Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle - Photo ©
Paul Buckingham, 11 November 2007

Caerlaverock Castle - Photo ©
Tom Richardson, August 2001

Caerlaverock Castle is a 13th-century triangular moated castle in the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve area at the Solway Firth, south of Dumfries in the south west of Scotland. In the Middle Ages it was owned by the Maxwell family. Today, the castle is in the care of Historic Scotland and is a popular tourist attraction and wedding venue.


The history of its builders can be traced to Undwin and his son Maccus in the eleventh 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) who married Katherine Stewart.

Early history

Caerlaverock Castle in 1900

Being very close to the border with England, it had to be defended several times against English forces. One such occasion was the Siege of Caerlaverock of 1300 by Edward I of England who had eighty seven of the most illustrious Barons of England in his host, including knights of Bretagne and Lorraine. The Maxwells, under their gallant chief, made a vigorous defence, showering upon their assailants such heavy missiles that they retired time and again; but in the end the garrison were compelled to surrender, when it was found that there were only sixty men all told, and that they had defied the whole English army for a considerable period. In recent years, Historic Scotland has organised re-enactments of the Siege.

Possession of the castle was subsequently restored to Sir Eustace Maxwell, Sir Herbert's son, who at first embraced the cause of John Baliol, and in 1312 received from Edward I 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.

But 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.

Later history

Caerlaverock Castle - Photo ©
Simon Ledingham, 23 August 2007

After a siege in 1640 that pitted the steadfast Catholic Maxwells against angry Protestant factions, the castle was permanently abandoned. During the battle the south wall and tower were demolished and remain so to this day.

Modern history

About 2 miles to the east is the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Reserve WWT Caerlaverock. Both the Castle and the WWT reserve are within the Caerlaverock NNR, a National Nature Reserve in the care of Scottish Natural Heritage.

Most of Wikipedia's text and many of its images are licensed under the
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License (CC BY-SA)

Return to Main Index