tower house
and castle
15th century

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IV12 5RD
NH 847 498
5m sw of Nairn on A96 off B9090


privately owned
open May-Oct
free parking


Cawdor Castle site
Clan Campbell


Cawdor Castle

On a sunny day in the spring, be prepared for hordes of people, lounging about in the gardens and on the lawns - it's like a huge public picnic!

from the green lawns up to the main tower

15th century and beyond

Cawdow really is an impressive castle - one of the best preserved in Scotland. Since it is an important stronghold, it was built in stages. The earliest fortress here wa sa simple tower house, dating from the 14th century with added decorative bits that are dated 1454. The tower is four storeys with an attic. THe ground-level entrance is much later, and mural stairs lead to the first-floor hall. A round staircase accesses the upper stories The tower is 14m x 9.5m, with substantially thicik walls.

Attached to the main tower house, and randing out from it in almost-symmetrical wings are three-storey ranges of buidlings built in the 16th and 17th centuries, with corbelled out bits, round bartizans, and machicolations around the top of the tower.

There is a drawbridge - gotta love that! The huge iron yett (gate) remains. It was originally at Lochindorb Castle, but moved here in 1455 to be used in the massive gatehouse. Another iron yett guards the postern gate down into the moat. The courtyard originally spanned 51m x 28m, but is mostly filled-in with later buildings.

the gate and (apparently working) drawbridge

The north range is private rooms - four bedrooms above a hall and other state rooms. It dates from c. 1600, with the upper stories being finshed much later. A much smaller tower in the northeast corrner of the castle was rebuilt in 1699. A western range of buidlings dates from 1511, based on dates carved into the fireplace lintels in the hall here. The current castle appears almost solidly rectangular, but in fact is a closed u-shape, with two large interior courtyards.

THe story is that the building of Cawdor castle was picked by a roving donkey (something about a 'sign') and the castle is built on the site of a holly tree, the stump is in the vaulted basements (although the tree died in 1372 when the castle was built around it.

Inside, the castle houses a large collection of antiques, art, and family heirlooms. Not all rooms are open to guests, of course, but a large collection are included in the tour.

looking at the northwest wing of the castle

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