The loch and castle have a very long and colourful history. Loch Leven itself is an internationally recognised nature reserve and is the home to its very own subspecies of brown trout - salmo levenensis. The loch is about 14sq km in size, but was once considerably larger, having been partially drained between 1826 and 1836 to reclaim land for more local farming.

Lochleven Castle, on Castle Island, was believed to be constructed in 1257. Today it is one the most important medieval castles in Scotland and is one of the jewels of the Kinross House Estate.

Between 1296 – 1328 the invading English army held the castle during the First War of Scottish Independence. Parts of the present fortification are thought to be built by the English, however the castle was captured by the Scots before the end of the 13th century, possibly by the now famous forces of Sir William Wallace. Lochleven Castle became one of only five castles holding out against the English at the time.

King Robert II visited the castle in 1369.

Mary Queen of Scots first visited Lochleven Castle in 1561 as a guest of the owner, Sir William Douglas and it was at the castle she debated the Scottish Reformation with John Knox. She later returned to the castle as a prisoner between 1567 and 1568 and was forced to abdicate the throne in favour of her infant son, James VI during her captivity. Dramatically, she escaped across the loch and went into exile in England, never to return to Scotland again.

The castle remained in the ownership of the Douglas family, Earls of Morton, until it was purchased by Sir William Bruce who used the castle as the eastern most focal part of his famous designed landscape.