A few weeks ago I had to go to the dentist in Dumfries. Not wanting to waste an afternoon, I drove down the coast road for a few miles to one of the areas more interesting castles. The triangular fortress of Caerlaverock that you see today is actually the second castle to bear that name.
The first castle sits in some woodland 200m behind the castle you see above. As you can see from the artist's impression, it was a square castle built in 1220 of stone by Sir John de Maxwell (or Maccuswell) when Alexander II granted it to him. There had been a wooden fort on this point since the 10th century. It had a harbour that led out into the Soway Firth but in the intervening 800 years the sea have moved and is now about 800 m away.
There's not an awful lot left of this castle now. There appears to have been quite a problem with the damp conditions round about it and in 1277, the then lord, Sir Herbert de Maxwell, had had enough and relocated the castle to where it is today.
In 1882 the great painter J M W Turner painted Caerlaverock on a tour of Scotland. If you're passing Aberdeen, this painting can be seen in the art gallery there. The fishermen in the foreground are a piece of artistic licence - indeed with a net that size they could have had the moat emptied in a day or so (if there was anything to catch in there in the first place)
The gatehouse of the castle. This would have been the most heavily fortified part and in medieval times would have been the main building of the castle. The lords main hall is directly above it. The castle was besieged in during Edward I of England in his campaigns against the Scots, by 87 knights and 3000 men. I'm not sure of the details of the siege. Wikipedia says it was some considerable time and the castle defenders under Sir Eustice Maxwell repelled the attacks several times. The guidebook says it lasted two days (doesn't seem long to me) and his lordship was not at home. Either way when the castle was captured, the English were surprised to find it defended by only 60 men, most of whom they allowed to go free - hanging just a token amount.
Between the siege and other rumpuses due to the wars of Independence, it was about 1370 by the time the castle was properly repaired. But as with all buildings of any age, alterations carry on throughout the ages and Caerlaverock is a particularly good example of different styles of architecture. Below is the building they call the West Range which was a two story lodging built within the castle sometime after 1450.
Just across the courtyard from it is the much more decorative Nithsdale lodging. It was built in 1634 by Robert, the first earl of Nithsdale, and would have provided accommodation much more comfortable and suitable to somebody of his status that the castle had before.
Two illustrations on a board at the castle demonstrate well what the castle would have looked like in the middle ages and the what it would have grown into, effectively a very grand mansion, by the 17th century.
and in 1635.
Alas, Earl Robert's fine mansion was not to last, for in 1640 it fell to a siege by the Covenanters, who in order to make it indefensible thereafter, tore down the back wall. It seems the castle never quite recovered from this and was soon abandoned.
In a completely unhistorical moment but most delight one, I spotted some fledgling swallows sitting on the ruins of one of the corner turrets. Mother and father were flying back and forward with insects they'd caught over the moat. I tucked myself away in a corner for a few minutes to watch them and managed to grab these pictures.
One last shot of the castle from the rear.