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LOCHLEVEN CASTLE, KY13 8FZ

GETTING THERE

WHAT IS THERE TO SEE?

An early thirteenth century castle including one of the earliest Tower Houses built in Scotland. Although ruined, the masonry elements of the Tower House are remarkably complete.

VISIT OFFICIAL SITE (Opens in new window)

Castle is owned and managed by Historic Scotland.

ADDITIONAL NOTES

1. A small town/community built on the banks of Loch Leven to support the needs of the castle. Stables, barns and servant accommodation was established and a church was also built close to the site of the seventeenth century replacement.


2. In Spring 1563 Mary, Queen of Scots had a heated exchange with the Protestant reformer, John Knox at Lochleven Castle.





POSTCODE

LAT/LONG

Car Park and Ferry

KY13 8FZ

56.199947N 3.416938W

Lochleven Castle

N/A

56.200819N 3.392065W

Notes:  Located just off Junction 6 of the M90 near the village of Kinross. Castle is sign-posted and ensure you follow these and not the castle postcode else you end up near the Castle (across the water) but not the ferry!

Tower House. The tower at Lochleven Castle was one of the first to be built in Scotland. Unusually it had a second floor entrance.

Glassis Tower. Built around 1550 to provide additional accommodation and enhance defence - including addition of gun-holes.

Scotland > Perthshire, Kinross, Angus and Fife LOCHLEVEN CASTLE

Possibly built by English forces during the late thirteenth century, Lochleven Castle occupied a formidable position on its own island. One of just a few castles that held out against English attack during the second War of Independence, it was later used as a prison for the future Robert II and was where Mary, Queen of Scots was compelled to abdicate.

HISTORY OF LOCHLEVEN CASTLE


The early history of Lochleven Castle is vague. The builder of the castle is uncertain but may well have been constructed in the late thirteenth century by English forces seeking a secure base between the important Royal burghs of Edinburgh and Perth. Allegedly William Wallace, who after his defeat at the Battle of Falkirk (1298) had reverted to guerrilla tactics, launched a night raid on the castle in 1305 and massacred the garrison. However, the first secure date in the castle timeline was from 1313 when Robert I (the Bruce) stayed there after capturing Perth. At this time the castle may just have consisted of a stone curtain wall with wooden buildings within; the stone Tower House was added no later than 1350 making it one of the first such structures in Scotland. Unusually the entrance was on the second floor and perhaps is indicative of concerns about potential flooding. This was certainly a possibility – situated on one of six islands in Loch Leven, which originally had a much higher water level until partially drained in 1826-36, the castle occupied the almost all the available land.


Although the first War of Scottish Independence came to an end with the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northampton in 1328, peace did not last long. The defacto ruler of England - Roger Mortimer, Earl of March - was overthrown and a newly independent Edward III saw an opportunity to overthrow the young King David II, son of Robert the Bruce. In 1332 he covertly supported the claim of Edward Balliol, son of the former King John of Scotland, over and above David. Balliol was crowned but was he was deposed a few months later and fled to Carlisle. He requested support from Edward III and pledged to cede Berwick-upon-Tweed to the English King. Edward took up the challenge and moved his army north triumphantly defeating the Scots at the Battle of Halidon Hill (1333). English forces then overran Scotland and by the following year only five strongholds remained loyal to King David II of Scotland; Dumbarton, Kildrummy, Loch Doon, Lochleven and Urquhart. English forces, under Sir John Stirling, besieged Lochleven in 1335 but were repulsed. The castle remained in Scottish hands as English military interest shifted towards France.


Lochleven remained a Royal castle and David II seemingly spent significant periods of time there in 1361-3 in attempt to avoid succumbing to the Black Death. He also used the castle as a secure prison - he held his uncle, Robert Stewart (later King Robert II), here in 1368. When the latter became King he granted Lochleven to Sir Henry Douglas whose family held the castle until the seventeenth century. They made numerous upgrades to the site including addition of the Glassin Tower; a substantial structure added to the South East corner that provided additional accommodation for high status individuals (evidenced by the existence of an oriel) and also enhanced defences with gun-holes enabling fire along the length of the adjacent walls.


The castle's most famous episode was as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots. On 15 May 1567 she married James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (owner of Hailes Castle). He however had been implicated in the murder of Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots) earlier that year. Although tried and acquitted, he was still widely suspected and, possibly with the connivance of the Queen, the discredited Earl kidnapped Mary on 27 April 1567 and took her to Dunbar Castle where she agreed to marry him. However this spelled the end for Mary’s regime with key magnates rising in rebellion against her. On 15 June 1567 at Carberry Hill near Edinburgh she surrendered to her opponents and was imprisoned in Lochleven Castle under the custody of Sir William Douglas. On 24 July 1567 she was forced to abdicate in favour of her infant son, James.


Accommodated first within Glassin Tower and then on the third floor of the Tower House, Mary was treated as a Royal prisoner and afforded significant comforts. With the help of a boatman, Willie Douglas, she escaped Lochleven and rallied her forces. But she was intercepted and routed at the Battle of Langside on 13 May 1568. She fled to Carlisle and would spend the rest of her life imprisoned in England.


Even as Mary was held prisoner within its walls, Sir William Douglas planned a new residence to replace his medieval castle. Called Newhouse, the structure was built on the lochside near Kinross whilst the castle was abandoned and allowed to drift into ruin. Newhouse itself was replaced in the late seventeenth century by Kinross House - the alignment of which allowed a good view of the old medieval Lochleven Castle on its island.

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