Lochs and Glens Books

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Loch Doon

Tour Scotland on the Best Scottish Tours. Originally known as Balliol Castle, Loch Doon Castle in Ayrshire was built after 1275 on a small island in the middle of the loch. Its unusual eleven sided outline stems from the fact that its curtain wall simply followed the shape of the islet. The depth of the surrounding waters made it difficult for besiegers to build a causeway out to the castle and it was far enough from land to be out of range of most siege weaponry. Besiegers could only hope to take Loch Doon by trickery, by negotiation with a famished garrison or by a hazardous ship based assault. Nevertheless the castle was besieged several times.

The ancient seat of the Lords of Carrick, Loch Doon Castle first appears in documented history in the wake of Robert the Bruce's defeat at Methven in 1306. After helping the unhorsed Bruce back on to his steed, Sir Christopher Seton and the remnants of his men quit the field at Methven and made for the safety of Loch Doon. The castle governor, Gilbert de Carrick, believed that the House of Bruce was fully vanquished and handed Sir Christopher over to a besieging English force. Seton was promptly hanged at Dumfries.

Although today a much abused ruin. Loch Doon Castle has a very special place in Scottish history. In 1333, at one of the lowest points in the Wars for Scottish Independence, Loch Doon remained loyal to the Stewart cause and flew the standard of David II when almost every other stronghold in the land had declared for the English puppet Edward Balliol. Only five others, Dumbarton, Urquhart, Lochmaben, Lochleven and Kildrummy, remained true to the patriot cause. The example of Loch Doon's castellan John Thomson was the turning point that led to eventual Scottish victory.

The full power of the noble House of Douglas was unleashed against Loch Doon in 1446. William, the 8th Earl of Douglas, saw Loch Doon as an important strategic asset in his feud with the neighbouring Kennedy clan. Although Loch Doon Castle held out for several weeks, its small garrison was no match for the skill and resources of the Douglas military machine and the castle was surrendered.

By the late fifteenth century the castle was held by the ambitious Maclellans of Dumfries who tried to challenge the power of the Douglasses in Carrick. Loch Doon Castle was subsequently won back by the Kennedies when they in turn found themselves under attack in 1510, this time by Sir William Crawford of Lochmores. The Kennedies had gentrified the castle around 1500 by adding an oblong tower residence. They needn't have bothered, as the castle was burned down and seriously slighted in the 1520s by James V as part of his clampdown on the more unruly elements of the feudal nobility. The iron portcullis was cast down into the loch and has resisted several attempts since to raise it to the surface. Tour Loch Doon on the Best Scottish Tours.

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