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Doune Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Trossachs and Teith, Stirling

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Latitude: 56.1848 / 56°11'5"N

Longitude: -4.0501 / 4°3'0"W

OS Eastings: 272854

OS Northings: 701025

OS Grid: NN728010

Mapcode National: GBR 17.G82X

Mapcode Global: WH4NR.RTK0

Entry Name: Doune Castle

Scheduled Date: 26 April 2011

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM12765

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Kilmadock

County: Stirling

Electoral Ward: Trossachs and Teith

Traditional County: Perthshire


The monument consists of Doune Castle, its defences and earthworks. It is situated south-east of Doune village, around 20m above sea level, at the neck of a promontory between the River Teith on the west and Ardoch Burn on the east. The monument was first scheduled in 1979, but the area was defined by the area of guardianship: the present rescheduling rectifies this. The monument is in the care of Historic Scotland on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

Built probably on the site of an earlier castle, the present Doune Castle was built or re-modelled for Robert Duke of Albany between 1380 and 1400. It became the main castle of the earldom of Menteith until the title was annexed to the Crown in 1424. At this time the castle became a royal household and, in the following centuries, it was frequently used as a dower house to the queens of Scotland and as a hunting lodge. Later in its life Doune Castle acted as a state prison and was used to house prisoners during the 1745 Jacobite uprising.

The high-walled pentagonal courtyard castle of Doune sits on raised ground within a series of ditches that may be associated with an earlier defensive structure. The curtain walls are finished with a defensive wall-head and corner turrets on the S and E sides, which were added in the 16th century. The main approach is from the north, and is dominated by a five-storey gatehouse tower, over a defended entry. It contained the principal accommodation for the Duke and Duchess of Albany, including the Lord's Hall, the Upper Hall and oratory or chapel. Adjacent to the gatehouse and filling the remainder of the N range is the great hall, raised over a series of undercrofts. In the W wall are the postern, protected by a possible wallhead machicolation (a hole for dropping various missiles on the enemy), and the kitchen tower. The latter is offset from the plan of the castle and extends beyond the curtain wall, which may indicate an earlier structure. Masonry tusking projects from the SE corner of the kitchen tower and fine windows are visible in the S curtain wall, which suggests that more buildings were originally planned within the castle walls. However, it would seem these were never completed. The earthworks consist of ephemeral banks, between 0.2m and 0.5m in height, located in the wooded area to the south of the castle, between 100m and 150m from the curtain wall.

The area to be scheduled is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment may survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduled area extends up to, but excludes: the driveway and road that leads to the sewage works south of the castle; the boundary wall on the NW side; and the path to the west. To allow for their maintenance, the scheduling also excludes the top 50cm of the path to the north that leads to the castle entrance and the above-ground elements of all garden furniture, sculptures and waymarkers.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics

Doune Castle is one of the largest and best-preserved 14th-century castles in Scotland. Unlike most of Scotland's castles which have been modified over time, Doune was planned and constructed in one phase and the distribution of the mason's marks may indicate that the castle was erected fairly quickly. Its well-preserved architectural elements and single coherent design, even if it partially uses elements of an earlier structure, allows us to learn more about castle construction, layout and design for the royal family within this period. For example, the architectural details show that the design of the castle was altered during construction. However, there is also potential for a more complex developmental sequence within the buried archaeological remains, as the alignment of the kitchen tower and evidence of fishtail arrow loops indicate an earlier phase of castle.

Its courtyard and well-defined ditches are likely to contain deposits and archaeological features relating to the construction, occupation, use and abandonment of the site. For example, the courtyard has high potential to establish the extent of Albany's building programme: excavations in 2000 revealed that archaeological layers are preserved below the surface. It will also contain evidence for the dates at which non-extant buildings were built, used, re-used, abandoned and demolished. There is also the potential for a buried soil to be preserved beneath the banks and for environmental remains to survive within the fills of the ditches. This evidence could provide information about the contemporary environment and landscape within which the castle was built.

The earthworks to the south also have the archaeological potential to add to our understanding of Doune Castle and its history. They have the potential to help us ascertain whether the site was occupied in the prehistoric or early historic periods, and to enhance our understanding of how the grounds outwith the curtain wall were used in medieval times. For example, they may indicate the use of this area for more formal gardens from the mid 15th century. We know that a gardener was in place at Doune Castle during the reign of James II when the house was granted to his wife Mary, daughter of the Duke of Gueldres, on their marriage.

Contextual characteristics

Doune is similar to other courtyard castles in Scotland, such as Tantallon, Dirleton and Caerlaverock, with its combination of curtain wall and tower residence. However, when compared with other castles, it is apparent that Doune is not a perfect example of one architectural type, but rather a structure built with reference to existing traditions whilst at the same time innovative and forward-looking in its design.

The traditional keep looks back to 13th-century castles, where defence was key, and it is likely to have mirrored David's Tower at Edinburgh Castle which was begun around 1367 and completed in the 1370s. However, the integration of the buildings within the courtyard, so that the main hall linked the kitchen and the servants' quarters with the family rooms, suggests a more modern approach where the military function of the castle was beginning to take second place to the domestic. This impression is reinforced by the inclusion of a domestic chapel or oratory, which was extremely rare during this period. This domestication of the castle structure and the initial designs to create four ranges around the courtyard more readily identifies Doune with royal courtyard palaces, such as at Linlithgow, Stirling, Falkland and Dunfermline. In essence, therefore, Doune Castle represents one of the earliest examples of planned 'royal lodgings' in Scotland, which makes it highly unusual. If completed it would have been identified as a forerunner to the 15th-century royal courtyard palaces.

The monument's place in the landscape is also very important as it occupies an elevated position with commanding views to and from the castle, which gives it total control over the surrounding land and makes this a highly defensible site. Defensibility must have played a role in the positioning of the castle on a strategic promontory located on one of the main routes into the Highlands. Its location very close to an earlier Roman fort may not be purely coincidental: it is possible that its builders were aware there had been a Roman fort nearby.

The castle was originally set within a parkland landscape, which was important for its use as a hunting lodge and country retreat. The castle's rural location is important to its setting. This landscape added a special quality that was also appreciated during the 16th century by James VI. The monument's relationship with the historical medieval chapel dedicated to St Fillan, which may lie on the site of the present Campbell's mortuary chapel one mile to the south, is also significant in understanding the monument in its medieval landscape: the rights of patronage to this chapel were given to the Lord of Doune in an Act of Parliament in 1587.

Associative characteristics

Some have suggested that the name Doune is likely to be an interpretation of 'dun' from the Gaelic word meaning fort. This has led to the suggestion that there may be an earlier medieval or prehistoric fortified structure on the site, and that the mound, some of the defences and the foundations of the kitchen block may pre-date the existing castle.

The castle that now stands on the site is likely to have been constructed by Robert, Duke of Albany, who issued charters from Doune Castle from 1406 onwards. He built it probably between 1361, when he became the Earl of Menteith through marriage, and 1381, when the castle is mentioned in a charter for the first time.

Robert was the third son of Robert II and the younger brother of Robert III. He was guardian of Scotland during the reign of his father, brother and nephew, James I, and was a powerful and wealthy man. We know that he visited Doune often, as royal charters were signed there by Robert in place of the king. Almost uniquely in Scotland, Doune's architecture reflects Robert's royal ambitions and the ideas of the time of what was appropriate for a man of his status. Doune would also have been important to him as the administrative centre for the Menteith estates and as a country retreat within easy reach of Stirling. It also held a position of strategic and political significance on the edge of the lowlands and highlands. The Gaelic north-west was controlled by Robert's nephew, Donald, Lord of the Isles, who also claimed control of the Earldom of Ross in 1402. As this was also claimed by Robert on behalf of his son, a political struggle ensued that did not end until 1412.

After the execution of Robert's son, Murdoch, Doune Castle reverted to the Crown and became a royal household. For the next century it was used as a country retreat, hunting lodge, and dower house for three queens of Scotland. The chamberlain's accounts refer to royal expenses at Doune Castle and mention the king's fisher, gardener, park keeper, sergeant and jailer.

After the marriage of Margaret Tudor, the widowed former wife of James IV, to Henry Stuart, 1st Lord Methven, she managed to get the keepership of Doune transferred to his younger brother, James Stewart. His grandson became the 2nd Earl of Moray through marriage and the castle has stayed in their ownership up until the present day.

However, Doune Castle was still used as a royal retreat. When James VI visited, he declared that it was 'most pleasant for our pastime'. He also paid just under £320 for repairs to be carried out to the tower head in 1580. In 1593 it was also the setting for royal intrigue when a plot against James was discovered, and the king surprised the conspirators, who included the Earls of Montrose and Gowrie, at Doune Castle.

From the end of the 16th century Doune Castle was often used as a prison and garrison. It was also a place of justice where executions would be carried out. We know this because Charles I declared that public executions should take place at the Mercat Cross in Doune village rather than at the castle as before. Several times between the 1570s and 1590s, several Borderers were imprisoned at Doune. In 1607 the minister John Munro of Tain, a dissenter against the religious plans of James VI, was also imprisoned there. The castle was garrisoned by government troops during the Jacobite rising in 1689, when repairs were ordered, and again during the rising of 1715. During the Jacobite rising of 1745, Doune Castle was occupied by Charles Edward Stuart, commonly known as 'Bonnie Prince Charlie', and his Jacobite Highlanders. It was used as a prison for government troops captured at the Battle of Falkirk. Several prisoners, held in the rooms above the kitchen, escaped by knotting together bed sheets and climbing from the window. Escapees included the author John Home, and a minister, John Witherspoon, who later moved to the American colonies and became a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence.

By the end of the 18th century the castle was roofless, and remained so until 1883 when the 14th Earl of Moray commissioned the architect Andrew Kerr to carry out its restoration.

Doune Castle now has a place in modern culture since it has been featured in several literary works, including the 17th-century ballad, 'The Bonny Earl of Murray', and Sir Walter Scott's first novel, 'Waverley' (1814). In 'Waverley', the protagonist Edward Waverley is brought to Doune Castle by the Jacobites and the novel describes Doune as a 'gloomy yet picturesque structure', with its 'half-ruined turrets'. In 1974, the film 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' was filmed at Doune Castle, which has maintained the position of the castle in popular culture into the present day.

National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant addition to our understanding of the past, in particular medieval castles of the 14th century. It is a unique example of a forerunner to the 15th-century royal courtyard palaces. The castle buildings and the buried remains have the potential to provide information about its date, construction, use and abandonment, which can contribute to our understanding of the development and use of medieval castles in Scotland in general, and royal residences in particular. Its association with the royal household and its place in Scotland's history both make this an important monument. The loss of this monument would significantly diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the development of stone castles and royal residences in Scotland and the place of Doune Castle in Scottish history.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS record the site as NN70SW 1 (a copy of their short report is appended). The Stirling Council SMR designation is 416.


Bailey, G, 1987, 'Doune Castle (Kilmadock Parish)', Discovery Excav Scot, 4.

Billings, R W 1845-52, Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland, Vol 2, Edinburgh Pls 7, 8.

Cannell, J 1986, 'Doune Castle', Discovery Excav Scot, 5-6.

Cruden, S 1981, The Scottish Castle, HMSO, 84-90.

Dalgleish, C 2002, Doune Castle (unpublished).

Duffy, A 1999, 'Doune Castle (Kilmadock parish)', Discovery Excav Scot, 87.

Ewart, G & Dunn, A 1999, 'Doune Castle (Kilmadock parish)', Discovery Excav Scot, 87.

Ewart, G & Stewart, D 1998, 'Doune Castle (Kilmadock parish)', Discovery Excav Scot, 94.

Fawcett, R 1994, Scottish Architecture from the Accession of the Stewarts to the Reformation 1371-1560, Edinburgh, 7-11, 17, 239.

Fraser, W 1881, The Red Book of Menteith, 1, Edinburgh, 471-96.

Fraser, W 1881, The Red Book of Menteith, 2, Edinburgh, 369-452.

Fraser, W 1881, The Dukes of Albany and Their Castle of Doune. Edinburgh.

MacGibbon, A, 1795. Statistical Account of Scotland: Parish of Kilmadock, Edinburgh, 20-56.

MacGibbon, D & Ross, T 1887-92, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, Edinburgh, 418-29.

Mackenzie, W 1927, The Medieval Castle in Scotland, London, 90, 92, 95, 100, 113-4, 120, 125, 144-5.

Main, L & Anderson, W 1989, 'Doune Castle Watching Brief', Discovery Excav Scot, vol. 1989, 9.

Mitchell, G 1845, New Statistical Account of Scotland: Perthshire, 10, Edinburgh, 1227-30.

Pringle, R D, 1987, Doune Castle, HMSO.

RCAHMS, 1979, Stirling District, Archaeol Sites Monuments Ser 7, Edinburgh, 39.

Simpson, W D 1938, 'Doune Castle', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 72 (1937-8), 73-83.

Simpson, W D, 1946. 'Bastard Feudalism and the Later Castles', Antiq J, 26, 145-171.

Stewart, D 1999, 'Doune Castle (Kilmadock parish)', Discovery Excav Scot, 87.

Stewart, D, 2000, 'Doune Castle (Kilmadock parish)', Discovery Excav Scot, 1, 90.

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Tranter, N 1970, The Fortified House in Scotland, 5, Edinburgh, 192-4.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Doune Castle & Roman Camp
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Related Designations

Designation TypeListed Building (B)StatusDesignated

Doune Roman Fort, fort 60m S of Doune Primary SchoolSM12757
Designation TypeScheduled MonumentStatusDesignated

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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