Cawdor Castle – Highland, Scotland - Atlas Obscura
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Highland, Scotland

Cawdor Castle

The location of this historic castle was inspired by a donkey.  

The castle is well known to Shakespearean fans as Macbeth’s Castle, and the locale of his infamous plotting to become King after becoming the Thane of Cawdor. Many fans flock to this area to see the castle where Macbeth had lived. Alas, this castle was built well after the time that Macbeth had died. 

Despite the false rumors of it being associated with Macbeth, a stranger, but truer tale is connected to it. William Calder, Thane of Cawdor, was granted permission to fortify the area. He loaded up his donkey with gold, said to bring good luck, and determined that wherever the donkey decided to lay down and rest, was where he would build the castle.

After some time of walking, the donkey took refuge under a thorn tree, and this is the exact spot where the castle was built. You can still see the thorn tree to this day, which with radiocarbon dating, puts the tree dated at around 1372. The tree is now dead and protected in the vaults beneath the castle. 

Cawdor Castle has one of the best preserved medieval gardens in Scotland. So be sure to leave about 45 minutes to wander the gardens. Be sure to stop by the Golf Course and the castles unique Gift Shop housed in the former stable area.

Know Before You Go

It is a 26-minute drive from Inverness, and most locals know how to direct you there. Don't bring rucksacks into the castle as this is not allowed, they also do not allow filming inside whatsoever. Photos are ok and cards are available in each room to provide information and history.