Shrouded in the mystery of time long past, the records sadly destroyed by the final battles it was engaged in. Dundee Castle was a legendary place in ancient Scotland’s history where King’s and Queen’s visited, and many battles were fought.

The ancient settlement of Dundee, which in its earliest days consisted of two main streets, the Seagate and the Cowgate, was dominated by a huge 90ft tall cliff faced hill atop which sat the Castle of Dundee. The castle was simply known as the Castle of Dundee, but the hill upon which it sat was locally called the Black Rock, due to the black colour of the rock. It must have been quite the intimidating sight for intruders to see a black 90ft tall rocky cliff with a castle standing on top.

The memory of the castle lives on in the name Castle Street, which is located on the site of the castle after the last parts of the rocky hill were blasted away with dynamite to make way for the street. Before this there was still a considerable hill of 20 – 40ft at this location. No one can be sure when the castle itself was erected, and sadly no painting or sketches of the castle remain.

The oldest records of Scotland’s history say that Dundee was a place of considerable importance shortly after the spreading of Christianity. Some historians say that the castle of Dundee was a refuge to Carinthius, king of the Picts, after his army had suffered a defeat in Fife, by the legions of Agricola of Rome. They go on to say that under the cover of its impregnable walls, he not only defended himself from the the enemy, but had time also to deliberate with his chiefs after which he entered into a league with Galgacus, king of the Scots. This was to oppose the onslaught of the armies of Rome.

It’s also been suggested that Donald I, accompanied by his queen and courtiers, visited Dundee about 860 and remained there for a considerable time where they are said to have been baptized into the Christian faith. It is also noted in several sources that King Edgar Atheling died here in 1106 after a reign of 9 years. So Dundee was certainly a town of great importance, and possibly the seat of royalty at a very earlier period.

The Castle was one of the main fortresses of Scotland and played a prominent part in Scotland’s War of Independence. After the death of Alexander III, the country was thrown into chaos. While Edward I plotted to take control of Scotland, after being asked to help decided who the new king should be, the Castle was handed over to Gilbert de Umfraville, Earl of Angus.

Once Edward I began his campaign to take control of Scotland, he decided the main strongholds of the country should be handed over to someone who would hold them on his behalf. Dundee Castle was handed over to Brian, son of Alan, against the Earls wishes. After John Baliol was declared King of Scots, with some interference from Edward I, Brian was ordered to hand the Castle over to him. After Baliol capitulated to Edward’s rule in July of 1292, Dundee Castle was again in the possession of the English, although it had been under their control in all but name.

William Wallace was at this time rising against Edward I, and it was while besieging Dundee to reclaim the town and the and Castle, that Wallace received word of the advance of the English army. He left Alexander Scrymgeour to continue the siege which after a long and bloody battle, was a success. Dundee Castle was now back in control of the Scots.

When Wallace returned to Dundee he named Alexander the “Skirmischur” and appointed him the hereditary Constable of the Castle of Dundee and bestowed him the right to carry the royal standard in war. Unfortunately Alexander Scrymgeour did not hold the castle for long, as although Edward I retreated after his victory at Falkirk he left behind a garrison in Dundee, and wrote to them in 1300, telling the garrisons to “keep themselves by truce as best they can till Pentecost next” (May 1301) when the truce was to end.

Alexander Scrymgeour continued as Constable of Dundee and remained at the Castle even after Edward I’s complete subjugation of Scotland in 1303, but events must have unfolded at the Castle as shortly after this English garrisons were in command and the castle stayed under their control for several years.

After his coronation at Scone on 27th March 1306, Robert the Bruce took to the field against Edward. He was at once joined by Alexander Scrymgeour, and Dundee Castle was back in the hands of the Scots. However soon after Scrymgeour was taken prisoner after being defeated at Methven. Six weeks later, along with other prisoners taken at that battle, he was hanged in Newcastle. After his defeat, Bruce fled to the west and Dundee Castle was in the hands of the English.

The English garrison managed to hold out for another year, after which it was taken back by Bruce in 1313. After this he gave the order to destroy the Castle, to prevent it being used against him. It had changed hands between the Scots and the English eight times in the last 22 years. It was likely seen as much of a curse as a blessing, allowing whoever occupied it to remain in place in the region due to its position above the rock for defence, and right beside the shore for a speedy escape when needed.

After the destruction of all local records the details of such battles and other stories of the Castle have been lost to time, only a few mentions of the Castle in the records of Edwards army remain along with tales and legends, such as that of Carinthius. But as the memory of the castle lives on in the name Castle Street, and a plaque reminds us of its location, we can only imagine how different the city centre would look were the castle still standing today.

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Whilst not actually in Dundee, per se, we couldn’t let a wee treasure like Glamis Castle fly under the radar. Steeped in centuries of dark, blood-soaked history and with more legends attached to it than almost any other castle in Scotland, Glamis Castle was too hard to resist. The Castle was presented to Sir John Lyon as a gift by King Robert II in 1372 and remains in the family to this day. The Queen Mother, mistakenly believed to have been born at Glamis, in fact, gave birth to Princess Margaret there in 1930 and also tended to wounded soldiers at Glamis during WW1 when it became a convalescence home.

Glamis is the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth and is referred to by name, and it is widely believed that Duncan was murdered here by Macbeth (although, for each proponent of the tale, there is a counter-argument). In the armoury of the Castle, the sword and the shirt of mail worn by Macbeth are still displayed.

Bonnie Dundee was a great friend of the 3rd Earl of Kinghorne and a hero to the Jacobites. His leather ‘bullet-proof’ jacket (allegedly enhanced by the devil himself during dark magic rituals undertaken in Claypotts Castle) and boots are also on display at Glamis.

Lady Janet Douglas, the Lady of Glamis, was accused by King James V (Mary Queen of Scots father) of witchcraft, poisoning her husband and plotting to poison the king. King James hated the Douglas family because his stepfather, Archibald Douglas (who happened to be Janet’s brother) had imprisoned James when he was a young child. This hatred failed to abate over the years, and, seeking vengeance for the past, Janet was burned at the stake on 17th July 1537 at Edinburgh Castle as her son, John, was made to watch. Interestingly, no harm was inflicted on the boy, who was incarcerated until he came of age, and then had his title and estates restored. Some forty years after the death of his mother, John was murdered in an unplanned skirmish with his mortal hereditary enemies, the Lindsays.

The legend of the “Monster of Glamis” is believed to have been inspired by the infamous “Room of Skulls” – a room where the Ogilvie family sought shelter from the Lindsays and were walled up and left to die of starvation.

Many of the Stuart monarchs believed they had special healing powers, and it was in the chapel at Glamis that King James VIII (The Old Pretender) touched people for the ‘king’s evil’ or scrofula – a skin disease associated with tuberculosis which afflicts sufferers with lymph node swelling in the neck. The practice began with King Edward the Confessor in England around 1003, and continued throughout the middle ages.

These are just some of the many fascinating facets to the history of Glamis Castle, and you can find out more by visiting their website. However, don’t rush away just yet…if you want to know some more about the legends and ghosts of the castle, head over to our Local Legends section.

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Claypotts Castle is a late medieval castle in the West Ferry area of Dundee, Scotland. It is one of the best-preserved examples of a 16th-century ‘Z-plan’ tower house in Scotland. The castle is now maintained as an Ancient Monument by Historic Scotland and is open to the public for only a few days a year. Originally built by John Strachan, work commenced sometime in 1569 and was eventually completed in 1588, nearly 20 years later. The land the castle was built on was owned by Lindores Abbey in Fife, and was rented to the Strachans for a cost of £11 16s 8d and twelve cockerels. Yes, that’s right – twelve cockerels!

The spirit of a ‘white lady’ has been seen on numerous occasions at the castle. She has been mainly seen at one of the upper windows and witnesses have also said that, at times, she seems to be waving. She is largely believed to be that of Marion Ogilvie. In the 16th century Marion Ogilvie was the mistress of Cardinal Beaton – who was murdered in St. Andrews on 29th May, 1546. However, it’s unclear why the ‘white lady’ ghost is said to be that of Marion as Claypotts didn’t exist until much later in that century. It’s possible that another lady by the name of ‘Marion’ haunts the castle, and it may be that she is connected to another ghost that haunts the area – John Graham of Claverhouse. In 1601 Claypotts Castle was bought by the Grahams and later owned by John Graham of Claverhouse, more famous for the moniker ‘Bonnie Dundee’ or ‘Bloody Clavers’.

The castle was the focus of rumours about diabolic rituals and demonic orgies lead by John Graham. He had apparently made a pact with the devil during these satanic rituals, bestowing upon him the gift of invulnerability. Bloody Clavers was killed at the battle of Killiecrankie in 1689 and his spirit is also said to return to the castle on 29th May – the same date Cardinal Beaton was murdered in 1546. Tales tell of demonic screaming, “hell-fire”, lascivious orgies and the sounds of the horses of Hell stomping over the land.  Red, glowing eyes, cackling laughter and the devil himself have also all been reported…but never validated.  Ever. So widely believed were the rumours of devil worship that it was recorded that he had died by a either silver bullet or the silver button on his jacket as a bullet hit him, as he could not be felled by lead whilst under the protection of the devil himself.

 

Completed around 1495, Broughty Castle had been earlier fortified in 1454 when George Douglas, 4th Earl of Angus received permission to build on the site. His son Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus was coerced into ceding the castle to the crown. The main tower house forming the centre of the castle with four floors was built by Andrew, 2nd Lord Gray who was granted the castle in 1490. Broughty Castle has been party to a little excitement over the years; more notably the “Nine Year War” or “Rough Wooing”, classed by many as the first ‘modern’ battle on the British Isles. The battle was a monumental defeat for Scotland, and the date of 10th September 1547 was known as “Black Saturday”. Soon after taking possession, the English garrison further fortified Broughty Castle from intrusion by building a ditch across the landward side of the castle’s promontory. Edward Clinton began the re-fortification, with the advice of an Italian engineer, Master John Rossetti, and left 100 men guarded by three ships. The garrison was first led by Sir Andrew Dudley. The Constable of Dundee, John Scrimgeour, the Baillies and the Council signed the agreement, although under duress.

The Earl of Argyll tried to capture the castle on 22 November 1547 and again in January 1548 with 150 men lead by the soldier Duncan Dundas, without success. Thomas Wyndham brought two more ships in December 1547 and burnt Balmerino Abbey on Christmas Day in an outrage. On Christmas Day 1549, Mary of Guise held a warfare meeting at Stirling Castle with her guests, and they agreed that more French guns could be brought to besiege Broughty. Twelve English ships arrived to support the defenders and it was 12 February 1550 before the French and Scots managed to recapture Broughty. Mary of Guise watched the successful assault on Wednesday 6 February 1550 from a vantage point across the Tay.

Broughty Castle was attacked again in 1651 by General Monck during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, at the same time as the people of Dundee were slaughtered by his garrison. Needless to say, the defending Royalists hastily fled the scene, knowing full well the extent of Moncks’ brutality. The castle was under the ownership of the Gray family when it was sold in 1666, and over time began to show advanced signs of disrepair. In 1846 the castle was bought by the Edinburgh and Northern Railway Company in order to build an adjacent harbour for their railway ferry.

In 1855 the castle was acquired by the War Office with the intention of using it to defend the harbour from the Russians. In 1860 renewed fears of a French invasion led the War Office to rebuild and fortify the site. The castle remained in military use until 1932, and again between 1939 and 1949. The last defence-related alteration was made in the Second World War when a defence post was built within the top of the main tower, and in 1969, operated by Dundee City Council, the castle opened it’s doors to the public as a museum.

 

Dudhope Castle, one of Dundee’s oldest buildings, sits overlooking the city, near the foot of the Law. The castle was originally built in the late 13th century by the Scrimgeour family, appointed Hereditary Constables of Dundee by William Wallace in 1298. John Scrimgeour entertained King James VI at Dudhope in 1617, and was granted a charter of the lands and barony of Dundee on 11 December that year. He refused to sign the Covenant in 1639. Later, King Charles I created him Viscount Dudhope and Baron Scrimgeour of Inverkeithing in November 1641. He died in 1643 and was succeeded by his eldest son James. On the death in 1668 of John Scrimgeour, Constable, and first Earl of Dundee, King Charles II ignored the existence of the rightful heir, and made a grant of Dudhope Castle and the office of Constable to Charles Maitland, a younger brother of the Earl of Lauderdale.

Later, whilst experiencing financial difficulties, Maitland sold Dudhope Castle in 1684 to John Graham of Claverhouse. It was from Dudhope Castle that he departed for Killiecrankie in 1689; the victory which resulted in his death. In 1694, the King therefore made a grant of Dudhope Castle to Archibald Douglas. The Douglas family were the last family of occupants of the castle, continuing until about 1790. During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, James the 2nd Viscount Dudhope, sided with the Covenanters and fought the Royalist army at the Battle of Marston Moor in July 1644 where he was mortally wounded.

The castle was converted to be used as a woollen mill in 1792 but the scheme never really took off. In 1795 the castle and park were leased to the Ordinance Office for 95 years. The castle was used as a barracks between 1796 and 1881 but in 1881 the stores moved to Perth and the Castle was abandoned. Town Council of Dundee took the decision to create a public recreation ground of the Park and obtained a sub-lease from the Ordnance Office in 1854 for 35 ½ years. The Earl of Home wanted to develop the grounds as terraced housing. This was prevented when Dudhope Park was acquired for the people by Dundee Town Council and opened as a public park in 1895.

Dudhope Castle image courtesy of Lost Dundee

 

Mains Castle, in Caird Park, Dundee, was built on land which at one time belonged to the Stewarts, then passed to the Douglas Earls of Angus in the 14th century. Later, in the 16th century, it became the property of the Grahams and a castle was built by a David Graham; there is a date of 1562 over a doorway. At one time the castle was known as Mains of Fintry after the Grahams castle of that name in Stirlingshire. It originally had a courtyard, surrounded by buildings but most of these have been demolished. The unusually high stair turret is a 17th century addition – and may have been built to give views over hills to the south. The castle is located in Dundee’s Caird Park to the north of the city overlooking the Dichty valley. On the opposite side of the burn is located the mausoleum of the Graham family and the Mains’ cemetery, which was formerly the site of the district’s kirk.

The fate of Sir David Graham, the builder of Mains Castle, was a strange one. Throughout the alternations of the religious professions of the Scottish nobility during the reign of Mary, the Grahams of Fintry remained steadfastly attached to the Romish Church. They thus retained the friendship of many of the northern nobles who still adhered to the old religion, and were frequently engaged in the conspiracies which foreign ecclesiastics encouraged for its establishment in Scotland. But after the Reformation faith had gained a footing in Scotland—largely because of bribes of the confiscated Church lands—this tampering with superior forces brought retribution upon them. The story of the conspiracy known to history as “The Spanish Blanks” also lends a little interest to Mains Castle. If you are interested in whether or not there are any ghosts at Mains Castle, check out this link to read a paranormal investigation into the castle by Ghost Finders Scotland.

Photo by Mark Andrew Turner, courtesy of Lost Dundee