Castles near Edinburgh: a guide
There's plenty to see within a couple of hours drive of Edinburgh and a stay with us at Seton Sands.
Below, we’ve listed ten of the best examples of grand architecture and opulence which are open to the public and accessible by car. If you’re ready to learn how the other half live, dig in and enjoy our guide to castles near Edinburgh!
11 miles from Seton Sands
No listing of Edinburgh Castles would make sense without prime position being given to Edinburgh’s best-known landmark. Sitting on its impressive Castle Rock, it can be seen from all over the city, and is well-worth a tour. Highlights include the vaulted Great Hall, St Margaret’s Chapel, and the Stone of Destiny, used in the crowning of Scottish (and British) Kings and Queens.
If you’re visiting during the Edinburgh Festival, consider getting tickets to the extraordinary Edinburgh Military Tattoo, held annually on the Castle Esplanade. It’s a remarkable display of music, military precision, dance, and pageantry, culminating in a spectacular fireworks display.
38 miles from Seton Sands
The Kingdom of Fife is well-worth visiting, including its East Neuk fishing villages, which are among Scotland’s hidden gems. On the way to the likes of Anstruther or Crail, make sure you check out Aberdour Castle, rumoured to be Scotland’s oldest standing castle, with the remains of an early 12th-century hall standing adjacent to the intact 17th-century portion of the building.
Maintained for the public by Historic Environment Scotland, the castle includes a long gallery, impressive painted ceilings and a doocot (dovecot).
10 miles from Seton Sands
South of Edinburgh, situated in Craigmillar Castle Park is the castle of the same name, which dates to the 14th century, but is partially ruined today. Mary Queen of Scots famously stayed here, following the birth of her son, the future James VI (later James I of the unified crowns and translator of the Bible).
Extended in the 15th and 16th centuries, the castle features an impressive square tower which provides stunning views. There are dramatic features, a family chapel, and extensive grounds. The Castle is open to the public daily and is well-maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.
9 miles from Seton Sands
Regarded as one of the finest examples of early classical homes in Scotland, Dalkeith Palace was completed in 1711 and sits in beautifully sculpted, inviting grounds, just southeast of Edinburgh. The palace was built for the 1st Duchess of Buccleuch by noted architect James Smith and developed out of an earlier medieval castle.
The Country Park’s extensive grounds (over 1000 acres) have been protected as Sight of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) with trees over 90 years old, a stable yard, and ornate circular orangery. It’s a great place to walk your dog (on a lead) or exercise with the kids with many miles of trails, bluebell groves and a winding river with historic bridges.
18 miles from Seton Sands
If you’d rather head east and want to see one of Scotland’s oldest seaside castles, drive inland via the historic hamlet of East Linton to Dunbar. A word of caution though – there’s little left of this fortification, which has been situated on a rocky promontory since the 7th century, with the first stone structure built in the 11th century.
Throughout Pict, Viking and medieval eras, the castle was besieged, occupied, disassembled, and rebuilt, with the existing stonework dating to the 12th century. The remains are very ruined yet photogenic and there’s a nearby museum where you can find out more. Dunbar also boasts the birthplace of Scottish conservationist John Muir, now a museum too.
18 miles from Seton Sands
If you’re visiting Cramond, a trip to Lauriston Castle and Museum is well worth a visit, but visits to the house itself must be pre-booked in advance. The beautiful grounds are open to the public, and there’s Mimi’s Little Bakehouse for takeaway snacks.
The castle is an historic tower house with later extensions, with views over the Firth of Forth. The home of the Napier family (Alexander Napier became Lord Lauriston) since the 17th century, the building resembles a country manor more than a fortification and has a largely Edwardian interior.
The gardens, where many events are held, contains a bluebell wood, Japanese garden, and many money puzzle trees.
33 miles from Seton Sands
Around an hour’s drive west of Seton Sands, on the other side of Edinburgh, lies the town of Linlithgow. It contains a beautifully preserved 1400s palace, previously a principal residence of the Scottish monarchs. It’s known for its “crossed swords” crown steeple, decorating its square tower.
The castle reached its prime under extensive renovations by James I and his successors, and was a favoured home of the Stewart Queens, including Mary Queen of Scots, who was born there. The great hall and James IV’s royal apartments are particularly luxurious highlights of any visit.
Also notable are the three-tiered courtyard fountain and James VI’s north quarter, one of the latest additions, partially destroyed by fire in 1746.
34 miles from Seton Sands
Linlithgow boasts not one, but two castles, with Blackness occupying a commanding position on the Firth of Forth, overlooking the Victorian rail bridge. Hugely fortified, this castle from the 1400s featured as a key location in the TV series Outlander.
Its imposing appearance is no accident since the castle chiefly functioned as a garrison fortress and a state prison. visitors can walk the ramparts and take in the stunning views of the Firth of Forth and its bridges. The castle’s dominating appearance and three stone masts earned it the nickname “the ship that never sailed.”