Castle, otherwise known as Strathaven Castle, is located in
the centre of the small town of Strathaven, in South Lanarkshire,
Scotland. The ruin is publicly accessible, and can be found at grid
reference NS703445. Also known as Avondale Castle, the ruin and
mound is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The origins of the
castle are obscure, but it is believed to have been built around
1350 by the Bairds, on a bend of the Powmillon Burn. Later the
castle passed to the Sinclairs and then to the Earls of Douglas.
Archibald the Grim
unexpectedly inherited the Douglas earldom in 1388, by which time he
was already 60. He had married in 1362, Joanna de Moravia, one of
the greatest heiresses of the age, bringing with her lands in
Aberdeenshire, Moray and Ross in the north, to Lanarkshire and
Roxburghshire in the south. One of the Lanarkshire properties she
brought to Douglas hands, was Strathaven.
Strathaven Castle remained in the hands of the Douglas family for a
century. In 1437, Archibald's son, Sir James the Gross (who later
became Earl of Angus) was created Earl of Avondale, and may perhaps
have resided in the castle. In 1450, Strathaven became a Royal
Burgh, as a reward for Douglas support and military aid to King
James II, however, just five years later the House of Douglas
"rebelled against the Crown and was brought down". According to
'Grays Chronicles', "in the month of March 1455, Strathaven Castle
was burned down and the possessions of the Douglases were
confiscated and given up to fire and sword".
Little or nothing of the early
In 1457 Strathaven was granted to Sir Andrew Stewart, an
illegitimate grandson of Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany. Stewart,
who later became Lord Avondale, either rebuilt the earlier castle,
or built a new castle on the same site. In 1534 it passed to Sir
James Hamilton of Finnart, who expanded the buildings. A letter of
1559 mentions that it was here, at 'Straverin', that Master Patrick
Buchanan, brother of George Buchanan, taught the children of Regent
It changed hands one last time in 1611, when the
castle was sold to James, Marquis of Hamilton. The last occupant was
Anne, Duchess of Hamilton (1632-1716), whose main residence was
Hamilton Palace. The castle was abandoned in 1717.
|Reconstruction by Andrew spratt
Castle is built on a rocky, partly artificial mound, and was
defended to the east, south and west by the steep banks of the
Powmillon Burn. A barmkin surrounded the top of the mound, traces of
which remain to the west of the castle.
The castle comprised a three-storey rectangular block, around
11.2m by 21.2m, with a four-storey round tower at the north-west
corner, and a small projecting wing at the south-east. Of this, the
north wall and the tower remain almost complete, with fragments of
the other walls. Internally, the remains of a collapsed basement
vault can be seen.
Modern concrete infill has obscured much of the original detail,
although a remnant of 15th-century-style corbelling remains
visible. The round tower has several wide gunloops, and was
probably added in the 16th century, and incorporates an improbably
low entrance. Salter (1993) concludes that, although the door must
originally have been larger, it "does not appear to have had a lower
threshold, as a plinth continues below".
When part of the castle walls collapsed, or were demolished, a
human skeleton was supposedly found. An information board outside
the castle expands on the story:
"According to tradition, the
wife of a past lord so greatly displeased her husband that she was
walled up alive in part of the Castle wall. Nothing is recorded of
her crime, yet it is said that she was led into a small
purpose-built niche, blessed by a priest, given some food and water,
and then walled up forever. When a portion of the walls fell down in
the middle of the 19th Century human bones were discovered, giving
some credence to this story."
The information board records
the local tradition that several ley tunnels run from the castle to
the Sweetie's Brae, the Mill brae, and to the tower. When the road
was built below the castle no sign of these tunnels was found.
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