10 Best Castles in Dumfries and Galloway

Scotland is full of historical wonders and gorgeous mountainous walks. However, many people wrongly assume that they must trek to the highlands to explore the more raw beauty of Scotland. Don’t make that mistake. The south of Scotland is equally blessed with vast amounts of green hills, glens, and historical attractions. Dumfries and Galloway, one of the popular southwest counties in Scotland, offers an exciting range of historical sights to visit – particularly castles.

There are 95 castles in Dumfries and Galloway. You can find these castles in Dumfries and Galloway in historic old towns, villages, and some on breathtaking mountain tops. Some of the castles are ruins, while others have been maintained or restored as grand family homes or renovated into hotels. If you are taking an iconic road trip up to the Highlands, or even Glasgow or Edinburgh, by car, stop off for day or two in beautiful Dumfries and Galloway to explore the castles it offers.

1. Caerlaverock Castle

With its triangular shape, Caerlaverock is a unique British castle in Dumfries and Galloway. There are three lengths of defensive curtain wall linked at their three angles by towers; the north side has a twin-towered gatehouse, where the Maxwells, a family who repaired and upgraded Caerlaveock, have their private rooms. Inside is a lodging, built by Robert Maxwell, that contains ornate Renaissance stone carvings. Many rare animals and plants also live on the castle grounds.

It costs £7.50 for an adult to gain admission to the castle. Uncoincidently, the castle lies next to Caerlaverock Nature Reserve, which is also worth visiting afterwards.

2. Dunskey Castle

Dunskey Castle in Dumfries and Galloway is a historical Edwardian castle that has been wonderfully maintained since its construction, retaining many of its original features and furniture. They only opened the castle doors to guests in 2017 for the first time. They have twenty-five bedrooms and events spaces too. Also near Dunskey Estate are the breathtaking ruins that are picturesquely perched on a rocky mountain that juts into the Irish Sea. The tower house was built in the mid-16th century and is located on the coastal path from Portpatrick; there is no access to the castle interior, and visitors are advised to stay on the path because the cliffs are steep and dangerous.

3. Buittle Castle

Buittle Castle is near Urr Water, about a mile from Dalbeattie in Galloway. It consists of the remains of a courtyard castle adjacent to the water tower house called Buittle Tower, bounded north and west by a stream. You can stay overnight in the castle now, too, which might be a unique idea for a castle to stay in overnights in Dumfries and Galloway if you are travelling towards the north of Scotland. There is also a castle tour you can embark on that finishes with afternoon tea, a popular experience at Buittle Castle.

4. Cardoness Castle

Cardoness Castle, a Scottish tower house castle, was built in the later 1400s. The McCullochs lived there and were a prominent Galloway family who had supported John Balliol’s claim to the throne in the 1200s and 1300s. In the 1600s, the McCullochs had to mortgage Cardoness, and it was acquired by John Gordan, part of a family with which the McCullochs feuded often. It was built as a residence for the McCullochs and clearly built with defence in mind with its thick walls and small window openings.

You can visit the woodland area, home to many endangered red squirrels. As of 2023, the castle grounds are currently closed for conservation work, but you can still explore the outside of the grounds of one of the most popular castles in Dumfries and Galloway.

5. Morton Castle

This rare hall-house is one of Scotland’s most mysterious castles. While the exact date is unknown, the castle was most likely built in the late 1200s or early 1300s. Morton Castle is situated on a triangular spur of land with a surrounding of steep drops to a loch, and this castle can be different to find and requires some determination to find; however, it is well worth a visit with its beautifully breathtaking architecture and surroundings.

It is one of only a few surviving hall houses identified. Similar to Cardoness Castel, there is currently no visitor access. However, the nature paths around the site are open – so go and take a sneaky peek.

6. MacLellen’s Castle

There is no visitor access inside MacLellen’s castle, but the grounds and shop are still available. Named after its original owner, Sir Thomas MacLellan of Bombie, MacLellen’s Castle was built on the site of the convent of Greyfriars after acquiring the land and buildings after the Protestant Reformation in 1560. The castle’s design reflects the change in tower house building in Jacobean Scotland; it shows it was more about domestic comfort rather than defence.

The castle was an unusual L-shaped ground plan, and the house was largely complete inside, except for its roof, fixtures, and fittings. Here you can learn lots about the history, visit the Greyfriars Church next door to see the memorial of the original owners, and explore the surrounding areas.

7. Drumlanrig Castle

Drumlanrig Castle is one of the must-visit castles in Dumfries and Galloway and advertises itself as a place where you can find something for everyone. There is the Pink Palace with a world-class art collection, acres of stunning Victorian gardens to explore, a woodland adventure playground, waymarked walks, mountain bike trails, and not to forget, the gift shop, Castle Tearoom, and Larchwood Cabin Cafe. You can book a castle garden tour too.

Drumlanrig Castle is a popular castle to visit for families and offers a beautiful countryside area surrounding the castle to make the most of your visit. Drumlanrig is the all-rounder you shouldn’t resist.

8. Drumcoltron Castle

Drumcoltron Castle contains an intact tower that belonged to a local lord in the 1500s and has panoramic countryside views surrounding the estate. Like many of the castles in Dumfries and Galloway, the scenic area around the castle grounds makes the visit even more exciting. Just visiting the grounds alone provides a full day out, with plenty of trails to walk.

The castle was home to a branch of the Maxwells of Caerlaverock. Its stunning appearance comes from the Jacobean nature. Drumcoltran is a typical tower house with three stories and a garret. Also, unlike many Scottish towers, this castle in Scotland is free to visit and open all year round.  

9. Sanquhar Castle

Sanquhar Castle is a ruined 13th-century castle with an altered tower and various buildings around a courtyard, including a four-story tower. The land originally belonged to the Edgas, one of whom was Sheriff of Dumfries. Greenery and rolling hills surround this castle, offering classic views over the Dumfries and Galloway scenery. 

If you’re interested in ghosts or the supernatural, then it must be noted that two ghosts reputedly haunt the castle. The ‘White Lady’ is said to be the spirit of a young golden-haired woman, Marion of Dalpeddar, who is said to have disappeared in 1590. Another ghost is said to be that of John Wilson, who was wrongly hanged by the Crichtons and manifests itself with groans and chains rattling. Spooky! Fear not, though; I imagine the grounds are ghost-free during the day!

10. Lochmaben Castle

Situated among attractive woodland next to a loch, Lochmaben is the shattered remains of a castle built by an English occupying force in the 1300s. It was an important outpost in hostile territory for the English, and it withstood several sieges and attacks in the 1300s before falling to the Scots in 1385. As of 2023, there is currently no visitor access due to conservation works.

Surrounded by woodland, this is the perfect place to explore Dumfries and Galloway’s history while also adventuring on walks and enjoying classic Scottish castle views.


As this list shows, there is a rich history in Dumfries and Galloway’s castles. There are too many castles to fit onto one list or visit in one day, but it’s worth juggling visits to at least a couple of castles in this criminally underrated county. The castles offer more than just history, with countryside walks and impressive views. You absolutely must take a detour and enjoy the ruins, towers, and castles of Dumfries and Galloway.

By Cara-Louise Scott

Cara-Louise Scott is a UoB graduate now living as a hotel waitress in London. She has a passion for writing about all things travel, food, and mental health. She will be studying her part-time NCTJ course in autumn to become a qualified journalist.

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