Muness Castle is the most northerly castle in Britain, built by Laurence Bruce, the half brother of Robert Stewart, the Earl of Orkney. Laurence Bruce was appointed Sheriff of Shetland and set to work with a corrupt and cruel enthusiasm that was characteristic of the family. When Robert Stewart was succeeded by his son Patrick, Laurence Bruce felt threatened by the change. He therefore started building Muness Castle in 1598, even before Patrick Stewart set to work on Scalloway Castle. Both castles were designed by Andrew Crawford.
Bruce had good reason to feel concerned for his safety. In 1608 Earl Patrick arrived in Unst with 36 men and artillery, intent on capturing or destroying the castle. They might well have succeeded had they not suddenly withdrawn for reasons that have never been explained, but it was only a temporary reprieve. In 1627 French raiders attacked and burned Muness Castle. It seems to have been repaired, but was no longer in use by end of the 17th century.
In 1713 the castle was rented to the Dutch East India Company to house the salvaged cargo from the Rhynenburgh, which was wrecked nearby. The Bruce family sold Muness Castle in 1718, and by 1750 its new owners had also abandoned it. The castle was roofless by 1774.
The remains of the castle consist of just over two storeys of a three-storey Z-plan arrangement, though the corner towers are circular rather than square, as is more usual with such castles. On the remaining two corners of the castle are outcrops of decorative corbelling that would originally have supported turrets at the second floor level.
In its heyday Muness Castle would have had a walled courtyard on its south west side, complete with ranges of outhouses probably comprising additional accommodation, a bakehouse, brewery, stables and perhaps a chapel. These have long since gone, though their stone is probably still on view in the nearby buildings.
A single well protected door in the south west wall of the castle gives access to the interior. The ground floor comprises a large kitchen and a series of cellars, one of which is now used to display decorative stones and loopholes from the castle.
The first floor comprises the main hall of Muness Castle, the centre of social and business life. At either end are chambers. The principal chamber is at the far end from the main stairs. And from here the remains of a private spiral staircase can be seen winding up towards the no longer present second floor.References:
The first historical record of Lednice locality dates from 1222. At that time there stood a Gothic fort with courtyard, which was lent by Czech King Václav I to Austrian nobleman Sigfried Sirotek in 1249.
At the end of the 13th century the Liechtensteins, originally from Styria, became holders of all of Lednice and of nearby Mikulov. They gradually acquired land on both sides of the Moravian-Austrian border. Members of the family most often found fame in military service, during the Renaissance they expanded their estates through economic activity. From the middle of the 15th century members of the family occupied the highest offices in the land. However, the family’s position in Moravia really changed under the brothers Karel, Maximilian, and Gundakar of Liechtenstein. Through marriage Karel and Maximilian acquired the great wealth of the old Moravian dynasty of the Černohorskýs of Boskovice. At that time the brothers, like their father and grandfather, were Lutheran, but they soon converted to Catholicism, thus preparing the ground for their rise in politics. Particularly Karel, who served at the court of Emperor Rudolf II, became hetman of Moravia in 1608, and was later raised to princely status by King Matyas II and awarded the Duchy of Opava.
During the revolt of the Czech nobility he stood on the side of the Habsburgs, and took part in the Battle of White Mountain. After the uprising was defeated in 1620 he systematically acquired property confiscated from some of the rebels, and the Liechtensteins became the wealthiest family in Moravia, rising in status above the Žerotíns. Their enormous land holdings brought them great profits, and eventually allowed them to carry out their grandious building projects here in Lednice.
In the 16th century it was probably Hartmann II of Liechtenstein who had the old medieval water castle torn down and replaced with a Renaissance chateau. At the end of the 17th century the chateau was torn down and a Baroque palace was built, with an extensive formal garden, and a massive riding hall designed by Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach that still stands in almost unaltered form.
In the mid-18th century the chateau was again renovated, and in 1815 its front tracts that had been part of the Baroque chateau were removed.
The chateau as it looks today dates from 1846-1858, when Prince Alois II decided that Vienna was not suitable for entertaining in the summer, and had Lednice rebuilt into a summer palace in the spirit of English Gothic. The hall on the ground floor would serve to entertain the European aristocracy at sumptuous banquets, and was furnished with carved wood ceilings, wooden panelling, and select furniture, surpassing anything of its kind in Europe.