I’ve dreamed of getting to see castles since I was a little girl (shocker, I know). Of course, I do make it a point to stop at every castle some rich person built for a random reason in middle-of-nowhere America. But it is not the same as wandering through halls and gardens that royalty – or at least their kin – walked through. It is hard not to feel some kind of magic when you are standing in front of a castle. But some castles are just far more striking than others. And if traveling near Inverness, Dunrobin Castle is your best bet for the jaw-dropping, fairytale-esque beauty you are hoping for.
When we arrived at this epic castle about one hour from Inverness, I didn’t even try to contain myself. I jumped up and down, squealed, and skipped to the entry door. Not all castles are worth the entry fee, but Dunrobin far exceeded our expectations – well worth the £11.50 each.
We had this gorgeous French-inspired castle on our radar since first arriving in Inverness weeks earlier. In addition to searching on Google Maps for our usual waterfalls and trails, I had added ‘castles’ to my search list for Europe. I hadn’t seen Dunrobin Castle on any blogs or brochures. But sure enough, when it showed up in my search, the photo hooked me. So, we waited and waited and waited until we finally had a sunny day to enjoy the gardens and falconry presentation. And it turned out to be one of the best days of our Scotland trip – couldn’t have timed it better!
Twice a day from the beginning of April until the end of September, the castle has a fantastic falconry show. Luckily, they decided to extend it through the end of October this year, so we were able to enjoy it during our visit.
After seeing our fair share of wildlife shows at parks growing up, we didn’t expect more than a short overview of the birds they were showing. But, this was much more than that. The falconer was amazing and had us laughing, gasping in awe, and learning the entire time.
This master of his craft explained the differences between hawks and falcons, as well as how these majestic birds of prey are used for hunting. All the while, letting them fly right above the crowd – showing just how much he trusts the birds. At one point he also demonstrated a training technique they often use with the Falcons, where they swing a rope with a lure at the end. It was astounding to see how nimble these birds are!
In addition to hawks and falcons, he also brought out a gorgeous Eagle Owl – the largest in the world. After the show, we chatted with him a bit about how he got into falconry, and just about travel in general. Such a great guy! The entire experience was a highlight of our trip to Scotland.
After the show, we wandered around the gardens. This lush, manicured lawn pushed up against the ocean is what dreams are made of. I can only imagine what it must be like to live in a place like this. And, let’s be honest, that’s really a big part of the fun.
There are flowers, as well as fruit and vegetable plants, and maze-like landscaping. Within the garden walls, there is also a croquet court and museum with various artifacts. The museum does also include a large taxidermy collection (fair warning, if – like us – this is not your thing).
Our time enjoying the gardens and falconry would have made our admission well worth the price. However, getting to admire beautiful architecture and decor inside was a great bonus. Plus, we learned about the people who have lived here through the centuries.
Dunrobin Castle has been called home to the Sutherland family since the 13th century. This earldom is one of the ‘seven ancient earldoms of Scotland’ and they were one of the most powerful families in Britain.
We do enjoy our modern conveniences. But the more castles and historic places we explore, the more I find myself wishing I could just spend a few days experiencing what it was really like to dress, eat, and live like royalty so long ago. I won’t lie, just getting to walk the halls and gardens leaves me feeling quite pampered.
Read our other articles about our Scotland explorations here! And to learn how we traveled in Europe for five months on a budget by house sitting, read this guide.