Dalhousie Castle was the seat of the Earls of Dalhousie, the chieftains of Clan Ramsay. The patriarch of the clan was Simundus de Ramesie (Simon of Ramsey), an English knight of Norman descent from the Huntingdonshire village of Ramsey. Simundus, a vassal of David, Earl of Huntingdon, followed his lord to Scotland in about 1140, when David inherited the Scottish crown. He is considered the founder of the Ramsay clan and the first to have lands at Dalwolsey.

The first castle at Dalhousie was constructed by him. The red stone castle is situated in a strategic spot overlooking the River Esk. The drum tower, the oldest part of the current structure, an L Plan Castle, dates to the mid 15th century. The majority of the current castle dates to the 17th century. There was originally a dry moat surrounding the castle. The moat was later filled in but partially excavated in the late 20th century.

Dalhousie Castle has seen much history. King Edward I (Longshanks) stayed at the castle on his way to meet Sir William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. In 1400, Sir Alexander Ramsay withstood a six-month siege at Dalhousie by English forces led by King Henry IV. Oliver Cromwell used the castle as a base for his invasion of Scotland. Many Earls of Dalhousie have taken an active part in British political and military leadership.

Around 1800, Walter Nicol designed the new layout of the walled garden.

At the turn of the 20th century, the seat of Clan Ramsay was moved to Brechin Castle, although the Ramsay family continued to retain ownership of the castle until 1977. At the time of the sale, Dalhousie had been in the same family for more than eight centuries, longer than any other castle in Scotland. Throughout the 20th century, the castle was leased out to a series of tenants, including a boarding school. In 1972, the castle was converted into a hotel. In 2003, Dalhousie Castle was purchased by the Von Essen Hotels company.

On 26 June 2004, a major fire erupted in the castle's roof area. The building was evacuated and the Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade were called to extinguish the blaze. The damage was significant but limited to a relatively small area of the building, and no major structural damage occurred. The damage was repaired and the hotel resumed normal operations.

In April 2011, Von Essen Hotels fell into administration. In March 2012, it was announced that Robert Parker, owner of Doxford, Eshott and Guyzance Hall in Northumberland, had purchased Dalhousie Castle for an undisclosed sum.



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Cockpen, United Kingdom
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Founded: 15th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Ross Hartill (#scottishmadlad) (7 months ago)
A charming local Castle in a beautiful setting and easily accessible if your visiting Edinburgh. My Mum and I stopped in for High Tea, wonderful and plenty to enjoy. If you finish your pot of tea they are more than happy to give you another. You’ll probably need another pot to wash down all of the tasty food.
Alison Slack (7 months ago)
The castle itself is interesting. Accommodation was adequate, although I have to say the shower was extremely good and the towels. We only had breakfast during our stay, not the best quality we have had. If you are staying during the winter months, we would recommend taking a torch with you. No lighting in the car park or at the entrance to the castle. The reception desk has no sight of the front door, so anyone can wonder in.
Christopher McGhee (8 months ago)
It has been a couple of years but my wife and I visited Dalhousie for a mini honeymoon in 2017. We stayed in the tower room which was excellent. We spent 3 nights. On the first, we had room service which was very good quality. The wine choices are excellent. On the Second, we ate in the dungeon dinning room. The event of meeting in the library bar for drinks first and then moving down was good. The food was very good and the service excellent. Part of the castle appeal is the history and when you wander around and get to see some history it is very good. There are stories abound about the castle and the family tree painting that links to the royal families it is very good.
Vivien Csiszár (8 months ago)
My boyfriend surprised me for a weekend away for our anniversary to stay in the Dalhousie Castle. I must say it does have the "wow" effect! Very unique experience, the place is quite remote and quiet therefore super relaxing! Food was delicious and creative, the walk around the castle absolutely lovely! My only dislike was the service is just not what you would expect at this price point.
Bruce (8 months ago)
Really great experience. Brilliant spa, rooms and castle overall. Highly recommend the Dungeons for dinner, the food was faultless and incredible.
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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.