Medieval castles in Scotland

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

Sundrum Castle

Sundrum Castle is located 1.5 kilometres north of Coylton. It was originally built in the 14th century for Sir Duncan Wallace, Sheriff of Ayr, and considered one of the oldest inhabited castles in Scotland. Long-term owners included the Cathcart family, and the Hamilton family, who expanded it the 1790s, incorporating the original keep into a mansion. It was further expanded in the early 20th century by Earnest Coats. Fo ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Coylton, United Kingdom

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

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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.