PEEL RING OF LUMPHANAN
The Peel Ring of Lumphanan was raised in the early thirteenth century by the Durward family. It was visited by Edward I of England in 1296 but went out of use shortly after. The castle probably stands in proximity to the scene of Macbeth’s defeat at the Battle of Lumphanan (1057) and his subsequent summary execution.
Lumphanan is located on an overland route connecting the Cairngorms with Stonehaven and was also on a portage route between the Rivers Dee and Don. It was the scene of the Battle of Lumphanan in August 1057 in which Macbeth was defeated. Although much maligned by the Shakespeare play, Macbeth was seemingly a competent and able ruler. He acquired the throne by defeating the ineffective King Duncan at the Battle of Pitgaveny in August 1040. Thereafter he ruled for a longer-than-average 17 years during which he promoted Christianity and made the first visit to Rome by a Scottish King. However, after Macbeth’s own defeat at Lumphanan, he was he summarily beheaded (allegedly on the nearby ‘Macbeth’s Stone’). The Scottish throne passed initially to Lulach, Macbeth’s step-son, before Macolm killed him to assume the role as Malcolm III. His reign lasted an impressive 35 years but ended in humiliation with his death at the First Battle of Alnwick (1093).
It is not known whether there was any fortification or residence at Lumphanan at the time of Macbeth but the remains seen today are much later and were raised in the early thirteenth century by the Durward family. They were descended from Robert de London (Lundin), a Norman who had settled in Angus during the twelfth century. By 1233 Alan de Lundin had acquired the hereditary office of door ward to the King (and he took the surname Durward at this time). Concurrently the family made a concerted attempt to acquire the Earldom of Mar and, although they failed in this aim, they acquired significant landholdings in the north including Coull, Lumphanan and Urquhart. The family established their main caput at Coull but also built the Peel Ring of Lumphanan, possibly to serve as a hunting lodge.
The castle took the form of a motte fortification built on top of a natural mound. The mound was flat topped and enclosed by a timber palisade. It was completely surrounded by two circular, wet ditches fed from a neighbouring burn and controlled via a series of sluices. A gatehouse on the north-east side incorporated a drawbridge.
In July 1296 Lumphanan Castle hosted a visit by Edward I of England who had come to receive the homage of Sir John de Melville, Lord of Raith. The castle may have gone out of use shortly after, possibly as a result of being slighted by one side or the other during the First War of Scottish Independence (the Durward's main residence at Coull Castle was also destroyed during this conflict). Lumphanan passed to the Halketts in 1370 and the Irvine family by fifteenth century. In 1480s it was acquired by Thomas Charteris. He built a two storey residence, Halton House (Ha' House), on the summit shortly after which remained occupied until at least 1782. Numerous modifications were made to the Peel during this period including the construction of a stone curtain wall, which was presumably for aesthetic or agricultural reasons rather than a defensive requirement. The house was demolished in the late eighteenth or early nineteenth century.
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The Peel Ring of Lumphanan consists of the earthwork remains of an early thirteenth century fortification. The inner ditch and mound are visible.
Peel Ring of Lumphanan. The remains seen today are the earthworks of a thirteenth century fortification. The site was originally enclosed by a timber palisade, hence the name Peel Ring of Lumphanan. There were originally two ditches surrounding the mound, both water filled from an adjacent burn.
Entrance. The modern entrance into the Peel is on the north-east side and this probably reflects the location of the medieval gatehouse.
Halton House. A two storey house was built on the Peel in the late fifteenth century but has subsequently been demolished but its footprint can be seen.
Summit. The summit of the mound. The site of Halton House is in the foreground.