Crawford Castle was a motte-and-bailey fortification built in the twelfth century to control the strategically important Mennock Pass. The estate was acquired by the Lindsay family in the thirteenth century who used it as the caput of their Lordship. In 1488 the castle was granted to the Douglas family and they later rebuilt it into a substantial tower house.
Crawford Castle is located at the point where the River Clyde passes through Lowther Hills. Known as the Mennock Pass, the route has been strategically important for thousands of years as it occupies the main north/south access between Edinburgh, Glasgow and Carlisle (it remains important to this day as it carries the M74 and A702). The Romans occupied the site in the latter half of the first century AD, probably circa-AD80 as part of the campaigns of General Gnaeus Julius Agricola. It was occupied for less than a decade. Archaeological evidence suggests the fort was reactivated concurrently with the establishment of the Antonine Wall circa-AD 138. It was abandoned for the last time as the Roman army consolidated on Hadrian's Wall circa-AD 160.
Crawford Castle was established in the twelfth century in the form of an earth and timber motte fortification. The mound would have been topped by a timber palisade and/or tower whilst its base was surrounded by a wet ditch fed from the river. The earliest surviving record of the castle dates from circa-1175 when it was held by the Crawford family (who took their name from the manor). They were Norman immigrants who had come to Scotland in the mid-twelfth century as part of the retinue of David I. The Lordship of Crawford was a large and valuable gift but it was granted on the condition they built a castle to secure their authority and thus that of the King. The castle passed through marriage into the hands of the Lindsay family in 1215.
The Lindsay family were prominent magnates who eventually acquired vast estates across Scotland. In 1320 David Lindsay added his seal to the Declaration of Arbroath. In 1398 Robert II gave the title of Earl of Crawford to the castle’s then owner, David Lindsay. The fortification served as the administrative centre of the Lindsay estates and was probably partially rebuilt in stone at this time. Throughout much of the medieval period, the hereditary constable of the castle was drawn from Clan Carmichael.
The Lindsay family lost Crawford in 1488 when James IV confiscated it and granted it to Archibald Douglas, Earl of Angus. It was taken into Crown control by James V but, after his death in 1542, was returned to the Earl. Either before or after this brief period of Royal ownership, the castle was completely rebuilt. The summit of the motte was adapted to support a square courtyard which was enclosed by a barmkin (curtain wall) which possibly had round towers on the northern corners. In the south-west corner was a three storey (plus attic) Tower House which would have consisted of a basement on the ground floor, a hall on the level above and accommodation on the upper storey. Around 1649, a new range was added to the south-east to provide enhanced chambers. Various ancillary buildings occupied the courtyard.
The castle was sold to Sir George Colebrooker in the eighteenth century but thereafter its decline started. It was used as farmhouse for a period but, by the end of the eighteenth century, was abandoned. Thereafter it was allowed to drift into ruin and stone from the structure was robbed to support other building projects including nearby Castle Crawford House.
CANMORE (2016). Crawford Castle. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
Cruden, S (1960). The Scottish Castle. Edinburgh.
Dargie, R.L.C (2004). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. GW Publishing, Thatcham.
Saltar, M (2003). The Castles of South-West Scotland. Folly Publications, Malvern.
Simpson, W.D (1959). Scottish Castles - An introduction to the Castles of Scotland. HM Stationery Office, Edinburgh.
Stevenson, J B (1985). Exploring Scotland's heritage: the Clyde estuary and Central Region, Exploring Scotland's heritage series. Edinburgh.
Tabraham, C (2000). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. Historic Scotland, Haddington.
Tranter, N (1962). The fortified house in Scotland. Edinburgh.
Crawford Castle is in a ruinous condition and on private land but can be viewed from adjacent rights of way including the access along the banks of the River Clyde.
River Clyde. The castle overlooks the banks of the River Clyde, once a key means of movement through the Lowther Hills.
Motte. The castle stands upon the motte of the twelfth century castle.
Crawford Castle. The castle has been substantially rebuilt on numerous occasions. The remains visible today largely date from the sixteenth and seventeenth century rebuilding undertaken by the Douglas family.
Roman Fort. The site of Crawford Roman Fort.
Crawford Roman Fort. The fort was built on slightly higher ground to the north of the later castle. It was occupied for two periods - during the late first century AD and the mid-second century AD. In both cases occupation only lasted ten to twenty years due to the changing military dispositions.
Roman Road. The Roman road did not follow the river valley at this point either because of an extended flood-plain or because there were watchtowers on the high ground. Instead it skirted around Castle Hill and Raggengill Hill and intersected with the valley on the other side. On the photograph above it ascended the slope in the centre which is overlooked by Twesgill Hill.
Crawford Castle is found just off the M74 Junction 14 to the north of Crawford village. There is a small lay-by suitable for a few cars just over the bridge over the River Clyde.
Crawford Roman Fort (Site of)