Auldearn Castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification raised at some point before the late twelfth century. It was owned by the Crown no later than 1180 and was attacked shortly after by Donald MacWilliam. Today the abandoned site hosts a National Trust owned Doocot.
Auldearn Castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification but its original builder is unknown. One option is that it was raised by a Norman or Flemish immigrant during the reign of David I (1124-53). That King invited many such individuals to settle in troublesome areas across Scotland where they built castles and helped to bring the unruly country under Royal control. Alternatively it may have been built by a native Scot imitating the continental designs. A further option was Auldearn may have been raised by William the Lion (1165-1214) and it is worth noting his reign saw a major Celtic revolt in Moray which could have prompted such a fortification. Whoever built the castle it certainly existed by 1180. At this time it was owned by the Crown and, during a visit, the King signed a charter confirming burgh status to Inverness.
The castle's motte had a diameter of 59 metres and stood over 8 metres tall. Today there are no visible traces of a bailey although it is possible one could have existed to the east of the mound under the modern housing. The castle was destroyed in the late twelfth century when its Constable surrendered it to Donald MacWilliam. It was at least partially rebuilt as in 1308 William, Earl of Ross submitted to Robert the Bruce there. Precisely when it went out of use is unknown but it is unlikely occupation continued into the fifteenth century and certainly by the time of the Wars of Three Kingdoms it was abandoned save for a seventeenth century doocot on the summit.
During the Battle of Auldearn (1645) it is possible the site was used by Royalist artillery. A report for the National Trust of Scotland suggests the raised embankment along the summit of the motte may have been hastily built as an artillery emplacement prior to the battle.
Addyman, T (2000). Boath Doocot and Dooket Hill. Discovery Excavation Society.
CANMORE (2016). Auldearn, Dookit Hill. 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. RCAHMS, Musselburgh.
Lindsay, M (1986). The Castles of Scotland. Constable, Edinburgh.
Simpson, W.D (1959). Scottish Castles - An introduction to the Castles of Scotland. HM Stationery Office, Edinburgh.
Yeoman, P A (1988). Mottes in Northeast Scotland. Scottish Archaeological Review, Glasgow.
Little remains of Auldearn Castle other than the motte. A seventeenth century Doocot is also visible (now under the care of the National Trust for Scotland). The site offers a good view of the 1645 battlefield.
Motte. The motte is now dominated by the doocot and also doubles as the battlefield viewpoint.
National Trust for Scotland. The motte and dootcot are under the care of the National Trust.
Earth Banks. The earth banks surrounding the top of the motte may have been built by the Royalists as artillery emplacements prior to the Battle of Auldearn (1645).