Doune Castle – Well Fortified

The name Doune Castle comes from dun, meaning fortified town. It lies between a tributary burn and the Teith River and is defended on three sides by the ground sloping steeply down to the rivers. The approach from the north is defended by earthworks. Doune Castle was built at the end of the 14th Century for Robert Stewart, the first Duke of Albany, the Regent of Scotland. His son, Murdoch, inherited the castle but it passed to the Crown when he was put to death by James I in 1425. Doune Castle stayed with the Crown for more than a century till it passed in 1570 to Sir James Stewart, the first Lord Doune.

Doune went to the Earl of Moray through marriage and has stayed with the Earls of Moray ever since. It was seized by the Jacobites in 1745 and used as a prison. By 1800 the castle was roofless but was restored in 1833 and repaired further in 1970. In 1984, the twentieth Earl of Moray placed the castle in state care. It is now looked after by Historic Scotland.

The most striking feature of Doune Castle is its 100feet high gatehouse tower which has the splendid vaulted Lord’s Hall, its musicians’ gallery at the north end, double fireplace and carved oak screen. The upper levels were private residences. The castle is entered through a narrow gateway and a forty-six foot long vaulted passageway leading to a large central courtyard. The castle is shaped like an irregular pentagon, though the main domestic apartments are laid out in an L-shape.

The Lord’s Hall above the gateway passage is reached from the courtyard by an enclosed stone staircase. Renovated in 1883, wooden paneling lines the wall and bears the arms of the Earl of Moray on the west wall. The Hall leads to other parts of the castle including the upper hall above. Here little remains of the old grandeur except the ten foot wide fireplace. The deeply recessed central alcove with its niches served as a chapel. The Great Hall, to the west of the Lord’s Hall, was the grandest room in the castle.

Interestingly, Doune Castle has been used as a film location, most notably for Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

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