Doune Castle was built around 1400 by Robert Stewart, 1st Duke of
Albany, Earl of Menteith and Fife. Younger brother of the weak and
feeble Robert III, he was the effective ruler of the kingdom from
1388 until his death in 1420. He is known to history as ‘Scotland’s
uncrowned king’, and his seat at Doune was virtually a royal castle.
Only after Albany’s death did Doune Castle finally gain the
status its builder had desired – it became a kingly residence. It
never rivalled the great royal castles at Stirling and Edinburgh.
Rather, it was used as a royal retreat from the burdens of state, a
pleasant summer residence where the royal family could relax and
hunt in the nearby forests in the Trossachs. Only when James VI left
for London in 1603, to become James I of England also, did Doune’s
role as royal retreat effectively come to an end.
near-contemporary, Abbot Bower of Inchcolm, described Albany as ‘a
big spender’. Albany certainly spared no expense on Doune. Even in
its ruined state the castle inspires awe and wonder in those who
Exceptionally at Doune, we have a castle planned
in a single episode. Almost all other great castles surviving today
were the work of many hands over several centuries. Doune is
essentially one coherent design. This gives the visitor a wonderful
opportunity to see what the leading man of his day felt was
appropriate for his needs and aspirations. This was an age when the
conspicuous display of wealth and status was seen as vital in
maintaining authority and good governance.
for four ranges of buildings set around a central court was never
completed. We shall never know what he planned for the south range,
though the surviving windows suggest something grand. The principal
accommodation was housed in the range along the north and west
sides. This main range is as perfect a piece of medieval castle
planning as one will find anywhere.
A lofty tower, the gate
tower, provided the duke and duchess with a spacious four-storey
apartment, with its own defended courtyard entrance and independent
access from its first-floor ‘duke’s hall’ into the dais end of the
great hall. At the other end of the great hall was the kitchen
tower, smaller than the gate tower but housing an impressive kitchen
and two floors of respectable lodging space. The entire ground floor
was taken up by storage cellars.
Doune’s cathedral-like great
hall impresses most. Measuring 170 sq m it rises 11m to the roof.
Standing therein, the visitor begins to appreciate why Albany was
described as a man noted for his ‘large tabling and belly cheer’!
See: Dunbars Vs Douglas
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