LOCH DOON CASTLE

Loch Doon Castle was an enclosure fortification built upon an island. It was owned by the Earls of Carrick and was attacked on several occasions during the Wars of Scottish Independence. Later it passed to the Kennedy family but was abandoned after an attack by James V. The castle was transplanted to the mainland in 1935 to prevent its destruction by a hydro-electric scheme.

History

 

Loch Doon Castle, which is also known as Balliol Castle, was built in the late thirteenth century by the Earls of Carrick. Raised upon a small rocky island in the middle of the loch, it took the form of an enclosure castle with its sole line of defence being a curtain wall. This was constructed from fine ashlar and was polygonal with eleven uneven sides, its shape being dictated by the terrain of the island. Entrance into the castle was via an arched gateway protected by two heavy timber doors and a portcullis. There was also a small postern gate.

 

The first surviving historical reference to the castle dates from 1306. In that year Robert the Bruce assassinated his rival, Sir John Comyn, and was crowned King of Scotland in defiance of Edward I. English forces under Aymer de Valence, Comyn's brother-in-law, were sent north to deal with Bruce and defeated him at Battle of Methven (1306). Only a small portion of the Scottish army escaped the battlefield but Sir Christopher Seton, brother-in-law to Bruce, was one of the luckier ones and fled to Loch Doon Castle. This was held for the Scots by Sir Gilbert de Carrick but an English force compelled the castle to surrender after which Seton was captured and executed. An English garrison was installed but in July 1307 Edward I died which gave Bruce the opportunity to revitalise his rebellion. With the new English King, Edward II, being unable or unwilling to campaign in Scotland, Bruce started a systematic campaign of sieges to dislodge English forces from their castles in Scotland. Loch Doon Castle itself was recaptured by the Scots in 1314 and any prospect of the English reclaiming it in the short term was dealt a mortal blow when Edward II was decisively defeated at the Battle of Bannockburn later that year.

 

The first War of Scottish Independence came to an end in 1328 when the English Government - which was under the effective control of Roger Mortimer, Earl of March - sealed the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton. However, Mortimer's regime was overthrown in 1330 and, when political circumstances provided a pretext, Edward III started the Second War of Scottish Independence. The English had early success at the Battle of Halidon Hill (1333) and thereafter surged back into Scotland. Loch Doon Castle besieged by a veteran of the wars, John Thomson, but the castle resisted and was one of only five fortifications to hold out for the young King David II (the others were Dumbarton, Kildrummy, Lochleven and Urquhart).

 

Later in the fourteenth century the area came under the control of the Kennedy family. They became embroiled in a power struggle with the Douglases resulting in Loch Doon Castle being besieged and taken by William Douglas, Earl of Douglas in 1446. The castle was returned to the Kennedys although it subsequently passed between different branches of the family when in 1450 the keeper-ship of Loch Doon Castle was resigned by John Kennedy of Coif to Gilbert Kennedy. It was probably Gilbert who built the Tower House within the original castle enclosure. This type of fortified accommodation was popular in Scotland during the period and would clearly have articulated his status. The Tower was broadly rectangular in plan and inevitably would have included a Great Hall and private accommodation for the Lord. The construction materials of this later structure, predominantly consisting of rubble, are of marked contrast to the fine ashlar used when the castle was first built.

 

Loch Doon Castle was attacked on several occasions during the early sixteenth century. The first recorded assault was made in 1511 by William Crawford. However, a more serious attack took place in the 1520s when a Royal army under James V besieged the castle. He was campaigning to reduce the power of his more unruly magnates in the Ayr and Galloway regions and his forces quickly captured Loch Doon Castle. Before they left, the Royal army burnt the structure and threw the iron portcullis into the loch (where it remains to this day).

 

After the attack by James V, Loch Doon Castle was abandoned. It remained largely intact until the nineteenth century when stone was robbed from the site to create a shooting lodge. However, in the early twentieth century the castle was threatened with complete destruction when work started on a hydro-electric scheme. This required the diversion of Bow Burn into Loch Doon with an associated ten metre rise in the water level. To prevent the castle being permanently submerged, it was partially disassembled and rebuilt on the adjacent mainland. A decision was made not to relocate the Tower House in order to present the earlier castle unencumbered.

 

 

Bibliography

 

CANMORE (2016). Loch Doon. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland

Coventry, M (2008). Castles of the Clans: the strongholds and seats of 750 Scottish families and clans. Musselburgh.

Dargie, R.L.C (2004). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. GW Publishing, Thatcham.

Donaldson, G (1997). Scottish Historical Documents. Neil Wilson Publishing, Castle Douglas.

Hill, G (1984). Tunnel and dam: the story of the Galloway hydros.

King, A and Simpkin, D (2012). England and Scotland at War, 1296-1513. Bril, London.

Magnusson, M (2000). Scotland: The Story of a Nation. Harper Collins, London.

Salter, M (1985). Discovering Scottish Castles. Shire Publications Ltd, London.

Stevenson, J B (1985). Exploring Scotland's Heritage: the Clyde estuary and Central Region. Edinburgh.

Tabraham, C (2000). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. Historic Scotland, Haddington.

Tranter, N (1962). The fortified house in Scotland. Edinburgh.

What's There?

Loch Doon Castle is a small polygonal enclosure fortification consisting of a fine ashlar curtain wall and the foundations of a later Tower House. Originally positioned on an island in the Loch, which can be seen when the water level is low, it was transplanted to its current location in the 1930s.

Loch Doon Castle. The castle was built from high quality ashlar and undoubtedly only survived as its remote island location made it inaccessible to stone robbers. It was transplanted to its current location in 1935.

Loch Doon Castle Layout. The castle was enclosed by an irregularly shaped, eleven sided curtain wall that was defined by the terrain of the island.

Interior. Loch Doon Castle was an enclosure fortification with it defences consisting solely of a (substantial) curtain wall. The foundations of the later Tower House, which was built by the Kennedy family, can be seen to the right.

Castle Entrance. The entrance to the castle has survived with much of its original detail intact. It was originally protected by a iron portcullis and double door which was held shut by draw bars that ran into the walls on either side. The portcullis was thrown into the loch during the attack by James V in the 1520s.

Loch Doon. During the First World War Loch Doon hosted an aerial gunnery range with targets being moved along rails around the shore. In October 1941, during World War 2, a Supermarine Spitfire from 312 Squadron based at RAF Ayr crashed in the loch. It was recovered by Dumfries Sub Aqua Club in 1982.

Getting There

Loch Doon Castle is found within the Galloway Forest Park at the end of a long single track road that is accessed from near Craigengillen. Car parking is available in immediate vicinity of the castle.

Loch Doon Castle

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