If you love to learn more about history during your holidays, consider making the Scottish Highlands the destination for your next getaway. The northern region of Scotland has a high concentration of castles, and there's nowhere better to find out more about the area's past that at these historical fortifications.
Aboard a canal boat, follow the Caledonian Canal through the rugged landscape and stop at the striking castles that can be found along the way. If you're not sure which fortresses to call in at, read our guide below to help you decide.
The relatively modern Inverness Castle was built in 1835 on the site of a former structure, which stood here in the 11th century and is thought to have been the setting of Shakespeare's tragedy, Macbeth. The edifice was made from wood and you can still see the remains of the curtain wall and a restored well from the period.
In the 1500s, a stone structure replaced the wooden one but was destroyed by the Jacobite army in 1746. The current incarnation is the Sheriff's Court, and previously housed inmates as Inverness Jail.
When you visit, try to make it a late afternoon during the summer, so you're still in the area when the lone piper comes out to perform on the castle esplanade at 19:00 BST.
Situated on the edge of Loch Ness, Urqhart Castle is now in ruins after being destroyed in 1692. Make your way over a series of wooden bridges to reach the remains, which include a five-storey tower, remnants of the great hall, a small prison cell and a water gate.
The fortress dates back to 1230, when it was built by Alexander II. The building was the property of both the Scots and the English in its turbulent history, which saw it help defend Scottish sovereignty against the Macdonald clan.
Located on Balnagown River's southern bank, Balnagown Castle is the Ross family's ancient seat. Parts of the structure date back to the 15th century, while newer sections were added over the following years until 1838. When the castle's owner could no longer afford to maintain the building, it was sold and has since been restored by businessman Mohammed Al Fayed.
If you visit during a boating holiday in Scotland, keep a lookout for the two ghosts that are said to haunt the castle. The first is the spirit of 16th century laird Andrew Monroe, known as Black Andrew, and the second is the ghost of a murdered Scottish princess.
Known as the Queen Mother's favourite, Mey Castle was built in the 1500s by the fourth Earl of Caithness and sold to the Queen Mother after she fell in love with it on a visit in 1952. She saw to it that the building was restored to its former glory and even bought the adjacent property to extend the grounds.
The manicured gardens contain fruit and vegetables as well as pansies, marigolds and dahlias. The Queen Mother also grew her favourite old rose, Albertine here. If you visit, you can explore the castle and its grounds, as well as the animal centre in the old granary, where you'll find goats, waterfowl, sheep, a donkey and other creatures.
Located on the tidal island of Eilean Tioram in Loch Moidart, Tioram Castle was described by Winston Churchill as one of the most beautiful places he had ever come across. You can access the island during low tide and explore remains of the castle, which is the ancestral home of the Macdonalds of Clanranald.
The fortress was burnt ahead of the Jacobite uprising to prevent it falling into the hands of the Hanoverians but was never restored. Pay a visit to admire the curtain wall - which is thought to date from the 13th century - and the tower and interior buildings, which were put up between the 14th and 16th centuries.
Built for the dowager duchess of Sutherland Lady Mary, Carbisdale Castle was established between 1906 and 1917. Now housing a youth hostel, the building boasts some interesting features, like a window for every day of the year.
Inside are many paintings and statues, one of which can be rotated to reveal a hidden door to a secret passageway, and there are clocks on three faces of the tall tower but none facing the home of the Duchess's stepson, the fourth duke of Sutherland, who resided in Dunrobin Castle. It is believed she didn't even want to give him the time of day; such was the acrimony between the pair.