It might not be one of the most recognizable names among the castles of Scotland, but whether you realize it or not, you’ve probably seen Doune Castle before. The 14th century fortress, located northwest of Stirling, has a long royal and clan history, but has more recently become something of a movie and TV star. Doune stands in for both Winterfell on HBO’s Game of Thrones and Leoch Castle in Outlander, but may still be most recognizable from virtually every castle scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Note: I’ve gotten this question a few times already, so it’s worth a quick note up front before you get the wrong way stuck in your head. “Doune” is pronounced “doon”, not “down”.
The current castle at Doune was built around 1370 by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, known as the “Uncrowned King” because he essentially ruled Scotland in his brother Robert III’s name. Unlike most castles in Scotland, that were partially destroyed and rebuilt multiple times, Robert planned and built the entire structure in one go, giving it a slightly less chaotic feel.
Doune served as a hunting lodge for Scottish royalty in the 15th and 16th centuries as well as a dower house, the home of a widowed queen or noblewoman. From 1580 until the 20th century, it belonged to the Earls of Moray, who were its caretakers through several wars, and who eventually began its restoration in the 1880s. In 1984, Doune Castle became public property, and it is now overseen by Historic Scotland, along with many other important cultural sites around the country.
Here are a few snapshots of Doune Castle in its most famous starring roles.
Posing as Winterfell in Game of Thrones‘s pilot “Winter is Coming”:
Appearing as the fictional “Castle Leoch” in Outlander:
And in one of its many appearances in “Holy Grail”, this time appearing alongside King Arthur’s Trojan Rabbit:
The castle staff seems proudest of their Monty Python history, and the gift shop offers not only a Python-themed audio tour of the castle, but an authentic Doune Castle set of coconut shells, so visitors can ride off after their tour on the same trusty steed as King Arthur himself.
The castle is located about 15 km (9 miles) northwest of Stirling. If you don’t have a car, the 49 bus from Stirling will get you to the village of Doune, and it’s only about a 10 minute walk to the castle. If you’re coming from Glasgow, it’s about a 45 minute drive up the M80 and M9. From Edinburgh, the drive will take you a little over an hour on the M9. Stirling is also accessible by rail, and will cost you only £8 – £12 from either Glasgow or Edinburgh.
Doune Castle is managed by Historic Scotland, who charge £5.50 for adults and £3.30 for children for entrance. The castle opens at 9:30, closing at 5:30 from April-September and 4:30 the rest of the year. One of the highlights of the castle is the massive Great Hall, which again you will recognize from its film appearances. From the battlements, you’ll get stunning views of Ben Lomond, a mountain to the south, as well as the nearby River Leith.
Beyond the castle, Stirling is an attraction in itself. The National Wallace Monument is there, as well as Stirling Castle, so you can realistically take in two of Scotland’s most important castles in the same day.
Stirling and the surrounding towns have some great hotels and bed and breakfasts. There’s not the kind of variety you’d find in the big cities, but the quality of lodging in the area is generally very good. Here are a few top recommendations if you’re going to stay close to Doune Castle. One of them, Broomhall, is a castle itself, though a much more recent one:
The Old Tram-House
The Lake of
Doune is one of many Scottish castles along our four-day driving itinerary from Glasgow, which also includes Castle Stalker, Inveraray, and more.