Medieval castles in Scotland

Kilchurn Castle

Kilchurn Castle is a ruined 15th and 17th century structure on a rocky peninsula at the northeastern end of Loch Awe. It was the ancestral home of the Campbells of Glen Orchy, who later became the Earls of Breadalbane also known as the Breadalbane family branch, of the Clan Campbell. The earliest construction on the castle was the towerhouse and Laich Hall. Kilchurn Castle was built in about 1450 by Sir Colin Campbell, f ...
Founded: c. 1450 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton Castle has the longest recorded history of any stronghold in Scotland. It overlooks the Scottish town of Dumbarton and guards the point where the River Leven joins the River Clyde. Its recorded history reaches back 1,500 years. At that time the place was known as Alt Clut, ‘Rock of the Clyde’. Later it became known by the Gaelic name Dun Breatann, ‘Fortress of the Britons’, from which the ...
Founded: c. 1220 | Location: Dumbarton, United Kingdom

Bothwell Castle

Bothwell Castle is a large medieval castle, sited on a high, steep bank, above a bend in the River Clyde. Construction of the castle was begun in the 13th century by the ancestors of Clan Murray, to guard a strategic crossing point of the Clyde. Bothwell played a key role in Scotland's Wars of Independence, changing hands several times. The huge cylindrical donjon was built in the 13th century, but before the rest of the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Bothwell, United Kingdom

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle is one of the oldest stone castles in Scotland. It guards the seaward approach from the Firth of Lorn to the Pass of Brander – and thereby the heart of Scotland. The castle was built around 1220, probably by Duncan MacDougall, son of Dubhgall, Lord of Lorn, and grandson of the great Somerled ‘King of the Isles’. These were stirring times in Argyll, because of the remarkable struggle b ...
Founded: c. 1220 | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Castle Campbell

Castle Campbell was the lowland seat of the earls and dukes of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, from the 15th to the 19th century. The naturally defended position may have been the site of a motte in the 12th century. The present tower was built in around 1430 for John Stewart, Lord Lorne (d.1463), or one of his kinsmen. About 1460, the property was acquired by Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll (d.1493), on his marriage ...
Founded: c. 1430 | Location: Dollar, United Kingdom

Rothesay Castle Ruins

Rothesay Castle ruins has been described as one of the most remarkable in Scotland for its long history dating back to the beginning of the 13th century, and its unusual circular plan. The castle comprises a huge curtain wall, strengthened by four round towers, together with a 16th-century forework, the whole surrounded by a broad moat. Built by the Stewart family, it survived Norse attacks to become a royal residence. Th ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Rothesay, United Kingdom

Newark Castle

Newark Castle is a well-preserved castle sited on the south shore of the estuary of the River Clyde in Port Glasgow, Inverclyde. For centuries this location was used to offload seagoing ships, and led to the growth of Port Glasgow close to the castle on either side and to the south. When dredging techniques made the Clyde navigable as far as Glasgow the port became a shipbuilding centre, and the castle was surrou ...
Founded: 1478 | Location: Port Glasgow, United Kingdom

Inverlochy Castle Ruins

Inverlochy Castle was built around 1280 by the powerful ‘Red’ Comyns, lords of Badenoch and Lochaber, to command the southern end of the Great Glen. The site of two battles, the castle remains largely unchanged since its construction. The moat that surrounded the castle has long gone but the location at the western end of the Great Glen and natural defensive postion against the River Lochy gave Inverlochy cas ...
Founded: c. 1280 | Location: Fort William, United Kingdom

Dudhope Castle

Dudhope Castle was originally built in the late 13th century by the Scrymgeour family. This was replaced around 1460. James V visited in April 1540. The castle was further extended in 1580 for James Scrimgeour and Magdalen Livingstone to its current L-plan structure with additional circular 'angle' towers, although these were demolished in the 18th century. During the centuries Dudhope Castle was held by four ...
Founded: 1460 | Location: Dundee, United Kingdom

Lochranza Castle

Lochranza Castle dates from the 13th century when it was owned by the MacSweens. In 1262, King Alexander III granted the castle and its lands to Walter Stewart, the Earl of Menteith. It is believed that Robert the Bruce landed at Lochranza in 1306 on his return from Ireland to claim the Scottish throne. By 1371, the castle was the property of Robert II. It is thought that at this time it was used as a royal hunting lodge. ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Isle of Arran, United Kingdom

Fyvie Castle

The earliest parts of Fyvie Castle date from the 13th century – some sources claim it was built in 1211 by William the Lion. Fyvie was the site of an open-air court held by Robert the Bruce, and Charles I lived there as a child. Following the Battle of Otterburn in 1390, it ceased to be a royal stronghold and instead fell into the possession of five successive families, each of whom added a new tower to the castl ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Turriff, United Kingdom

Brodick Castle

Brodick Castle stands on a slope above the north side of Brodick Bay and under the shadow of Goatfell, which rises behind it. It can best be described as a strategically important castle developed over four centuries between the 1200s and the 1600s, with an 1800s stately home wrapped around it. The location was probably first used as a defensive site by the Vikings until they were driven from Arran, and the rest of the we ...
Founded: 1510 | Location: Isle of Arran, United Kingdom

Kellie Castle

The earliest records of Kellie go back to 1150 where it is mentioned in a charter issued by King David I. The first known owner was Robert of London, the illegitimate son of King William the Lion. None of the early buildings to have survived. The estate was signed over to a Siward relative, Walter Oliphant, in 1360 and the castle remained in the ownership of the Oliphant family until 1613. It was purchased by Sir Thomas ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Carnbee, United Kingdom

Dundonald Castle

Dundonald Castle is situated on a hill overlooking the village of Dundonald, between Kilmarnock and Troon. Dundonald Castle is a fortified tower house built for Robert II on his accession to the throne of Scotland in 1371 and it was used as a royal residence by Robert II and his son Robert III. The present castle stands on land where evidence suggests there was a hill fort. It is thought that a mixture of large timber-bu ...
Founded: 1371 | Location: Kilmarnock, United Kingdom

Balvaird Castle

Balvaird Castle is a particularly fine and complete example of a traditional late medieval Scottish tower house. It was built around the year 1495 for Sir Andrew Murray, a younger son of the family of Murray of Tullibardine. He acquired the lands of Balvaird through marriage to the heiress Margaret Barclay, a member of a wealthy family and daughter of James Barclay of Kippo. It is likely that Balvaird Castle was built on ...
Founded: 1495 | Location: Abernethy, United Kingdom

Skipness Castle Ruins

Skipness Castle was built in the early 13th century by the Clan MacSween with later fortifications and other additions made to the castle through the 13th, 14th and 16th centuries. The castle was garrisoned with royal troops in 1494 during King James IV of Scotland"s suppression of the Isles. Archibald Campbell, 2nd Earl of Argyll granted Skipness to his younger son Archibald Campbell in 1511. During the Wars of the ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Argyll and Bute, United Kingdom

Edzell Castle

Edzell Castle is a ruined 16th-century castle, with an early-17th-century walled garden. The first castle at Edzell was a timber motte and bailey structure, built to guard the mouth of Glenesk, a strategic pass leading north into the Highlands. The motte, or mound, is still visible 300 metres south-west of the present castle, and dates from the 12th century. It was the seat of the Abbott, or Abbe, family. The constructi ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Edzell, United Kingdom

Huntly Castle

Huntly Castle was the ancestral home of the chief of Clan Gordon, Earl of Huntly. Architecturally the castle consists of a well-preserved five-story tower with an adjoining great hall and supporting buildings. Areas of the original ornate facade and interior stonework remain. A mound in the grounds of the castle is all that remains of an earlier 12th century motte. Originally named Strathbogie, the castle was gra ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Huntly, United Kingdom

Duart Castle

Duart Castle dates back to the 13th century and is the seat of Clan MacLean. In 1647, Duart Castle was attacked and laid siege to by the Argyll government troops of Clan Campbell, but they were defeated and driven off by the Royalist troops of Clan MacLean. In September 1653, a Cromwellian task force of six ships anchored off the castle, but the Macleans had already fled to Tiree. A storm blew up on the 13 September and t ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Isle of Mull, United Kingdom

Balvenie Castle

Originally known as Mortlach, Balvenie Castle was built in the 12th century by a branch of the powerful Comyn family (the Black Comyns) and was extended and altered in the 15th and 16th centuries. The castle fell out of use following an attack by Robert the Bruce in 1308, which left the property uninhabitable. At some point in the 14th century the castle and estates of Balvenie passed to the Earl of Douglas. Nothing is d ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Dufftown, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Broch of Gurness

The Broch of Gurness is an Iron Age broch village. Settlement here began sometime between 500 and 200 BC. At the centre of the settlement is a stone tower or broch, which once probably reached a height of around 10 metres. Its interior is divided into sections by upright slabs. The tower features two skins of drystone walls, with stone-floored galleries in between. These are accessed by steps. Stone ledges suggest that there was once an upper storey with a timber floor. The roof would have been thatched, surrounded by a wall walk linked by stairs to the ground floor. The broch features two hearths and a subterranean stone cistern with steps leading down into it. It is thought to have some religious significance, relating to an Iron Age cult of the underground.

The remains of the central tower are up to 3.6 metres high, and the stone walls are up to 4.1 metres thick. The tower was likely inhabited by the principal family or clan of the area but also served as a last resort for the village in case of an attack.

The broch continued to be inhabited while it began to collapse and the original structures were altered. The cistern was filled in and the interior was repartitioned. The ruin visible today reflects this secondary phase of the broch's use.

The site is surrounded by three ditches cut out of the rock with stone ramparts, encircling an area of around 45 metres diameter. The remains of numerous small stone dwellings with small yards and sheds can be found between the inner ditch and the tower. These were built after the tower, but were a part of the settlement's initial conception. A 'main street' connects the outer entrance to the broch. The settlement is the best-preserved of all broch villages.

Pieces of a Roman amphora dating to before 60 AD were found here, lending weight to the record that a 'King of Orkney' submitted to Emperor Claudius at Colchester in 43 AD.

At some point after 100 AD the broch was abandoned and the ditches filled in. It is thought that settlement at the broch continued into the 5th century AD, the period known as Pictish times. By that time the broch was not used anymore and some of its stones were reused to build smaller dwellings on top of the earlier buildings. Until about the 8th century, the site was just a single farmstead.

In the 9th century, a Norse woman was buried at the site in a stone-lined grave with two bronze brooches and a sickle and knife made from iron. Other finds suggest that Norse men were buried here too.