Castles of Scotland
Scottish Castles and their history
Here begins the journey through the Land of Scotland. We will visit some of the most famous and beautiful Scottish Castles and learn a bit about their history along the way.
Castles on this page: Eilean Donan Castle, Craigievar Castle, Dondas Castle, Dunure Castle, Lews Castle, Invercauld Castle, and Braemar Castle.
Eilean Donan Castle (Gaelic for Island of Donan), is located on an island near the village of Dornie in the western Highlands of Scotland. Eilean Donan is probably named after St. Donan, a martyred Celtic saint who arrived in Scotland around 580 AD, and had several churches dedicated to him.
Eilean Donan Castle was built to defend against the Vikings in 1220 for Alexander II. The Vikings raided and controlled much of Scotland and the castle was built in the perfect strategic position for defense.
Eilean Donan has been the sight of much turmoil, having been occupied by several different clans and even Spanish troops. In 1719, forty-six Spanish soldiers who supported the Jacobites, were waiting at Eilean Donan for a delivery of weapons from Spain. The English found out about the plan and sent three frigates to stop the Spanish. They bombarded Eilean Donan Castle for three days, finding overtaking the castle difficult because of the thickness of the walls. Captain Herdman of the Enterprise, one of the frigates, decided to send his men directly to the castle to overtake it on foot. They succeeded in forcing the surrender of the Spanish troops. Captain Herdman and his troops then used gunpowder to blow up more of the castle. Eilean Donan Castle was left in a terrible state. It lay in ruins for nearly 200 years.
In 1911, the island was purchased by John MacRae-Gilstrap. He and his Clerk of Works, Farquar Macrae, then began the tedious and expensive task of restoring Eilean Donan using the old plans of the grounds as a reference. By 1932, Eilean Donan was restored. The MacRae family also formed a trust to care for this beautiful castle, and still belongs to the MacRae family. For visitor's information go to Eilean Donan.
Craigievar Castle is located near Alford, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Craigievar Castle is famous for its fairy tale appearance, which is accented by the surrounding Grampian Mountains.
The partially completed Craigievar Castle was purchased by William Forbes from the Mortimer family in 1620 who had earned the nickname "Danzig Willy" for his trading prowess in the Baltic. By 1626, the castle was complete and the castle was the residence of the Forbes family until it was given to the National Trust.
The interior of Craigievar Castle is as beautiful as the exterior, and is considered to have one of the most fantastic ceilings in Scotland. Craigievar Castle had at one time three more towers and a walled courtyard for defense, and one can imagine how magnificent that must have looked.
Craigievar Castle closed in 2006 for restoration, but is now reopened. Click here for visitor's information.
Large photo above courtesy of Isembard.
Dundas Castle is located in South Queensferry, Edinburgh. In 1416, James Dundas was given permission by the evil Duke of Albany to build a Keep. The Duke of Albany was infamous for imprisoning the king's eldest son, (the duke's own nephew) and starving him to death. King Malcom's second son, James, was sent to France for safety from his uncle, and returned to become King James I, of Scotland. The Dundas family supported the new King, and was given permission to expand the Keep in 1436. The Keep had a secret underground tunnel that probably led to the Carmelite Priory Church in South Queensferry.
In 1818, Henry Dundas replaced the Keep with the Dundas Castle, but it left the family nearly bankrupt, and Dundas Castle was put on the market in 1846. Dundas Castle was purchased by a gambler by the name of Mr. Russell, and then became the property of Stewart Clark in 1899.
In 1938, Dundas Castle was occupied by military forces during WWII. Dundas Castle was in the perfect position from which to protect the Forth Bridge, which was a military target of the Germans.
Sir Jack Stewart-Clark, great-grandson of Stewart Clark, inherited Dundas Castle in 1995, and began restoration of the castle in earnest. A great staircase was found during the restoration. It had been walled up for more than 300 years.
Oliver Cromwell was known to have visited Dundas and his statue stands at the main entrance to the Keep.
Dundas Castle is still privately owned, but can be exclusively yours for special events.
Click here for the homepage.
The large photo of Dundas Castle above is courtesy of Gary Henderson.
Dunure Castle is located in Ayrshire overlooking Ayr Bay in the Firth of Clyde on the west coast of Scotland. The exact dates of construction are unknown, and the ruined structure that stands now is dated to somewhere near the 15th and 16th centuries. A structure stood here in the 13th century, but doesn't stand here today. What is known about Dunure Castle is that the lands were granted to the Kennedy family in 1357(not ancestors of the American Kennedys). In 1509, David Kennedy was created 1st Earl of Cassillis and Dunure Castle was host to Mary Queen of Scots during her Royal Tour of West Scotland in 1563.
Dunure Castle has seen much treachery throughout it's history:
In 1429, Dunure Castle was the site of talks between John Mor MacDonald and James Campbell, who represented King James I. An argument ensued, which turned violent, and John Mor MacDonald was killed. To distance himself from the murder of John Mor MacDonald, King James I had James Campbell executed.
Gilbert Kennedy, 4th Earl of Cassillis also stole the lands of Glenluce. He convinced a Monk to forge the signatures on the land charter. After doing the Earl's bidding, the Monk was assassinated. To further cover his tracks, the Earl had the man who assassinated the Monk arrested and hung.
In 1570, the treacherous Gilbert Kennedy, 4th Earl of Cassilis, once again tried to steal land through unsavory acts. He claimed ownership of some of the lands near the Crossraguel Abbey. Alan Stewart, the lay Commendator to the Crossraguel Abbey, disputed the claim of the 4th Earl of Cassilis. Gilbert Kennedy (4th Earl of Cassilis) then kidnapped Alan Stewart and locked him in Dunure Castle. He had this poor unfortunate man tortured by roasting him alive on a spit over a fire. Alan Stewart gave in before being roasted to death, and signed the lands over to the Earl. Alan Stewart, badly burned, was then kept confined in Dunure Castle. He was eventually rescued by the Laird of Bargany after a fight, who settled the issue of the Abbey lands. Alan Stewart survived to old age, despite his horrid ordeal.
Dunure Castle was sadly used as a quarry, and now stands in ruins.
The large photo of Dunure Castle above is courtesy of Gordon Robertson.
Lews Castle is located west of the town of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, Scotland. A relatively new castle, building on Lews began in 1847, for Sir James Matheson, who owned the whole island.
In 1918, Lews Castle was bought by Lord Leverhulme, who greatly modernized Lews Castle. He installed electric lights, modern bathrooms, central heating, and an intercom system. He also extended the Ballroom by combining the original ballroom with a drawing room.
In 1923 Lord Leverhulme gifted Lews Castle and 64,000 acres of land to the people of Stornoway parish. The Stornoway Trust was established to manage this estate on behalf of the community.
Lews Castle was used to accommodate a Naval Air Squadron during World War II.
Large photo of Lews Castle above is courtesy of IslÃ£ndÃoy.
Invercauld Castle is located near Braemar and Balmoral, Aberdeenshire. While Invercauld Castle has been rebuilt and enlarged several times throughout its history, the building standing today dates back to the 13th century. Invercauld Castle has been the seat of the Clan Farquharson Chiefs since the 16th century.
In the 1700's Alexander Farquharson remodeled and enlarged Invercauld Castle and greatly improved the landscape. James Farquharson, further improved the landscape by planting over eighteen million trees on the Estate. Because of his foresight, these trees provided enough timber for the Aberdeen shipyards. Timber was not the only benefit, the surrounding forest experienced an explosion of game.
In the early 1800's, Invercauld became a regular host of the Highland Games, alternating with Mar Lodge and Braemar Castle. Click here for visitor's information.
Large photo above courtesy of Ade Milne.
Braemar Castle is located near Braemar in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Braemar Castle first belonged to the Earls of Mar, and was built in 1628 by John Erskine, the 7th Earl of Mar, to replace the older Kindrochit Castle.
During the Jacobite uprising, Braemar Castle became a strategic government garrison, and was burned by a supporter of the Jacobite cause, John Farquharson, (nicknamed the Black Colonel because of his weathered appearance). The burning of Braemar Castle resulted in the death of John Erskine. Braemar Castle was burned again in 1715 by royal troops, and was left in ruins.
In 1748, the ruinous Braemar Castle was leased to the government by the Clan Farquharson, who had bought the castle and surrounding lands.
In 1797 Braemar Castle was returned to the Clan Farquharson, and the restoration of the began. Braemar Castle is now the ancestral home of the Clan Farquharson, who occupy the castle today. Braemar Castle is a frequent host of the Highland Games, alternating with Mar Lodge and Invercauld Castle.
Large photo above courtesy of Goulash75.
For your travels in Scotland
Are you planning a trip to Scotland? Grab this must-have book. If you aren't planning a trip to this magnificent country, why not get the book anyways, so you can go their in your head.
You should see the places I've been to in my head. (Maybe I shouldn't have written that...)