Some Castles or Tower Houses in Southwest Scotland

There can be no correct description for the buildings depicted on this page as different people have their own idea of what a castle is or should be. The titles I have given them are not neccessarily my own view but are those by which they are generally recognised and as shown on local maps. What follows are my photographs of what you can call castles or towers depending on your own interpretation. Each photo or group of photos is accompanied by a very brief note on the building shown. Most photos have been reduced and can be viewed in a larger size by clicking on them. I hope to be able to change, or add to, the buildings shown as my collection of photos gets better and more extensive. People wishing to find out more about the buildings featured are recommended to read:
The Fortified House in Scotland, by Nigel Tranter, Volume 3 Southwest Scotland.
The Buildings of Scotland 'Dumfries and Galloway', by John Gifford.
Towers of Stone - the fortified buildings of Dumfries and Galloway, by Graham Roberts of 'Dumfries and Galloway Libraries'.
The Border Towers of Scotland: Their History and Architecture - The West March, by Alastair M.T. Maxwell-Irving.

Viewed from the southwest. Arms panels of Sir John and Lady Agnes.
Viewed from the southeast. Viewed from the east with gable of present Mansion House.
Completed in 1600, for Sir John Charteris of Amisfield and his wife Lady Agnes Herries, Amisfield is the most picturesque of all the Border towers being situated in pleasant country five miles north of Dumfries.The plan is almost square(having a ground floor area of some 8.7m by 9.6m) but it is exceptionally tall at 23.5m to the ridge of the main roof and comprises four storeys to the eaves, with attic and garret in the roof space.The Tower is privately owned and not generally open to the public.
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Caerlaverock was always considered an area of strategic importance and the present castle is the 5th fortification here, its predecessors were an Iron Age Hill Fort, two Roman Forts from different periods of the Roman occupation (these three on Wardlaw Hill overlooking the present castle), and an earlier medieval? castle located 0.2km to the south east. The site of the 4th castle has been the subject of an archaeological dig during the summer of 1998 and there is currently information on this at The Scottish Urban Archaeological Trust website.Caerlaverock is probably the most photographed castle in the south of Scotland. It is built on a triangular outcrop of rock poking up through low lying and boggy land,completed in 1270 it is described by Walter of Exeter(present at the siege of the castle by Edward I in 1300):
Its shape was like that of a shield, for it had only three sides all round,with a tower on each angle; but one of them was a double one, so high, so long,and so large, that under it was the gate with a drawbridge, well made and strong, and a sufficiency of other defences. It had good walls, and good ditches filled to the edge with water....
The castle was to be destroyed and rebuilt or repaired at least three times in the turbulent centuries until in 1640, after suffering a thirteen-week siege by the Covenanting army resulting in major structural damage, it was stripped of its furnishings and abandoned never to be re-occupied again. Taken into government care in 1948 it is open to the public.
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Drumlanrig is the focal point of the Queensberry Estate owned by John,9th Duke of Buccleuch and 11th Duke of Queensberry. The present castle was built by William Douglas, 1st Duke of Queensberry. Superimposed upon an earlier 14th/15th century Douglas stronghold, traces of which are still discernible, it took some twelve years to build and was completed in 1691. Built of local pink sandstone and set on a hill at the end long ridge it has beautiful views across Nithsdale. It is arranged round an open courtyard, with a circular staircase tower in each corner. Four square towers with 12 leaden turrets form the outside angles.
Housing a famous art collection and the family treasures of over 300 years the castle and grounds are open to the public every day except Thursdays usually from April to August. It is advisable to confirm actual opening times(local tourist information office) before visiting as the open period can vary from year to year.
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Kirkonnell is claimed, locally, to be the second oldest continuously inhabited house in Scotland, Traquair near Peebles being the oldest. Documentation is sparse but it would appear that although now called a house the earliest part was a plain rectangular tower perhaps of only two storeys built around 1430 and standing at the southwest corner of a courtyard. This tower was heightened to three storeys and an attic and made L-plan by the addition of a stair tower in the early or mid 16th century.Further additions or extensions were made in the 17th and 18th centuries with the last major extension being made in 1815.
The house is privately owned but is open to the public from Easter to the end of October.
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The original Castle of the motte and bailey type, built of wood, was situated between the north end of the Castle Loch and the Mill Loch and the mound of the motte can still be seen today. It is thought to have been built by the Brus family around 1166. The present castle site on a promontory projecting from the southern shore of the Castle Loch was established by Edward I of England in 1298 when an earth and timber 'peel' or palisade was hastily erected. This was to become one of the largest and strongest castles in southern Scotland and centre of much action. Robert the Bruce's father attempted but failed to capture it in 1299; it was burnt by the Scots in 1301; and in 1306 it fell briefly into Bruce's hands before being retaken by the Prince of Wales. By 1333 it was once more in Scottish hands when it was recaptured by the English who this time managed to hold it for 50 years, during this period Edward's original peel was replaced by a stone castle. Archibald 'the Grim', lord of Galloway, finally ousted the English in 1385. In 1445 the castle became the property of the Scottish Crown and in the 1490's James IV carried out extensive repairs including building a great hall(a banqueting suite) in the courtyard. This appears to be the last building work carried out as by the 17th century the castle was out of use and over succeeding centuries used as a source of stone by the local community. What remains is the rubble core of some of the walls in the inner ward of the castle, all the facing stone having been removed for buildings elsewhere, nevertheless the visitor who investigates can still get an impression of the strength and formidable defences of the site. There were no less than three ditches running east to west cut right across the promontory and joining the loch at both ends, on the west side a north-south ditch linked all three ditches while a second north-south ditch on the east side linked the two inner ditches thus an area of ground between the two inner ditches was surrounded and became the outer ward of the castle; the inner ward was formed by extending the two north-south ditches northwards for some distance then turning inwards 90 degrees so that they joined, this meant that the castle had two water barriers on all sides through the combination of loch and ditches. Lochmaben is unique in Britain in having two horns from the stone walls of the inner ward projecting across the ditch separating it from the outer ward to provide a safe haven for boats used to patrol the loch, or inspect the ditches, which could pass through arched openings in these horns. As noted above while the inner ward defensive walls and accomodation were eventually build in stone the outer ward defensive walls were always of timber and earth although there may have been some stone buildings within them, access between inner and outer ward was by drawbridge as was entry to the castle across both defensive ditches.
Viewed from southern approach. Remains of right-hand D tower showing possible portcullis slot.
Viewed from north across later loch. View of remains of lower and upper Hall.
Morton was one of a chain of medieval castles which stretched up the valley of the Nith, a main route from the Solway Firth to central Scotland. The castle is sited in a naturally defensive position on a triangular promontory which projects northwards from level and relatively high ground into an area of low lying boggy ground which was converted into a loch probably in the 18th century. Like Caerlaverock the Castle is triangular in plan following the shape of the site, steep ground protected the northwest and northeast walls while the defence of the south wall was aided by a ditch which had been cut right across the southern part of the promotory. Round towers were formed at the intersection of the walls in the north and southeast corners while the entrance was between two D towers in the southwest corner. What remains of the castle is the right hand D tower joined to the main south range with a segment of the southeast round tower. The site is not easy to date accurately although it was known to be fortified in the 12th century and the absence of any provision for artillery defence makes it unlikely that it can be later than about 1450. It is known that under the terms of the 1357 Treaty of Berwick Morton was named as one of the castles whose defences were to be dismantled. It seems likely that this happened although the castle remained occupied until 1714. It has been suggested that after dismantling the defences the remains were made habitable and used as a hunting lodge until being finally abandoned. The comparative remoteness of the site means that the eventual remains have not suffered so badly from quarrying for building stone. The lands of Morton were owned by a number of families through the ages including the Earls of Morton and are currently part of Buccleuch Estates. Public access is allowed.
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Sanquhar Castle the seat of the Crichtons, lords of Sanquhar, has suffered the same fate as many other stronholds once abandonded, they were used as a source of building stone by the nearby community. What remains is badly ruined and is difficult to interpret as to its original form due to restoration work commenced in 1895 by John Crichton-Stuart, third Marques of Bute, and abandoned on his death in 1901.This castle succeeded two earlier fortifications on different sites, the first at Ryehill in existence in the 12th century, probably erected by the de Ros family, was replaced shortly before 1296 by a new one possibly at Newark midway between Ryehill and the present castle. In the 14th century the barony of Sanquhar passed by marriage to the Crichtons, who probably began the present complex shortly before 1400. There are records of work carried out on the castle at various times up until the 17th century with it finally being abandoned some time after 1695.
I am unsure as to present ownership of the site but there does not appear to be any restriction on access by the public.
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