Castles Of Scotland, Part One: Dunstaffnage, Doune, Aberdour

by Derrick Bostrom in


During our recent trip to Scotland, my wife and I charted the route of our trip according to two imperatives: the Glaswegian live music schedule and the availability of viewable castle ruins. We crunched a lot into the span of a week, and snapped as many pix as our weak batteries allowed. But it was hard sometimes to make heads or tails of what were seeing, constrained as we were by no other logic than the necessities of geography. Back home now, I'm sorting through all the various abstract images of moss and stone, matching pictures and memories to locations and history (much of which is as confusing to me as the rules of American football must seem to the average Scot).

The main historic significance of Dunstaffnage Castle, built in the early 1200s, seems to rest on its being being wrested from its original owners, the MacDougall clan, by no less an individual than Robert Bruce. Bruce bestowed it upon the Campbell Clan as a reward for helping him best the MacDougalls. The Campbells and MacDougall wrangled over ownership until the late fifteenth century, when the MacDougalls finally accepted land in eastern Scotland as a trade. It has remained with the Campbells ever since. It is occupied once a year by the Campbell Captain of Castles as a condition of title, but the rest of the year it stands open to the public.

Doune Castle, on the other hand, was usurped by none other than King James I, who appropriated the property after executing its original owner, Murdoch Stewart, for treason in 1424. For over a century, it was used at the leisure of the monarchy as a retreat or a hunting lodge. Though it was eventually returned to the Stewarts, title finally passed to the Earl of Moray through the accident of marriage. These murky details are easily trumped in the minds of most people, however, but its more modern claim to fame: it's appearance in the film, "Monty Python & The Holy Grail."

No such turbulence marks the details behind Aberdour Castle. In fact, the circumstances of its ownership remained stable for so many centuries that its main claim to fame seems to be the numerous successive renovations and additions that make it somewhat of a patchwork of styles and architectural advances of its various periods.

Alas, my puny little Canon PowerShot and my even punier talent can't begin to do these sites justice. I'd like nothing better than to return to Scotland with better gear under my arm and a lot more time to spend. For those grown impatient with my amateurish attempts at photography, however, I can't recommend enough the awesome HDR work of Trey Ratcliff, especially his incredible series, "The Churches Of Italy."

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Doune Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle