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Craignethan Castle

Craignethan Castle was built by Sir James Hamilton in 1532. He was a man with powerful enemies: a claim in 1540 that he had been involved in a plot against his friend James V many years earlier, though probably untrue, led to his execution for treason. Craignethan passed to the Crown, before being acquired in 1542 by another James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, half brother of the original builder, and Regent of Scotland.

Hamilton pursued his personal ambitions with mixed success before and during the personal reign of Mary Queen of Scots. After her abdication, Hamilton and his family led the forces supporting Mary's claim to the Scottish Crown. In January 1570, this led to their arranging the shooting of the Earl of Moray, acting as Regent for the infant James VI. The Earl of Moray had briefly captured Craignethan Castle in 1568 after Mary's defeat at the Battle of Langside, but lost it to the Hamiltons again later the same year.

 
 
 
 

In July 1570 and again in 1571 the Hamiltons launched abortive military coups from their bases at Craignethan Castle and Hamilton Castle. During the second of these the new Regent for James VI, Earl Lennox, was also killed.

 

Hostilities paused in 1573, but in March 1578 James VI took personal control of the government at the age of 12. In May 1579 he moved against the Hamiltons and they were finally brought to account for their part in the deaths of James' two Regents in 1570 and 1571.

Hamilton Castle was besieged for four days, and Craignethan Castle was expected to put up even stiffer resistance. But it was abandoned without a fight, and in the 1580s the main defences were demolished. Craignethan ceased to function as a castle after an active life of just 50 years. The tower house remained in use as a family residence, but was replaced in 1665 with a more modest and modern house in the south west corner of the outer courtyard by the castle's then owner, Andrew Hay.

Craignethan was regained by the Hamiltons, but was sold by Duchess Anne in 1659. The new owner, Andrew Hay, a covenanting laird, built himself a two-storey house in the south-west corner of the outer courtyard. In 1730 Craignethan was sold to Archibald, Duke of Douglas. The property passed through his descendants, the Earls of Home, and the ruins were stabilised by the 12th earl in the late 19th century. The property was given into state care by the 14th Earl in 1949, and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument managed by Historic Scotland.

Location: Near Lanark

 

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