The medieval Doune Castle is one of the best-preserved curtain wall fortresses in Scotland. It has been made famous for its use in films including Outlander, Game of Thrones and Monty Python.
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Review of Doune Castle
The medieval Doune Castle has been a formidable presence near the village of Doune in Perthshire since its construction in the 14th-century.
Still remarkably well-preserved, this castle was once home to the Duke of Albany and the Earl of Moray but it sadly fell into disrepair in the 18th century, although today it’s owned and managed by the Historic Environment Scotland Trust who have done an amazing job of restoring it.
Its woodland location near the River Teith has led to the castle becoming increasingly popular with tourists thanks to its peaceful setting, and children are guaranteed to be kept occupied by the sprawling maze of rooms and corridors. Meanwhile, adults will enjoy exploring the reconstructed grand tower house and the cathedral-like great hall.
Suffice to say, there’s a lot to see and do at this historic attraction.
The castle walls are almost completely intact which goes a long way to explaining why it featured in so many shows in recent years, especially the Outlander TV series which has proven incredibly popular on both sides of the Atlantic and has brought in a new generation keen to explore the ruins of this old fortification.
But there’s more to see at Doune Castle than television references because this 650-year-old building features a striking gatehouse that’s well over 100 feet high, one of the best-preserved great halls in Scotland, and offers stunning views of Ben Lomond from its battlements.
It’s certainly easy to see why the Regent Albany chose the place as his seat of power all those years ago.
I think a visit to Doune Castle is well worth making the time for because as well as being a genuinely interesting castle it’s also a great place to let the kids run around, and if you’ve got your four-legged friend with you you’ll find the walks along the River Teith are really enjoyable as well.
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Things to do at Doune Castle
The castle is not only famed for its royal connections but also for its use as a film location and fans of Monty Python will no doubt recognise it as the set for many of the scenes in the movie Monty Python and The Holy Grail, while more recent shows include the incredibly popular fantasy saga Game of Thrones.
The ties with Monty Python live on today with an audio narration voiced by Terry Jones that not only educates visitors about the castle’s long history but also entertains with hilarious tales from the Holy Grail film set, so if you’re a Python fan a visit to Doune Castle should definitely be on your must-visit list.
Outlander fans meanwhile will be happy to learn that Sam Heughan who plays Jamie in the series narrates a new portion of the tour where he explains how sections of the castle were converted into Castle Leoch.
It’s pretty interesting stuff and I’m glad that when I visited some of the TV sets were still in place because it really was like stepping back in time.
Doune village is just 5 miles from Stirling Castle so it’s possible to combine the two fortresses over the duration of a single day, although history buffs might find themselves immersed in the story of the castle for longer than expected as Historic Environment Scotland provides visitors with lots of information panels to read.
Visitors should be aware that although Doune Castle isn’t as big as either of those in Stirling or Edinburgh, it’s popularity with film means that it’s often quite busy and you’ll no doubt end up getting jostled by crowds of over-excited coach parties in the peak tourist season (i.e. the whole of summer).
However, walking around the castle while listening to the audio tour is well worth the price of admission (which is free if you have a Historic Environment Scotland membership) and if you visit out of season you can be assured of a relatively quiet tour.
At the end of your visit you can head outside the castle walls to explore the quiet banks of the River Teith and the surrounding woodland which are great for walks at all times of the year.
Only slightly further away is the historic burgh of Doune which has some good-quality cafés, while the city of Stirling has plenty of restaurants and bars if you fancy staying in the area a little while longer to visit the mighty Stirling Castle and nearby Wallace Monument.
My top recommendation though is to drive the 15-minute journey on the A820 to Dunblane and its magnificent 12th-century cathedral.
Admission is free but it’s managed by Historic Environment Scotland – which is another reason I suggest you purchase a HES membership as you’ll be helping to ensure Scotland’s beautiful old buildings are maintained for future generations to enjoy.
Discover more Scottish fortifications in my Guide to the Best Castles in Scotland.
- This attraction is a treat for TV and film fans. Make sure you listen to the audio tour – it’s hilarious.
- The castle is very well-preserved and many of the rooms are almost totally restored.
- It’s also close to Doune and Stirling so there are loads of other places to visit in the area.
- If you’re after food the Deanston distillery is nearby which has a superb café (and whisky).
- Got bored kids? Head to Blair Drummond Safari Park which is just 10-minutes away on the A84.
- I recommend getting a Historic Environment Scotland membership as it will give you free entry to this and hundreds of other historic attractions. See the link in the prices section below.
The Castle is clearly signposted from the historic village of Doune, near Stirling in Perthshire.
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Things to do near Doune Castle
- Deanston Distillery. Teith Rd, Deanston, Doune FK16 6AG. 5-minute drive. A late 18th-century whisky distillery sited on the banks of the River Teith near Doune village. The distillery offers visitors guided tours around the distillery complex as well as tasting experiences, a well-stocked shop and a café.
- Blair Drummond Safari Park. Blair Drummond, Stirling FK9 4UR. 9-minute drive. Wildlife safari park that includes animal enclosures, a boating lake, a children’s play park and bird of prey displays. Briarlands Farm petting zoo is located behind the safari park.
- Callander. Stirling FK17 8BA. 15-minute drive. Highland village that offers a selection of traditional shops and pubs as well as a selection of cafés and restaurants. There are several walking trails that start and finish at Callander, mostly centred around the River Teith.
- Bracklinn Falls. 17-minute drive. The forest surrounding Callander offer superb walks on rough paths that extend throughout the wooded area. The Bracklinn Falls are a series of natural waterfalls that can be seen both from the banks of the Allt a Choire Bhric river and there is a purpose-built wooden bridge in the heart of the forest.
- Dunblane Museum Trust. The Cross, Dunblane FK15 0AQ. 11-minute drive. A free-to-visit volunteer-run museum that was founded in 1943. The museum houses a fascinating collection of artefacts and displays that portray the history and heritage of Dunblane and the surrounding area.
More places to visit in Central Scotland
- Loch Leven – Kinross: Complete Visitor GuideLoch Leven is a large expanse of water situated in the rural Scottish county of Perth and Kinross. The National Nature Reserve is renowned for the number of wildfowl that live there and in fact, it’s home to more breeding ducks than anywhere else in Europe.
- Culross – Fife: Complete Visitor GuideThe historic village of Culross is situated on the banks of the Firth of Forth where it overlooks the petrochemical works of Grangemouth to the south and the Longannet power station to the west.
- Ben Lawers – Perth & Kinross: Complete Visitor GuideScotland’s 10th-highest Munro is one of Central Scotland’s most popular tourist hotspots, famed not only for the fantastic walks to the massif summit but also for the wonderful views visitors get to enjoy along the way.
- Schiehallion Mountain – Perthshire: Complete Visitor GuideSchiehallion mountain lies between Loch’s Tay, Rannoch, and Tummel roughly 10 miles north-west of Aberfeldy in Perthshire, and it’s renowned amongst Scotland’s hillwalkers as being one of the easiest Munro’s to ‘bag’ in the country.