Medieval castles in Scotland

Cubbie Roo's Castle Ruins

Cubbie Roo"s Castle, built about 1150, is one of the oldest castles in Scotland and was mentioned in the Orkneyinga Saga. It takes its name from Kolbein Hruga who was said to have lived there. In King Haakon"s saga, it is mentioned that after the last Norse Earl of Orkney, Earl John, was murdered in Thurso, his killers fled to Wyre. They took refuge in the castle, which was so strong that the besiegers had to th ...
Founded: c. 1150 | Location: Orkney, United Kingdom

Muchalls Castle

Muchalls Castle stands overlooking the North Sea in the countryside of Kincardine and Mearns. The lower course is a well preserved Romanesque, double-groined 13th century towerhouse structure, built by the Frasers of Muchalls. Upon this structure, the 17th-century castle was begun by Alexander Burnett of Leys and completed by his son, Sir Thomas Burnett, 1st Baronet, in 1627. The Burnetts of Leys built the remain ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Muchalls, United Kingdom

Finavon Castle

Finavon estate was the property of the Lindsay Earls of Crawford from 1375, who built the now-ruined castle. David Lindsay, 10th Earl of Crawford, married Margaret, the daughter of Cardinal David Beaton, at Finavon in 1546. Extravagance ruined the Crawford fortunes, and in 1625 the barony of Finavon was disposed of by a forced sale to Alexander Lindsay, 2nd Lord Spynie. It passed through the Carnegie family, the Gordo ...
Founded: 1375 | Location: Finavon, United Kingdom

Guthrie Castle

Guthrie Castle dates back to the 15th century, although much of the present building is of 19th-century origin. It is now a private house. Guthrie Castle comprises a tower house, originally built by Sir David Guthrie (1435–1500), Treasurer and Lord Justice-General of Scotland, in 1468. The Guthrie family later built a house beside the tower. In 1848, the two were linked by a baronial style expansion, to designs by Davi ...
Founded: 1468 | Location: Forfar, United Kingdom

Dounreay Castle Ruins

Dounreay Castle dates from the late 16th century, and is one of the few remaining examples of a Scottish Laird’s castle from that period. William Sinclair of Dunbeath, descended from a younger brother of John Sinclair, third Earl of Caithness, built the castle in the 1560s. It was damaged in 1651 by Oliver Cromwell’s New Model Army during their Scottish campaign. Now entirely ruined, the castle was still inhab ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Forse Castle Ruins

Forse Castle ruins dates from c. 1200 in the hamlet of Forse. The castle stands on a peninsula about 50 metres above sea level. It is surrounded on all sides by steep rocks and is cut off from the mainland by a natural ditch at the neck of the peninsula. Forse Castle was the stronghold of the Sutherland of Forse family, a cadet branch of the Clan Sutherland. They lived in it until around 1600.
Founded: c. 1200 | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Udny Castle

The exact construction date of Udny Castle is unknown, but its foundations probably date from the late 14th or early 15th century. The castle was abandoned sometime around 1775 then repair work was undertaken in 1801. In 1964, restoration work was begun on the original tower house and the mansion house was demolished.
Founded: 15th century | Location: Pitmedden, United Kingdom

Auchterhouse Castle

Auchterhouse Castle is a 13th century castle located northwest of Dundee, Angus. The original castle was enclosed with walls, towers, and contained a keep. The castle may have been in ownership of the Ramsay family, who were hereditary Sheriffs of Angus. Sir William Wallace is alleged to have stayed at the castle and one its towers was named in his honour. King Edward I of England spent the night of the 20 July 1303 at th ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Dundee, United Kingdom

Dunbeath Castle

Dunbeath castle is first recorded on the rocky peninsula at Dunbeath in 1428, when the lands belonged to the Earl of Caithness. The first recorded laird was Alexander Sutherland. It later became the property of the Clan Sinclair through the marriage of the daughter of Alexander Sutherland to William Sinclair (1410–1484), the first Sinclair Earl of Caithness. The Sinclairs replaced the earlier structure with a four-store ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Whitefield Castle

Whitefield Castle is a ruined L-plan tower-house on the hill above the village of Kirkmichael in Strath Ardle. Built in the 12th century by Malcolm Canmore as a hunting lodge, it was expanded in 1577 by the Spalding family. It is now ruinous. The castle also has a ley tunnel legend, a tradition often found associated with ancient residences. This tunnel was said to link up with nearby Ashintully Castle.
Founded: 12th century | Location: Blairgowrie and Rattray, United Kingdom

Castle Grant

Castle Grant was the former seat of the Clan Grant chiefs of Strathspey in Highlands. The castle is a Z-plan tower house that dates from the fifteenth century. The lands had been held by the Clan Comyn but passed to the Grants in the fifteenth century and it became their main stronghold. Although the Grants were Protestants they joined James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose during the Scottish Civil War in the 1640s. The ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Highland, United Kingdom

Cairnbulg Castle

Cairnbulg Castle is a z-plan castle situated in Cairnbulg, Aberdeenshire. Originally known as Philorth Castle, it was built in the early 14th century, destroyed in the winter of 1308–1309 in the Wars of Independence, and re-built by the Fraser family in 1380. Subsequently, a courtyard and outbuildings were added to the main tower. It is now open to the public by appointment only. Flora Fraser, 21st Lady Saltoun ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Cairnbulg, United Kingdom

Kinnairdy Castle

Kinnairdy Castle is built on land that belonged to the Innes family from the late 14th century; an earlier tower was probably built in about 1420, that replaced a wooden motte and bailey structure. The castle was sold by the Innes family to Sir James Crichton of Frendraught in 1629. Subsequently it came to the Reverend John Gregory in 1647, then passed to his brother David, a doctor who has been claimed to be const ...
Founded: 1420 | Location: Aberchirder, United Kingdom

Lauriston Castle

Once a royal fortress, Lauriston Castle can claim to be one of the oldest privately owned and inhabited castles in the region. By tradition, it was the stronghold of Giric, or Gregory the Great, one of the last of the Pictish kings (AD 878–889). The site of his church of Ecclesgreig is nearby and he gave his Latin name, Ciricius, to St. Cyrus. Lauriston’s first charter is dated 1243 and it soon developed into a c ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: St Cyrus, United Kingdom

Ardgowan Castle

Ardgowan Castle is located in the grounds of Ardgowan House near Inverkip. In 1306, Inverkip was besieged by supporters of Robert Bruce, led by Robert Boyd of Cunningham. In 1403, King Robert III granted the lands of Ardgowan to his natural son, Sir John Stewart. The castle is dated to the late 15th century. In 1667 Archibald Stewart was created a baronet. The 3rd baronet married, in 1730, Helen Houston, heiress ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Inverkip, United Kingdom

Ballumbie Castle

Ballumbie Castle was built by the Lovell family in the 14th-16th centuries. The castle comprised a rectangular enclosure, approximately 21 metres on a side, with round corner towers, overlooking the Fithie Burn. In the early 17th century it passed to the Maule family, who became Earls of Panmure in 1646. The castle was reported as being ruined by 1682, although the remaining east and south walls were later incorporated i ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Dundee, United Kingdom

Inverquharity Castle

Inverquharity Castle is a 15th-century tower house in Angus, Scotland. It lies around 4.5 kilometres (2.8 mi) north-east of Kirriemuir near the River South Esk. The lands of Inverquharity came to the Ogilvie family around 1420. The castle was first constructed as a rectangular tower in the 1440s, by Alexander Ogilvie, 2nd Lord Inverquharity. In the 16th century a wing was added to form a four-storey L-plan cas ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Kirriemuir, United Kingdom

Fordell Castle

Fordell Castle is a restored 16th-century tower house. The earliest charter in the Henderson of Fordell papers dates from 1217. It is not known when the original castle structure was constructed, but the main entrance tower is believed to date from the 1400s. James Henderson, 3rd of Fordell, started to extend the castle in 1566. In 1568 the castle was damaged by fire, then rebuilt. Evidence of the fire can be seen to the ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Dunfermline, United Kingdom

Plean Castle

Plean Tower comprises a small oblong tower house probably dating from the 15th century, and an adjoining 16th-century manor house. Robert Bruce granted the barony of Plean, or Plane, to John d’Erth soon after 1314. The castle was probably built by Lord Somerville, who acquired the lands of Plean in 1449, through marriage. An adjoining manor house was built in about 1528. In 1643 James Somervell, 8th Lord of Plane, sol ...
Founded: 15th century | Location: Stirling, United Kingdom

Balthayock Castle

Balthayock Castle is a medieval tower built in late 14th century. It is said to have been owned by family of Blair since the time of William I (1165-1214). It was very ruinous prior to 1870. James Maclaren saved the tower by building the present battlements, modern roof, caphouse, forestair to the entrance and also altered the interior. It was inhabited until the middle of the last century. It is now unoccupied but is in ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Perth, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Veste Coburg

The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles. The hill on which the fortress stands was inhabited from the Neolithic to the early Middle Ages according to the results of excavations. The first documentary mention of Coburg occurs in 1056, in a gift by Richeza of Lotharingia. Richeza gave her properties to Anno II, Archbishop of Cologne, to allow the creation of Saalfeld Abbey in 1071. In 1075, a chapel dedicated to Saint Peter and Saint Paul is mentioned on the fortified Coberg. This document also refers to a Vogt named Gerhart, implying that the local possessions of the Saalfeld Benedictines were administered from the hill.

A document signed by Pope Honorius II in 1206 refers to a mons coburg, a hill settlement. In the 13th century, the hill overlooked the town of Trufalistat (Coburg's predecessor) and the important trade route from Nuremberg via Erfurt to Leipzig. A document dated from 1225 uses the term schloss (palace) for the first time. At the time, the town was controlled by the Dukes of Merania. They were followed in 1248 by the Counts of Henneberg who ruled Coburg until 1353, save for a period from 1292-1312, when the House of Ascania was in charge.

In 1353, Coburg fell to Friedrich, Markgraf von Meißen of the House of Wettin. His successor, Friedrich der Streitbare was awarded the status of Elector of Saxony in 1423. As a result of the Hussite Wars the fortifications of the Veste were expanded in 1430.

Early modern times through Thirty Years' War

In 1485, in the Partition of Leipzig, Veste Coburg fell to the Ernestine branch of the family. A year later, Elector Friedrich der Weise and Johann der Beständige took over the rule of Coburg. Johann used the Veste as a residence from 1499. In 1506/07, Lucas Cranach the Elder lived and worked in the Veste. From April to October 1530, during the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther sought protection at the Veste, as he was under an Imperial ban at the time. Whilst he stayed at the fortress, Luther continued with his work translating the Bible into German. In 1547, Johann Ernst moved the residence of the ducal family to a more convenient and fashionable location, Ehrenburg Palace in the town centre of Coburg. The Veste now only served as a fortification.

In the further splitting of the Ernestine line, Coburg became the seat of the Herzogtum von Sachsen-Coburg, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg. The first duke was Johann Casimir (1564-1633), who modernized the fortifications. In 1632, the fortress was unsuccessfully besieged by Imperial and Bavarian forces commanded by Albrecht von Wallenstein for seven days during the Thirty Years' War. Its defence was commanded by Georg Christoph von Taupadel. On 17 March 1635, after a renewed siege of five months' duration, the Veste was handed over to the Imperials under Guillaume de Lamboy.

17th through 19th centuries

From 1638-72, Coburg and the Veste were part of the Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1672, they passed to the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha and in 1735 it was joined to the Duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld. Following the introduction of Primogeniture by Duke Franz Josias (1697-1764), Coburg went by way of Ernst Friedrich (1724-1800) to Franz (1750-1806), noted art collector, and to Duke Ernst III (1784-1844), who remodeled the castle.

In 1826, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was created and Ernst now styled himself 'Ernst I'. Military use of the Veste had ceased by 1700 and outer fortifications had been demolished in 1803-38. From 1838-60, Ernst had the run-down fortress converted into a Gothic revival residence. In 1860, use of the Zeughaus as a prison (since 1782) was discontinued. Through a successful policy of political marriages, the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha established links with several of the major European dynasties, including that of the United Kingdom.

20th century

The dynasty ended with the reign of Herzog Carl Eduard (1884-1954), also known as Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a grandson of Queen Victoria, who until 1919 also was the 2nd Duke of Albany in the United Kingdom. Under his rule, many changes made to the Veste in the 19th century were reversed under architect Bodo Ebhardt, with the aim of restoring a more authentic medieval look. Along with the other ruling princes of Germany, Carl Eduard was deposed in the revolution of 1918-1919. After Carl Eduard abdicated in late 1918, the Veste came into possession of the state of Bavaria, but the former duke was allowed to live there until his death. The works of art collected by the family were gifted to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation, which today runs the museum.

In 1945, the Veste was seriously damaged by artillery fire in the final days of World War II. After 1946, renovation works were undertaken by the new owner, the Bayerische Verwaltung der staatlichen Schlösser, Gärten und Seen.

Today

The Veste is open to the public and today houses museums, including a collection art objects and paintings that belonged to the ducal family of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, a large collection of arms and armor, significant examples of early modern coaches and sleighs, and important collections of prints, drawings and coins.