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

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User Reviews

Sylvia Willett (19 months ago)
Cannot place a review as we decided to visit the Gardens today after checking the website to check opening times only to arrive at 11.30am to find it closed. No signs up to say so or why. Don't think we will bother again, went to Brodie instead and had a wonderful day out.
John Baker (19 months ago)
Few additional amenities but the castle and grounds make up for that. Aĺthough small Cawdor (pronounced locally as codder) is a real castle with beautiful garden/grounds. Ignore any reference to Macbeth, he never set foot in the door. In fact the castle wasn't builtuntil the late 1300s whereas Macbeth was born around 1000. If he did visit Cawdor he must have discovered the secret of eternal youth first! The castle is home to the Cawdor family still. It houses portraits and tapestries and other fascinating paraphernalia. There is a licensed cafe with light food refreshments.
Caroline Snow (19 months ago)
The castle is nice.... but the gardens are amazing!! Best in late spring
Henry Harding (19 months ago)
It was a lovely visit to a beautiful garden. They had a fellow out shearing the Maze. He was a true artist with those shears. He was exact and fast. Not like my whacking away at them. For me it's pretty inexact. Better they suffer death than my shearing. The Scones were delicious, So was The Jam, but Nothing Beats Kippers for Breakfast. (Although I don't recollect they had those).
Neil Atkins (2 years ago)
Large car park, easy to find. Beautiful castle - I highly recommend reading the room notes in each room (or buying the guide book, which contains all the notes), because whoever wrote them has a wicked sense of humour! Gardens are stunning. The old kitchen took you straight back in time. We had a lovely, inexpensive lunch of soup and sandwiches. The highlight , of course, is the grounds.
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