Dalry Castle was a motte fortification raised in the twelfth century by the Knights Hospitaller, an Order which had been invited to Scotland by David I. The castle controlled a ferry crossing over the Water of Ken and probably earned a handsome income from the pilgrims that travelled through the site on their way to St Ninian's church at Whithorn.



St John's Town of Dalry is located on one of the main overland routes into Galloway at the point where it crosses the Water of Ken. The town grew up to serve pilgrims travelling from Edinburgh to St Ninian's church at Whithorn. It acquired its name from the Knights of the Order of St John of Jerusalem (the Knights Hospitaller) who owned the land and would have drawn income from the ferry that crossed the river. The Knights Hospitaller had been recognised by the Pope in 1113 and in the decades that followed they acquired vast estates across Europe. Like the Knights Templar, they evolved into a military order and built castles. In 1132, David I invited the Order to Scotland and granted them a charter to build a Preceptory at Torphichen. He also gave them lands in south-west Scotland in the hope that the installation of these castle building immigrants would help strengthen Royal authority in this otherwise unruly and autonomous region. Dalry Castle was probably built soon after.


Dalry Castle was a motte-and-bailey fortification built on a shoulder of high ground directly overlooking the site of the medieval ferry crossing over the Water of Ken. The steeply side motte had a large flat summit that would have been enclosed by a timber palisade. Evidence of stone-robbing suggests that some of the internal buildings, and perhaps the defences, may have been rebuilt in stone during the castle's occupation. A ditch surrounded the base of the mound. There is no evidence of a bailey but one may have extended to the south or east. It is not certain how long the castle was occupied for but it would have gone out of use long before the Knights Hospitaller Order in Scotland was suppressed in 1554.





Beatson, G.T (1903). The Knights Hospitallers in Scotland and their Priory at Torphichen.

CANMORE (2016). St Johns Motte, Dalry. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Carr, J.C (2016). The Knights Hospitaller: A Military History of the Knights of St John. Pen and Sword.

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Hooper, J (1789). Antiquities of Scotland. Vol.2. Wigtonshire.

M'Kerlie, P.H (1906). History of the lands and their owners in Galloway. RCAHMS, Musselburgh.

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Stell, G (1996). Dumfries and Galloway: Exploring Scotland's Heritage. Edinburgh.


What's There?

Dalry Castle consists of the earthwork remains of a motte fortification.

Dalry Castle. The castle earthworks are overgrown but can be clearly seen from the public right of way that runs down to the Water of Ken.

Motte. The castle site occupied a shoulder of high ground overlooking the Water of Ken. A ferry service ran below its walls which would have provided a healthy income for the site's owners, the Knights Hospitallers.

Water of Ken. The Water of Ken connects to Loch Ken and, via the River Dee, to the Solway Firth. The waterways provided important means of movement through the region in the pre-industrial era.

Getting There

Dalry Castle is found to the west of the town adjacent to the Water of Ken. The site is accessed via a footpath off Ayr Road next to Dalry Parish church. On-road car parking is possible on the surrounding roads.

Car Parking Option

A702, DG7 3SW

55.105988N 4.164779W

Dalry Castle

No Postcode

55.106478N 4.166337W