Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle Walk (With Stunning Views!)

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle is an iconic tourist destination in Northeast Scotland. It’s location near the town of Stonehaven makes for a fun Dunnottar Castle coastal walk that every traveler will love. Honestly, this ended up being one of our favorites in the country… And that’s saying a lot with how many castles there truly are in Scotland! In this article, we’ll share how to best visit Dunnottar Castle from Stonehaven, quick tips, and our own fun experience.

Magical Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle Walk

The best way to get to the Dunnottar Castle is by walking the stunning coastal path from Stonehaven. It takes you up the hill from town and along the beautiful coastline with views of the cliffs and North Sea. 

We recommend heading to Stonehaven harbor before starting your walk. Cowie Harbour is full of small fishing boats and and historic hotels which all have bars attached to them.

Right in the harbor is also Old Pier Coffee House which has great drinks, delicious pastries, and sandwiches. This is the perfect spot to grab something before you take on the coastal trail to Dunnottar Castle.

The Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle walk will take you anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes with stops at the various lookouts and benches. Know that the path is made of dirt and relatively flat for most of the way.

This makes it a good stroll for families and kids alike. Just make sure to wear some decent walking shoes because of the loose rocks and pebbles. 

Once you hike up the small hill towards the War Memorial and turn the corner from Stonehaven, you’ll catch your first glimpse of Dunnottar Castle. After that, you’ll have unobstructed views for the rest of the walk. 

Not up for the longer costal walk? Don’t worry! You can drive and park near the small coffee stand. From there, it’s just a 5 minute walk. You can also take a day tour from Aberdeen to Dunnottar Castle & Royal Deeside.

Expect it to be busiest during the summer season as with many other attractions on the east coast of Scotland.

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Walk From Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle

Stonehaven Castle

Stonehaven Castle Walk Cows

What is Dunnottar Castle Famous For?

Dunnottar Castle has a long and interesting history that is impossible to sum up in a few paragraphs. However, it’s important to have a little bit of the backstory before you go!

The castle itself sits atop a 440 million year old rock formation hundreds of feet above the sea, and was home to some of the most wealthy families in Scotland. Saint Ninian was a Christian missionary who was one of the earliest known arrivals at the site. The Vikings would come to Dunnottar around 900 AD, killing King Donald II and destroyed the buildings that stood here.

The year 1297 was when the legend of William Wallace was born. That name might sound familiar to movie lovers as Mel Gibson played him in the blockbuster hit Braveheart. 

The Scottish hero spearheaded the War of Independence, part of which gained control of the castle from the English in this very year. Although English forces would eventually take it back, the tale of William Wallace lives on to this very day.

The Keith Family was responsible for building much of what you see today at Dunnottar Castle in Scotland. The many Earl Marischal’s would keep control of the grounds for 400 years and establish themselves as a powerful royal family in Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle would again take center stage in the mid-1600’s during the War of Three Kingdoms. It would be plundered and burned in 1645 at the hands of James Graham (the 1st Marquess of Montrose) and his army. Luckily, a few years later, the castle grounds would help keep the Scottish Crown Jewels safe. Going by “The Honours of Scotland” these precious jewels are on display today at Edinburgh Castle.

The Castle of Dunnottar was sold in 1717 after the failed Jacobite Rebellion against King George I. Lord and Lady Cowdray would purchase it in 1919 when it would undergo restoration efforts. The same family would also put up the funds to build the WWI memorial that you will pass on your way to Dunnottar. 

Dunnottar Castle Scotland

Dunnottar Castle Walk

Is it Worth Going Inside Dunnottar Castle?

Absolutely! This is one of the best castles to see in northeast Scotland. While the views from outside Dunnottar Castle in Scotland are sure to take your breath away, the real importance lies inside. 

We were shocked as soon as we climbed the stairs and entered this historic site. From the exterior, it really just looks like the ruins of a famous landmark among the surrounding cliffs.

Yet, after you make your way inside Dunnottar Castle you will be blown away by how intact it truly is. Each section of the Stonehaven Castle has a story to tell and the way it’s presented is simple to follow. We loved reading the placards at each stop and learning the fascinating history of this special place. 

At the time of our visit, it was open from April 1st through the end of September. The hours go from 9am until 6pm, with the last entry allowed being 5pm.

Admission cost was 10.50 Pounds ($13.50 USD) for each adult, and children were slightly cheaper. It’s important to note that kids under 16 are required to be accompanied by an adult at Dunnottar Castle. 

Stonehaven Castle Scotland

Entering Dunnottar Castle 

There is a long steep path of steps that leads down from the cliffs to the entrance of Dunnottar Castle. Once you get past Benholm’s Lodging and through the main gate to get your tickets, it’s time to explore! 

Follow the signs as you wind your way through the epic fortress. Eventually, you’ll come out to a large grassy field. This can be a nice place to have a picnic before continuing on to see more of Dunnottar Castle.

Dunnottar Castle Stonehaven

What You’ll See Inside Dunnottar Castle Scotland

After you make the Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle walk, know that there are so many amazing places to see inside the castle walls. We will share the highlights of our visit in the order we saw them below.

Be ready for a series of tunnels and stairways to get between the different buildings! We also recommend stopping into the very first room which gives a thorough breakdown of the history.

Tower Keep: The oldest building at Dunnottar built around 1400. Important defense structure and also the first stone building constructed at the site.

Stables: Where the horses were kept, who were an essential asset for 17th century noblemen.

Quadrangle: This is the area that comprises the far end North, East, & West Range buildings at Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven. The historic houses include different estates and was the home of the Earls Marischal. They were built over several centuries, with a drawing room, dining room, brewery, and bakery. 

Chapel: 16th century chapel which was remade after the original was burnt down by William Wallace in 1297.

Whigs’ Vault: Prison where over 160 people were infamously kept in the late 17th century. Also, check out the “Thieves Room” directly below the vault.

Dunnottar Castle in Scotland

The Beach Below Dunnottar Castle

After you’re done at the Stonehaven Castle, don’t forget about the beach! There are several you’ll pass on the way to Dunnottar if you plan to walk. However, most do not have trails marked going down to the actual water.

Just before the main gate there will be a path down to the left. While the water may be too chilly to swim, it’s still nice to have a stroll on the beach and get a different perspective of Dunnottar Castle.

Dunnottar Castle Beach

More Beautiful Castles in Scotland

While Dunnottar Castle is one of the most famous castles in Scotland, know that there are countless others to explore. Just an hour away in Cairngorms National Park is the famous Balmoral Castle. This happens to be the summer residence for the royal family and still used to this day.

Some of our other favorites included Eilean Donan, Urquhart, and of course Edinburgh Castle. We saw them over the course of our 10 day road trip through Scotland. Planning a road trip like we did? Make sure to include more amazing castles on your itinerary.

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Aberdeenshire Castle

Have any questions about the Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle walk or want to share your own unforgettable experience? Leave us a comment below! 

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

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Dunnottar

Scotland Travel Planning

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 Rental Car: Having a car is the best way to get around Scotland! We always use Discover Cars when traveling in Europe and have found some great deals by booking in advance.

Transportation: Omio is a great place to search for trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Scotland.

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Scotland. You can find everything from a Scottish Highlands tour from Edinburgh to a Loch Ness boat cruise, Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour, and even chocolate making class.

 Flights: We always find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from London to Aberdeen for $30 USD and Edinburgh to Budapest for less than $80! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best prices such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

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