Rothesay Castle

Rothesay Castle
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Rothesay Castle

Rothesay Castle sits in the centre of Rothesay, Argyll and Bute, and was built in a circular design in the early 13th Century by the High Stewards of Scotland, who had been given the Isle of Bute c.1200, although it is claimed that a castle has been here since 1098. It has had a turbulent history, repeatedly captured by Viking invaders, strengthened through the 13th C. and finally secured for the Scottish Crown by King Alexander III in 1263. The English were to capture Rothesay several times during the Wars of Independence. King Edward I took control in the 1290s, but the Scots recaptured it in 1306 following an attack from the sea led by Sir Robert Boyd of Cunningham. The English retook Rothesay briefly after the Battle of Halidon Hill in 1333.

The castle became closely linked with the Scottish monarchy on the accession of Robert II in 1371, the first of the Stuart kings. He used the castle as a royal residence and built St. Michael's chapel in the courtyard. King Robert III also lived here and it was the scene of his death in 1406. Both King James III (1452-88) and King James IV (1472 - 1513) used the castle as a base for their campaigns against the Lords of the Isles. The castle was refurbished in the later 15th C. and James IV appointed the Stewart family as hereditary keepers of the castle around 1498. The forward keep was built in 1512 and King James V (1513-42) built the great tower in 1541.

The castle suffered significant damage during Oliver Cromwell's occupation (1650-59) and was destroyed during the Argyll Rebellion of 1685. Consolidation of the ruins was carried out in 1816. Between 1872-79, restoration work began under the patronage of John Crichton-Stuart, the 3rd Marquess of Bute (1847 - 1900), culminating in the castle being placed in the care of the state in 1961. Now a scheduled ancient monument and managed by Historic Environment Scotland, the castle is one of the few in Scotland still surrounded by a moat, which is fed by water from Loch Fad.

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