The North East 250 (NE250) is home to many of Scotland’s castles, with over 260 to choose from in Aberdeenshire alone. There is a rich history in this part of the country that we highly recommend you explore on your NE250 itinerary.

Due to the number of castles, we understand it an be overwhelming to decide which ones to pick. To make it easier for you, we have listed our favourite castles in Aberdeenshire that you can visit on the NE250 road trip.

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Must Visit Castles in Aberdeenshire
Castles on the NE250 Road Trip

Whether it’s rain and grey skies or beautiful sunshine, a castle always looks mystical and inviting. In this guide, we will share with you our favourite castles in Aberdeenshire that include the following.

Table of Contents

dunottar castle drone photo

Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle, Garden and Estate, a stunning place to visit on your NE250 road trip, taking you back to the 16th century. 

Gaze at the towering turrets and towers and wander around the historic walled garden. Make sure you take a look at beautiful painted ceilings inside too.

Crathes Castle was built in the 16th century by Alexander Burnett after Robert the Bruce granted him the land. The Burnett family continued to live in the castle for over 350 years.

Located just outside of Banchory in Aberdeenshire, Crathes Castle is only a short drive from Aberdeen city. There is a large car park that is shared with Go Ape and it costs £3 to park which can be pain at the machine or online. If you are a National Trust for Scotland member then all you have to do is display your pass in your windscreen and you can park for free. If you are a member you will also have the benefit of entering the castle for free. It is free to roam the castle grounds and take beautiful photos from and of the surrounding gardens.

Tickets – Adult £15.50

crathes castle
crathes castle gardens

Drum Castle

Drum Castle Garden and Estate is one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses. It is lies on the outskirts of Banchory and not far from the city of Aberdeen.

Robert the Bruce granted William de Irwyn the castle and its grounds in 1323 and the castle remained in the Irvine clan until 1975. Later, a Jacobite mansion was added and in the Victorian era the lower halls was converted into a library. This is now home to over 4,000 books!

It is free to roam around the grounds of the castle where you can take some great photos of the castle.

The property is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, therefore if you are a member you will have free entry and parking. There is a small car park and overflow parking, costing £3.

Tickets – Adult £15.50

drum castle
drum castle courtyard

If you are looking for a good bag for your time exploring the many amazing castles here, we can highly recommend the Wandrd Bag PRVKE 41L if you are carrying camera equipment around. If you are looking for a smaller backpack, The Nest by Tropicfeel is one of the most comfortable bags I have ever owned and perfect for days out.

Braemar Castle

Braemar Castle is located near the village of Braemar and is open to the public Wednesday- Sunday. The grounds were first built on in the 11th century, however the castle we see today was constructed in 1628 by John Erskine and has since been a hunting lodge, fortress, garrison and family home.

Braemar is the only castle in the UK which is under community management, therefore funds raised go towards preserving the castle. Unfortunately, due to steep winding staircases a tour of the building is not suitable for those with impaired mobility.

Tickets – Adult £10

braemar castle

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is the Scottish holiday home to the Royal Family and has been in the family since 1852. It is open to the public between April and July every year and it has been said that the Queen and other members of the Royal Family spend time in the castle every August when it is closed to visitors.

Balmoral castle is located in Crathie, 14km west of Ballatar.

Tickets – Adult £15

Craigievar Castle

Craigievar Castle quickly became one of our favourite castles on our NE250 itinerary. The gorgeous pink colour is said to have been the inspiration for Cinderella’s castle and we can see why! Craigievar Castle is one of the most loved and well kept castles in Scotland and the exterior remains pretty much unchanged since it was built in 1626.

The castle is open to visitors on a first come first serve basis at the moment. We would recommend arriving early to avoid disappointment as when we visited, there was a 2 hour wait to enter inside the castle. There is also a kiosk and toilet facilities

The property is owned by the National Trust for Scotland, therefore if you are a member you will have free entry and parking. There is a small car park and overflow parking, costing £3.

Tickets – Adult £15.50

girl in front of craigievar castle aberdeenshire
craigievar castle scotland

Old Slains Castle

Old Slains Castle is a castle ruin located near Collieston. The Castle was built during the fourteenth century, overlooking the north sea. in 1594, the castle was destroyed during a retaliation.

Today, Old Slains Castle consists of the partial remains of a fourteenth century Tower House and leaves only a small part of the original building. 

Tickets – free

New Slains Castle

The phenomenal ruins of New Slains Castle lie on the east coast, just outside of Cruden Bay. There is a small, free car park at the side of the road and the walk to the castle is around 1km on a flat path. 

New Slains Castle was built in the 16th century, however, there has been significant reconstruction to the castle over the years.

The ruins are large with many beautiful views looking out to see. You will be able to see that one day there was a second floor in place, however this is not in place today and it is only possible to explore the ground floor. 

Tickets – free.

new slains castle


Your trip to Scotland will be a lot more comfortable with a midge net and midge spray. These little biting bugs can be enough to ruin a trip if you don’t have the equipment to protect yourself from them. A repelling candle can also be helpful if you are sitting oustide.

Check out the prices of them here.

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Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle has been on our bucket list for a while, so even though it is slightly off the NE250 route, it is well worth a visit whilst you are in this part of Scotland. It is located a short drive from Stonehaven.

Dunnottar Castle was built in the 14th century and used until the 17th century. It was also once lived in by the most powerful family in Scotland, the Keiths.

Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the castle (note: they only accept card payments). The tickets allow you entry into the castle grounds, however you can still get some cracking photos without a ticket.

Tickets – Adult £10.50

dunnottar castle

Fyvie Castle

Located in the heart of Aberdeenshire, Fyvie Castle is a fine example of Scottish Baronial architecture. The earliest information about Fyvie Castle dates back to the 13th century when it was the site of an open-air court held by Robert the Bruce.

The castle grounds are extremely picturesque and there is even a beautiful lake and gardens that are very pleasant for a walk around. 

Fyvie Castle is part of the National Trust for Scotland therefore if you are a member, you will get entry into the castle and parking for free. If you are not a member then you will need to pay £3 for parking.

Tickets – Adult £15.50

fyvie castle

Castle Fraser Garden and Estate

Castle Fraser is one of the largest tower houses in Scotland and is a castle we would definitely recommend visiting on the NE250 road trip. It is part of the National Trust for Scotland therefore if you are a member, you will get entry into the castle and parking for free. If you are not a member then you will need to pay £3 for parking.

Within the castle grounds there are some beautiful walks as well as the walled gardens and a children’s play area. You don’t have to pay to access these areas and if you are short on time it is even just a beautiful place to stop and take some photos. There is also a tearoom in the castle and toilet facilities.

Tickets – Adult £15.50

couple walking towards castle fraser scotland
castle fraser scotland

Before You Leave on the North East 250

Before you head off on your trip around the NE250, there are certain things you will need to get organised to ensure a smooth trip. These include how to get around the route, including being aware of single track roads, etc., what to pack for Scotland, where to stay along the route and what travel insurance to book.

How Do I Get Around the NE250?

Given the reasonably remote location of the NE250 and the majority of the sights along the route, the best way to get around this road trip is by driving. There are of course other methods that are still popular, such as cycling and hiking, however, if you have a short amount of time on the route, neither of these are very suitable.

As for public transport, this isn’t completely impossible, it is just a lot more difficult.

If you are looking to rent a cosy, reliable and luxurious campervan for your trip around the NE250, we highly recommend hiring through Spaceships Rentals.

Browse the full range of vehicles on offer at Spaceships over here.

girl walking towards craigievar castle aberdeenshire

What Should I Pack for the NE250?

When it comes to packing for a trip along the NE250 there is one item of clothing that you are going to need all year round: a waterproof. It rains in Scotland on average 250 days a year, meaning that during your 7-day NE250 road trip you will probably experience at least a drizzle of rain. Due to this, the number one item on any Scotland packing list is a good waterproof jacket.

As for the rest of the year, the temperature in Scotland and the central heartlands is reasonably mild for most of the year. During the winter months, you will most likely experience snow, however, temperatures usually sit around freezing, so it is not too cold. For your reference, the average temperatures in Scotland are listed below during each season.

Spring (March, April, May) – 5-10 degrees C

Summer (June, July, August) – 15 degrees C

Autumn (September, October, November) – 5-10 degrees C

Winter (December, January, February) – 0-5 degrees C

As you can see, the weather never really gets above the teens, with anything over 25 degrees C considered a heatwave. The best way to pack for your trip to the highlands is with layers that can be added and removed as you need them. You will definitely need a hat and gloves during the colder months and will most likely need sunscreen to protect you on the long days in the open.

It is also important to stay hydrated, especially when you are out exploring in the marvellous landscape of Scotland. We use Water to Go water bottles to fill up with water from running streams when we are hiking.

For our full list of items that we pack no matter where we go in the world, check out our full packing guides over here.

Given the beautiful sights and scenery that you are no doubt going to see around Scotland, we highly recommend packing a good camera for your trip. If you want to read more about the cameras we use and why we love them, check out the link below.

You can read what else we keep in our camera bag over here.

Where Should I Stay in Aberdeen?

LuxuryResidence Inn by Marriott Aberdeen is a luxury hotel in the city of Aberdeen. It is within 20 minutes walk of the beach front and has free wifi, a gym and laundry facilities on site. The best things about this hotel might just be that it was rated highly for the comfort of the beds!

Book your stay at Residence Inn by Marriott Aberdeen here.

Mid-range – The Jurys Inn Aberdeen is located a stones throw away from the city centre shops, bars and restaurants. All rooms have air conditioning, a TV, hairdryer and most importantly, a comfortable bed.

Book your stay at the Jurys Inn Aberdeen here.

BudgetThe Station Hotel sits opposite the train station in Aberdeen and is a fantastic budget option for your trip to the city. Each room is equipped with a TV and tea/coffee making facilities as well as having it’s own private bathroom.

Book your stay at The Station Hotel here.

building in aberdeen city centre

What is the Best Travel Insurance?

We know travel insurance is the least enjoyable thing to purchase and look at when you’re planning a trip, however, you wouldn’t want to be without it in the event that something happened. Accidents can happen anywhere and the extortionate medical bills will ruin your trip if you are not covered.

To ensure you have a stress-free trip with no worries about potential medical bills, make sure you cover yourself when you travel. We can recommend using SafetyWing, a backpacker-friendly and cheap insurance company that provides good coverage and support. It is also nomad-friendly, unlike most other insurance companies, meaning you do not need to worry about being out of your home country for too long.

Get a quote for your travel insurance right here and get covered!

Are you planning to visit more of Scotland on your trip? Why not check out our books to help you plan your trip? 

So there you have it, all of the best castles to see in Aberdeenshire along the North East 250. If you have visited the this part of Scotland recently, let us know what you thought of the sights listed above, or if you have any suggestions let us know in the comments below.

As always, sharing is caring so make sure to share this photo guide with your family and friends and inspire them to head off on their own North Coast 500 adventure. If you are planning the trip for yourself, make sure you have a look at the rest of our Scotland content for more inspiration to our beautiful home country.

When you set off on your own adventure, be sure to tag us in your photos on Instagram and we will share them with the rest of our community. In the meantime, why not follow us over there to see what we are currently up to and keep up with us on our Instagram Stories.

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