Very impressive earthwork remains of a motte-and-bailey fortification built in the mid-twelfth century. The motte gives good views of the surrounding countryside. Strong footwear is recommended and dog owners should note the field is shared with livestock.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
Car Parking Option
Motte of Urr
Notes: The motte is found south of the Haugh of Urr on the B794. There are no signs but the site is clearly visible from the road. There is a small lay-by on the northern side of the road sufficient for a few cars. Do not attempt to drive up to the motte for the ford over the Urr Water is too deep for anything other than boats and/or specially modified vehicles.
ACCESSING THE MOTTE OF URR
1. Having parked at the nearby lay-by, walk to the turn-off from the B794 and head down towards the ford. (Do not attempt to drive through this as the water is too deep).
2. Turn left before the ford and follow the grass path parallel to the Urr Water. Traverse the stile and cross the bridge.
3. Follow the path along the opposite bank of the Urr Water until you see a gate. Proceed through and up towards the motte.
The impressive remains of a Norman castle in Scotland, the Motte of Urr was built in the mid-twelfth century. Destroyed during the 1174 Galloway rebellion, it was rebuilt and eventually passed into the hands of the Balliol family. By the fourteenth century it was held by the Percy family who lost control of the site during the Wars of Independence.
HISTORY OF THE MOTTE OF URR
In the early twelfth century, Galloway was not under effective Royal control. Its ruler was Fergus, Lord of Galloway who sought autonomy from Scottish rule and alternated his support between successive regimes north and south of the border to achieve this aim. With his death in 1161 the Lordship of Galloway was inherited by his elder son, Uhtred. In contrast to his father, he was a close ally of William I (the Lion) and granted some of his lands to Norman settlers including Walter de Berkeley. It was Walter who built the Motte of Urr shortly after receiving the territory in 1165.
The castle took the form of a traditional motte-and-bailey fortification. Its earthwork defences would have been augmented by timber palisades whilst the motte would have been topped by a tall, wooden tower. Today it is situated to the west of the Urr Water but originally this split in two running both east and west of the castle - it was in effect on its own island. The scale of the earthworks, in particular the bailey, has prompted commentators to suggest an existing fortification may have existed on the site prior to the castle. Whilst entirely possible, this is yet to be determined by archaeology.
Under the leadership of Uchtred's brother, Gille Brigte, Galloway rose in rebellion in 1174. That year had seen Royal authority crumble when William I's invasion of England ended in his defeat and capture at the Second Battle of Alnwick. Uchtred, who was unpopular amongst those in Galloway that desired to be free from Norman and Scottish interference, was equally a target of the rebels. He was captured by his brother then blinded, castrated and murdered. The rebels then set about attacking all Norman facilities in Galloway and the Motte of Urr seems to have been one of their targets; the castle was destroyed by fire at this time. The Motte of Urr itself has been cited as a possible location for the barbaric murder of Uchtred.
Gille Brigte retained control until his death in 1185 after which Uhtred's son, Roland, became Lord of Galloway. Having fled the area when his uncle took charge, he had resided at the Royal court and had become an ally of Walter de Berkeley. It was either Roland or Walter who rebuilt the Motte of Urr with enhanced defences. The motte was heightened and now topped with a stone backed, timber palisade augmented by turrets.
Walter de Berkeley died in 1190 and the castle passed through marriage to Ingram de Balliol in whose family it stayed until 1287. It then passed into the hands of the powerful Percy family, English magnates, who held the castle until 1307. At this time Galloway was attacked by forces operating for Robert the Bruce - nearby Buittle, Caerlaverock and Dalswinton Castles were attacked and it seems likely the Motte of Urr was also abandoned at this time. Certainly no evidence has yet been found to indicate substantial occupation after the early fourteenth century.
The motte was heightened by nearly 2 metres following the 1174 rebellion