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The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland
From the Twelfth to Eighteenth Century
By David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross (1887)

Saw this review on so thought I'd include it here...

Absolutely magnificent, these intrepid architects travelled the length and breadth of Scotland at the tail end of the 19th c making detailed architectural drawings of as many of Scotland's castles as they could.

This is the ultimate reference work for all those interested or writing about Scottish castles, or their architecture.

In five hard back volumes, you will be astounded by the detail and amount of information provided, complete with historical data.

The introductory chapters of Volume 1 detail the development of castle architecture throughout Europe, before concentrating on the Scottish style. The remainder of the work details specific castles, before providing appendices in Volume 5 on secondary subjects, such as town houses, churches, sundials, and Master Masons.

A required reference for castle enthusiasts anywhere.

Book Preface

A NUMBER of the sketches and plans which form the illustrations in the following pages were exhibited a few years ago in connection with papers on "Scottish Castles and Houses," read before the Edinburgh Architectural Association, when the attention they received suggested the idea of the present work.

No book has hitherto been published which deals systematically with the history of Scottish Castellated and Domestic Architecture. The late Mr. Billings' valuable work on the Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland is an important contribution, and his beautiful drawings are a charming record of the edifices he illustrates. Mr. Billings has also the merit of being amongst the very first to recognise and draw attention to the importance of our Scottish Domestic Architecture. But the absence of plans is a serious drawback, and the descriptions of the buildings, although full of interesting matter, do not deal in a systematic manner with the history of our Architecture, especially with the domestic portion of it.

Mr. Fergusson has also touched slightly, in his History of Architecture, on the subject of Scottish Domestic Architecture, but so slightly that it is evident he has not regarded it as an important element in the general history of the art.

The following pages, however, show that Scotland contains a most complete and almost unexplored series of domestic structures, exhibiting as well the gradual progress of Architecture from an early and rude epoch to more modern and refined times, as the growth of our national life and manners.

In dealing with this important series of buildings our chief object has been to trace the development of the Architecture, and to determine the stages of progress or periods into which it naturally divides itself. In order to render the historic sequence clear and distinct, and also to follow the steps by which the designs of one period passed into those of the period that followed, it is essential that the plans of the buildings be fully taken into account. We have therefore devoted much care to the accurate representation of these important elements in the design.

Our sketches are not intended to imitate or rival the beautiful and artistic etchings of some of our Scottish edifices which have from time to time been published, but simply to represent the ARCHITECTURE in what appeared to us the most intelligible and effective manner.

It is of great moment, in an inquiry like the present, that the history and development of the Architecture, as disclosed by the buildings, should be corroborated as far as possible by written evidence. We have accordingly endeavoured to trace and collect such of the written records of the erection or alteration of the structures as were available. But we do not pretend to have discovered any new information connected with the history of Scottish Architecture, save such as can be gathered from the internal evidence of the edifices themselves.

One important result of the present inquiry is to bring into prominence the fact that Scotland, like every other country in Europe during the period from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century, possessed a Castellated or Domestic Architecture of its own, and that even in the seventeenth century, when almost everywhere else the Renaissance style reigned supreme, the native style still flourished.

It may be thought that the number of buildings illustrated is unnecessarily large. But it is, after all, only a small portion of the still surviving examples of Scottish Domestic Architecture, and there is really almost no repetition. In most of the keeps and towers there is doubtless a great similarity in general design, but it will be found that each furnishes some points of variety which give to it a special interest.

It is greatly to be regretted that most of our ancient edifices are rapidly passing away, either from natural decay or other destructive causes. Even since our sketches were made, many have disappeared either in whole or in part. The neglect with which they are generally treated probably arises, to some extent, from their bearing on the architectural and national history of Scotland not being sufficiently understood and appreciated. We are not without hope that this work may serve to direct the attention of proprietors and others to the value of our ancient domestic remains, and may thus help to preserve some of them from the decay and demolition which at present threaten speedily to overtake the greater number. Such a result would be most gratifying, not only to us, but to every one interested in our national history,

We would take this opportunity of gratefully thanking all those who have interested themselves in the present work, some of whom have kindly contributed drawings for our assistance.

To Mr. John Bryce, Architect, Edinburgh, our thanks are due for the free and ready access he has given us to the plans of ancient buildings made by his uncle, the late David Bryce, R.S.A., when, in the course of his professional practice, he was called on to consider how to alter or add to them. Of these drawings we have availed ourselves of some of those of Drum Castle and Earl Patrick's Palace, Kirkwall, to which we have referred more fully in the text. To Dr. Skene, Historiographer for Scotland, we are specially obliged for placing at our disposal the voluminous MS. work by his father, the late Mr. Skene of Rubislaw, on the Domestic Architecture of Scotland. This work is peculiarly valuable from its containing numerous plans and views of castles which no longer exist. From it we have obtained the plans of Castle Fraser, which were not otherwise available, and views of the extremely picturesque Castle of Cluny, now no more, together with some remarkable information regarding "lugs" and places of concealment.

We are also indebted to the Earl of Cawdor for the use of plans of Cawdor Castle; to the Hon. H. C. Maxwell Stuart for the use of plans of Traquair House, and for information regarding its history; to the Hon. Mrs. Henderson of Fordell for particulars connected with Fordell Castle; to James Lorimer, Esq., LL.D., Professor of Public Law in the University of Edinburgh, for information in connection with Kellie Castle; to J. Russell Mackenzie, Esq., Architect, Aberdeen, and Messrs. C. & P. H. Chalmers, Solicitors, Aberdeen, for the use of plans and elevations of Fyvie Castle; to David Douglas, Esq., for permission to reproduce a drawing of Burgie Castle, from the unpublished series of views in Scotland of John Claude Nattes; to Messrs. Wardrop & Anderson, Architects, for the plans and elevations of Udny Castle (now much altered); to Mr. H. J. Blanc, Architect, for drawings of St. Margaret's Chapel in Edinburgh Castle; to Mr. Robert Murray for the plans of Neidpath Castle, and others not yet published; to Lord Napier and Ettrick for useful suggestions on Stirling Castle; to Mr. R. Bruce Armstrong for notes on Hermitage Castle; to Dr. Dickson, of the Register House; James T. Clark, Esq., Librarian of the Advocates' Library; and many architectural friends for their aid and encouragement in our labours.

We would also take this opportunity of acknowledging the cordial and generous reception we have almost invariably received from the proprietors and occupants of the houses we have visited in pursuit of our subject, and the free permission which has (with very few exceptions) been accorded to us to make such measurements and drawings as we required.


October 1886.

Click here to download the index of the complete works (1.2Mb)

Click here to download Volume 1 (45Mb)
Click here to download Volume 2 (65Mb)
Click here to download Volume 3 (52Mb)
Click here to download Volume 4 (31Mb)
Click here to download Volume 5 (67Mb)

Electric Scotland would like to acknowledge the kind permission given by Birlinn Limited, the publishers of the reprint of these volumes, to publish their volume 4 of this set for inclusion in our web site. Note that the quality of the adobe file is not representative of the quality of print of the actual volume as we've compressed it to make it easier to download.

Volume 1 - First Period 1200 - 1300

Volume 1 - Second Period 1300 - 1400

See also

The Ruined Castles of Mid-Lothian
Their Position; their Families, their Ruins; and their History by John Dickson, FSA Scot (1894)

The Story of Bothwell Castle
Tillietudlem, Crookston and other Castles by H. C. Shelley

The Castle Guy and the Castle Guide

When I moved to Scotland about 13 years ago, I was excited by the prospect of visiting its castles. As a medievalist and castle enthusiast, I really looked forward to the prospect of visiting new sites, finding out new history and new architectural forms. You see, south of the border, Scottish history isn’t taught. At all, beyond mentioning that James VI became James I of England. I had studied Edward I as my specialist subject at university, so I was better armed than most, but beyond that king’s involvement in the Great Cause, I knew very little.

As I started to visit the sites in my local area, I was surprised to find that there was no central point of reference to turn to – especially when considering castles which are not part of the main “tourist trail”. If you remove the National Trust, and what is now Historic Environment Scotland from the equation, you are left with a handful of well known sites, and very little written about the rest. I didn’t feel this was good enough, and started out on a project which has resulted in two 300+ page volumes so far, detailing the history and description of all the fortified sites in my locality. “Fortress Scotland” is set to run to four volumes; I don’t think I can do more!

However I also started visiting other areas of Scotland, and the castles there. So far I have personally visited – and photographed - over 600 sites. As part of my website, I decided to share my love of castles, and address a fundamental shortfall in Scottish tourism – a lack of centralised information. The Castle Guide is the ongoing – and growing – result of this. A gazetteer which shows you a picture of what you can see, tells you where the castle is, whether your visit is permitted by the landowner, and key basic information, including useful relevant websites. It also contains an article written by me which describes the location, the remains, and the history of each castle. Some are more detailed than others, often depending on the information available.

Currently there are 325 published articles on the website. On average each article takes me 3-4 hours to write, not including the time taken to visit and photograph the castle. I have not, as yet, visited many of the islands, and I have been fortunate in many cases to be permitted to use photographs provided by third parties. Historic Scotland generously allowed me to use their images of most of these.

Eventually I intend for there to be over 500 articles on Scottish castles on the website, and for it to be an essential part in the traveller’s toolkit when deciding which Scottish castle to visit. There is the facility to search by town and clan name as well as for castles by name. In addition, I have written a 60 page guide to Edinburgh Castle, and am part way through writing a (longer!) guide to Stirling. More will follow and these are designed to allow the visitor to take guided tours of castles using their phone as the principal . This bigger guide (and those which follow) can be downloaded from my website in pdf format.

I hope that you all enjoy the site and find it useful! Here is an example of an article; Avoch Castle, also known as Ormond. It was once one of the most formidable castles in the north of Scotland, and the home of Andrew Murray, who fought alongside Wallace against the English. It is an example of a castle used in multiple periods, suffering multiple destruction events, and which now sits as a prominent hill outside the village. Much of the history and architecture remains unknown, and it has not been excavated since 1883, although it was resurveyed last year.

Avoch Castle

The site of Avoch Castle is easily seen to the south-east as one enters the village of Avoch, on the southern shore of the Black Isle of Ross. It is a very imposing hill which is best appreciated from the harbour area. However there are no upstanding remains of this once-impressive stronghold on the summit, just a few grass-covered footings, and a memorial to Andrew Murray of Avoch, who led the northern rebellion against Edward I in the time of William Wallace.

The castle occupies a strategically important site, guarding the northern shore of the Moray Firth, and was probably founded in the 12th century during the campaigns of King William the Lion into the area in defence of his crown against the rival MacWilliam clan. It is said to have been the seat of the Ormond family, but this appears unlikely. One of the principal families to be granted land in the north - and given free reign to advance north of the Black Isle was the de Moravia family, a branch of whom took the name Sutherland and became Earls of Sutherland. As Andrew Murray - a member of the same family - held this important castle in the 1290s, it seems more likely that Avoch was a Murray stronghold from very early on. In addition, the name Ormond appears to date to the mid 15th century, after the castle had been destroyed, and might be a corruption of "Avoch Mount" (Avoch is pronounced "Och" locally).

The castle remained with the Murray family until the 1360s, but as a secondary property of the Lords of Bothwell. As the Murrays had supported Robert the Steward against King David II, the last of the family was sent to England as a hostage, and died there in 1361, leaving an heiress to inherit. Jean Murray was married to Archibald, 3rd Earl of Douglas, and from 1361 to 1455 it remained a Douglas property, and was held by Archibald's grandson Hugh, who was made Earl of Ormond in 1445. When the family rebelled and were forfeited in 1452-55, Hugh was executed, and James II took possession of Avoch Castle, possibly renamed Ormond by the Douglases.

The castle consisted of a rectangular inner ward with square towers at the corners, a great hall, and a gatehouse, which occupied the summit of the hill. A ditch separated it from the walled triangular outer ward to the south, itself with smaller towers, and massive earthworks protected the northern end of the hill, possibly defended by a watch tower at the northernmost end. A further walled area lower down the slope to the west contained a well, and an outer gateway. There may have been a middle gate overlooked by a defended redoubt to the south of the ditch between the castle wards.

The castle at Avoch was almost certainly defended by the Douglases during the civil war with James II, but a siege is not recorded. The lands including the moothill of Ormond were granted to the younger son of James III in 1476, it seems likely that the castle was slighted at this time. No further suggestion can be found that the castle was repaired, making it seem likely that Avoch Castle was destroyed in 1455 and abandoned altogether. It is accessible along public footpaths, but these can become muddy and unpleasant in wet weather.

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