This page was last updated on 11 August 2021

Click here to 
Print this page

Biography finder





























Index of first names

Turnberry Castle



Turnberry Castle
Castle reconstruction by Andrew Spratt
Click image to enlarge
Turnberry castle and King Robert the Bruce of Scots.

Today between Ayr and Girvan the mysterious rubble remains of Turnberry castle surrounding the modern lighthouse appear a confused muddle of mounds. However in the late 13th century it was the great coastal stronghold of the Bruce family of Annandale, Earls of Carrick.

This stone castle was perched on the rocky promontory protected on three sides by the sea and defended on the landward side by a great dry ditch (still evident today).

Inland sat the original village of Turnberry, with the usual collection of wood and wattle constructed buildings with thatched roofs. Containing houses, storage barns, stables, brewhouses etc. Further still inland this castle-town would have been surrounded by a wooden palisade and protected by a second dry ditch with wooden gate house and fixed bridge.

Turnberry Boathouse
Castle reconstruction by Andrew Spratt
Click image to enlarge
The stone castle itself astride its rock stacks was reached by a drawbridge with portcullis and was divided into two parts. A lower gatehouse/keep and courtyard but also an upper Keep with D-plan tower and an unusual lean-to boathouse with seaward access for supply vessels, guarded by a huge Seagate portcullis. In theory if the castle-town and castle courtyard fell during a siege, this boathouse could be used as a means of escape for the castle garrison if all else failed.

Strangely the reverse is true of this defensive feature. When in 1307 King Robert the Bruce of Scots (1306-1329),entered Turnberry by way of this boathouse taking the unwelcome English garrison totally by surprise.

The ancient site of Turnberry was originally held by the old Celtic Lords of Galloway,early Earls of Carrick during the reign of King William I of Scots( 1165- 1214). The castle may have been started by Duncan or his son Neil, who died in 1256. Neil’s daughter ‘Marjorie’ or ‘Margaret’ married ‘Robert de Brus’ (father of king Robert). Thus Turnberry passed to the Bruces, who added to the site. It should also be noted that Turnberry may be the birthplace of King Robert but other accounts claim he was born at Lochmaben castle (the wooden motte not the stone castle).

Rather oddly Turnberry was burnt in 1297 by William ‘le hardy’ Douglas. The young Earl of Carrick (later King Robert) retaliated by burning the lands in Douglasdale and capturing Douglas’ wife and young son James. Who ironically became the legendary ‘Good Sir James’ the ‘Black Douglas’ who carried King Robert’s heart to Spain at the battle of Teba in 1330. Where Douglas died but the heart was returned to Scotland and buried at Melrose Abbey.

In 1301 the English invaders seized Turnberry but were unable to stop the Scots in Carrick revolting and fled to King Edward I’s (Hammer of the Scots) camp at Linlithgow, leaving token garrisons at the castles of Ayr and Lochmaben.

In Oct 1301 the Constable of Ayr complained in a letter to King Edward that the Scots of Carrick were ‘before the walls of Turnberry, with 400 men-at-arms and within these eight days wanted to attack Ayr’. In Feb 1302 Ayr castle was besieged by the Scots but with little success. Sadly Robert Bruce had already surrendered to King Edward, before revolting again later. And in 1307 he took Turnberry presumably slighting it preventing it and all other castles taken in the lowlands from being used as footholds and staging posts for the invading English.

This policy paid off when in 1314 a massive overstretched English army snaking its way to Stirling were defeated at the battle of Bannockburn by King Robert the Bruce of Turnberry.

Andrew Spratt


Bookmark and Share



Any contributions to this item will be gratefully accepted


Errors and Omissions

The Forum

What's new?

We are looking for your help to improve the accuracy of The Douglas Archives.

If you spot errors, or omissions, then please do let us know


Many articles are stubs which would benefit from re-writing. Can you help?


You are not authorized to add this page or any images from this page to (or its subsidiaries) or other fee-paying sites without our express permission and then, if given, only by including our copyright and a URL link to the web site.


If you have met a brick wall with your research, then posting a notice in the Douglas Archives Forum may be the answer. Or, it may help you find the answer!

You may also be able to help others answer their queries.

Visit the Douglas Archives Forum.


2 Minute Survey

To provide feedback on the website, please take a couple of minutes to complete our survey.


We try to keep everyone up to date with new entries, via our What's New section on the home page.

We also use the Community Network to keep researchers abreast of developments in the Douglas Archives.

Help with costs

Maintaining the three sections of the site has its costs.  Any contribution the defray them is very welcome



If you would like to receive a very occasional newsletter - Sign up!



Back to top


The content of this website is a collection of materials gathered from a variety of sources, some of it unedited.

The webmaster does not intend to claim authorship, but gives credit to the originators for their work.

As work progresses, some of the content may be re-written and presented in a unique format, to which we would then be able to claim ownership.

Discussion and contributions from those more knowledgeable is welcome.

Contact Us

Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024