Bothwell Castle

Bothwell Castle
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Bothwell Castle

Located a mile (1.5 km) northwest of the town of Bothwell in South Lanarkshire, Bothwell Castle stands on a rocky outcrop which overlooks the River Clyde. Of strategic importance, it was built by the Moray family in the 13th C., after Walter de Moray inherited the estates of Bothwell through marriage (1242). The Morays intended to build a fine castle, with a large courtyard, but only part was complete when the Wars of Independence began and Bothwell was taken by the English (1296). It changed hands several times and was subject to a succession of damaging sieges, the most notable of which was in 1301, when King Edward I captured the castle using a huge siege engine. The most interesting feature of the castle is the immense 'Great Donjon', or round tower, which the Morays were able to complete. This stands 27.4m (90 feet) high, has walls which reach 4.6m (15 feet) thick and has been described as "the grandest piece of mediaeval secular architecture in Scotland." In 1337, after the last siege, the castle was dismantled by the Scots army to prevent further English occupation.

Around 1362, Bothwell passed through marriage to Archibald 'The Grim' Douglas (1328 - c.1400), who undertook significant rebuilding to repair the destruction it had suffered. When the 'Black' Douglas family fell from favour in 1455, the castle became the property of the Crown. In 1489, it was given to Patrick Hepburn, the 2nd Lord Hailes, but very soon afterwards was exchanged with the 'Red' Douglas Earls of Angus in return for Hermitage Castle in the Scottish Borders, although the Hepburns were later known as the Earls of Bothwell. In 1669, the castle passed to the Douglas Earls of Forfar who built a fine Palladian mansion just to the east, which was demolished in 1926 having been undermined by coal mining. By the 19th C. the property had passed to the Earls of Home, who remain the owners, although the ruins have been in the care of the state since 1935, today maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.

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