The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry | Goblinshead | A comprehensive guide to 4,100 castles, towers, historic houses, stately homes and family lands
The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry | Goblinshead | A comprehensive guide to 4,100 castles, towers, historic houses, stately homes and family lands
The Castles of Scotland
The Castles of Scotland 


…how do you keep finding ‘new’ castles?

The answer is that records of the time are complicated and time-consuming to use, and that many of these resources have only fairly recently become available on line. This means they can be consulted at leisure or interrogated. The most valuable sources have been Pont’s maps (and then Blaeu’s Atlas Novus), available from the National Library of Scotland, and the records of the parliament of Scotland (RPS), which have been very good for finding family ownership. These are both fabulous mines of information, but using them is difficult. Pont’s maps, from the end of the 16th century, are fragmented, faint, cluttered, orientated differently from today, different emphasis is given to places, and rivers are more important than roads; he did however make little sketches of the places on the map, many detailed. Pont, Blaeu and the RPS have huge variations in spellings. It can take hours just tracking down one site. The text of many old history and geography books are also now available on line. Again the scanning and format of these is of mixed quality, and spellings again are so various and different to drive a sane man potty.

…how has the new edition gone?

Not too badly, so far.


I loved doing the research. Like a treasure map. Discovering and bringing back into existance all those castles and old houses and forgotten people and some of the terrible things they did to each other. It has, however, taken much longer to pull together than I ever thought. This was complicated by moving the office (we had sooooooo much stuff) to here at Prestongrange, and then putting our house of 18 years on the market (we had sooooooo much stuff) and then the move to Cockenzie House (we had less stuff but still got rid of more).


The new edition has gone very well so far, and the paperback edition sold out in February 2018, while the hardback is going fast. did the first edition go?

Very well. This was our first book. At the time I thought it would be the definitive work on the subject and would need some updating but not expansion. How wrong was I? Anyway, in those days I was just starting out and did not always know what to ask for. The first edition was printed in Aberdeen, and stupidly it did not occur to me to get the books put into boxes. Consequently they were delivered loose on two pallets to the warehouse, only secured by polyethene. This would have been bad enough, but the driver must have taken a bend too quickly and the pallets had shifted and collapsed, spilling the books all over the back of the lorry and crushing many. What a disappointment! The books were returned to the printer, and they replaced the damaged copies and boxed up the rest. After that everything went well, the reviews were excellent, and the edition sold out.

…how did the second edition go?

Mostly well. I stupidly was rushed in the last stages of the book. The text was produced alphabetically as separate sections (A, B, C, D etc) from a database. At a relatively early stage the J section (which was only half a page or so) was omitted, but this was not picked up and the book went to press without the Js. For about a month I was blissfully unaware, then was told and my heart just about fell to my toes. It seemed a disaster, and there was the prospect of all the books being returned. The soultion was to print the J section onto a sticky label and fix it onto the back cover. Not elegant, but the edition sold out.

…how the third edition go?

Brilliantly. Did both a paperback edition and a hardback edition with a colour section and both sold really well and were well received.

…how did the fourth edition go?

Well, I really don't know. What is certain is that I should not have gone to Birlinn with the book. There were good reasons at the time, but it was our flagship title. There was only a hardback edition and this appears not to have sold very well, but I am not sure why, although I could speculate. We sold the edition through Goblinshead and had no trouble at all shifting the book in quantity.

…do you believe in ghosts?

Not sure, less than I used to. On a dark and silent day coming into Prestongrange House when there was nobody (living) about, then more than I usually do. although the house felt more lonely than scarey. Cockenzie House has a different atmosphere and more established spooky tales but so far quiet, although a lot more people about to dispel any uncomfortable feelings. Do believe there is a collection of occurrences that people interpret as ghostly activity. Whether the cause is restless spirits remains unclear, and what purpose they might have in troubling the living has puzzled me. One possible theory, and my favourite at the moment, behind many tales is that the entity is the guardian of the building, along the gruagach (or often Green Lady) model.

…why the Best Castles web pages?

Well, seemed like a good idea at the time, to share my favourite places. Has been interesting collating all the info and pics and putting the pages together. The text is pretty much the same as in the new edition of The Castles of Scotland, although there has been some revision and updating in the 18 months or so since the book went to press. There are far more illustrations than in the book. Publishing stuff on the web is not nearly as expensive as publishing it in the real world! But then no remuneration at the end of it. Finding the maps very useful even for us, and once there is a full index it may be easier for folk to find the castles and mansions in the different sections. Expect that the whole process will take a long time.

  The number of visitors to the website trebled in a month, now just over 1,700 in the last 30 days. Whether this increase continues, I have no idea…

  Well, it has. Visitor numbers were 2,344 in November.

…how come there is so much supernatural activity at the moment?

Seems these days that every visit by an investigating team with a tele camera and psychic invoke all sorts of paranormal manifestations. And then the advent of digital cameras so many images of the unexplained, always immediately interpreted as some kind of ghostly image. Is it perhaps due to a growth in supernatural enities, perhaps a precursor of the end of days, perhaps the curiousity of mortal creatures into post-death existence as belief in traditional religions decline. Or perhaps it just makes popular tele programmes and sells newspapers.

New sixth edition in preparation: more than 1,500 additional sites, hundreds more illustrations, comprehensive online maps and indexes, and much much more.

Due for 2024, and still a huge amount of work to do … more info to follow soon.

Check any and all opening and access information with the sites themselves…



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