Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress located upon a rocky headland on the north-east coast of Scotland, about 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) south of Stonehaven. The surviving buildings are largely of the 15th and 16th centuries, but the site is believed to have been fortified in the Early Middle Ages. Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and the strength of its situation. Dunnottar is best known as the place where the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish crown jewels, were hidden from Oliver Cromwell's invading army in the 17th century. The property of the Keiths from the 14th century, and the seat of the Earl Marischal, Dunnottar declined after the last Earl forfeited his titles by taking part in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. The castle was restored in the 20th century and is now open to the public.
The ruins of the castle are spread over 1.4 hectares (3.5 acres), surrounded by steep cliffs that drop to the North Sea, 50 metres (160 ft) below. A narrow strip of land joins the headland to the mainland, along which a steep path leads up to the gatehouse. The various buildings within the castle include the 14th-century tower house as well as the 16th-century palace. Dunnottar Castle is a scheduled monument, and twelve structures on the site are listed buildings.
Dunnottar's strategic location allowed its owners to control the coastal terrace between the North Sea cliffs and the hills of the Mounth, 3.5 kilometres (2.2 mi) inland, which enabled access to and from the north-east of Scotland. The site is accessed via a steep, 800-metre (2,600 ft) footpath (with modern staircases) from a car park on the coastal road, or via a 3-kilometre (1.9 mi) cliff-top path from Stonehaven. Dunnottar's several buildings, put up between the 13th and 17th centuries, are arranged across a headland covering around 1.4 hectares (3.5 acres). The dominant building, viewed from the land approach, is the 14th-century keep or tower house. The other principal buildings are the gatehouse; the chapel; and the 16th-century "palace" which incorporates the "Whigs' Vault".