Caerlaverock Castle
Castle Dumfries Scotland

Caerlaverock Castle

Castle In Dumfries, Scotland

A substantial and imposing 13th century ruin of a new castle sits in contrast with the modest footprint of an old castle.

As you drive through a small archway towards the car park, all your attention will be on the imposing new Caerlaverock Castle, set within extensive grounds and surrounded by a broad and full moat. Built in the 13th century by the Maxwell family, this castle was unique in Britain in that it was triangular, with three lengths of defensive curtain wall connected by three towers.

The castle sits where the River Nith joins the Solway Firth, an important route into southern Scotland and a strategic point in the Anglo-Scottish wars of the late 13th and early 14th centuries. This led to it being besieged a number of times and Herbert Maxwell switching allegiance between the English and the Scottish.

In 1630, Robert Maxwell, the 1st Earl of Nithsdale, built The Nithsdale Lodging within the castle walls, along the east and south side of the castle. In contrast with the stark castle walls, this three story home had large windows and ornate Renaissance stone carvings, marking a change in the castle's history from stronghold to family residence.

Not long after the lodging was built, in 1640, the castle was besieged for the final time. After holding out for 13 weeks, Maxwell surrendered. The castle was stripped bare and the south curtain wall was demolished, along with most of the lodging, thus ending Caerlaverock's time as a place of defence forever.

Today, the north-west and east towers remain, along with two of the curtain walls and the east wall of The Nithsdale Lodging.

Around 200m south-east of the new castle, you'll find the old castle across a small footbridge and surrounded by trees. This is a far more modest ruin, with just the footprint remaining. This castle was occupied by the Maxwell family for just 50 years from 1220 to 1270 when they moved to the new castle. It is not known why the old castle was abandoned after such a short time, but it's thought to be a combination of changing coastline (it's very near the coast with an attached harbour) and the growing status of the family demanding a more substantial castle.

Thanks to Stravaiging Around Scotland for these 2 photos of the old castle.

Caerlaverock Castles are managed by Historic Environment Scotland. There is a charge to visit inside the new castle. At the time of writing, there is no access to the west range, outer stair and north-west and east towers whilst conservation work takes place. The admission price is reduced whilst this work is ongoing.

Access to the old castle and the grounds around the new castle are free. Thanks to the south curtain wall being demolished, there's also a good view into the new castle from outside so a visit without paying the admission fee is still very worthwhile.

The castles sit directly beside the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve on the Solway Coast, which is also well worth a wander around.

Thanks to our Fabulous North friend Pauline Murphy for all the photos of the new castle.

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How To Find Caerlaverock Castle

Where Is Caerlaverock Castle?

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54.97565, -3.524028

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Where To Park For Caerlaverock Castle?

There is dedicated parking for the castle.

Contributed by Abbey Scott

I love getting out into the wilds of Northumberland and beyond with my partner and, often reluctant, wildings. I seek out dramatic scenery, and we're usually in search of a waterfall, a gorge, a good ruin or a trig point. When we're not exploring local places in Northumberland, we're often staying in YHA hostels further afield in our Fabulous North and exploring places we can walk to from the door.

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Abbey Scott

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Caerlaverock Castle was listed in Castle // Scotland // Dumfries