Castle (from "caer laverock", "lark castle") is a moated
triangular castle first built in the 13th century. It is located on
the southern coast of Scotland, 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) south of
Dumfries, on the edge of the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve.
Caerlaverock was a stronghold of the Maxwell family from the 13th
century until the 17th century when the castle was abandoned. It was
besieged by the English during the Wars of Scottish Independence, and
underwent several partial demolitions and reconstructions over the
14th and 15th centuries. In the 17th century, the Maxwells were
created Earls of Nithsdale, and built a new lodging within the walls,
described as among "the most ambitious early classical domestic
architecture in Scotland". In 1640 the castle was besieged for the
last time and was subsequently abandoned. Although demolished and
rebuilt several times, the castle retains the distinctive triangular
plan first laid out in the 13th century. Caerlaverock
Castle was built
to control trade in early times.
Today, the castle is in the care of
Historic Scotland and is a popular
tourist attraction. It is protected as a scheduled monument.
2.1 Wars of independence
2.1.1 Siege of Caerlaverock
2.3 Repair and rebuilding
2.4 Earls of Nithsdale
3 Protected areas
4 Cultural references
7 External links
The history of its builders can be traced to Undwin and his son Maccus
in the 11th century; Maccus gave his name to the barony of Maccuswell,
or Maxwell. His grandson, John de Maccuswell (d. 1241), was first Lord
Maxwell of Caerlaverock. The Baronies of Maxwell and Caerlaverock then
passed down through the male line, sometimes collaterally. Robert de
Maxwell of Maxwell, Caerlaverock and Mearns (d. 1409) rebuilt
Caerlaverock castle and was succeeded by Herbert Maxwell of
Caerlaverock (d. 1420)
View of one of the northern towers of the old, early 13th-century
The present castle was preceded by several fortifications in the area:
a Roman fort on Ward Law Hill and a British hill fort that was in use
The earliest mention of the lands of Caerlaverock is around 1160, when
they were granted to the monks of Holm Cultram Abbey. Around 1220
Alexander II of Scotland
Alexander II of Scotland granted the lands to Sir John Maxwell, making
him Warden of the West March. Sir John Maxwell also served as
Chamberlain of Scotland
Chamberlain of Scotland from 1231–1233, and began work on the
first castle at Caerlaverock. This castle was square in shape and was
one of the earliest stone castles to be built in Scotland. It had a
moat with a bridge facing north. Only the foundations and remains of a
wooden enclosure around it remain.
This early castle may have been incomplete when it was abandoned in
favour of a rock outcrop some 200 metres (660 ft) to the north.
It was here that Sir John's brother Sir Aymer Maxwell began
construction of the present castle. Sir Aymer also served as
Chamberlain in 1258–1260, and was
Justiciar of Galloway in 1264.
In the 1270s the "new" castle was completed, and Herbert Maxwell,
nephew of John Maxwell, occupied it.
Historic view of Caerlaverock Castle
When the moat around the second castle was dug, the quarrying was
probably a source of building stone for the castle. While the
gatehouse stands on natural rock, the rest of the castle was built on
a clay platform created especially for the castle.
Wars of independence
In 1299, the garrison of Caerlaverock attacked Lochmaben
was held by English forces.
Siege of Caerlaverock
In July 1300 King
Edward I of England
Edward I of England marched north with an army
including eighty-seven of the Barons of England and several knights of
Brittany and Lorraine.
John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond
John of Brittany, Earl of Richmond (c.
1266-1334) was among Edward's most trusted warriors and is said to
have been present. He was a son of the John II, Duke of
had grown up in Edward's court and it was said that Edward treated him
as a son. The Maxwells, under their chief Sir Eustace
Maxwell, made a vigorous defence which repelled the English several
times. In the end the garrison were compelled to surrender, after
which it was found that only sixty men had withstood the whole English
army for a considerable period. In recent years,
Historic Scotland has
organised re-enactments of the Siege. During the siege the English
heralds composed a roll of arms, the Roll of Caerlaverock, in the form
of verses of poetry, each describing the feats of valour of each
noble or knight present with a poetic blazon of his armorials.
Possession of the castle was subsequently restored to Sir Eustace
Maxwell, Sir Herbert's son, who at first embraced the cause of John
Balliol, and in 1312 received from Edward II an allowance of £20 for
the more secure keeping of the castle. He afterwards gave in his
adherence to Robert Bruce, and his castle, in consequence, underwent a
second siege by the English, in which they were unsuccessful. Fearing
that this important stronghold might ultimately fall into the hands of
the enemy, and enable them to make good their hold on the district,
Sir Eustace dismantled the fortress, a service and sacrifice for which
he was liberally rewarded by Robert Bruce.
By 1337 the castle was once again inhabited, and Sir Eustace now
changed sides again, giving his support to Edward Balliol. Around 1355
Sir Roger Kirkpatrick of Closeburn captured Caerlaverock for David II
of Scotland, and partly dismantled the castle.
Repair and rebuilding
View showing the latter addition to the castle at the north end of the
By the end of the Wars of Independence in the mid-14th century,
Caerlaverock had been regained by the Maxwells, with Sir Robert
Maxwell rebuilding much of the castle between 1373 and 1410.
Further work was undertaken by Robert, 2nd Lord Maxwell, in the
mid-15th century, probably involving reconstruction of the gatehouse.
A new west range was added within the walls around 1500.
The Catholic Maxwells took up the cause of Mary, Queen of Scots, after
her forced abdication in 1567. Caerlaverock was besieged in 1570 by an
English Protestant force led by the Earl of Sussex, and was again
partly demolished, including the destruction of the gatehouse with
By 1593, John, 8th
Lord Maxwell was repairing the castle again,
building up the gatehouse for defence against the Johnstones of
Annandale, with whom the Maxwells were feuding. The 8th Lord was
killed by the Johnstones during a fight at Dryfe Sands, and in 1613
Lord Maxwell was executed for the revenge murder of Sir James
Earls of Nithsdale
In 1619 Robert, 10th Lord Maxwell, married Elizabeth Beaumont, cousin
of the Duke of Buckingham, a favourite of James VI of Scotland. He was
Earl of Nithsdale
Earl of Nithsdale and appointed to the Privy
Council of Scotland. To reflect his new status he built the elaborate
south and east ranges within the castle, known as the Nithsdale
Castle in 1900
The new ranges were completed around 1634, but further religious
turmoil soon turned against the Catholic Maxwells. In 1640 the
Covenanter army besieged Caerlaverock for 13 weeks,
eventually forcing its surrender. The south wall and tower were
demolished, and the castle was never repaired or reoccupied.
Castle is within the Nith Estuary National Scenic Area,
protected for its scenic qualities, with the castle recognised as a
landmark of the area. The castle is at the northern edge of the
Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve, which extends to 55 square
kilometres (21 sq mi) and consists of saltmarsh, mudflats
and grazing land. It is an internationally important wintering site
for waterfowl and wading birds, including the barnacle goose.
The castle was a filming location for the 2011 movie The Decoy
^ a b c d Gifford 1996, p.140
^ "Caerlaverock Castle". CANMORE. Royal Commission on the Ancient and
Historical Monuments of Scotland. Retrieved 16 April 2012.
Castle and Old Castle". Historic Scotland.
^ "Caerlaverock Castle: About the Property". Historic Scotland.
Retrieved 16 May 2010.
^ Wilson & Hurst 1957, p. 158
^ Wilson & Hurst 1959, p. 308
^ Wikisource: The Roll of Caerlaverock
^ Nicholas 1828.
^ Wright 1864.
^ a b c d e f g Gifford 1996, p.141
Special Qualities of the Nith Estuary National Scenic Area".
The special qualities of the National Scenic Areas. SNH Commissioned
Report No.374. Scottish Natural Heritage. 2010.
^ "Caerlaverock". Scotland's National Nature Reserves. Retrieved 16
^ "Film quiz: can you identify the Scottish location doubles?". The
Herald. 14 February 2012. Retrieved 11 November 2013.
Gifford, John (1996).
Dumfries and Galloway. Pevsner Architectural
Guides: The Buildings of Scotland. Yale.
Nicolas, Nicholas Harris, ed. (1828). The Siege of Caerlaverock in the
XXVIII Edward I. A.D. MCCC; with the Arms of the Earls, Barons, and
Knights, who were present on the occasion; with a Translation, a
History of the Castle, and Memoirs of the Personages Commemorated by
the Poet. London: J. B. Nichols and Son.
O'Neil, B. H. St. J. (1967). Caerlaverock Castle: Official Guide.
Wilson, David M.; Hurst, John G. (1957). "Medieval Britain in 1956"
(PDF). Medieval Archaeology. 1. doi:10.5284/1000320. [permanent
Wilson, David M.; Hurst, John G. (1959). "Medieval Britain in 1958"
(PDF). Medieval Archaeology. 3. doi:10.5284/1000320. [permanent
Wright, Thomas, ed. (1864). The Roll of Arms of the Princes, Barons,
and Knights who attended King Edward I. to the Siege of Caerlaverock,
in 1300; edited from the manuscript in the British Museum, with a
translation and notes. London: John Camden Hotten.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Caerlaverock Castle.
Castle – site information from Historic Environment
"Caerlaverock". Castles in Scotland. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
"Caerlaverock Castle". About Scotland. Retrieved 5 July 2015.
Clan Maxwell Society of the USA. Retrieved 5