DOUNE CASTLE, FK16 6EA
Postcode: FK16 6EA
Lat/Long: 56.185033N 4.050103W
Notes: The castle is well sign-posted and easy to find. There is a dedicated car park for visitors directly adjacent along with access to the various footpaths including one leading to the site of the Roman Fort.
WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?
A major tourist attraction, Doune Castle is an enclosure castle incorporating a tower house. The remains are well preserved with some parts (Great Hall) having been reconstructed. Good views from the top of the Tower. The site of Doune Roman Fort is nearby and accessible by public footpath although there are no visible remains.
After almost four decades securing England and Wales, the Roman army finally advanced into Scotland in AD 79. Forces under General Gnaeus Julius Agricola established a line of forts along the Forth/Clyde isthmus and, after securing Southern Scotland, campaigned in the north. A decisive victory was achieved at the Battle of Mons Graupius (AD 83) and the Romans established a network of forts between the Rivers Forth and Tay to isolate the Highland massif and connect to a new Legionary fortress at Inchtuthil. Doune was part of this network of forts connected by Dere Street, the main Roman road that ran along the eastern spine of Britain, with Camelon in the south and Ardoch in the north. Redeployment of a Legion and associated Auxiliary troops abroad resulted in the Romans withdrawing from Scotland in the late AD 80s.
For the subsequent decades, Roman forces established and sustained a frontier along the Tyne/Solway isthmus ultimately entrenching their position with Hadrian’s Wall. But with the accession of Emperor Antoninus Pius in AD 138, they advanced back into Scotland. A new frontier was established along the Forth/Clyde line - the Antonine Wall - and many of the forts to the north were also rebuilt. The former Agricola era forts on Dere Street - Camelon, Ardoch, Strageath and Bertha - were all rebuilt at this time. Strangely there is no evidence to suggest Doune was re-occupied but, given the distance between Camelon and Ardoch, it would be unusual military practise if this was not the case.
Today the site of the Roman Fort is a cricket pitch with no visible remains
Situated on a promontory between the River Teith and the Ardoch Burn, Doune Castle was the stronghold of Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany who became known to history as Scotland’s uncrowned King. It was later besieged during the troubled reign of Mary, Queen of Scots and was briefly held by Jacobites during the 1745 rebellion.
HISTORY OF DOUNE CASTLE
Little is known about the early history of Doune Castle. Given the site’s location, on promontory between the River Teith and the Ardoch Burn, it would have been an ideal site for an Iron Age defended settlement; it is possible some of the earthworks around the medieval castle date to this period. The first known fortification though was a Roman fort built to support the operations of General Gnaeus Julius Agricola in Scotland from AD 79 to AD 83 (see right for additional information). This was positioned on the plateau to the North-West of the castle and was only occupied for a few years after which the Romans withdrew to Northern England establishing their frontier on what would later become Hadrian’s Wall.
The name Doune derives from “dun”, meaning stronghold, and it seems likely a fortification was established here in the Dark Ages. The form this structure took is unknown but analysis of the stonework in the lower structure of the later castle suggests a pre-existing stone building. The political situation also supports the presence of a fortification for Doune formed part of the Earldom of Menteith, a swathe of territory that stretched between the Rivers Forth and Teith. By the thirteenth century this was dominated by the Stewart family and it has been speculated that their primary seat within the Earldom was Doune; if so there would inevitably have been a fortified residence at the location.
The castle seen today was built by Robert Stewart. Born around 1340, he was a younger son of Robert II and through marriage he secured the Menteith territories. His ascendancy continued when his elder brother - John Stewart, Earl of Carrick - displaced his father and later took the throne as Robert III (the name change to avoid connection with the earlier English appointed King, John Balliol). John suffered a debilitating injury from a horse kick along with the death of his key ally - James Douglas, Earl of Douglas - which led to a power vacuum that was ultimately exploited by Robert. By 1386 he was appointed as Guardian of Scotland and was raised to Duke of Albany in 1398; one of the first two Dukedoms ever granted in Scotland. Unfortunately the other one was granted to his nephew David, Duke of Rothesay and the two individuals became embroiled in a power struggle resulting in a three year hiatus in Robert's Guardianship of Scotland. David died in 1402 at Falkland Palace whilst under the care of Robert Stewart "some say of dysentery and some of starvation". Robert was also accused of lacklustre efforts to free James Stewart, heir to the Scottish throne, who had been captured by English pirates and handed over to Henry IV of England. However, whilst Robert allegedly struggled to find the money to release James from captivity, there were ample funds for the construction and fitting out of Doune Castle. Built as an enclosure castle, it was every bit as grand as contemporary fortifications at Bothwell and Caerlaverock.
Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany died in 1420 and was succeeded by his son, Murdoch. However in 1424 James was released from captivity in England and sought revenge; Murdoch was executed and Doune Castle taken into Crown ownership. With the proximity of the major Royal fortress of Stirling Castle there was no need for Doune to function as an administrative centre so it was predominantly used as a hunting lodge. Later it was used as a residence for widowed Scottish Queens including Margaret Tudor, wife to James IV who had been killed at the Battle of Flodden (1513). She appointed her brother-in-law, Sir James Stewart, as Keeper of Doune in 1527. He was killed in a street brawl in Dunblane in 1544 and was followed by his son, another James, who became embroiled in the turbulent politics of the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. First implicated in the murder of her unpopular Italian advisor, David Riccio, he was later accused of supporting the Queen following her abdication. A force under Matthew Stewart, Earl of Lennox and Regent of Scotland besieged Doune Castle and demanded his surrender. After three days he duly did so and briefly forfeited the castle. By 1570 though he had been restored and was granted the castle permanently when he was created Lord Doune.
Doune Castle was garrisoned by Government troops during the 1689 and 1715 Jacobite rebellions. However it was briefly embroiled in the 1745/6 uprising when it was held for Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) by McGregor of Glengyle with a garrison of 25 men. The castle was then subsequently used as a prison for Government soldiers captured at the Battle of Falkirk in January 1746. The Jacobite garrison withdrew to join the main rebel army as it prepared to fight in the Battle of Culloden (1746). After this the castle was abandoned and slowly drifted into ruin.