The masonry remains of a medieval castle including two projecting towers and the moat. Unfortunately portions of the walls, which still stand almost to their original height, are unstable and public access has been restricted. The earthworks surrounding the outer bailey, a substantial part of the castle, can also be seen. The motte of the original castle, built by the Bruce family, is nearby and can be viewed from the adjacent road.
1. One of the less conventional seizures of Lochmaben occurred in 1592 when the Earl of Bothwell, disguised as a women, entered the castle and opened an entrance for his followers to enter.
Lochmaben Castle. Only the castle’s Inner Ward was rebuilt in stone. The Outer Ward, in the foreground of the photo above, was protected by a timber palisade.
Notes: The castle itself is found to the south of Lochmaben on a promontory of land jutting into Castle Loch. There is a small car park in the immediate vicinity of the castle although note the access road is extensively pot-holed. The motte forms part of a golf course but can be seen from Kirk Loch Brae.
Motte. The first castle was an earth and timber motte-and-bailey built by Robert the Bruce, an ancestor of the later King.
Once a mighty Royal fortress at the forefront of the Wars of Independence, Lochmaben Castle changed hands between English and Scottish forces over a dozen times as the fortunes of each side ebbed and flowed. It was later the scene of a violent attempt to restore Catholicism to Scotland.
HISTORY OF LOCHMABEN CASTLE
Lochmaben was granted to Robert Bruce in the mid-twelfth century by King David I. Robert was of Norman descent and his ancestor, Adam de Brus, had accompanied William I in the conquest of England. The family had been granted lands in Cleveland, North Yorkshire but Robert was enticed to come north as the Scottish King sought to encourage Norman immigration. Such men were given lands in unruly parts of Scotland and used their martial skills and castle building expertise to help bring Scotland firmly under Royal control. Granted the Lordship of Annandale in 1141, flooding of his property saw Robert take over Lochmaben shortly after. He built the first Lochmaben Castle, an earth and timber motte-and-bailey fortification, at this time.
This initial castle was still in use in the late thirteenth century at the outbreak of the First War of Scottish Independence. In 1290 the English King had been asked to arbitrate on the Scottish succession following the death of the Alexander III's only heir, Margaret. The then owner of Lochmaben Castle - Robert Bruce, Fifth Lord of Annandale - was one candidate but Edward I ultimately ruled in favour of John Balliol whom he anticipated would be his vassal. However, when faced with impossible demands for manpower to support a continental war, Balliol rebelled. A swift English victory at the Battle of Dunbar (1296) led to Balliol being deposed but soon after William Wallace rebelled and defeated an English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge (1297). The English gained the upper hand the following year in a campaign that also saw Lochmaben Castle taken by Edward I. In 1299 Sir John Maxwell led a force from nearby Caerlaverock Castle and tried but failed to retake the castle. Soon after, the English commenced construction of a new earth and timber fortress - Lochmaben Pele - on the site of the current castle as a replacement intended to control the road between Carlisle and Glasgow.
Lochmaben Pele came under attack in 1301 and was burnt but the site was re-occupied and rebuilt by the English under the oversight of Richard Siward. When Robert the Bruce, Seventh Lord of Annandale started his 1306 rebellion (which would see him become Robert I) he captured Lochmaben Pele but it was re-taken by Edward, Prince of Wales. In 1314, after the decisive English defeat at Bannockburn, Lochmaben Pele was voluntarily surrendered to the Scottish King but was captured back by the English in 1333 when Edward III, fresh from his victory at Halidon Hill, resumed the war with Scotland. Lochmaben would remain an English stronghold for the next 50 years acting as a supply base for military operations in Scotland.
The inner bailey of the castle was rebuilt in stone in the fourteenth century with two substantial towers projecting over a flooded moat. The rest of the defences remained earth and timber however as the frequent fighting with the Scots did not afford an opportunity for more permanent works to be undertaken. Indeed by 1385 the castle had been captured, lost and recaptured no less than eleven times! The final exchange left it in Scottish hands when Archibald the Grim, Earl of Douglas and Lord of Galloway seized it in 1384. The castle remained under the control of his family until 1455 when it was confiscated by James II as part of his suppression of the Black Douglas. It then remained a Royal possession and hosted several Royal visitors over the years including James IV (1503), James V (1542 before the Battle of Solway Moss) and Mary Queen of Scots (1565).
In 1588 the castle was seized by Lord Maxwell, a Catholic who was seeking to overthrow the Protestant monarchy. Along with Maxwell's other castles - Caerlaverock, Langholm and Threave - the King ordered Lochmaben to surrender. At that time it was held by David Maxwell, brother to the Laird of Cowhill, who refused to surrender believing himself safe due to the lack of Royal artillery. But James VI had borrowed numerous artillery pieces from the English Warden in Carlisle and bombarded the fortress. On 9 June 1588, after a two day siege, the castle fell and David, along with five of his supporters, were hung outside the walls despite previous pledges of safe conduct. This was the swan song of the castle though as just 15 years later the 1603 union meant it ceased to have any military purpose and fell into disrepair.