Cawdor Castle is built around a 15th-century tower house, with substantial additions in later centuries. Originally a property of the Clan Calder, it passed to the Campbells in the 16th century. It remains in Campbell ownership, and is now home to the Dowager Countess Cawdor, stepmother of Colin Campbell, 7th Earl Cawdor.

The castle is perhaps best known for its literary connection to William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, in which the title character is made 'Thane of Cawdor'. However, the story is highly fictionalised, and the castle itself, which is never directly referred to in Macbeth, was built many years after the life of the 11th-century King Macbeth.

The earliest documented date for the castle is 1454, the date a licence to fortify was granted to William Calder, 6th Thane of Cawdor. However, some portions of the 15th-century tower house or keep may precede that date. The iron gate here was brought from nearby Lochindorb Castle, which was dismantled by William around 1455, on the orders of King James II, after it had been forfeited by the Earl of Moray.

The castle was expanded numerous times in the succeeding centuries. In 1510 the heiress of the Calders, Muriel, married Sir John Campbell of Muckairn, who set about extending the castle. Further improvements were made by John Campbell, 3rd of Cawdor (c.1576 - c.1642), who purchased rich lands on Islay. By 1635 a garden had been added, and after the Restoration Sir Hugh Campbell of Cawdor added or improved the north and west ranges, employing the masons James and Robert Nicolson of Nairn.

In the 1680s Sir Alexander Campbell, son of Sir Hugh, became stranded in Milford Haven during a storm, where he met a local heiress, Elizabeth Lort of Stackpole Court. The two were married and afterwards the Campbells of Cawdor lived mainly on their estates in Pembrokeshire. Cawdor was home to younger brothers of the family who continued to manage the estates, building a walled flower garden in 1720, and establishing extensive woodlands in the later 18th century.

John Campbell of Cawdor, a Member of Parliament, married a daughter of the 5th Earl of Carlisle in 1789, and was ennobled as Baron Cawdor in 1796. His son was created 1st Earl Cawdor in 1827. During the 19th century, Cawdor was used as a summer residence by the Earls. The architects Thomas Mackenzie and Alexander Ross were commissioned to add the southern and eastern ranges to enclose a courtyard, accessed by a drawbridge. In the 20th century John Campbell, 5th Earl Cawdor, moved permanently to Cawdor and was succeeded by the 6th Earl, whose second wife the Dowager Countess Angelika lives there still. In 2001 it was reported that the Countess had prevented her stepson from sowing genetically modified rapeseed on the Cawdor estate, and in 2002 the Countess took the Earl to court after he moved into the castle while she was away.

The castle is known for its gardens, which include the Walled Garden (originally planted in the 17th Century), the Flower Garden (18th century), and the Wild Garden (added in the 1960s). In addition, the castle property includes a wood featuring numerous species of trees (as well as over 100 species of lichen).

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Details

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

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Calvin Gunn (10 months ago)
Visited Cawdor Castle with my partner and thoroughly enjoyed our time there. The reasons I am giving it 4 stars and not 5 is because it is quite expensive, £27 for two people is quite steep in my opinion. It also seems like a lot of the castle is out of bounds for visitors too which was quite disappointing. All in all it is a lovely castle and gardens with interesting history.
Christopher Ashford (10 months ago)
A fantastic place to visit for all the family. Great castle and gardens and all surrounding grounds. Friendly staff and good cafe on site too
Gemma Bull (11 months ago)
Called in because daughter had read about the castle in Macbeth. Well worth the stop. Interesting castle and beautiful grounds.
Magda L (11 months ago)
Great place to visit. Gardens and castle well maintained, helpful staff. If you are planning to take a dog then don't. Dog are not allowed on castle grounds
Maria POPESCU (11 months ago)
Great way to spend an afternoon with family. Beautiful gardens, nice playing ground in the woods, interesting chambers and some history to learn.
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