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Bothwell Castle

Bothwell Castle was a large, strategically important castle guarding a crossing point on the River Clyde near Glasgow. Its massive keep was designed to be part of a huge fortification. Even today it remains an impressive ruin.

Bothwell Castle was built by Walter of Moray in mid-13th Century. He had envisioned it to be a massive enclosure castle with a twin-towered keep and imposing curtain walls with more towers along it.

By the time of the Wars of Independence only its massive circular keep, the prison tower and some curtain walling had been constructed.

Wars of Independence

Bothwell Castle was firmly in Edward I of England's sights when he invaded in 1296. He moved quickly and captured the castle at the start of the war.

The Scots besieged Bothwell for 14 months in 1298-99 before the English garrison ran out of supplies and surrendered.

Edward came back in 1301. He was better prepared and brought with him "The Belfry", three siege engines and skilled military engineers. The Belfry was a high siege tower with ladders inside to allow the attackers to get onto the battlements safely.

It worked and Bothwell Castle fell in about three weeks.

The castle became Edward's headquarters in Scotland. He appointed Aymer de Valence, 2nd Earl of Pembroke, to be his Warden of Scotland. It remained an English power base for a number of years and even provided a refuge for several English noblemen after the Battle of Bannockburn.

Robert the Bruce sent his brother Edward to reclaim Bothwell for the Scots. Its castellan Walter fitz Gilbert duly surrendered and left the English to their fate. He was rewarded with lands around Cadzow and his descendants went on to become the Dukes of Hamilton and Dukes of Abercorn.

After its surrender Robert had Bothwell Castle slighted.

The English were back in 1336 under King Edward III. He repaired it and set it up again as an English stronghold and power base for his invasion.

It was Sir Andrew Moray who won the castle back for the Scots in 1337 and this time he was responsible for slighting his ancestral home. The western side of the donjon was dismantled and pushed down the hill into the River Clyde.

The Black Douglases

Bothwell remained derelict until it was taken over by Archibald 'the Grim', 3rd Earl of Douglas. He had married a Moray heiress and he set about restoring the castle. He repaired the donjon and finished the walls. His son continued the work in the 15th Century by adding the Great Hall, a chapel, defensive towers on the east side and walls to enclose the courtyard.

The Black Douglases were forfeited in 1455 after James Douglas, 9th Earl of Douglas, rebelled against King James II and attacked Stirling. The king had murdered his brother, William Douglas, in 1452.

The castle passed through a number of owners and eventually came back into Douglas hands when the 5th Earl of Angus was forced to swap Hermitage Castle for the lands and castle at Bothwell.

The castle descended through the family line from Earls of Angus to the Earls of Forfar. The 1st Earl of Forfar took stone from Bothwell to build a mansion house nearby. Its remains continued down the line until it came to the Earls of Home.

Bothwell Castle was gifted to the state by the Earl of Home in 1955 and today it is under the management of Historic Scotland. They run the castle as a heritage site and visitor attraction.

The facilities available at the site include car parking, toilets, a gift shop, and tea and coffee. There are also information boards around the site detailing the history and layout of the castle.

Status: Visitor Attraction / Heritage Site
Owner: Historic Scotland
Tel: +44 (0)1698 816 894
Opening Times: 1st April to 30th September Daily 9.30am-5.30pm / 1st October to 31st March Sat-Wed 9.30am-4.30pm

The entrance to Bothwell Castle with the circular donjon on the left
Bothwell Castle with the circular donjon on the left

Overlooking the main courtyard at Bothwell
Looking down on the courtyard at Bothwell

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