Only half an hours drive east from Inverness, Cawdor Castle
is all a castle should be. Dating back to 1454, Cawdor has a drawbridge and
moat (now dry), spiral stone staircases, turrets, a well and a dungeon. Each
room has a descriptive notice written by the late Earl who appears to have had
a wry sense of humour. Open from May to October, the castle is occupied as a
family home in the winter. There is a souvenir shop, a pitch and putt course
and a cafe. The gardens are beautiful and there are marked nature trails through
the surrounding woods which are spectacular in autumn when the beech trees change
to wonderful russet hues. Near to the castle, reached by crossing over a little
bridge over the burn, is Cawdor village with an inn where you can enjoy bar
meals or a drink.
Brodie Castle, 24 miles east of Inverness, has been home to
the Brodie family for over 700 years. In fact, whilst visiting, you may well
see the head of the family, Brodie of Brodie, taking your tickets! It's less
of a fairytale castle than Cawdor but more like a massively fortified house.
There is an amazing library and some fine furniture, porcelain and paintings.
Outside the grounds have a huge collection of daffodils, which are a beautiful
sight in springtime, and bulbs are offered for sale.
Castle Urquhart stands on a promontory overlooking Loch Ness
with a commanding view up and down the loch. Now only in ruins, having been
blown up by government troops after the Jacobite rebellion in 1689, there is
still a lot to see and the castle has a very long history. It is also a vantage
point for Nessie spotting! Owned and looked after by Historic Scotland, there
is a new Visitor Centre with a restaurant and shop.
Dunrobin Castle, 50 miles north of Inverness at Golspie, is
home to the Dukes of Sutherland and dates back in part to 1301 although most
of the castle was built in the late 1700s and 1800s. There are impressively
large rooms filled with fine furniture, paintings and ornaments. The windows
look out on the sea and the beautiful formal gardens.