Imposing Dundonald Castle was built by Robert II in the 1370s to mark his succession to the throne of Scotland.More than a castle
On top of the prominent hill at Dundonald is a stone castle, built around 1371. Its first owner was King Robert II, grandson of Robert the Bruce and founder of the Stewart royal dynasty. He built the castle to mark his accession to the throne, and died there in 1390.
The castle continued to serve as a noble residence – but generally not a royal one – until the 1590s. By this date the then lairds, the Wallaces of Dundonald, had moved to nearby Auchans Castle.
Robert II was not the first potentate to build a castle on the hill. His forebear, Walter, High Steward of Scotland, built the first one in the mid-1100s. However, archaeologists have discovered far earlier signs of settlement. This evidence includes pottery kilns dating from the late Bronze Age (c.1500–500 BC). There are also significant signs of a hill-fort, with round timber buildings, dating from the Iron Age (c.500BC–600 AD).
‘The fort of Donald’
During the late 1st millennium AD, the hill-fort developed into a complex with straight-sided buildings enclosed by a drystone rampart. Dundonald, ‘fort of Donald’, may refer to a king called Dyfnwal (Donald) who ruled this part of Strathclyde.
There were at least four kings named Donald from the Kynwydyon dynasty of Strathclyde between the 8th and 10th centuries.
The House of Stewart
There is scarcely any trace left of either of the two castles built between the mid-1100s and 1371.
The first, of earthwork and timber, was replaced around 1260 by a formidable stone castle. This was kite-shaped on plan, with two twin-towered gatehouses. Part of the west gatehouse is still visibly incorporated in the present castle. The well in the east gatehouse is also visible as you walk up the steep hill.
Alexander, 4th High Stewart (1241–83), was probably the builder. The castle suffered badly during the Wars of Independence (1296—1356).
The present castle is a huge tower house, three storeys high. The west face has armorial stones of the Stewarts and the Royal House. Unusually, the tower housed two feasting halls, one above the other, over ground-floor storage.
The extension southward in the 14th century may have been to provide more private accommodation for its royal occupants.
- The location – sited on a hilltop with views over the surrounding countryside and towards the Firth of Clyde.
- The armorials on the west face – proudly displaying the Stewart and Scottish Royal Arms.
The lower hall – dark and haunting; one can easily imagine it crammed with people watching a bear-baiting contest.
- The visitor centre – run by the Friends of Dundonald and providing valuable insights into the castle’s distinguished history.
Region – Glasgow, Clyde and Ayrshire
Postcode: KA2 9HD
1st April - 31st October , Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun, 10.00 am to 5.00 pm
Closed during winter season.
Tel 01563 851 489 or visit www.dundonaldcastle.org.uk for prices.