Threave Castle

Threave Castle
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Threave Castle

Threave Castle takes the form of a forbidding 14th Century tower built on an island in the River Dee, 2 miles (3 km) west of Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway. Most likely built on the site of an ancient fortification, Threave Castle became a stronghold of the Earls of Douglas (the so-called 'Black Douglases'), having been built between 1370 and 1390 by Archibald Douglas (1328 - c.1400), the 3rd Earl of Douglas, known as 'The Grim'.

The tower consists of four storeys and is some 22m (70 feet) high, with a sizeable corbel projecting from the wall just below the battlements. This corbel was said to be used by the Douglases to hang their many victims, and this was certainly the fate of McLellan of Kirkcudbright, who was hanged from the corbel by the cruel William Douglas (c.1425 - 1452), the 8th Earl, against the orders of King James II (1430 - 60). In 1455, James besieged the castle as part of his campaign against the 'Black Douglases', having murdered William at Stirling Castle, and Threave was retained as a royal fortress from many years. The tower was protected by a substantial curtail wall and later earth ramparts.

Occupied by successive Stewards of Kirkcudbright, it was badly damaged after Flodden (1513) and then rebuilt by the Maxwell family who acquired it in 1526. It was wrecked in 1640 by the Covenanters who had laid siege to the castle for 13 weeks. During the Napoleonic wars its tower was used to accommodate French prisoners. It fell into ruin during the 19th Century and was eventually placed in State care in 1913 before being handed over to the National Trust for Scotland in 1948 by Major A.F. Gordon. Threave Castle is now managed by Historic Environment Scotland.

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