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


4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Graham Clarke (6 months ago)
We attended an play in the grounds of Cawdor Castle and Gardens performed by The Handlebards theatre Group. They cycle from event to event and put on their take on Shakespeare plays. They are hilarious and we'll worth going if they perform in your area. The backdrop of the Castle was stunning as the sun set. Cawdor Castle is beautiful place set and worth a visit. They even have a pitch and putt golf course in the grounds.
Celastina Carra Taylor (6 months ago)
Must see beautiful place stipped in history and lived in. Reasonably priced tickets and food drinks in cafe on premises. Your also given hand help remote controlled gadget follow instructions gives you your own personal tour of place which you can stop and start via buttons on remote. Gift shops full of items to purchase. Photos are allowed to be taken so you can snap away.
Yvonne Lee-Jones (7 months ago)
When you think of a Scottish Castle with turrets, this is it! A fascinating place with the bonus of a self guided tour with audio handsets, so you can explore at your own pace. Photos permitted but do not use flash. Lovely gardens, woodland to explore and a children's play area in the woods. Cafe and loos. You may need to leave large bags at the entrance in lockers or just leave them in the car.
Truth (7 months ago)
£13.50 per adult for an audio guided tour through this 1400s+ fully furnished castle plus gardens. It's a decent amount for your money and an overall beautiful experience. Only a bit off the highway, Cawdor Castle is in the hamlet of Cawdor, where you follow the signs (our Google Maps led us astray) for parking a light walk from the castle itself - which you won't see from the highway or road there! Parking is free. Concessions just 1 pound less. You buy the tickets at a booth outside and are given audio tour devices. There are a limited number of (free) lockers available as backpacks and purses are not allowed. There is also a bathroom at this entrance point but nowhere else. Once inside, you follow the signs to go through the several open rooms in order. You hear the history of the several times expanded keep and castle as well as its architecture and decor choices over the centuries and up through the 1970s. You end with the dungeon, then kitchen, then gift shop. There are two gardens on site to explore as you wish, each of which was still beautiful given the mid-August time of year. While the castle has many stairs and no lift, the gardens are flat. There are so many castles to see across the UK, but Cawdor's castle and gardens had character and was well-received by our group.
Elesix Estepa (10 months ago)
What a wonderful experience and beauty. We walked the Castle and drank delicious hot chocolate to wam up. Then walked the grounds enjoying the natural beauty of the well manicured lawns and the playground. Then walked along the whispering creek and back for a light lunch of delicious mushroom soup. Everything was amazing.
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