Inverness Castle – Setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth

Shakespeare’s tragedy ‘Macbeth’ was supposedly based in the earlier 11th century Inverness Castle, the location of Duncan’s murder. The present Inverness Castle may not be witness to anything so dramatic, but as the premises of the Sheriff’s Court it may not be without its own tales of crime and passion.

Inverness town, the capital of the Highlands, is strategically situated at the northern end of the Great Glen, just near the place that the River Ness flows into the Moray Firth. The castle is opposite the cathedral and is built on a low ledge on the banks of the River Ness. The present castle was built in 1835 as a stately neo-Norman structure on the foundations of an older fort which may have been a little to the east.

The 11th century Inverness Castle was made of wood and was destroyed by King Robert I. Today the only evidence is a part of the curtain wall and a restored well. It was later replaced by a stone fortress, built in 1548 on Castle Hill by George Gordon. He was the fourth Earl of Huntly and the Constable of the Castle at the time.

The castle had a checkered history and in 1562 was taken by the Clan Munro and Clan Fraser who were supporters of Mary Queen of Scots. Inverness Castle was extended and reinforced by General George Wade in 1725 following the first Jacobite Rebellion; but in 1746 the castle was destroyed by the Jacobite army.

The current castle was built by architect William Burn to serve as the County Hall of Inverness-shire and houses the High Court and council offices. The castle is actually two sandstone buildings and the second building, known as the North Block is used as the Sheriff’s Court, though it was constructed in1848 to serve as Inverness Jail.

The well of the earlier castle is located between the two buildings and was restored in 1909. In the grounds in front of the castle, there stands the statue of Jacobite heroine Flora MacDonald and her dog, which was erected in 1899.

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