Castles and kirks (churches) in the Scottish Highlands are open to visitors

Four Don't Miss Castles and Kirks of the Scottish Highlands

Most Scottish Castles began as fortresses for protection against another Clan or the English. The Laird lived in the Castle and provided protection for his people and the fortress grew in size through the years according with their wealth. Kilchurn Castle, Inverary Castle, Saint Conan's Kirk, and Edinburgh Castle can all be visited

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Kilchurn Castle

This most impressive and picturesque castle ruins sits on the banks of Loch Awe. Visitor can tour Kilchurn Castle on their own -- there is no fee and no tour unless you are with a private tour company and guide. But truly, you do not need a tour guide here except for learning the history of the castle. It is only accessible in the summer time, the low lands around the castle flood from time to time.

Kilchurn Castle sits about a 20-minute walk from the highway over a dirt path. A beautiful trek, but may not be accessible for people with impaired walking or using walkers.

Once you are close enough to see the size of the Castle your imagination begins to fill in the missing stones. Colin Campbell built the original castle in the 15th century. Enlarged during the 16th century, with the four turrets added. One turret sits on the ground inside the castle recently struck by lighting and knocked off its foundation, giving visitors a better chance to grasp their size. Visitors may run upstairs look at the views out the castle windows and picture the castle in its day, surrounded by water most of the time, the main access to the Castle were two underground tunnels.

In the 1680s Kilchurn Castle was home to over 200 troops, their habitat visible still.

Inveraray Castle

In the same area of Argyll, Inveraray Castle is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll. It is still in use and some rooms are open to the public for a fee, but here you will see the finery of Castle living.

Saint Conan's Kirk

Saint Conan's Kirk is also near Loch Awe. This unusual Kirk is certainly worth a stop. Walter Campbell built the first small church in 1881 so his mother would not have to make the long drive to the parish church in Dalmally. He was an art collector and a skilled woodcarver as well as his own architect.

In 1907, he continued to add on to the small chapel in an effort to make a nobler building. All labor was done locally using boulders lying on slopes of a nearby hill (rather than quarried stone). Saint Conan's Kirk is definitely an unusual Kirk.

A small booklet gives visitor-interesting facts about the building of the Kirk.

Edinburgh Castle

You just cannot be in this part of Scotland without visiting Edinburgh Castle. For 3,000 years, it has been the stronghold of Edinburgh and Eidyn, as the city was previously called. The Castle was built on solid rock that even the glacier could not move so Edinburgh Castle went around the rock. The well-preserved Castle houses the Royal Palace, the Scottish National War Memorial, the Great Hall, military museums, and the Stone of Destiny, Scotland's ancient Coronation Stone. Visitors can view the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles.

Visitors walk through the giant gates and hope the spiked iron grid does not close on them. The huge cannons are still in place and the view over the city is specular. It amazes me that this huge place has such small narrow winding passageways and dark alcoves, just imagine when there was only candle light. The oldest building in the castle is St Margaret's Chapel built in 1130 as a private chapel for the Royal Family. It is a tiny room with stained glass windows and an altar. Then there are the dreary dungeons and prisons to be explored and let your imagination run wild. Visit the bed chambers of the infamous, like Mary, Queen of Scotts. The great hall, built to receive guest, ended up housing military garrisons more than it was used to receive guest. Visitors will find suits of armor and swords on display there.

There is much to see at Edinburgh Castle -- visitors should allow four hours or more to enjoy the sights, and depart relieved we live in a time with electric lights and heating other than a fireplace.

Read more about Castles in England, Scotlanad, Wales and Around the World

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Bobbie Green grew up in southern California. She is a member of the North American Travel Journalist Association. She is a freelance writer and has been published in various Senior Wire Publications, The Desert Valley Times, Nevada Magazine, Mesquite, Travel World International, and Besides enjoying her love of travel by doing it as often as she can, she enjoys photography and attends numerous travel trade functions. Presently she is enjoying desert living in Mesquite Nevada.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: June 26th, 2013

Updated: August 23, 2016

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