Brodick Castle stands on a slope above the north side of Brodick Bay and under the shadow of Goatfell, which rises behind it. It can best be described as a strategically important castle developed over four centuries between the 1200s and the 1600s, with an 1800s stately home wrapped around it. The location was probably first used as a defensive site by the Vikings until they were driven from Arran, and the rest of the western seaboard of Scotland, following the Battle of Largs in 1263. The original castle on the site was built in the years that followed for the Stewarts of Menteith. As originally constructed, the castle was protected by a steep slope descending on its seaward side, and a water filled ditch on its landward side. The castle itself comprised a tower which became the east end of the later building, with a wall of enclosure to its west containing a series of domestic buildings including a kitchen, stables and a chapel.

During the Wars of Independence, Brodick Castle was held by the English until retaken by the Scots in 1307. Its subsequent history was equally turbulent. English ships damaged the castle in 1406, and further damage was caused in an attack by John MacDonald II, Lord of the Isles in 1455. Meanwhile, ownership of the castle passed through various hands before it came into the possession of the Hamilton family, later the Marquesses and Dukes of Hamilton, in 1503.

The castle was rebuilt by the Hamiltons in 1510, but suffered further damage in 1528 during clan battles between Campbells and MacLeans, and again in 1544 at the hands of Henry VIII's forces. Further rebuilding and expansion took place in the 1550s, but its troubled history was not yet complete. In 1639 the castle was captured by the Campbells, then recaptured by the Hamiltons.

In 1652 Brodick Castle surrendered to the English Parliamentary troops of Oliver Cromwell, and subsequently spent a number of years being used as a barracks by them. During this period the battery you can still see today was built to the east of the main building, and the existing castle was extended by two bays to the west, nearly doubling its size.

Today it takes a real act of imagination to see the castle as it must have been during these centuries of conflict, occupation and reoccupation. Only occasional glimpses remain. In 1977, restoration work uncovered a staircase leading to a room that had lain hidden and long forgotten, entirely contained within the thickness of the castle walls. This is now fitted out as the castle dungeon.

What today's visitor finds at Brodick Castle is largely the result of a large scale expansion of the earlier castle undertaken in the years after 1844. The Hamilton family commissioned the Edinburgh architect James Gillespie Graham to nearly double the size of the main block of the existing castle by extending it south westwards. They then concluded their extension with the massive south west tower that is such a characteristic feature of today's Brodick Castle.

Parts of the castle gardens date back to at least 1710, according to a date in the enclosing wall. Further work was undertaken from 1814, but the main development of the gardens as they are today date back to the elevation of the castle to a stately home in 1844. The gardens were subsequently a passion of the Hamiltons and especially of the Duchess of Montrose in the years from 1895. Like the Castle, its gardens offer a glimpse into another world and another time.

Overall, Brodick Castle offers visitors a remarkably complete example of a stately home to enjoy, plus some excellent gardens and a country park. It is no surprise to find it is one of the major visitor attractions on the Isle of Arran.

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Founded: 1510
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Collin Sharp (12 months ago)
Very well looked after Castle. The castle was handed over to the National Trust with all its original furniture so the interior is still in very good condition.
Its Mrigz (13 months ago)
Nice place to spend an afternoon. The castle is not so big but the garden and the area is quite big and beautiful. Your kids would love to find the squirrels
Allan Brown (13 months ago)
Lovely autumn colours and still flowers in bloom. Great for younger ones to play in adventure park. We did not think much of castle tour.
Daniel Coote (13 months ago)
Loved it. Kids enjoyed it (limited play park during covid19 but still handy), thought the history of the castle was fascinating and the almost endless garden walks which we didn't have time to explore fully. Castle well presented inside and shop spacious
Craig Smith (14 months ago)
The gardens are stunning, with lots of picturesque secluded walks between a huge variety of plants. Lots of liittle details to keep eyes open for like a victorian summerhouse and mirror display. The castle is impressive but there aren't many rooms open. Maybe 10 in total so we strolled around in under 30 minutes. Shop is quite good though.
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