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Castledykes Park, motte and bailey, medieval castle and associated earthworks

A Scheduled Monument in Nith, Dumfries and Galloway

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Latitude: 55.0562 / 55°3'22"N

Longitude: -3.6029 / 3°36'10"W

OS Eastings: 297707

OS Northings: 574700

OS Grid: NX977747

Mapcode National: GBR 398Z.S9

Mapcode Global: WH5WQ.M5JN

Entry Name: Castledykes Park, motte and bailey, medieval castle and associated earthworks

Scheduled Date: 5 November 1964

Last Amended: 2 August 2019

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM2472

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: bastion

Location: Dumfries

County: Dumfries and Galloway

Electoral Ward: Nith

Traditional County: Dumfriesshire


The monument comprises the remains of a 12th century motte and bailey castle, the earthwork remains of a late 13th / early 14th century castle, a fortification of Edward I and other associated earthworks. The monument is located within Castledykes Park, close to the River Nith and to the south of the town centre of Dumfries. The monument is visible as a number of substantial earthwork.

The monument comprises a complex group of earthworks within Castledykes Park. The earliest is likely to be the motte and bailey castle, located in the north-western corner of the park, beside Kingholm Road. The motte is oval on plan, measuring around 23m x 13m and is formed from a natural rocky outcrop which has been levelled up and scarped along the flanks. On its north side the motte has been truncated by the creation of Kingholm Road. On its south side a wide ditch separates the motte from the bailey. The bailey is irregular on plan measuring around 50m x 38m. It survives as a raised, tree covered platform standing 2-3m high which may have been originally surrounded by a ditch. Later landscaping has obscured much of the ditch although it survives in a truncated form on the south and west sides.

To the south-east of the motte and bailey is a large raised level area, known as "Castle Hill". This is the site of a 13th century castle, which was further fortified by Edward I through the addition of a fortified enclosure or 'peel'. Castle Hill has a deep rock cut ditch on its southern and part of its eastern edges. The ditch would have originally surrounded the entire area, however, later landscaping has altered the ditch profile. The castle mound has been cut through by an east-west access track which was created for Castledykes House and the western part of the earthwork has been truncated at the same time. Overall the mound measures around 125m northwest to southeast by 45m transversely. At its northern end the mound is stand no more than around 0.2m in height, however, at the southern end stands around 5-6m above the bottom of the ditch. On the northwest side, but separate is an area known as The Saddle, are a series of earthen mounds that appear to be protective outworks. One of the mounds is triangular shaped and another is a broadly oval mound measuring 25m x 15m.

The scheduled area is irregular. It extends up to but does not include the modern land boundaries (walls and fences) of Castledykes Park. It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. All park furniture, lamp posts, modern signage and the interpretative plinths, the war memorial/ flag pole on Castle Hill, railings, post and wire fences, childrens play equipment, telegraph poles, the top 200mm of all paths, roads and car parks are specifically excluded from the schedule for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a. The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of complex multi-phase fortifications dating to the medieval period. In particular, it adds to our understanding of earth and timber fortifications of the 12th and 13th centuries. Detailed documentary evidence adds an important element to our understanding of the nature of the fortification and its role in the Wars of Independence in the later 13th and 14th centuries, in particular, the role that this and associated fortifications played in Edward I's attempt to pacify Scotland. The documentary evidence also provides important understanding and appreciation of the differing nature of Edward I's campaigns in Scotland and Wales.

b. The monument retains structural, architectural, decorative or other physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. In particular, there is the potential to understand the complex developmental history of the site which has multiple phases of occupation and fortification. There is also the high potential for buried features and archaeological deposits, including architectural remains relating to the structures within the motte and bailey, castle and Edwardian (Edward I) fortification.

c. The monument is a rare example of a surviving Edwardian fortification (a 'peel') which can be accurately dated to the end of the 13th century/ beginning of the 14th century.

d. The monument is a particularly good example of a multi-phase castle site, with the motte and bailey being replaced in the 13th century by a masonry castle, which in turn became a major garrison base through the construction of a peel. It is therefore an important representative example of an early castle site.

e. The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of the past in relation to its archaeological and historic interest, in particularly in relation to Edward I's campaigns in Scotland. It has the potential to retain significant information about the date, environment, housing, status and lifestyle of its occupants of this site over an extended period.

g. The monument has significant associations with historical, traditional figures, events and movements. The castle has close historical associations with the Scottish and English Monarchy, Scottish nobility and many events of historical importance for Scotland. It has significant associations with the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument is a good example of an early medieval castle which developed over an extended period. It survives as a number of earthworks which are the substructures on which the timber and masonry defences and buildings would have been built on. The earliest structure appears to be the motte and bailey castle, which occupies the north-western edge of Castledykes Park. It is believed to date to the late 12th century and may have been erected by William I. It survives both as a well-preserved mound, created by adapting a natural rocky outcrop (the motte) and as a raised earthwork platform (the bailey). Modern paths preserve the line of the defensive ditch that would have surrounded the bailey and it is likely that the original profile of the earthworks survives below the modern path.

To the south-east of the motte and bailey is the castle mound upon which stood the royal castle with attendant chapel, dedicated to St Mary. Documentary evidence shows that the castle was at least in part built in masonry and underwent extensive renovations in the 1260s suggesting that the castle was of some age by that date (Stuart 1878, 17). The documentary evidence does not, however, provide detail on the internal layout of the castle. Archaeological survey of the area has the potential to provide further detail the castle and its layout.

The castle mound was re-fortified, under the instructions of King Edward I, particularly with the cutting of a substantial rock cut ditch which survives to a height of 5-6m at its southern end. The mound has been cut through by a path which was originally the access route to Castledykes House. The western part of the castle mound has been further truncated by landscaping when the area was transformed into the garden of the house. Documentary evidence from the reign of King Edward I makes numerous references to a 'peel' that was built as part of Edward's refortification of the site. The documentary indicates that the peel was a substantial fortified enclosure. Parts of the peel are likely to survive as earthworks at Castledyke but later landscaping has made the identification of its extent problematic.

Between the bailey and the later castle are other earthworks which appear to be defensive in nature, including one which is a triangular earthwork projecting outward from castle mound. This feature most closely resembles a stepped bastion; a raised platform for cannon to provide extra protection for the castle. However, the date and exact function of this defensive earthwork remains unclear. It may be connected with a tower house or fortified dwelling depicted on Timothy Pont's late 16th century map of Nithsdale. Alternatively, it may be earlier, relating to the Edwardian peel. This is documented as having a gatehouse and an outer peel to protect the entrance to the north. Archaeological study of these earthworks and comparison to other similar features elsewhere would provide further information on their function and relationship to the other elements of the monument.

The monument was used and developed over a long period of time. The earliest phase being the motte and bailey castle, followed by the creation of a larger stone built castle. In turn, the stone castle was re-fortified and had a peel added in the early 14th century. The peel likely took the form of a large area of land, enclosed by a large wooden fence or palisade with an outer ditch. These defences were further enhanced by a system of waterways which surrounded both the castle and peel and are recorded as having to hold water at least 20 feet wide and 10 feet deep. The exact dimensions of the peel are unknown, however, documentary evidence shows that there was the intention to garrison the castle and peel with at least 240 foot soldiers and additional horsemen which suggesting is was a considerable size, comparable to that at Lochmaben (scheduled monument SM90205).

The castle is one of three in Dumfries and Galloway which were slighted as part of treaty for the freedom of David II in the 1360s and it is unclear what happened at Castledykes after this. A report by an English spy in 1565-66 describes it as the 'oulde castle of Dumfies, fyve miles and a half within the moutht of the Nythe, standing upon the same, verye good for a forte' suggesting that while it was still identified as a castle site, it did not function as such. The depiction on Pont's map of Nithsdale suggests that by the late 16th century the castle was rebuilt in some form. The monument offers high potential to study changes in secular defensive structures over an extended time period. Scientific study of the form and construction of the different elements of the monument has the potential to clarify the date of the remains and the development sequence at this site. It can provide information about the design, construction and development of these medieval defences.

Although Castledykes Park was extensively remodelled in the late 18th/ early 19th century to form garden policies of Castledykes House excavation has demonstrated that important archaeological remains survive below the present ground surface. As a consequence, earthworks and surrounding areas are likely to contain further deposits and archaeological features relating to the construction, occupation, use and abandonment of the site. There is also the potential for old ground surfaces to be preserved beneath the earthworks and for other environmental remains to survive within the fills of the ditches. This evidence could provide information about the contemporary environment and landscape within which the fortifications were built.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

William I took control of the lands of Nithsdale in or around 1166 and erected a castle to the south of the burgh of Dumfries around 1173. This is likely to be the motte and bailey on the site. William I is also responsible for the construction of the later and larger royal castle on the site with its attendant chapel around 1184 (Pryde 1950). During the Wars of Independence of the late 13th and early 14th centuries Edward I, re-fortified the castle as a key location for the control of, and access to southern Scotland. Documentary evidence reveals a great deal about both the nature of the Edwardian fortification and life within it. Detailed accounts survive, for instance, in 'The Wardrobe Accounts of the 28th Year of Edward I'. In November 1298, it is recorded that there were at least 76 people within the castle; 66 soldiers, including crossbowmen and cavalry, smiths, masons, carpenters and a master engineer. The accounts are particularly detailed for 1300 and we know that work to fortify the castle and create a peel, began on 5th September and continued through to 27nd November. The accounts provide an important insight into works carried out to create the peel, including when it was constructed, who it was built, and the numbers of men involved. In addition, we also gain valuable insight into the types of buildings within the castle.

The castle at Castledykes is located close to the south bank of the River Nith on what was the boundary between Dumfriesshire and Galloway. This location would have allowed the castle to be supplied by ship. On the opposite bank of the Nith is another castle; the Mote of Troqueer (Canmore ID: 65677), and there are a number of others located on the Nith in the vicinity of Dumfries including Townhead motte (Canmore ID 65539) within the burgh itself and Kirkhill (scheduled monument SM90200) on the opposite bank. This concentration of contemporary fortified sites around Dumfries makes an important contribution to our understanding of the geo-political landscape of the period.   

The National Record of the Historic Environment of Scotland records almost 340 motte sites in Scotland. Almost 25% of these (86) are located in Dumfries and Galloway. In the majority of cases only the motte has been identified, Castledykes is one of only 42 nationally have an identifiable bailey. Other notable examples in the area are Rochkall Mote, motte and bailey castle (scheduled monument SM707) and Nithside, motte and bailey 450m ESE of (scheduled monument SM690). Study and comparison with other example can tell us about the construction, use and form of these early timber and earth castles.

The deep rock cut ditch on the south side of the castle mound is the only identified evidence of the peel which was constructed in 1300, although other elements of the earthworks are likely to relate to the peel.  Peels built for Edward I's campaigns in Scotland are a rare survival. Other extant examples include Selkirk, Peel Hill (scheduled monument SM2967) and Lochmaben Peel and Castle (scheduled monument SM90205) but others such as a 'peel' at Linlithgow Palace (scheduled monument SM13099) are known only from documentary evidence. The construction of these fortifications were an important aspect of Edward I's attempts to establish control over Scotland, and contrasts with his more extensive castle and town building programme in Wales.

Castledykes may be seen as one of a range of early medieval and medieval castle types that are found in Scotland. There is great potential to compare the standing structures and buried archaeology, in particular, of the peel at Castledykes with similar power centres elsewhere in Dumfries and Galloway and more widely across Scotland. Together, these structures and their buried archaeology can provide invaluable information about medieval kingship, local power centres and their place in medieval Scotland.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

This monument was a royal castle with associations with both Scottish and English royalty, notably William I and Robert I of Scotland and Edward I of England.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 65687 (accessed on 10/05/2019).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 65688 (accessed on 10/05/2019).

Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 65689 (accessed on 10/05/2019).

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Carey, G 2012. Discovering Dumfries and Galloway's Past, Resistivity Survey at Castledykes Park, Dumfries, Interim Report. (accessed 11/06/2019).

Dent, J and McDonald, R 2000. Warfare and Fortifications in the Borders. Scottish Borders Council.

Fairn, A 2010. Dumfries and Galloway Survey of Designed Landscapes and Gardens Recording Form; Castledykes Park. Unpublished report held by the Garden History Society in Scotland.

Nicholson A 2010. Castledykes, Dumfries, Archaeological Watching Brief: Data Structure Report. Unpublished report held by Dumfries and Galloway HER

Nicholson A 2017. Castledykes, Dumfries, Archaeological Watching Brief: Data Structure Report. Unpublished report held by Dumfries and Galloway HER.

Neilson , G 1893. 'Peel: Its Meaning and Derivation' in Transactions of the Glasgow Archaeological Society, NEW SERIES, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp. 121-153. (accessed 24/06/2019).

Neilson, G 1913-14. 'Dumfries: Its Burghal Origin' in Transactions of the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Vol. 2 pp. 157-176. (accessed 21/06/2019).

Stuart J (ed) 1878 . The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, vol 1, p17, 27 (Edinburgh)

Tabraham, C 1997. Scotland's Castles. Batsford.

Truckall, A E 1955. 'Notes on Local Excavations' in Transactions of the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Vol. 32. p.192. (accessed 11/06/2019).

Truckall, A E and Williams, J 1967. 'Mediaeval pottery in Dumfriesshire and Galloway' in Transactions of the Dumfries and Galloway Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Vol. 44. pp.155-157. (accessed 11/06/2019).

Watson, F J 1991. Edward I in Scotland: 1296-1305. PhD Thesis, (accessed 21/06/2019).


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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