Cawdor Castle

Cawdor, United Kingdom

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


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Barbara Geisler (4 months ago)
The castle is self guided and is filled with interesting items to peruse while touring. There were a LOT of crowds here, which kind of surprised me, as we had been at Brodie castle and it was not nearly as full of people. I think a lot of tours stop here, as people did arrive in large groups. The grounds are lovely and well cared for. We visited in September and there were still plenty of flowers in bloom. There was a bagpipe player on the grounds who was entertaining the crowds as they arrived.
Tobi James (5 months ago)
It's decent but fails to tell an engrossing story. For people that can read English, take the time to read the room guides, they're amusing enough to be worthwhile. The audio guides tell you about half of what's written down. But if it's busy, you can still listen and move on. The gardens should be nice but felt a little uncared for, and exploring the woodland trails you're faced with dead ends and slippery rock steps that haven't been trodden in twenty years. Speaking of which, the map you're given tempts you with a hedge maze. When you find it, it looks beautiful but deserted. Upon finding the entrance, you're told that it was created with too many trees planted too close together, and it's now just ornamental. So disappointed.
Marina Laduda (6 months ago)
We bought entry tickets on the website ahead of time, but upon arrival discovered there were multiple buses arriving at the same time. We were encouraged to walk around the gardens before entering the castle itself, so as to avoid crowds and a long wait. The gardens were charming and interior interesting, but one star must be removed for the lack of a tour guide or big enough/informative plaques as you went along. Plants were also not marked clearly or at all. I’d recommend for a nice day, especially for anyone interested in the old lifestyle of the wealthy.
Adam Knauz (7 months ago)
An absolutely amazing castle with a beautiful garden. We could not visit the castle as dogs are not allowed, so we only bought tickets for the gardens which are breathtaking. There are two gardens you can see and visit, both beautiful and there is a small woodland walk too. Must see!
Marta Skorubska (7 months ago)
Magical place, we were very lucky for the weather , so it makes visiting the garden even better. First of all just before entering the castle grounds there was a drummer and for little tip he plays you on his pipe and take a picture with you, absolutely amazing. By the wall where he stood was located caste gardens so u could hear him playing his pipe while wondering in the gardens. Caste was absolutely gorgeous inside . We head a really great day , there is little coffee restaurant and some shops with souvenirs
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