This article examines the cultural misinterpretations that followed from the Scottish nobles’ fondness for adopting the title and martial appearance of castles for their Renaissance country seats. It examines the distortions and misunderstandings that led to the continuing presumption that Scotland did not participate in the European architectural Renaissance. Using contemporary sources, the buildings themselves and recent research, it offers a cultural explanation for the seemingly martial nature of Scottish architecture in terms of expressing rank and lineage, and proclaiming political allegiance. It suggests that a reinterpretation of such buildings as self-sustaining country seats can offer much to other social and cultural aspects of British history of that period. It concludes by suggesting that the architecture of the late seventeenth century, far from indicating a classicization or assimilation with England, represented the apogee of a confident national architecture.