moated castle
13th century

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NY 025 656
7m se of Dumfries
on B725




Historic Scotland
Undiscovered Scotland
Caerlaverock Society
Castle Explorer
Clan Maxerll
Undiscovered Scotland


Caerlaverock Castle

the suprisingly modern-looking Nithsdale Lodging

The residence block was built in 1634 by the Earl of Nithsdale, and must have been quite luxurious and comfortable. The doorways and windows are topped by carved lintels in the classical Renaissance style. This range took over the function originally formed by the suite over the guardhouse. A new hall and other apartments were created on the south wall at the same time. The block is quite out of character with a rough-hewn Scots castle, and must have quite a sight when first built.

In 1640, the Earl and a garrison of 200 men surrendered the castle to a force of Covenanters let by Colonel John Hume, after a siege of 'only' 13 weeks. It was demolished by crumbling the south wall and tower, which remain in ruins today.

By the late 18th century, the castle was a popular visitor spot, and it was handed to the state in 1946. We missed the re-enactment of the assault by the English by a few weeks, and there were festivals and parties planned during the event.

while it looks narrow, the castle is actually a large triangle

The triangular curtain wall has towers on two corners, and a massive double gatehouse on the third that contain the well-protected gate. The two towers are 26' in diameter. The entire castle was made concentric by surrounding it with an inner moat, ramparts of earth, another moat, and finally a higher ring of earthworks. Approaching the castle from the landward side would have been a dicey proposition, but it did provide a reliable location to lob missiles and cannon fire at the castle, which eventually led to its downfall on several occasions. Attackers had to cross two separate bridges before even reaching the gatehouse, but ballistas could demolish the walls from a distance without any resistance.

detail of a fireplace inside / the narrow entry between the gatehouse towers

The Older Castle

While the mutli-towered edifice of Caelaverock is spectacular, real castle-hounds hike out behind the moat to see the remains of the original 13th century castle.

The lands were granted to John Maxwell in 1220 and he built the first castle here almost immediately. Within fifty years, however, it was abandoned and replaced by the current castle. The older castle had a curtain wall with corner towers, and a small harbor, all discovered by archaeological digs in the late 1990s.

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