and the HILL OF CLUNIE CASTLE
The Loch of Clunie has been the site of a fortification for over a thousand years. On its western shore the Hill of Clunie Castle existed no later than the ninth century AD and this was later rebuilt into a motte-and-bailey fortification. In the late fifteenth century this was replaced by an L-plan Tower House known as Clunie Castle.
The Loch of Clunie is located on an east/west route between Dunkeld and Forfar. There is evidence of occupation since the Iron Age and the site later became incorporated into a Royal forest.
Hill of Clunie Castle
The first fortification was on the western side of the loch in vicinity of the modern village. Little is known of its history with only four surviving records mentioning it. The first, dated AD 849, suggests the castle was used as a hunting lodge for Kenneth MacAlpin, first King of Scotland. The second reference notes it was owned by the Crown in 1141. The third record details the castle's occupation by English troops following their victory at the Battle of Dunbar (1296). The final reference dates from 1513 when four men were employed to clear the remaining rubble from the summit.
The layout of the castle is a matter for conjecture. It may have originally been a motte-and-bailey castle but, in this area, this would not have dated from earlier than the twelfth century and therefore must have been built as a replacement for whatever facility or fortification existed on the site at the time of MacAlpin. The castle was then later rebuilt again, this time in stone, in the form of an enclosure castle with an entrance on the south side. It is not known when the fortification was abandoned but it was disused by the time construction work started on Clunie Castle in the late fifteenth century.
Clunie Castle was an L-plan tower house built by George Brown, Bishop of Dunkeld between 1485 and 1514 predominantly to serve as a hunting lodge but perhaps also to secure the area against robbers that apparently had become established in the region. Rather than re-use the earlier site on the Hill of Clunie, the new tower was sited upon an artificial island within Loch of Clunie. The new structure was built from stone quarried from the former fortification and consisted of a three storey (plus attic) rectangular tower with an adjoined stair wing. The ground floor comprised of storerooms and a kitchen, the first floor was the Great Hall whilst the upper level and attic were used as accommodation. In 1507 money was provided for construction of St Catherine's Chapel adjacent to the tower.
During the 1560s vast tracts of ecclesiastical property passed into secular control as the Scottish Reformation swept through the country. In anticipation Robert Crichton, Bishop of Dunkeld (d. 1585) granted the property to his kinsman, Robert Crichton, Lord Advocate of Scotland. This transfer of ownership is perhaps what prompted the remodelling of the castle when dormers were added to the parapets and additional fireplaces installed.
Clunie Castle was upgraded again in the eighteenth century to enhance its comfort. Larger windows were fitted to the main block and the internal arrangements were reconfigured. A new kitchen range was built adjoined to the tower on the north side which was presumably built over St Catherine's Chapel. Clunie Castle was gutted by fire in the twentieth century and thereafter became a roofless ruin. It was never rebuilt.
Alcock, L (1981). Early historic fortifications in Scotland. Leicester.
Anderson, A.O. (1922). Early sources of Scottish history, A.D. 500 to 1286. Edinburgh.
CANMORE (2015). Loch of Clunie. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
CANMORE (2015). Clunie, Castle 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.
Lawrie, A.C. (1905). Early Scottish charters prior to A.D. 1153. Glasgow.
MacGibbon, D and Ross, T. (1892). The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Edinburgh.
Simpson, G.G and Webster, B (1985). Charter evidence and the distribution of mottes in Scotland.
Stell, G. (1985). Provisional list of mottes in Scotland.
Stringer, K.J (1985). Essays on the nobility of medieval Scotland. Edinburgh.
Tranter, N (1962). The fortified house in Scotland. Edinburgh.
Clunie Castle can be seen on an island in the middle of Loch of Clunie but there is no public access and the site is extensively overgrown which conceals the remains. The earthworks of the earlier fortification, Hill of Clunie, can be also be seen.
Clunie Island. Clunie Castle, a late fifteenth century L-plan Tower House, occupies an island in the middle of the loch. The island is believed to be artificial but might have been constructed around a natural knoll.
Hill of Clunie Castle. The first fortification on the site was allegedly in existence during the ninth century AD although what form this took is uncertain. A motte-and-bailey fortification was raised on the same site no earlier than the twelfth century and this was later rebuilt into a stone enclosure castle.
Loch of Clunie. The island that hosted the Tower House can be seen in the foreground with the earthworks of the Hill of Clunie Castle in the background.