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Exploring the Clifftop Ruins of Scotland’s Dunnottar Castle

For more photos and videos from the ruins, explore the Dunnottar Castle location page.

On Scotland’s northeast coast, the ruins of Dunnottar Castle keep silent watch over the North Sea. Thought to have been built around the sixth century as Dùn Fhoithear, the fortress occupies 1.4 hectares (3.5 acres) on a clifftop 50 meters (160 feet) above the rocky coast below. A national landmark since 1970, the castle draws local and visiting Instagrammers alike to its scenic views and rich history.

From the 13th through the 18th century, Dunnottar was the home of the Keith family, Earls Marischal of Scotland—custodians of the Honours of Scotland (the crown jewels, sword and scepter). When Charles II was crowned King in the Scottish Parliament during the height of the English Civil Wars, the crown jewels used during the coronation could not be returned to Edinburgh as Oliver Cromwell’s English forces advanced in the region. For safekeeping, they were carried to Dunnottar in sacks of wool, where they remained during Cromwell’s eight-month blockade of the castle. Though Cromwell was ultimately victorious in defeating the last remaining Scottish stronghold, the jewels were smuggled out and hidden under an old church in Kinneff where they remained until Charles II regained the throne in 1660.

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