Cawdor Castle was built as the home for the Thane of Cawdor in the heart of the Highlands near Inverness. The Castle is filled with stunning tapestries, furniture, fine art, and ceramics dating back to 3,500 years ago. There are several unique things to look forward to in Cawdor Castle, and we’ll be breaking down the history, how to get there, and attractions to see at this Scottish Castle.
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History of Cawdor Castle
Cawdor Castle was built around a holly tree, with the earliest documentation dating back to at least 1454. The Castle was built by the then Thane of Cawdor, William Calder. Some historians believe that portions of the castle date back even further than this 15th-century record, with parts dating back as far as 1380.
The legendary holly tree within Cawdor Castle’s centre is said to be where a donkey ladened with gold laid down to rest and imbue the site with powerful energy. While the holly tree likely died around 1392, its remains can still be seen within the Castle.
The Calders of Cawdor Castle expanded upon the site numerous times throughout the 14 and 1500s. And by 1510, a Cawdor heiress married Sir John Campbell of Muckairn. The ownership of this private fortress passed over to the influential Campbell after this union, and further improvements were made to the Castle, including the introduction of castle gardens and enhancements of the north and west ranges by Sir Hugh Campbell.
Then, in the 1680s, Sir Alexander Campbell, son of Sir Hugh, became trapped in Milford Haven during a storm, where he met with a local heiress. It was after the union of these two due to a storm that a walled garden and extensive woodlands by the later 18th century.
By the 20th century, John Campbell permanently found residence in Cawdor Castle. John’s son was succeeded by the 6th Earl, whose wife was Dowager Countess Cawdor, who still currently lives within the Castle.
How to Get There & Details to Know
Cawdor Castle sits in the Scottish Highlands, quite close to the bustling city of Inverness. The Castle is open throughout the year, but during the closed season, the Castle is only available by invitation.
Adult tickets cost £12.50 each, Child tickets cost £7.50 each, and Concession tickets cost £11.50 each. There are also some family packages that you can purchase as well.
How to Get There by Car
From Inverness, Cawdor Castle is a 25-minute drive away. From the city centre, travel east along the A96 until you reach the town of Brackley. From Brackley, head along the B9006 towards Cawdor Village. Near the Castle is a car park you can park for the duration of your stay.
How to Get There by Transit
Reaching Cawdor Castle via public transport is a slightly longer journey, taking shy of 2 hours to arrive. From Inverness, head to bus station stance 5 and hop aboard the number 10 Aberdeen bus line for 10 stops until you reach Nairn. From there, catch the Cawdor Line 7 stops at Cawdor Primary School. The Castle is about 20 minutes walk from the station.
Attractions at Cawdor Castle
Cawdor Castle is one of the most beautiful castles to see in the Scottish Highlands, situated near the beautiful city of Inverness. Here are the top attractions to look forward to seeing while you’re at Cawdor Castle:
Take a Tour Through Cawdor Castle
The beautiful Cawdor Castle is yours to explore by yourself or through a number of guided opportunities. Choose between either a guided tour by one of the experienced guides of the Castle or a self-guided audio tour. Whichever one you choose, you’ll learn about the essential Thanes of Cawdor and the incredible history of the Cawdor family and Campbell family.
Tours through Cawdor Castle have been pervasive as early as 1773, with notable figures like Dr Samuel Johnson, James Boswell, and even the National Bard Robert Burns! The tours also offer nature trails throughout the Castle grounds, with insights into this award-winning garden.
Go Ghost Hunting at Cawdor
That’s right! Cawdor Castle has its own set of ghosts and paranormal spirits that you can see if you’re watching for them, whether due to the spiritual tree that the Castle is built around or the betrayals and wars that were waged near the Castle.
One of the most famous spirits at Cawdor Castle is a ghost wearing a blue velvet dress, said to be none other than Muriel Calder! She is seen floating through the drawing room and staring longingly as In addition to Muriel Calder’s ghost; it is also said that the spirit of John Campbell still stalks the halls.
Explore the Cawdor Castle Gardens
Cawdor’s castle gardens are arguably even more beautiful than the interior, with four different gardens to explore during your visit. You can look forward to several highlights throughout the gardens, including The Maze.
The Maze is, unfortunately, not a part of the walled garden you can enter as evidence of deterioration has been seen because of visits and now remains a prominent art piece of the gardens. Within the Castle’s Flower Garden, the Orchid Tree sculpture has become a haven for birds and squirrels.
In the Slate Garden sits a giant ball of reclaimed slate designed by James Parker in 2009 and represents the sun of our solar system, with a water feature that gives it a stunning presentation. Famed French artist George Jeanclos also created an Adam and Eve statue in the wild garden.
Whether it’s the wild or flower garden, taking the time to explore Cawdor Castle Gardens is well worth the trip.
Eat at the South Courtyard of the Castle
The Courtyard Cafe is an atmospheric place to eat located right in the centre of the Castle’s south courtyard. Where once Clan Campbell and Cawdor would walk now sit tables and chairs overlooking the Castle’s flower garden.
The Cafe offers food made from local produce in the region and a snack bar if you want something to take along with you.
Visit the Cawdor Castle Gift Shop
Pick up a souvenir at the Cawdor Castle Gift Shop, which the Dowager Countess Cawdor handpicked. The two shops at Cawdor Castle have everything you could ever want, from luxurious Scottish cashmere, llama wool, Scotch single malt whisky, and even a range of local confectionary for kids to enjoy as well.
Whether you’re looking for a wool shop to add a scarf to your wardrobe or a bottle of Scotch, make sure to add this gift shop to your list of things to do.
Play a Round of Golf
The Scottish Highland Council Area is renowned for its ample and beautiful golf courses, and Cawdor Castle has its very own to test your mettle against. The 9-hole golf course at the Castle has been there since 1926 and covers 25 acres of beautiful parkland area that shows off the best of the Castle’s outdoors.
You can play a single round or sign up for a membership if you plan to tee off throughout the season. There’s even a putting green for young children to foster a love of the sport early on.
Go Fishing at Banchor Beat
The Banchor Beat isn’t for the faint of heart – it’s a fantastic fishing spot if you want to try your hand at a challenge. Great care has been taken to ensure that there are no unwelcome visitors to the Banchor Beat so you can enjoy quiet and solitude as you relax during the day of fishing.