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 ‘Bible of Scottish Castles’…now available!
The ‘Bible of Scottish Castles’…now available! 

–––––– Castle of the Month February 2017 ––––––

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle is a romantic and picturesque ruinous old medieval stronghold, set in a peaceful location some miles from Dumfries in the south of Scotland and long held by the powerful Maxwells for hundred of years until finally besieged and slighted in 1640.

Gatehouse, Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle: gatehouse (© Martin Coventry)

Dumfriesshire: About 7.5 miles south and east of Dumfries, on minor road south of B725, about 0.5 miles north of the Solway Firth, at Caerlaverock Castle.


HES   NY 026656   OS: 84   DG1 4RU

 

OPEN: Open all year: Apr-Sep, daily 9.30-17.30; Oct-Mar, daily 10.00-16.00; closed 25/26 Dec and 1/2 Jan; last ticket sold 30 mins before closing. Tearoom in castle visitor centre. Weddings.
Tel: 01387 770244   Web: www.historicenvironment.scot

 

Caerlaverock estate. Tearoom and shop at Glencaple.

Web: www.caerlaverockestate.co.uk

Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle (© Martin Coventry)
Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle (old postcard)

Once a formidable fortress and still a magnificent ruin, Caerlaverock Castle consists of a triangular courtyard with a gatehouse at one corner, round towers at the others, and ranges of buildings between, all still defended by a wet moat with ditches and embankments beyond the moat.

Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle (Pennant)

The gatehouse has two tall round towers, pierced by many gunloops, flanking the entrance, and was reached by a drawbridge over the moat. It was given heavy machicolations in the late 15th century. The basement is vaulted, and a tall late 15th-century stair-tower has been added. A fine vaulted hall occupied the first floor.

Murdoch's Tower of Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle: Murdoch's Tower (© Martin Coventry)

One of the round towers, Murdoch's Tower – so called because Murdoch, Duke of Albany, was imprisoned here before execution in 1425 – remains to its full height, but the other was demolished to foundations. The curtain wall, on this side, was also dismantled.

Main stair of  Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Carelaverock Castle: stair (© Martin Coventry)
Nithsdale Lodging of  Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle: Nithsdale Lodging (© Martin Coventry)
Nithsdale Lodging of  Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle: Nithsdale Lodging (© Martin Coventry)

There were ranges of buildings on each side of the courtyard. Little remains of one side, but the other ranges survive to the wallhead. A fine Renaissance range, the Nithsdale Lodging, built in 1634, has two large chambers on the first floor over barrel-vaulted cellars. The windows are large and are surmounted with elaborate carvings.

Older castle, near Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle: older castle (© Martin Coventry)

‘Carlaverock’ is marked on Blaeu’s map of Nithsdale. 
  Near the castle are the late 12th-century foundations of a rectangular castle [NY 027655] with corner towers on a mound and defended by a ditch.

Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle (old postcard)

The present castle was built in the 13th century by the Maxwells, and was captured by the English in 1300, after a siege by Edward I of England, the event being commemorated in a poem in medieval French ‘Le Siege de Kalavreock’. The Scots fought bravely but were still all executed, according to one version. The castle was held by the English until 1312, when the keeper Sir Eustace Maxwell joined the Scots. He successfully resisted an English attack, but afterwards slighted the castle.

Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle (Billings)

In the 1330s, the castle was repaired. Herbert Maxwell submitted to Edward III of England in 1347, and in 1357 Roger Kirkpatrick captured the castle for the Scots, although Kirkpatrick was later murdered here. In 1425 Murdoch, Duke of Albany, was imprisoned in one of the towers which now bears his name, Murdoch’s Tower. There was further rebuilding in 1452-88 by Robert, 2nd Lord Maxwell. He added the machicolated parapets to the towers, and remodelled the gatehouse.

Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle (© Martin Coventry)

James V visited the castle prior to defeat at Solway Moss in 1542. The castle was surrendered to the English in 1545, as part of the negotiated settlement, but was later recaptured by the Scots, only to be taken and slighted by an English force led by the Earl of Sussex in 1570.

Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castlle (old postcard)

The Maxwells had a bitter feud with the Johnstones, and this came to battle in 1593 near Lockerbie and the Maxwells were routed and John Maxwell, 8th Lord, was slain. His son was executed in 1612 for murdering the chief of the Johnstones. The castle was remodelled again in 1634.

Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle (© Martin Coventry)

In 1640, the Earl and his garrison of 200 men surrendered the castle to a force of Covenanters after a siege of 13 weeks. The castle was then reduced by demolishing much of the curtain wall and one corner tower, and unroofing the rest. The Maxwells moved to Terregles, then to Traquair House. The estate passed by marriage to the Herries family, then to the Dukes of Norfolk.

Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock Castle (© Martin Coventry)

By the late 18th century, the ruin was already popular with visitors, and the Duke of Norfolk transferred it to the care of the State for consolidation in 1946. There is a nature trail around the castle.

  The castle was used as a location in the 2011 film The Decoy Bride, starring David Tennant, Alice Eve and Kelly Macdonald (sigh).

One of the vaults of one of the towers at the entrance to Caerlaverock Castle, an impressive and romantic old ruinous castle of the Maxwell family, near Dumfries. Caerlaverock castle: vault of round entrance tower (© Martin Coventry)

The Caerlaverock estate, covering some 5,200 acres and encompassing a National Nature Reserve, has a range of activities including bird watching, wild fowling, cycling, walking, and there is a tearoom and giftshop at Glencaple. The estate is owned by Lady Mary Mumford, who was given the estate by her father, Bernard Fitzalan- Howard, 16th Duke of Norfolk.

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