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
Location: Near Lanark