Caerlaverock castle, built in a triangular shape, dates from c1277. The Maxwell family saw to its construction. It is surrounded by double moats and acres of flat marshy willow woods. The castle was strategically placed near the border with England and thus participated in many border conflicts. The Solway area where it sits was part of the disputed lands between the two countries.
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Edward I besieged it in 1300 when fighting John Balliol, the Scottish king. 87 knights and 3000 soldiers along with a number of siege engines were enough to gain the surrender of the 60 Scots inside. Some were allowed to go free; others were hung.
England kept control of the land and castle until Scotland gained its independence from England in 1314. Robert the Bruce ordered his men to destroy all the castles on the border so the English wouldn’t be able to use them. The castle was repaired in 1332 by Sir Eustace Maxwell on the accession of Edward Balliol to the throne of Scotland.
Caerlaverock castle was involved in another war when James V defeated the Scots at the battle of Solway Moss in 1542. The castle changed hands a couple of times during this prolonged conflict. Although the two countries were united in 1603, the union didn’t last long. About 1638, Robert Maxwell built the Nithsdale Lodging, a Renaissance range.
In 1640 war flared and Caerlaverock castle was besieged once again, but this time by the Scots. The English surrendered the castle and the Scots set about taking much of it apart. This led to its decay.
Visitors to the castle today see it much as it was in the late 15th century. The battlemented castle sports a twin towered gatehouse. It served as a secure home and had a great chamber on the first floor and rooms on the second floor and in the towers.
Other attractions are a children’s park, siege warfare exhibition, and a nature trail in the woods to the site of the original wooden castle, built c1220.
Eight miles south-east of Dumfries, on the B725
Tel. 0 1387 770 244
Open: April-end Sep, daily, 9.30am-5.30pm; Oct-end March, 10am-4pm; closed Dec 25, 26 and Jan 1, 2; cafe closed Tue and Thu in winter
Historic Scotland property; parking, visitor centre, exhibition, refreshments, shop, some parts handicapped accessible; on the National Cycle Network
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard