Castles of the Scottish Highlands
Concierge.com's insider take:
Long centuries spent battling neighboring clans and countries have left Scotland with a decent stock of castles. Urquhart Castle ticks two important boxes: A magnificent setting on the banks of Loch Ness and a reasonable number of walls and towers still standing (Drumnadrochit; 44-1456-450551). The impressive Cawdor Castle was mentioned in Shakespeare's Scottish play, Macbeth. The Dowager Countess Cawdor still lives there in the winter months. Oil paintings of assorted aristocrats, 17th-century tapestries, and the late Duke's droll guide notes make for an entertaining visit, as do the stunning flower gardens, fiendish maze, and wild nature trails (near Nairn; 44-1667-404-401). Ironically, one of the most picturesque of Scotland's castles is a rebuild. Eilean Donan, pictured, lay ruined between 1719 and 1912, when Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap set about restoring it to its former majesty. Accessed by a stone bridge over the swirling waters where three sea lochs meet, Eilean Donan looks impossibly romantic, which explains why it featured heavily in the Christopher Lambert film Highlander (Dornie, by Kyle; 44-1599-555-202).