Saturday, 26 October 2013

Doune Castle

Doune Castle is probably one of the most widely recognized medieval buildings in Scotland. It occupies a picturesque site, on a wooded promontory where the Ardoch Burn joins the River Teith. The gatehouse tower is an imposing structure built to impress visitors with the power and wealth of the castle's builder. Scotland was ruled from here for more than twenty years. But it is not Doune Castle's historical importance that attracts visitors from all over the world but its' role as a location in a popular cult motion picture that people come to see.

Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany especially built Doune Castle, just to the north west of Stirling, as the symbol of his power and status as the ruler of Scotland from 1388 until his death in 1420. It remains a visual testament to the man known to Scottish history as the 'uncrowned king.'  The Duke of Albany was the third son of Robert II and he ruled Scotland in the latter years of his father's reign, and also of his elder brother, Robert III, who had been compromised by a kick to the head from a horse.

The courtyard would have looked different then, filled with all manner of ancillary and service buildings, crowded with the servants needed to run a great household.

The imposing gatehouse tower, a splendid statement of medieval power housed the castle's principal apartments.

The great hall is the largest room in the castle and was where most of the household would have dined and a few of the servants would have slept.

The smaller but more luxuriously appointed hall was the private dining room where the duke and his guests would have dined, leaving the great hall to the servants.

The kitchen has, as would be expected an enormous fireplace. The two wall openings are serving hatches

Above the kitchen, is what must have been a  warm bedroom, and this room also had its' own finely carved fireplace.

In later years Doune was kept as a royal hunting lodge, a prison and a dower house. The widows of  James III, James IV and James V all lived here. It was used once by Mary Queen of Scots and was held by forces loyal to her until 1570.

The administration of the castle during these years was by a keeper appointed by the crown. When James Stewart was keeper he was created Lord Doune in recognition of his surrender of the castle to the forces under the command of Regent Lennox after the siege of !570. His son inherited the title Earl of Moray from his mother. Doune Castle still belongs to the Earl of Moray although in 1984 it came into care of Historic Scotland on a 999 year lease.

Doune was occupied by government troops during the 1689 and 1715 Jacobite Risings. But in 1745 a Jacobite garrison held Doune  for Prince Charles Edward Stuart. After that the castle was left to  fall into disrepair and became increasingly ruinous over the years. Until in the 1880's the fourteenth Earl of Moray appointed architect Andrew Kerr to 'restore' Doune and make it even more attractive to visitors.

Since 1975 when Doune was used as a location for the motion picture 'Monty Python And The Holy Grail' the castle has become a place of pilgrimage for people from all over the world.

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