The extensive remains of the third castle built on the site configured as a tower house. There is an small visitor centre with models of the castle through the ages. The ruins of Auchan’s Castle (House) - the residence built to replace Dundonald - is a short walk away. Good views over the surrounding countryside and out to Arran.
1. Walter FitzAlan (whose family would take the title ‘Stewart’ - after the hereditary role as Stewards to the King) also established Renfew and Rothesay Castles.
2. The thirteenth century Dundonald Castle was an enclosure fortification with a strong and well defended curtain wall but no Keep. Similar designs were utilised at Bothwell, Dirleton and Kildrummy; all were probably inspired by French designs.
3. Robert II of Scotland was the first in the long enduring line of the Stewart dynasty that would rule Scotland until the death of Queen Mary II in 1694.
Auchan’s Castle. The castle was in fact a manor house. The ruins can be viewed just a short walk away from Dundonald Castle.
Notes: Castle has a dedicated car park. Auchan’s Castle is accessible from a footpath from Dundonald Castle.
Initially an Iron Age hillfort and later a Norman motte-and-bailey, Dundonald Castle was rebuilt in stone in the thirteenth century configured as an enclosure fortification. Destroyed just decades later, possibly by Robert the Bruce, it was later restored into a Tower House by the first Stewart King of Scotland.
HISTORY OF DUNDONALD CASTLE
The site of Dundonald was first fortified in the Iron Age with a number of round houses being enclosed within a earth rampart topped by a wooden palisade. Possibly suppressed during the Roman period, the fortified settlement was re-built around AD 500. Incorporated into the Kingdom of Strathclyde, the capital of which was Dumbarton, it acted as a key port with evidence of trade with France.
In the early eleventh century Ywain son of Dyfnal, King of Strathclyde invaded Northumbria - which in this period stretched from Yorkshire in the south to Lothian in the north - commencing a war with their southern neighbour. Around about this time Dundonald was destroyed by fire but the cause is unknown. Either way the campaign was successful with the Northumbrians defeated and capture of the territory north of the River Tweed. When the King of Strathclyde died childless in 1018, Strathclyde (including Dundonald plus the newly conquered Lothian territories) passed to the King of the Scots.
Dundonald seems to have remained unoccupied after the hillfort's destruction until the twelfth century. At this time King David I of Scotland was actively encouraging Normans to settle within his Kingdom in a strategy designed to assist in bringing the country firmly under his rule. In 1136 Dundonald was granted to Walter FitzAlan who was also given extensive estates on the west coast to hold the Gaelic-Norse Lords of the Isles and the Lords of Galloway in check. Waltar didn't disappoint and in 1164 defeated and killed Somerled, King of the Isles. At somepoint around this time he established Dundonald Castle initially as an earth and timber motte-and-bailey structure.
The timber castle of Waltar FitzAlan was replaced in the thirteenth century by a new stone structure. Work commenced for Alexander, High Steward of Scotland around 1240 and continued for over forty years. Two great double D-shaped gatehouses towered over the curtain wall whilst four additional turrets provided accommodation and further security. There is no record of military action at Dundonald at this time but during the 1260s war was ongoing with the Norwegians over control of Western Scotland; nearby Ayr Castle was certainly damaged at this time. The Norwegian claim on Western Scotland died with King Haakon IV in 1263 but it wasn't long before Scotland was threatened once more. In 1296 King Edward I of England commenced the first War of Scottish Independence and Dundonald Castle was destroyed within the first few years of conflict possibly by Robert the Bruce (later Robert I) to prevent its use by the English.
By the fourteenth century Dundonald was still owned by the descendants of Waltar FitzAlan who also held the heredity position of High Steward of Scotland. With the Wars of Independence settled the then owner, Robert, commissioned a new castle to be built at Dundonald. This new fortification took the form of a large tower house constructed over, and re-using, the remaining structure of the former castle. The new fortification was probably complete in 1371 when Robert was elevated to the highest office as he ascended to the throne as Robert II of Scotland. A relatively old man at this time - he was 55 - he delegated much of the management of the Kingdom to his sons and seemingly retired to Dundonald Castle.
Now a Royal castle, Dundonald was maintained by the Crown with expenditure recorded in the fifteenth century. It was subsequently let to a number of different individuals ending with the Wallace family of Craigie who built a new residence - Auchan’s Castle - nearby. Despite James V granting the castle to Robert Boyd in 1536, the Wallaces seem to have held onto the property despite attempts to evict them but in 1632 sold it to James Mathieson. He didn't hold onto the castle for long and in 1638 it was sold to Sir William Cochrane. He was elevated to Earl of Dundonald in 1686 in recognition of his support for the Royalist cause and the castle remained with his family until 1953 when it was handed over to the State.