15th century

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3/4m sw of Gatehouse of Fleet
w of B796 on A75


step stairs


Historic Scotland
Castle Explorer
Undiscovered Scotland


Cardoness Castle

Once again, everything in Scotland is UP.I'm only haf-kidding, of course. Up stairs, up a hill, up over fences and hills and dales....Cardoness stands on a rocky hill. Figures.

the bleak-looking tower at Cardoness

15th Century towerhouse

The tower here is very simple, and very stark - a five story rectangular tower with an attic. There are no overhanding bartizans or a parapet wall, just a steep, flat wall up to gables. The tower is 13m x 9.7m and rises and impressive 16m to the open wall walks. The walls are thick enough to house staircases, and a number of small rooms.

The style of the tower is very much like that of the original tower house at Threave Castle. While simply styled on the outside, it was a comfortable and perhaps luxurious home with many find decorative features and fireplaces, including a still extant wall cupboard for displaying the family treasures.

The castle sits on a rocky hill, which has been excavated to the southa nd west, adding underground cellars iand filling in the uneven ground. While there would have been buildings above these foundations, there is no trace of them now - just a platform (grassed over) which has been given a railing to keep us tourists from flinging ourselves off. There is a tramp to reach the main entrance, which opens into a small entry court -- under a rather large murder-hole.

The entrance is also rather unique - there are two "inner" doors, separated by a stone jamb, from the outer, arch-topped door. There was even a small wine cellar, just of the main room, and in the cellar a rather dank pit prison.

the strange double door from the main entrance

The main entrance is on the first storey, over a vaulted cellar with two rooms. A stairway leads to a large hall and a staircase to the upper floors. THe second floor has two large state rooms with decorative fireplaces and window moldings, and a stone arch dividing the rooms above, instead of a timber partition, which was the usual arrangement. Al lin all it's is a very 'strong' sort of tower.

The curtain wall that surrounded the large outer courtyard is mostly gone, although the foundations of othre building can be seen in the grass.

foundations of outbildings on the grounds


The castle was built by the McCullochs, who received the lands around Cardoness in 1450 and built the castle here by 1500.. The family was populated by thieves and outlaws (despite their royal associations), with history of robbing nearby castles and families (and sometimes their own!). The family held the tower until the end of the 17th century (the last of them was beheaded in Edinburgh for the murder of another scottish noble - one of the Gordons, a family with whom they had an ongoing feud.

The castle belonged to the Gordons in 1629 but eventually passed to the Maxwells and then to Historic Scotland

one of the enormous fireplaces, and the stone arch dividing the two rooms

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