Estate is one of the oldest privately owned estates in North-east Scotland with beautiful parkland around the castle which provides scenic walks and wonderful woodland retreats. 

The perfect hideaway to recharge and recuperate. Quiet, not a soul in sight, a log fire to keep warm and a gorgeous clawfoot tub to soak away your worries.” Review by Clemence UK

⭐️ Book a stay in this hideaway Glamping Bothy on the grounds of Wardhill Castle Estate

FAQs On Castles in Aberdeenshire

We looked at the most common questions readers have about the castles in Aberdeenshire and have answered them for you below:

Aberdeenshire castles FAQs Image with five castles
1. How many castles are in Aberdeenshire?

There are 263 castles in Aberdeenshire, including stately homes, ruins and fortresses.

2. How many castles does Aberdeen have?

Aberdeen city doesn’t have any castles but the county of Aberdeenshire has 263.

3. Was there a castle in Aberdeen?

Aberdeen had a castle back in the 13th century, which is said to have been besieged on separate occasions by both William Wallace and Robert the Bruce.
However, it was likely destroyed in the early 14th century. Today, the only sign that it ever existed is the name of the hill it was on, Castlehill and the street names nearby Castle Terrace and Castle Lane.

4. Can you see Dunnottar Castle without paying?

The car park at Dunnottar Castle is free and you can explore the area around the castle, such as the coastal paths. You might like to take the coastal trail from the castle to the local fishing village of Stonehaven.
It’s easy, therefore, to take photos of the castle without paying any entrance fees. If you want to go inside the castle though there is an entrance fee.

5. Where is the Castle Trail Scotland?

The Scotland Castle Trail is in Northeast Scotland, in Aberdeenshire, known as Scotland’s castle country.

Aberdeenshire Castles … That’s a Wrap

You’d need at least a week to visit all of these castles in Aberdeenshire, so if you are short on time choose your favourites from the information above. If you have only time for a few our favourite picks would be:

  • Dunnottar Castle
  • Crathes Castle
  • Craigievar Castle

Drop us a line and tell us your favourites.

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