With a phenomenal setting on an isolated sea cliff high above crashing waves, the hulking 9th-century stronghold of Dunottar is one of Scotland’s most dramatic ruins.
This prompted Italian film director Franco Zeffirelli to chose it as the backdrop for his 1990 version of Hamlet (trailer) starring Mel Gibson. More recently the castle inspired the castle created for the DunBroch family in Pixar’s animated film Brave (2012; trailer).
But the castle’s also been of vital historical importance over the years, particularly in 934AD when it protected King Constantine from the English for long enough to enable him to strike a deal with the Vikings and change the balance of power in the region. The castle also famously withstood an 8 month siege in 1651.
Yet it’s history is not just one of defence but also gore and bloodshed: In 1297 an entire English garrison was burnt alive here by William Wallace; in 1685 some 167 Covenanters were imprisonment and tortured here.
This background helps make exploring the dank castle dungeons fairly gruesome, while poking around the rest of ruins can be more lighthearted and generally good fun.