Cawdor Castle

Cawdor Castle
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Cawdor Castle

Located behind the village of Cawdor 4 miles (7 km) southwest of Nairn, Cawdor Castle is famous for its associations with Shakespeare's MacBeth. The Thanedom of Cawdor was promised to MacBeth by the witches, but in reality although MacBeth died in 1052, the 1st Thane of Cawdor did not live until the 13th Century and it was not until 1454 that King James II (1430 - 60) permitted the 6th Thane of Cawdor to build this Castle. The 1st Thane was appointed in 1236 by King Alexander II. The 3rd Thane was murdered by Sir Alexander Rait from the nearby Rait Castle.

Clan Campbell obtained control of the castle in 1511 by forcing the 12 year-old daughter of the 8th Thane to marry John, the younger son of Archibald Campbell (d.1513), the 2nd Earl of Argyll. To assure his position as the next Thane, the ruthless John Campbell summarily disposed of various of his wife's relatives.

Initially a simple tower-house, the upper storey, parapets and massive iron yett were added later in the 15th Century, the ranges were added later in the 17th Century by Sir Hugh Campbell, the 15th Thane. Sir Hugh having declared support for the Jacobites, the family wisely left for their Welsh estates for the best part of the next century. This has the immense benefit of ensuring no destructive 'modernisation' was undertaken in the 18th C and when the family returned, now the Earls of Cawdor, they concentrated on restoration and conservation.

Today the house maintains the charm of a Jacobean home, displaying a particularly fine selection of Belgian tapestries, together with a range of family portraits.

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