About twenty miles south of Aberdeen, on a craggy headland in the North Sea, a weathered stone castle rests and creates a strikingly romantic landscape. Dunnottar Castle is one of Scotland’s most iconic castles and—though it’s largely in ruins—remains an incredible place to visit. The first time I ventured out to the site was in the midst of a typical Scottish storm; winds approaching 50 miles per hour, raining sideways, breath fogging in front of me and Fraser…needless to say we decided to return when it was sunnier and not quite so wet outside. We still need to go back, and at this point plan to catch the castle at sunrise (if we can get a cloudless sunrise it’ll be absolutely spectacular) but when my friend Gigi visited late last year we managed a trip to the grounds.
Dunnottar Castle can be reached by car or on foot; if you decide to drive they’ve got a small car park just off the main road. You can also take the train into Stonehaven, a quiet town 18 miles or so south of Aberdeen. Gigi and I elected to travel by train and hike our way to the castle…fair warning: the trail from Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle is hilly, winding, and gorgeous. Once you navigate your way from the train station to the city centre (follow the main road and signs, pretty simple so no worries on that!) make your way to the harbour and keep the water on your left side. There are a few trail markers leading to the castle and so long as you’ve got a basic level of fitness you’ll be alright! Wear comfortable shoes that you don’t mind getting mud on, though, as the trail winds between farm fields—even if it’s been a dry few days the trail could have some muddy patches.
1.9 miles of walking later leads you to a gate facing the castle. If you decide to enter there is a small fee so they can continue renovations; we paid £6 each but child and family prices differ so if you’re unsure check out their website before you go. In my opinion, and hopefully the photos in my Dunnottar photoset lead you to agree, it is well worth the £6 to walk the grounds of one of Scotland’s most historically significant—and beautiful—castles.
The castle’s history is too rich to include in this post, but I’ve made a timeline of events for you to peruse. Fair warning, it’s late and my brain won’t cooperate in helping me fix this right away, so if you need to zoom in on the timeline either use your computer’s zoom tool or click on the timeline. You’ll be led to a page solely for the image; click again and bam! Zoomed in timeline of castles and stuff. This isn’t comprehensive by any means, especially the early history, but enjoy and I’ll have my own historical account written up and posted within the week. And of course if you think I’ve missed a hugely significant event feel free to let me know in the comments!