Dundonald Castle

This image is the copyright of Andrew Spratt who has generously given permission to display it here.

On a high grassy hill above the Ayrshire village of Dundonald stands the gaunt grey ruin of Dundonald castle and ancient stronghold of the noble Stewart family. The present tower was built by Robert Stewart, possibly to mark his accession to the throne as King Robert II (1371-1390) of Scots, in 1371,on the foundations of several other fortifications.

The hillside itself was a prehistoric Dark Age hillfort and since 'Dun' means 'tower' or 'fort' it appears the first building was the 'tower' of 'Donald'. Though it is unclear who this Donald was ,a local King perhaps or some relative of the ancient Clan Donald (later the MacDonalds Lords of the Isles, 'Mac' simply meaning 'son of ' hence MacDonald).

The next fortification was an earthen 'Motte and Bailey' raised by Walter 'The Steward' who came to Scotland around 1136. It consisted of a high man made mound (Motte) capped by a wooden tower and below this a village (Bailey), made up of wooden n' wattle constructed houses with thick thatched roofs. All surrounded by a wooden palisade and ditches.

The first stone castle of Dundonald was built by Alexander Stewart in the late 1200's and appears to have covered most of the grassy summit. With two double towered gateways on the east and west side, with possibly two D-plan towers on the north and south sides all joined by a courtyard wall. Sadly this great castle was destroyed during the Wars of Independence with England. The present oblong tower raised by King Robert II sits on the stumps of this western gateway and is a shadow of its former glory.

The reconstruction painting shows this oblong tower as it may have been in 1425 when King James I (1406-1437) of Scots met here with John the 'Red' Stewart (an illegitimate son of Robert II) to mass a royal army to battle the Lennox rebels led by James the 'Fat' Steward, a son of Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany who had been arrested along with the Earl of Lennox for treason by the King. Unfortunately, John the 'Red' was defeated and killed at Dumbarton castle by James the 'Fat'.

In retaliation King James beheaded Murdoch Duke of Albany, his other son Walter and Murdoch's father-in-law the Earl of Lennox, at Stirling castle. He then transported these heads to the 'Red' Douglas stronghold of Tantallon castle where they were thrown into the dungeon beside the captive Duchess of Albany in an effort to drive her insane. James the 'Fat' fled to Ireland calling himself King of Scots and began to mass a huge army to invade the west coast of Scotland. But he died before the English and the MacDonalds Lords of the Isles could help him seize the Scots throne from James I. The present ruin of Dundonald stands as a reminder of the Stewart dynasty's less than noble but bloodthirsty past.



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