The beautiful and evocative triangular shaped Caerlaverock Castle was one of Scotland’s strongest and most attacked Medieval Castles. Today its stunning beauty and fantastic double moat structure brings visitors from across the world to this incredible site.
The Castle’s turbulent history owes much to its position on the Solway with England clearly visible across the water. By around 950AD, the British lords of ‘Karlauerock’ (’fort of the skylark’) had built a fort on the site and when the Castle was built in the 13th Century it became a stronghold of the powerful local Maxwell family.
THE MYSTERY OF TWO CASTLES
In 1220, King Alexander II of Scotland granted the lands around Wardlaw to Sir John Maxwell who built the ‘old’ Caerlaverock Castle. Within 50 years, his nephew, Sir Herbert, had built the present structure only 200m away to the north of the original castle The original castle was square in shape and was one of the earliest stone castles to be built in Scotland. It had a moat but today only the foundations and remains of a wooden enclosure around it remain. The mystery of why two castles were built in such a short time period is probably explained by the fact that the original castle was completely abandoned due to flooding in favour of the majestic new triangular Caerlaverock Castle.
Caerlaverock was besieged and captured on numerous occasions. In July 1300 the most famous siege actually involved King Edward I of England in person when he brought the full might of his army to bear on the stronghold. The Maxwells, under their chief Sir Eustace Maxwell, made a vigorous defence which repelled the English several times.
In the end the garrison were compelled to surrender, after which it was found that only sixty men had withstood the whole English army for a considerable period.
Another major siege near the end of the life of Caerlaverock as an inhabited castle took place in 1640. It was brought about by Lord Maxwell’s adherence to Charles I in that monarch’s struggles with the Covenanters. On that occasion the garrison held out for 13 weeks before surrendering. Following the siege, the castle was stripped of all its valuable fixtures and fittings, and the great south curtain wall was demolished to render the building almost useless as a place of defence.
Although demolished and rebuilt several times, the castle retains the distinctive triangular plan first laid out in the 13th century. The iconic Castle is considered a must see for any visitor to Scotland with some incredible countryside and coastline immediately outside its moats.