Top 10 Castles in Perthshire
1) Balhousie Castle
Description: Balhousie Castle is home to the Black Watch Museum and tells the story of Scotland’s elite military regiment. The castle dates back to 1631, though its origins are believed to go back a further 300 years.
Distance from Perth City Centre: 1 mile
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The castle is situated within a walled enclosure overlooking the stunning North Inch in Perth. It’s a peaceful setting just a few hundred metres from the bustling city centre, with free parking for those entering the castle.
There are daily guided tours which allow visitors to learn more about the famous regiment and gain an appreciation for the sacrifice made by those in the armed forces. Keen to be recognised as a family destination, there are regular family days out, trails and activities to keep the little ones entertained!
The castle itself fell into neglect in the early 19th century, and was restored by David Smart and extensively remodelled in the mid-19th century. Parts of the original rubble wall on the east side survived and were used in the remodelling of the castle.
Take a nice stroll along the North Inch on your way to the castle and soak up everything the area has to offer. Aside from tours and exhibits, there is also the fantastic, award-winning Copper Beech Café, where you can stop for a coffee or a bite to eat. There is an extensive children’s menu on offer, so you can be sure the kids will be well fed! Make sure you stop off at the Museum Shop too, and pick up a memento from your day at Balhousie Castle!
For a fun and educational insight into Scotland’s prestigious military history, Balhousie Castle is a must-see in our city!
2) Blair Castle
Description: The ancestral home to Clan Murray and home to Europe’s last remaining private army the Atholl Highlanders – Blair Castle is an absolute gem nestled in the scenic surroundings of Highland Perthshire.
Distance from Perth City Centre: 34 miles
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The castle is said to have been started in 1269 and has played its part in history between Royal visits and its crucial role in the Jacobite rebellion. It has been open to the public since 1936, with lots of fantastic rooms to explore and intriguing features to cast your eyes over! It is renowned for its fantastic nine-acre walled garden and has plenty of fun on offer for kids!
Blair Castle was visited by Mary Queen of Scots and other Royals, but is perhaps most famous for its role in the Jacobite rebellion. It changed hands between Jacobite and government forces during the conflict, and was notably a key factor in the Battle of Killiecrankie – which the Jacobites won, but lost their leader.
In 1844, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited the castle and it was then that the Queen gave permission for the establishment of the Atholl Highlanders – Europe’s last remaining private army.
There are over 30 rooms on display in castle for you to explore and they are full of fascinating features. They include collections of weapons from the Battle of Culloden, hunting trophies, souvenirs of the Murray clan and over 175 pairs of antlers! Make sure you explore the Victorian Ballroom and the great Entrance Hall.
The castle is also renowned for its nine-acre walled garden – which was recently restored to its original Georgian design featuring 18th century sculptures and the ruins of St. Brides Kirk, the final resting place of Jacobite leader Bonnie Dundee. The stunning gardens look out to the spectacular Highland Perthshire surroundings and feature a wide range of plant species and Scottish wildlife. In 2009, a Grand Fir in Diana’s Grove within the grounds was declared as Britain’s second highest tree!
For the kids, there’s the adventure playground and Red Deer Park to keep them occupied too, so you can really make it a family day out!
With stunning gardens, spectacular views and rich history, Blair Castle is well worth a visit on your summer trip to Perthshire.
3) Castle Menzies
Description: A visitor attraction, museum, clan centre, wedding and conference venue and more – Castle Menzies is a beautiful 16th century castle in Highland Perthshire.
Distance from Perth City Centre: 32 miles
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Restored from ruin in the 20th century, Castle Menzies is a unique and wonderful attraction where you truly get a feel for how things were. It’s a great renaissance example of the transition in Scottish castles, from earlier more rugged Highland fortresses to mansion houses. The castle was rescued from ruin in 1957 and placed into the hands of a charitable trust in 1993.
It was the seat of the Chiefs of Clan Menzies for over 500 years – and its strategic location meant that it was involved in much of the turbulent history of the Scottish Highlands. During the 2nd Jacobite rising, the castle hosted both sides of the conflict. Bonnie Prince Charlie was a guest as he rested before he made his way to Culloden in 1746 and, just four days later, the Duke of Cumberland – son of the British monarch and leader of the government forces – rested at the castle too.
The castle is less furnished and decorated than other Scottish castles, but as a result you will get a greater feeling of exactly what it was like all those centuries ago. Instead of plush carpets and furniture, you will find stone walls, shot holes, original timbers and other fascinating details which add to the castles charm. You also have the luxury of being able to visit almost every room in Castle Menzies and you are able to roam freely rather than rely on a tour guide.
There is a Walled Garden in the castle grounds which was once a big attraction but sadly fell into decline when the castle was sold and the estate was broken up in 1914. By 1984, the Walled Garden was in a sorry state. Steeped in history, The Walled Garden was once nationally renowned, featuring a world-class arboretum, and was said to have initiated an interest in botany of one of the Clan Menzies’ most famous members – the 19th Century botanist and explorer Archibald Menzies – whose works are commemorated in an exhibition in the castle.
An interesting and unique castle in stunning Highland Perthshire, Castle Menzies is sure to leave a lasting impression on anyone interested in our historic Scottish castles!
4) Elcho Castle
Description: A castle with immense beauty on the banks of the River Tay, Elcho Castle is a complete 16th century fortified mansion. With spectacular views of the surrounding countryside, it’s a unique experience and well worth a visit!
Distance from Perth City Centre: 5 miles
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Known as a castle that you can really explore, Elcho Castle has never had any huge historical significance. Indeed, it was simply a fine country retreat for the wealthy Wemyss family – and has been completely uninhabited for well over 200 years. Remarkably though, the castle remains in very good repair and the Wemyss family entrusted it into state care in 1929. It is one of the earliest examples of a building being preserved purely for its historical interest, and is managed by Historic Scotland.
Climb the grand stair case, clamber up the service stair, take a wander down to the kitchen and step out onto the high battlements and admire the jaw-dropping views of the surrounding countryside. Make sure you have a look out for the unmistakeable sight of the gun holes at ground level! The castle has three projecting towers that look out onto the beautiful River Tay.
There’s an orchard on the grounds that has been replanted in more recent years and there you will find traditional varieties of apple, pear and plum. It’s also a haven for butterflies and other wildlife. Indeed, wildlife is one of the main attractions you will find at the castle. Among the creatures you may discover there are pipistrelle bats, brown long-eared bats, barn owls and grey squirrels.
The interior of the castle is complete and roofed, and there are remains of decorated plasterwork too. Most of the inside of the building is accessible, although the ground floor of the castle is not suitable for wheelchair access due to the uneven floor surface. The exterior of the castle can be accessed via the grounds and the orchard.
So for a fun castle to explore to its very depths, Elcho Castle is an interesting and stunning attraction just outside of Perth City Centre. What it lacks in historical significance, it more than makes up for with its beauty and charm!
5) Fingask Castle
Description: With the oldest part of Fingask Castle originating from the late 16th century, this beautiful country house offers beautiful gardens, fantastic accommodation for families and the ideal location for weddings and functions.
Distance from Perth City Centre: 12 miles
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Fingask Castle has a long history of differing ownership since the 16th century. It was owned by the Bruce family before one of the Bruce daughters married Patrick Threipland – this was the first of the Threipland ownership of Fingask. Due to unwise political decisions and other oddities of life, the Threipland family have had to buy Fingask Castle four times over the past 400 years!
The castle fell under government rule during the Jacobite rebellion, and has had numerous other owners. Nowadays, the castle is renowned for its beautiful gardens and its parties, accommodation, and functions. The beautiful surroundings have given the castle the title of being “the jewel at the bottom of the glen.” It’s a Category B Listed building, and was once an explicably holy place – known as the ideal stopover between the abbeys of Scone and Falkirk.
In modern times, the castle has changed a lot. Now, it’s primarily used for functions and provides accommodation. There is a swimming pool, games room and tennis court – so there’s a lot to do for families or large groups alike. There are also fantastic walks around the grounds, and the infamous gardens are a beautiful and peaceful sanctuary.
The ancient garden includes some engaging but little-known examples of topiary. It also includes an overgrown but still envy-inducing jungle of a water garden, created in the early 20th century in a dell below the castle. Its picturesque focal point is St Peter’s Well – reputedly a stopping-point for medieval pilgrims.
One of the main attractions of the modern day Fingask Castle is the Fingask Follies – introduced in 1996 by the current Threipland owner, Andrew. He had a vision to reintroduce entertainment to the castle – something it was famous for in its earlier years. Each show has the same format: four professional singers, two actors and a piano but a different title, theme and content which are conceived annually at Fingask Castle. The Follies run in May and also tour other venues once the Fingask Castle dates have been completed.
So, for a modern castle, steeped in history and in beautiful Perthshire surroundings, make sure you pay a visit to Fingask Castle this summer. You won’t be short on things to do!
6) Huntingtower Castle
Description: A unique castle based just a few miles outside of the city centre, Huntingtower Castle is steeped in Scottish history! A sanctuary for Mary Queen of Scots during a rebellion and a prison for her son James VI who was held captive here.
Distance from Perth City Centre: 2 miles
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With a very unique layout, two closely placed tower houses were built in the 15th and 16th centuries. Inside, you will find a delicately painted ceiling which dates all the way back to the 1540s! Can you uncover the secret hiding place used for Ruthven treasures? A cupboard, within a cupboard, hidden behind a stone – very secretive indeed!
Mary Queen of Scots and her husband Lord Davley stayed here during the Chaseabout Raid – where they saw off a rebellion. Although the castle proved to be a sanctuary for Mary, the same could not be said about her son, James IV.
The castle belonged to the Ruthven family and they held King James IV captive here for 10 months in what is known as the ‘Raid of Ruthven’. Eventually, King James escaped and although he forgave his captors, a second plot to overthrow him resulted in him being less merciful. He abolished the Ruthven family and stripped any descendants of their rights to title and land. The castle became property of the royal family until the 17th century.
The castle is also said to be haunted by ‘Lady Greensleeves’ – who was the daughter of the 1st Earl of Gowrie. Legend has it that she was in love with one of the castle’s servants and that the pair used to meet in the eastern tower, which was where the servants were housed. She was caught out by her mother but the pair are said to have eloped and there are no records in existence to find out what happened to them. There has been several sightings at the castle of a tall, young woman in a green, silk dress – usually at dusk but sometimes in the full daylight. Don’t go looking for her though, her appearance is said to be an ill omen and a forewarning of danger!
Nowadays, the castle is often used for weddings and functions, and also has a restaurant too. It is in the care of Historic Scotland and is open all year round. There is ramped access into two ground floor rooms but access to upper levels is not suitable for less mobile visitors.
To visit a Perthshire castle that is steeped in history – the fantastic Huntingtower Castle should be on your list. Just a short distance from the city centre, you can enjoy a day soaking up the heritage of this fantastic place before heading into Perth afterwards to experience everything our city has to offer in the evening!
7) Loch Leven Castle
Description: The island castle where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned and forced to abdicate Also visited by Robert the Bruce and used as a location of military action in the Scottish Wars of Independence, the castle is now in ruin but the remains are protected and accessible via a ferry from nearby Kinross!
Distance from Perth City Centre: 19 miles
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Once a guest in the castle, Mary Queen of Scots’ host became her jailer in 1567 and during this period she was forced to abdicate in favour of her son James IV. Eventually, Mary managed to escape and fled Scotland.
The tower house where Mary was held is one of Scotland’s oldest – built in the 14th century. Here, she suffered a miscarriage which led to her abdication and imprisonment. Now, you can stand in the very tower she was held captive and experience first-hand what the Queen of Scots endured. You can roam the island as she once did, soaking up the peaceful and tranquil environment that surrounds you.
Cross the loch by boat – just like she did. Robert the Bruce also once visited the castle before her, and it was used as a key location of military action during the Scottish Wars of Independence in the late 13th and early 14th centuries. When on the island, admire the Glassin Tower – a circular residence built in the 1500s!
The castle is now in ruin, but the remains are protected as a ‘Scheduled Ancient Monument’. The ruins were conserved and rubbish removed from the site in 1840, leaving the site as it is now. The castle fell into care of the state in 1939, and is now run by Historic Scotland who operates the ferry to the island and the tours of the castle. The ruins are a ‘Category A-listed Building’.
A fantastic ancient castle, based on an island – Loch Leven Castle is a fantastic place to visit and fun for all the family. Definitely, one not to be missed!
8) Scone Palace
Description: The crowning place of Scotland’s Kings – Scone Palace is one of Perthshire’s most historic attractions. Explore the beautiful woodlands and gardens that surround the Palace, and take a stroll through the many different rooms which bare great significance in the history of the country.
Distance from Perth City Centre: 2 miles
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Macbeth, Robert the Bruce and Charles II are three infamous Scottish Kings that were crowned at Scone Palace. You can see where they were crowned, and gaze upon where the Stone of Destiny once stood. Take a wander down the Long Galley, where King Charles II strode to his coronation in 1661!
You will join a list of famous historical figures who visited the Palace. During the Jacobite rebellions, the ‘Old Pretender’ spent three weeks at Scone and his son, Bonnie Prince Charlie, visited in 1745 too. Slightly more recently, Queen Victoria stopped over at the Palace on her way to the Scottish Highlands in 1842. You can browse the state rooms where she stayed, and stand in the very bedroom that Victoria slept.
The Palace is a treasury of furniture and if you like the finer things you will love the displays of furniture, paintings, porcelain and other objets d’art! You can view some of the amazing needlework of Mary Queen of Scots, with a display of the bed hangings she worked on while imprisoned at Loch Leven Castle.
There is so much to do at the Palace that you will most likely need to come back again to do it all! Fantastic audio-visual exhibits, gift shops, food shops and coffee shops all within the grounds of the visitor attraction. The Palace is surrounded by beautiful gardens and peaceful woodlands that are ideal for a picnic or a stroll in the sun. You will see the Scone Palace peacocks roaming the grounds freely too!
There’s the fantastic adventure playground for kids, and the Murray Star Maze – a unique ‘tartan’ maze of 2,000 beech trees half green, half copper, designed by the world-famous Adrian Fisher. The maze was planted in the shape of the heraldic Murray Star. Can you find your way out?
With events on all year round, you will always find something on at the Palace to tickle your fancy. From drive-in theatres to falconry, and classic car events to the Scottish Game Fair – it’s a hotbed of activity and always and exciting place to be! Make sure that you visit Scone Palace this summer!
9) Methven Castle
Description: Situated east of the village of Methven in Perthshire, Methven Castle is a 17th century house steeped in Scottish history. The castle has housed royalty and the present building dates back to 1664, when the estate was purchased by Patrick Smythe of Braco.
Distance from Perth City Centre: 7 miles
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The Lands of Methven were owned by the Mowbray family who, during the Wars of Scottish Independence, supported John Balliol’s claim to the throne over Robert the Bruce. After the conflict and the Bruce’s rise to the throne of Scotland, the lands were confiscated and handed over to his son-in-law Walter Stewart. The castle hosted royalty when King James II visited in 1450 and King James IV came several times in the 1490s.
The most famous royal resident was Margaret Tudor, queen to James IV and daughter of Henry VII of England, who lived in the castle following King James’ death and her subsequent third marriage to Henry Stewart, 1st Lord of Methven. Margaret lived her final years in Methven Castle before her death in 1541, and is buried in Perthshire.
The present building dates back to 1664, when Patrick Smythe of Braco purchased the estate. The building was designed and built by the mason-architect John Mylne. It remained in the possession of the Smythe family throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, and during this period additions were made to the castle and grounds.
In 1923, the Smythe family sold the castle, and then the ownership of the castle changed several times until 1984 when its restoration work began. The East Wing was demolished, which followed the West Wing – demolished in the 1950s. That left the 17th century house as the only building left standing. The building is owned by David Murdoch, and it’s a Category A-listed Building.
The castle lies within a designed and planned landscape, which is recorded in a Historic Scotland publication: ‘Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes Scotland’. The parkland was laid out in the late 18th century, and a large walled garden was constructed in 1796. An arboretum, thought to be the first in Scotland, was created in 1830. This consisted mainly of conifers which were felled in the 1950’s.
10) Strathallan Castle
Description: A unique castle in the stunning surroundings of the Vale of Strathearn, Strathallan Castle is renowned as one of Perthshire’s most beautiful structures. Standing tall within the 1000-acre estate, this 19th century Baronial castle is most commonly used nowadays as a wedding and function venue.
Distance from Perth City Centre: 20 miles
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The estate boasts some of Perthshire’s most attractive gardens and the castle stands high amid noble woodlands. There is no shortage of things to do when you book to come to the Strathallan Castle, with a wide variety of outdoor activities just waiting for you! There’s clay pigeon shooting, falconry, fly fishing, archery, off-road driving, quad biking, parachute jumping and more!
In 2015, the castle and estate hosted the popular music event T in the Park – although the festival went on hiatus for 2016. In recent years, the castle has become renowned for hosting weddings, team-building events, conferences, business meetings and private dinners. It is still family owned, but is used for events all year round. It’s location within the Vale of Strathearn and just a stone’s throw away from Gleneagles makes it the ideal function venue!
Over to you!
Now you know where our favourite castles in Perthshire are, it’s time to get out and explore! In case you aren’t familiar with Perthshire, here’s a map to help you find all the castles mentioned above.