Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven is one of the most widely recognised castle ruins Scotland has to offer and with over 260 Aberdeenshire castles to visit, you may wonder why this castle in Stonehaven should be so high on your list.
We have written the ultimate guide to visiting this Stonehaven castle as we will further castles to help you on your Aberdeen castle trail.
The oldest remaining part of Castle Dunnottar and this medieval fortress, the Tower House, was built by the Great Earls Marischal, William Keith around 1392 although there was a chapel built approximately 100 years earlier than this. During these earlier years, William Wallace is said to have killed an English troop stationed inside the castle with only a handful of men.
When it comes to Dunnottar Castle geology, stones from the original destroyed chapel can still be seen in other remaining parts of the remaining structure as the rocks were often recycled. Mentions of Dunnottar can be found right back until the origins of Scotland so we know that the site and story of Dunnottar are rich in history.
Dunnottar is best known as being the place where the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army in the 17th century by the Earl Marischal who had responsibility for the protection of these and decided to place these at the castle.
I am not going to try and pass myself off as a history buff as I can only summarise on some of the things that I have read online and this post is intended to be more of a guide to the castle you can see and visit today. I would highly recommend taking some time to read about some of the most important events to have taken place at Aberdeen Dunnottar Castle, as it makes for some interesting and gruesome reading into Scotlands history.
Dunnottar Castle was strategically built and sits over cliffs which drop 160ft to the North Sea below with a narrow strip of land which connects to the mainland, this unique and distinct location is one of the main reasons that people are so interested to visit in person. In recent years there have been many comments on the appearance of a Dunnottar Castle Game of Thrones connection or that it looks as though it should be at least, but having never seen the show, I can’t comment!
This also looks onto Dunnottar Castle beach and although you may not be able to step inside the castle during the temperamental Scottish weather, the harsh and rugged waves can provide an even further impressive backdrop to this castle.
We hope that you will take the time to see this incredible castle and that this guide will help you with a little more information as to planning your visit.
Stonehaven is an ideal destination for couples, families and friends. Located just under two miles away from Dunnottar Castle, this town lies on the Southside of the Aberdeenshire Coast.
This is a really popular choice for visitors, especially during the summer months and also at New Year thanks to the annual Stonehaven Fireball ceremony, but with plenty of accommodation options on the beachfront or overlooking the beautiful sandy harbour, Stonehaven is a great place to stay.
Another option is to stay in the nearby city of Aberdeen. There are great bus and rail connections to Dunnottar Castle which is approximately half an hours distance from the city centre.
Places To Eat In Stonehaven
Stonehaven is a real treat for food and there are plenty of options to choose from. Unfortunately, I cannot mention all of the fantastic Stonehaven restaurants in this post but please see a small selection of my favourites below
Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant
The Tolbooth restaurant can be found along the Stonehaven harbour wall with beautiful views overlooking the water. This is one of the most historic buildings in the town and has a great reputation for its use of good value, good quality, fresh and seasonal produce. While many of the dishes are seafood as you may expect from the name, such as Cullen skink, scallops and lobster but there are also meat alternatives although I do not believe that there are plant-based options at the moment.
Private dining at the Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant is also an option for families and parties and celebrations of up to 50 people.
The Station Hotel Restaurant
The Station Hotel in Stonehaven offer separate gluten free, dairy free and vegan menus so if you are looking to suit many dietary requirements, this may be the place to go for you. For the most part, The Station Hotel Menu features more of your pub style of food such as steak pie, macaroni cheese and chicken fillets but they do also serve some locally caught fish dishes.
The Bay Fish And Chips
This award-winning fish and chip shop is located on the beach promenade in Stonehaven. You definitely won’t miss it as there is usually a very large queue outside. Selling locally-sourced seafood on the seafront, The Bay is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Stonehaven looking for some food on the go.
And just next door to The Bay is Aunty Bettys. If you are looking for ice cream then this is the place to go, with equally long queues forming outside the door as their neighbour, they offer the perfect after-dinner treat with plenty of ice cream options which come adorned with sweets. You can also buy sweets and juices along with some dog-friendly treats.
Things To Do In Stonehaven Scotland
We have dedicated a full post to the best things to do in Stonehaven but here are some of our top visitor attractions when in the area.
Stonehaven War Memorial
All towns and cities have a War memorial of some sort to commemorate those people lost during battle. Stonehaven War Memorial stands proudly on Black Hill with beautiful and extensive views overlooking the harbour and also of Dunnottar Castle.
The Stonehaven War Memorial was designed to look like ruins and I am not sure why this is, I have read that it’s to serve as a reminder to those incomplete lives that were lost but it is certainly a standout structure with lots of beauty and meaning. Beware, it can be incredibly windy!
RSPB Fowlsheugh Nature Reserve
Only a 5-minute drive from Dunnottar Castle is the RSPB Fowlsheugh Nature Reserve. During the summer months, the cliffs at Fowlsheugh are filled with more than 130,000 seabirds such as guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes along with some puffins and fulmars. If you are lucky you may also see some grey seals and dolphins in the water.
Stonehaven Open Air Swimming Pool
If you have taken any swimming things on your trip to Scotland then you may like to take the opportunity to visit the Stonehaven Open Air Swimming Pool. This Olympic size, heated open-air pool with clean sea-water is very popular for families and children during the summer months. During certain times there are even midnight swims so you can swim beneath the stars.
Can You Visit Dunnottar Castle?
Yes! You can visit the surrounding areas overlooking Dunnottar Castle for free and experience the incredible views as seen in many photographs. If open, you can also step inside this enchanting ruin for a fee.
Where Is Dunnottar Castle In Scotland?
Dunnottar Castle Scotland is located around 2 miles South from Stonehaven on the North East Coast of Scotland.
Can You Go Inside Dunnottar Castle?
Yes! You can enter the castle for a fee as detailed further below.
How Long To Visit Dunnottar Castle?
The recommended time to spend visiting Dunnottar Castle is around 2 hours but this depends on whether you decide to enter the castle. Time spent may be significantly less if you choose to view from a distance.
How To Pronounce Dunnottar Castle
Dunnottar Castle pronunciation may vary slightly with different dialects but it is most commonly pronounced as Dunn-O-tar with the emphasis usually focused on the ‘O’ which is said as an ‘aw’.
Is Dunnottar Castle National Trust?
Is Dunnottar Castle Part Of Historic Scotland?
How Old Is Dunnottar Castle?
The oldest remaining part of Dunnottar Castle was built in the 14th century, around 1392, making it over 600 years old, although, there were a chapel and other structures built on the site almost 100 years before that.
Is Dunnottar Castle Open?
Castle entry times as below:
Summer Season (1st April – 30th Sep)
9:00 – 17:30
Winter Season (1st October – 31st March)
10:00 – 16.00
It is best to check the website for the most up to date information about opening times as these can change based on the weather to ensure safety.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit Dunnottar Castle?
Ticket costs for entry to Dunnottar Castle are as below:
Adults – £7
Children – £3
Family (2 adults and 2 children between the ages of 5-15) – £17
Guide Book – £5
Tickets can be bought at the castle kiosk on entry
How Far Is Dunnottar Castle From Edinburgh?
Dunnottar Castle is approximately 110 miles from Edinburgh by road and takes around 2 hours 10 minutes to reach.
How Far Is Dunnottar Castle From Aberdeen?
At a much shorter distance, Dunnottar Castle is approximately 17 miles from Aberdeen and takes nearly 30 minutes to reach by road.
How Far is Dunnottar Castle From Stonehaven?
And shorter still, the distance from Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle by road is under 2 miles and takes less than 10 minutes to reach.
How To Get To Dunnottar Castle
By Train – The closest train station is Stonehaven
By Bus – If travelling from Aberdeen, the X7 and 107 bus services stop only a short walking distance from the castle car park
By Foot/Cycling – Walking/Cycling are great options when visiting Dunnottar Castle as the views can be breathtaking. Not to mention the health benefits. However, Scottish weather can be unpredictable, to say the least, and it can be very windy so make sure to wear appropriate clothing and footwear.
Directions as instructed by Dunnottar Castle – ‘If walking from the parking area at the harbour, follow Shorehead to Wallace Wynd, on the right-hand side just past the harbour front pubs and then turn left onto Castle Street.
Follow the path uphill and turn left at the top and then continue on the road and path past the War Memorial. From the Memorial, you will get tantalising glimpses of the Castle as you walk along the cliff tops, and around 15 minutes later will arrive at the Castle itself.
If cycling, the easiest (and safest) route is to follow the Bervie Braes road as shown on the map below; there is a wide pavement to allow pedestrians and cyclists to utilise it but please be considerate of all users!’
Is There A Car Park At Dunnottar Castle?
There is a small car park at Dunnottar Castle but the spaces are incredibly limited in comparison to the number of visitors that visit the castle.
The car park is located just off the A92, Stonehaven/Montrose road. This is found less than two miles south of Stonehaven.
There is also a food truck in the car park that serves burger van style food and hot drinks, which may be welcomed if visiting on a colder day.
How Many Steps Does Dunnottar Castle Have?
From the car park to the main entrance there are 219 steps to be taken. Unfortunately, due to the Dunnottar Castle location, there are no ramps or lifts to assist with this and the ground can be quite uneven in places as the castle is on an isolated rock with steps coming down from the clifftop. This may be challenging to those with mobility issues and there is no wheelchair access possible.
Are Dogs Allowed At Dunnottar Castle?
Dogs are welcome at Dunnottar Castle but must be kept on a lead at all times. There are no bins in Dunnottar Castle and all litter must be disposed of in the bins by the car park.
What Was Filmed At Dunnottar Castle?
The stunning backdrop of Dunnottar Castle creates a lot of mystery so it’s no wonder that it is featured in many films and advertising to show the beauty and mystique in Scottish Castles.
Dunnottar Castle was featured in Viktor Frankenstein, Hamlet, Mary Queen of Scots and is also thought the be the inspiration behind Merida’s home in the Pixar film, Brave.
Dunnottar Castle Weddings
Wedding ceremonies can be held at Dunnottar Castle between April – October with up to 60 guests in attendance in the drawing room.
There is also the option of being married elsewhere but having photos taken at the castle, however, Dunnotter Castle is a wedding venue in its own right so there is a charge for this use although there is no charge for photographs on the surrounding cliffs.
Who Owns Dunnottar Castle?
Dunnottar Castle is owned by Dunecht Estate which is one of the largest private estates in Aberdeenshire.