Just being pinned down to one favourite castle is difficult as many places are great to visit for entirely different and very diverse reasons: location, architecture, significance, ghost story, weather, guides, how busy the place is, whether it is easy or difficult to visit, sometime the latter being more fun.
Taking into account all this, Dirleton Castle is my favourite castle.
Well, it is just a fantastic place, located in the neat and picturesque village in a pleasant corner of East Lothian. There are the colourful gardens and the looming yew trees on the walk up to the place. There is the grand drum tower, then the deep ditch spanned by the bridge to the entrance. There are the lord's chamber and the maze of rooms around the close. There are the views from the top of the tower. There are the cavernous vaults and the massive kitchen fireplaces. There is the enignatic buffet. There is the pitprison. And, of course, I visited when young, after my father had got his first car (a Hillman Superminx, which had a starting handle…).
Joyce and I have been there in all weathers, and all moods, once we were the only people in the place. Only sad thing is leaving.
So, all in all, my favourite castle…for now. Also see page for Dirleton.
I also love Aberdour, as we used to holiday near there every year as children, Craigievar, because of its largely unaltered interior, Dunnottar, because of the location, Warkworth, even though it is in England, Gylen, because we visit most years on holiday, Slains, explained elsewhere, Linlithgow Palace, because Scottish monarchs used to live there, Castle Menzies, because of the atmosphere, Caerlaverock, possibly the most romantic castle in Scotland, Kilchurn, despite the midges, Stirling and Edinburgh, despite the crowds, Kinneil House, those paintings, and Saltcoats, because I finally visited after some 40 years of driving by through Gullane. It was a beautiful day and the track down to the castle was emblossomed by hordes of red poppies (building work had just concluded).
And Moy Castle at Lochbuie on Mull, possibly the most beautiful setting ever on a cold brisk day in early April when it appeared unexpectedly as we walked along the beach.
Tomorrow it would be a different list, of course.
Not quite castles, but my favourite elegant mansion is Mellerstain, with its fantastic Adam interior and magnificent grounds, followed by Paxton House, Hill of Tarvit, Arniston and Newhailes. My favourite grand house is Mount Stuart, just dazzling, unsurpassed for opulence in Scotland, but followed by Gosford House, Blair, Cawdor, Dunrobin and sumptuous Floors.