Castles of Stirling

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Menu of Castles, Palaces and Towers of Stirling

Airth | Airthrey | Buchanan | Craigend | Culcreuch | Doune | Dundaff | Edinample | Kilbryde | Mugdock | Plean (Plaine) Tower | Roman Camp | Stirling |

about Airth Castle, Airth, Falkirk

Airth Castle

There was an earlier castle here in the days of William Wallace and during his efforts to free Scotland Wallace was forced to rescue his uncle from this early Airth Castle. The present castle here incorporates a 15th century tower, known as Wallace's Tower, but it has been extended several times, notably in the 19th century which obscured much of the earlier buildings.

The castle was owned by a Bruce family before it passed to the Elphinstones and Dundas families before finally reaching the Grahams. The Graham family became Earls of Airth in 1633.

The castle is now a hotel.



about Airthrey Castle, Stirling

Airthrey Castle, Bridge of Allan

There are two suggested origins of the name "Airthrey" - a corruption of Ard-rhedadie (a high or ascending road, referring to the old road which leads through it to Sheriffmuir), or from the Gaelic "Airthrin" - "a sharp point" or "conflict". This could refer to a battle fought near the site of the Castle in 839, when the Picts were defeated by the Scots under Kenneth McAlpine.

The name appears in a charter of King David I, thought to be from before 1146. In 1370, the estate was granted to Sir John Herice, Keeper of the nearby Castle of Stirling. Then the land passed to William, 3rd Lord Graham of Kincardine, for gallantry he displayed in the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488 (in which King James III was killed attempting to subdue a group of rebel barons.). He was made Earl of Montrose in 1504 but died at the battle of Flodden in 1513. The estate remained in the ownership of the Grahams down to 5th Earl and first Marquis of Dundee, who fought a brilliant campaign in support of King Charles I from 1644 to 1650. By this time, the Airthrey Estate was in the ownership of a minor branch of the Grahams.

In 1678, the estate was purchased by John Hope of Hopetoun who was succeeded by Charles Hope of Hopetoun who was elevated to the House of Lords in 1703 with the titles of Viscount Airthrie, Baron Hope and Earl of Hopetoun. In 1759, the estate was sold to Captain Robert Haldane of Plean. In 1791, his son, Robert Haldane, commissioned the design by the eminent architect Robert Adam, which is the basis of Airthrey Castle today. Despite the development, he sold it to Sir Robert Abercrombie in 1798.

The castle and estate remained in the ownership of the Abercrombie family until 1889 when yet another Graham (a Mr Donald Graham) bought it and made a large addition to the side of the castle in 1891.

During and after the Second World War it became a maternity hospital (the first dedicated facility in the Stirling area). Then in 1967, the estate became the site of Stirling University. Its buildings are located in 60 acres of woodland, 300 acres of mature landscaped parkland, a loch with an abundance of wildlife - and Airthrey Castle, where, among other activities, English Language courses are run. Some of the early students at the university had been born at Airthrey Castle during the time it had been a maternity hospital!

As an anecdote from Andy Barclay of the Tranter Group having to do with Airthrey Castle: "When I worked for Stirlingshire Police Force as a Radio Technician 1964 to 67, we had a high bandtrigger link that was located in Airthrey Castle. This device was activated from the radio room at police headquarters in Randolphfiield, Stirling. When triggered, this link opened up three repeaters located in the county that enabled radio communications to all police vehicles and many police stations including one that was located at Fintry.

Randolphfield was a mansion ( big hoose) that had been converted to Stirlingshire Police Force Headquarters. There was a stone located in the grounds that marked the area as being where Thomas Randolph, nephew of Robert the Bruce defeated a detachment of the English that were trying to get to Stirling Castle and relieve it during the Battle of Bannockburn. Bruce had chastised his nephew for originally not seeing this detachment with the words "ane rose has fallen from thy chaplet".



about Buchanan Castle, Stirlingshire

 Buchanan Castle, near Drymen

There was an original castle on this site near the village of Drymen as the seat of the Buchanans. But in 1682, because of financial difficulties, it was sold to the Graham Marquis (later Dukes) of Montrose. This building was burned down in 1850 and the present building was created, designed by William Burn with gardens modelled by "Capability" Brown.

After the death of the 5th Duke of Montrose, Buchanan Castle was sold in 1925. It was used as a hotel and then a military hospital during the Second World War. Hitler's deputy, Rudolph Hess was treated for injuries there after he crash-landed in Scotland, near Eaglesham, in May 1941.

In the 1950s, in order to avoid paying local taxes, the roof was removed and as a result the building deteriorated rapidly. Much of the surrounding land became a golf course and a number of houses have also been built in the grounds.

In 2003, a planning application was turned down to demolish the internal walls of Buchanan Castle and retain only the south and east walls. 39 flats would then have been built in the interior space of the ruin. However, it is likely that the developers will be back with alternative proposals.



about Craigend Castle, Campsie Hills

Craigend  Castle

Craigend sits on a ridge of the Campsie Hills between Glasgow and the village of Strathblane. Its gently rolling lands are made up of ancient woodlands, green fields and shallow lochs. At one time, the area was known as "Gallow Knowe" after a hill nearby. This was the spot where public hangings once took place. Today it is known as the Gallow Hill.

The lands at Craigend were once part of the Barony of Mugdock. They had been owned by the Graham family since the 13th century but the Grahams were forced to sell the estate in 1670 in order to buy back the lands of Mugdock. These had been taken from the family after the execution of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose and given to the Earl of Argyll.

At that time, Craigend was little more than a small house and 10 acres of land. The Grahams allowed Robert Smith to buy the estate because his father had been a loyal supporter of the "Great Marquis" and had fought with him at the battle of Philiphaugh. At the end of the 18th century, Smith's descendants extended the old house and lived there until 1815 when the present Craigend Castle was built.

This new building was designed by Alexander Ramsay and built by James Smith of Jordanhill who added some ideas of his own. It was built in a style called Regency Gothic. The castle was intended to show off the gardens and landscape round about. A tree-lined avenue led from a sandstone gazebo to the Castle's main entrance. Local people nicknamed the gazebo "Smith's Folly".

The castle inside had a hall panelled in oak with an interlaced carved stone ceiling and stained glass windows, which displayed the Smith coat-of-arms. The walls were hung with tapestries. There were two drawing rooms each with carved gothic doors. Each was decorated with blue and silk wallpaper. A large conservatory led off the second drawing room with entry through carved oak doors. The dining room was on the other side of the hall and was very large.

Between the ground and first floors was a low-ceilinged suite of two or possibly three bedrooms while there were many bedrooms upstairs. Above these were the servants' quarters and higher still was a billiard room with a staircase.

This branched in opposite directions half way up. One side led to the tower from which there were splendid views of the surrounding countryside while the other led to two small turret rooms.

Craigend Castle was totally different from Mugdock Castle because it was designed as a home and therefore built for comfort. Mugdock Castle was built for defence against siege machines, battering rams, and archers' arrows.



about Culcreuch Castle

Culcreuch Castle

Culcreuch Castle is a Scottish castle close to the village of Fintry in the Fintry Hills in Stirlingshire. It has been the home of the Barons of Culcreuch since 1699, and is a popular tourist attraction.

Culcreuch Castle was built in 1296 by Maurice Galbraith. It was the clan seat of Clan Galbraith from 1320 to 1624, when it was sold to a cousin, Alexander Seton of Gargunnock, to settle a financial debt. In 1632 it was purchased by Robert Napier, a younger son of John Napier, the 8th Laird of Merchiston. The Napier family held the estate for five generations. The castle was used to garrison Oliver Cromwell’s troops in 1654. In 1796 the castle was sold to Alexander Spiers of Glasgow, who built a cotton mill and a distillery in Fintry. It was sold in 1890 to J. C. Dunwaters, then again in 1901 to Walter Menzies. It passed into the hands of Hercules Robinson in the 1970’s, the last of that line of the Menzies family. It was sold in 1984 to Arthur Haslam, who operates the castle as a hotel.

Culcreuch is a rectangular tower house, with 3 stories and an attic, topped by a parapet and slate roof. The north and east extensions to the original tower were built after 1721 by the Napiers, and match the original tower.

Culcreuch Castle is reputedly haunted by a number of ghosts, including a phantom harpist.



about Doune Castle, Doune

Doune Castle, Stirlingshire

Doune Castle may look strangely familiar, even to those who have never visited before. It depends on your taste in films: Doune Castle is a place of pilgrimage for Monty Python fans from all over the world who come to see the place where they filmed "Monty Python and the Holy Grail".

It also has other, more traditional, claims to fame. It was established at the end of the 14th century by Robert Stuart, the first Duke of Albany and younger son of King Robert II. When his elder brother, King Robert III became unfit to rule, the Duke of Albany virtually governed Scotland for thirty years. So although Doune was not a royal palace at that stage, it was built by someone who was a king in all but name.

Robert Stewart was also Earl of Menteith and Fife through marriage to Margaret, Countess of Menteith. As the third son of King Robert II and younger brother of Robert III, he became effective ruler of Scotland from 1388 until his death in 1420.

In 1420 governorship of the kingdom passed to Murdoch, Robert Stewart's son. However, his was to be a short reign. In 1424, James I returned from exile. Doune Castle then became a royal retreat and hunting lodge and was used by successive monarchs for more than a century.

The castle was used as a royal retreat by King James I to VI. It was also used as the residence of the Queens of Scotland, including Mary of Gueldres (wife of James II) and Margaret of Denmark (wife of James III). Sir James Stewart, was created keeper of the castle in the middle of the 16th century. He became Lord Doune in 1570 and when his son married the heiress of the first Earl of Moray, he inherited that title too.

In 1570, ownership passed to Sir James Stewart, the first Lord Doune. Later, the title Earl of Moray came to the castle through marriage. Doune Castle has belonged to the Earls of Moray ever since. Restoration was undertaken in 1833 and further repairs were made in 1970. In 1984, the twentieth Earl of Moray placed the castle in the care of the country. It is now in the stewardship of Historic Scotland.

In the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, MacGregor Of Glengyle was appointed as temporary governor by Prince Charles Edward Stuart. After the battle of Falkirk in January 1746, prisoners taken by the Jacobites were interned at Doune - including the young Rev. John Witherspoon who was later to emigrate to America and become one of the architects of the Declaration of Independence and president of Princeton College.

The north front of the castle houses the gate tower, the main entrance and the principal domestic apartments laid out in the familiar L-shape of a Scottish tower house. The gate tower is at the northeast corner of the castle enclosure and the gateway is formed by an arch at the head of a 14m long vaulted passage.

Situated on the first floor above the gateway passage, the Lord's Hall is reached from the courtyard by an enclosed stone staircase. Once inside, visitors can see the room much as it would have been following its renovation in 1883. Wooden panelling lines the wall and a plaque on the west wall displays the arms of the Earl of Moray. Overlooking the hall, at the north end, is a musicians' gallery.

From the Lord's Hall passages and staircases lead to other parts of the castle including the upper hall directly above it. Here little remains to give a sense of the grandeur this room once enjoyed, though the vast 2.6m wide fireplace remains. Niches set into the deeply recessed central alcove show that this area of the upper hall served as a chapel. There would have been a permanent altar and it is likely that the area it occupied was screened off.

The Great Hall, to the west of the Lord's Hall, was the grandest room in the castle, reserved for events too large or important to be conducted elsewhere. The room is vast and is reached by a stone staircase in the northwest corner of the courtyard. It is at first floor level, with a covered entrance hall and a screened passage between the hall and its kitchens at the west end. At the east end a raised dais shows where the high table was set.

In the kitchen the fireplace takes up the full length of one wall and there are hatches and a doorway through to the servery leading into the screened end of the great hall.

Doune castle is a fascinating place to visit. Visitors get a real sense of a living, working castle with its labyrinth of rooms, interconnecting passageways and staircases. In particular the preservation of the lord's hall is very impressive. You might even meet Michael Palin or Terry Jones on one of their return visits.

I visited here in 2002.



about Dundaff Castle

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Dundaff Castle, now in ruins, stands on high ground a few miles from the battlefield, and commands four passes leading down in as many directions to the low country. It belongs to the Duke of Montrose, the chief of the Grahams, in whose possession there is an antique sword, a short, broad weapon, on which the following lines are inscribed:-

	'Sir John ye Græme verry wicht and wyse, 
	Ane o' ye chiefes relievet Scotland thryse,
	Fought with ys sword, and ner thout schame 
	Commandit nane to beir it bot his name.'

Sir Patrick and Sir David, the elder and the younger brothers of this celebrated patriot, embraced the cause of Baliol in the contest for the crown, and swore fidelity to Edward I in 1292. It is probable, however, that this act of homage was rendered under compulsion, and was disavowed on the first opportunity, for in 1296 Sir David and his nephew were taken prisoners by the English monarch. They were released in the following year, on condition of serving under the English banner in the French wars. Sir Patrick fell at the mismanaged and disastrous battle of Dunbar, in 1296. Hemingford, the English chronicler, says he was 'a stout knight, wisest among the wise in council, and among the noblest the most noble.'

From this time downwards the Grahams have taken a prominent part in public, and especially in warlike, affairs. The son of Sir David, who bore his name, which seems to have been a favourite one among the early Grahams, was a zealous adherent of Robert Bruce, and defended the independence of his native country so stoutly, that he was excepted from the pacification which King Edward made with the Scots in 1303-4. Along with two of his kinsmen, he signed the famous letter to the Pope vindicating in noble terms the independence of Scotland. He died in 1327. It was he who exchanged with King Robert Bruce the estate of Cardross for Old Montrose. His son, also named Sir David, was taken prisoner with his sovereign, David II, at the battle of Durham. Sir David's son, Sir Patrick of Graham, was the ancestor both of the Montrose and Menteith Grahams. His son and successor, by his first wife, Sir William, carried on the main line of the family. His eldest son, Patrick, by his second wife, Egidia, niece of Robert II, married- probably about the year 1406-Eufemea Stewart, Countess Palatine of Strathern, and either through courtesy of his wife, or by creation, became Earl Palatine of Strathern.



about Edinample Castle, near Balquhidder

Edinample Castle

Edinample Castle is a late 16th century castle on the southern shores of Loch Earn near Balquhidder in the Stirling council area of Scotland.

The caste takes the form of a Z-plan tower house, originally built by 'Black' Duncan Campbell (Donnchadh Dubh) of Glenorchy. It is built on land acquired by the Campbells after their campaign for proscription, and subsequent demise of the MacGregors. It is said that Black Duncan pushed the castle's builder off the roof, in part to avoid paying him, but also because he omitted to construct the ramparts that had been requested. It is also said that the ghost of the builder has been seen walking on the roof.

The castle was extended in both the 18th & early 20th centuries, but fell into a state of dereliction by the early 1970s. It has now been refurbished for use as a private family home.



about Kilbryde Castle, Stirlingshire

Kilbryde Castle, Stirlingshire

Kilbryde Castle is a 16th century L-plan tower house which incorporates a building which dates from around 1460. Like many such castles, it was remodelled and extended in the 19th century, mainly around 1877. It is situated about three miles from Dunblane and Doune.

The property was owned by the Graham Earls of Menteith but was sold to the Campbells of Aberuchill in 1669. Sir Colin Campbell, Lord Aberuchill of Session, was no friend of the MacGregors - perhaps because he had to pay Rob Roy blackmail to protect his cattle.

The castle is still owned by a member of the Campbell family. In recent years the 20-acre garden has been redeveloped, particularly with rhododendrons and azaleas and is now open to visitors on certain occasions.



about Mugdock Castle, East Dunbartonshire

Mugdock Castle, East Dunbartonshire

Mugdock Castle was a stronghold of the Grahams from the middle of the 13th century. James Graham, the first Marquis of Montrose initially supported the Covenanters and while in prison in 1641, the castle was sacked by Lord Sinclair.

In the 19th century a large mansion was built in the ruins of the old castle, destroying much of the original castle. However, a tower, rising to four stories with an entrance at first floor level, still remains.

In 2005, after a 15-year refurbishment, the tower re-opened to visitors. Electricity is being provided by solar power and internally the building has been fitted with 16th century reproduction furniture. It will now be a major feature in a three-hour audio tour of the park. The tower is only open at weekends but from the top a special map locates many of Glasgow's famous landmarks - the city center is only 6/7 miles away.



about Plean of Stirling Tower

Plean of Stirling Tower

History of the Fortalice, Tower and Manor of the Plean of Stirling, sometimes called the Plaine of Stirling. Also sometimes called Cock-a-Bendy Castle.

	1314 - 	Battle of Bannockburn: King Robert the Bruce 
		granted the barony of Plane to John d'Erth.

	1440's - 	Sir William d'Erth left the Baronies of Plane, 
		Airth and Carnock to his three daughters.

	1449 - 	Lady Elizabeth married Thomas Somervell; 
		they built the Tower.

	1528 - 	Thomas Somervell, 5th Lord of Plane, built 
		the Manor House.

	1643 - 	James Somervell, 8th Lord of Plane, fell into 
		debt and sold the Castle and Barony. Plane 
		became a farm and mill, the Tower and Manor 

	1746 - 	While Bonnie Prince Charlie lay ill for 3 weeks in Bannockburn House 1.5 miles away, 
		his Royal Guard was billeted at Plane Castle.

	1908 - 	Sir David Menzies restored the Tower.

	1930's - 	Ruined again, until...

	1991 - 	The Patrick Wright family started the present restoration.

	1997 - 	Restoration complete. Manor House is a family home.

The restoration of Plane Castle took 6 long years and was finally complete in 1997.



about Roman Camp

Roman Camp

Even though the Roman Camp is not truly a castle, I have included it here because we stayed there five days in 1998 and it turned out to be the most elegant place I have ever stayed in my life. We were treated like Kings.

The Roman Camp is a wonderfully romantic Tudor style building sitting in the heart of the picturesque town of Callander, approximately 20 minutes drive from Stirling, nestled peacefully within its own 20 acres of gardens on the banks of the beautiful river Teith. The hotel exudes charm and elegance and is set in its own grounds. Rooms are beautifully furnished with remarkable attention to detail. Public areas are cosy and traditional with a very welcoming feel.

It gets its name from the ruins of a Roman camp adjacent to the gardens and the River Teith.

There are fourteen bedrooms and several gracious public rooms, giving many cosy corners for patrons to hide away in the unique country retreat. Keen attention to detail and a long tradition of quality service help please and satisfy those who visit.

There is a secret door in the sitting room that, when a sliding panel is pushed, opens to a hidden chapel.

The restaurant is recommended by the Automobile Association as one of the top twenty eateries in Scotland and within the best 10% of UK establishments.

The main lounge areas, including Bar, Library, Drawing Room and Conservatory, offer lots of opportunities to relax during the day over afternoon tea, for drinks preceding lunch or dinner, or for enjoying a night-cap before bed.

When you arrive in your bedroom after a busy day, the bed is prepared for slipping into, and there is always a delicate snack and wine by your bedside.

Its location, in the heart of the beautiful Trossachs national park, makes for an excellent base from which to explore the Central belt to the south and the Highlands to the north. Stirling Castle, Blairdrummond Highland Safari park, the Wallace Monument and many other attractions are within easy reach, with Edinburgh, Glasgow and the peaceful hills and glens of the Trossachs in comfortable striking distance too.

Callander forms one of the main gateways to the Highlands and is an absolutely delightful town with extremely friendly people. It sits at the eastern end of the Trossachs and at the southern end of the Pass of Leny.

Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth both favoured Callander and it lays claim to Rob Roy, Scotland's answer to Robin Hood.



about Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

There may have been earlier forts on the volcanic plug in the Forth valley, but it was King Alexander I in early 12th century who built a chapel there and he probably died at Stirling in 1124. Later, Stirling was one of five Scottish castles passed over to Henry II of England in payment for the release of William the Lion. Although it was later returned to Scotland, King Edward I took over all the Scottish royal castles in 1291. Temporarily captured by William Wallace after the Battle of Stirling Bridge it returned to English hands. By 1313 Stirling was one of only three castles held by Edward II and it was when attempting to relieve the castle that Edward was defeated by Robert the Bruce at nearby Bannockburn in 1314.

Stirling Castle The castle was the backdrop to the murder of William, 8th Earl of Douglas by King James II. The castle was greatly expanded by Kings James IV and V - it is James V we have to thank for the Great Hall which has recently been restored to its former glory.

Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in Stirling Castle in 1543 and her son, James VI was christened in the nearby parish church. James VI spent a lot of time at Stirling Castle and his first son, Prince Henry, was born there. But after the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the next royal visit was by King Charles II in 1650.

Now owned by Historic Scotland, Stirling is second only to Edinburgh Castle in the number of visitors each year.

In 2007 Historic Scotland started working to restore the Royal Palace at Stirling Castle. As part of the project, they are trying to solve the mystery of 33 wood carved medallions which decorated the ceiling in the King's Presence chamber. Known as the Stirling Heads, they were carved between 1530 and 1544 to decorate the palace building which was begun by King James V as a home for his French bride, Mary de Guise. It is not known how many of the wooden heads originally decorated the ceiling but it is thought that they may have been representations, among others, of Stewart kings from King James I to V. Also included were the heads of Henry VIII and Margaret Tudor - a reminder of James V's claim to the English throne. It was that lineage that eventually resulted in the Union of the Crowns in 1603.

I was here in 1998 and again in 2002.



Menu of Castles, Palaces and Towers by Joint Council Areas