Dunnottar Castle is one of those places that I’ve wanted to go ever since I moved to Scotland. It is one of Scotland’s most famous and iconic places, and I’m sure you have seen its image all over the internet as the castle that lies out on a rock in the sea. And indeed Dunnottar Castle is surrounded by the ocean from three sides and the cliffs drop dramatically beneath the castle walls. I was so happy when my mum visited me for a week last June and we had 7 days of sunshine accompanying us on our road trip along the north-eastern coast of Scotland. We visited Dunnottar Castle on our way back south towards Saint Andrews and here are 5 reasons why I think you should add it to your list as well!
1) Dunnottar Castle is off the beaten path, but easy to reach
Dunnottar Castle might be picture-famous, but when you look at where people go when they visit Scotland, the Northeast coastline is still very much off the beaten path.
The castle lies half an hour south of Aberdeen by car, just outside a seaside town called Stonehaven. It is just a few minutes off the main road, the A90. Busses stop at the castle car park, and walking from Stonehaven’s train station takes around 15 minutes. The train from Aberdeen to Stonehaven takes around 15-20 minutes, but there are also trains from Edinburgh (around 2 hours).
All in all this means that Dunnottar Castle is incredibly easy to reach – I don’t know why not more people make use of this.
Please note that parking at the castle car park is very limited. Visitors are highly encouraged to park up in Stonehaven and walk to the castle along the coast. Coaches can park for free if the group’s castle visit is pre-booked, but charges apply for groups who just stop for photos.
2) No Crowds in Sight
It’s hard to believe, but Dunnottar Castle was actually not busy when we visited on a gorgeous day in early June.
During our visit there were others of course, but nowhere near did it feel crowded or even overrun. In comparison to more popular castles like in Edinburgh, Stirling or by Skye this was a welcome change of patterns.
Many people are happy to just take a walk along the coastline instead of entering the actual site. That means that people disperse across the landscape and don’t all gather in one particular photo spot, or among narrow castle walls.
3) It’s Free (well, kind of)
Dunnottar Castle is privately owned and if you want to visit the castle grounds you will have to pay £7. Not exactly free, right?
What’s free though is getting that iconic view of the castle sticking out above the ocean. I was worried that they would charge you somewhere on the way from the car park, but the ticket booth is in fact at the bottom of the castle entrance. If you don’t want to visit the actual castle, you can soak up the incredible views completely for free!
4) Combining History & Nature
Castles are often considered a very typical item on cultural travel itineraries – something for history buffs only. Nature lovers don’t go to visit castles, they hike in the mountains, observe wildlife and find peace lounging in the grass. I’m like that, so why did I enjoy Dunnottar Castle?
The thing is, Dunnottar Castle has both! While the castle grounds give you the full blast of history, heritage and culture, the surroundings invite you to take a long stroll along the cliffs or explore the beaches below the castle. The peaceful views really speak for themselves!
5) It’s VERY Photogenic
The photos of castles you see on their websites are always impressive, but often it is hard recreate them IRL. Often you simply can’t get the same results as professional photographers, because they arrive before the crowds, get special permits, maybe even use helicopters or some other support to elevate their point of view. Photographing castles can be quite frustrating, because they are often not properly accessible for lay photographers.
Not so Dunnottar Castle. There are so many easily accessible photo spots, that offer amazing views and photo ops. You can easily recreate the iconic images of the castle or find your own angles!
I thoroughly enjoyed by my visit to Dunnottar Castle, and even though I had always wanted to go, I was a little surprised by that.
But that’s just what Scotland does to you – it always gets you when you last expect it! A bit like the Glasgow rain…
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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.