As I continue my search to find the best castles in Scotland I find my way to Doune Castle in Stirlingshire. For its design alone this has to rank as one of the finest standing castles in Central Scotland. Another big part of the Doune Castle appeal is its connection with the Monty Python franchise as Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed here. In a nice touch the audio guides that accompany the tour are read by Terry Jones, one of its directors and stars.
The castle was built in the 1300’s as a residence for Robert, Duke of Albany. Its current excellent state of repair offers a strong insight into medieval life for the rich and famous. The Duke was ruler of Scotland in all but name from 1388 until 1420 and Doune Castle was therefore a virtual royal castle. Certainly the castle is powerful and intimidating – invaders would not have enjoyed scaling these walls! After Albany’s death the castle became a retreat for various Scottish monarchs. Mary Queen of Scots was one brief visitor on several occasions in the 16th Century. Doune Castle’s significance in Scottish history continued when it was used by Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite troops as a prison in and around 1745. More recently the on-going hit TV series Game of Thrones used the castle for interior shots and it was a star attraction of Outlander’s filming locations, doubling as Castle Leoch. The Scotlanders’ marathon promotional campaign of these locations saw us finish our packed itineraries at this very spot.
For the 21st Century tourist, the castle is far enough off the heavily beaten tracks to have a quiet and relaxing charm to it. The main courtyard is impressive and the heart of the action. The interior rooms are in excellent condition and each tells its own story of a bustling past. Drifting between the main hall, kitchen and bedrooms (with Monty Python jokes sneaking in on the audio guide) it’s very easy to love the place. On a sunny day some of the views from the roof in the direction of the neighbouring River Teith are magnificent. A wander around the castle grounds afterwards are well rewarded too and you’ll very likely have them to yourself.