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Dunnottar Castle Visitor Information Guide

Dunnottor Castle, To visit this noteworthy ruin is to relive some of the darkest chapters of Scottish history. The Castle stands on a stupendous isolated rock projecting from the coast 2 miles south of Stonehaven. As its name indicates, it was a ‘dun' or place of strength to the Pictish tribes of the Mearns.

It is approached from the main road by a ravine still called St Ninian's Den, St Ninian's Well is close by, and some say that the Saint from Candida Casa did indeed found a Christian settlement in the neighbourhood. In May 1276 William Wishart, Bishop of St Andrews consecrated on the rock the parish church of Dunothyr, also dedicated to St Ninian.

In 1297 Dunnottar was held by the English and stormed by William Wallace. During the usurpation of Edward Balliol in 1336, Dunnottar was again seized by the English, but shortly afterwards it was retaken and destroyed by the Scottish Regent, Sir Andrew de Moray.

  • Dunnottar Castle Postcode AB39 2TL
  • Dunnottar Castle geolocation Latitude 56.9458° N Longitude -2.1972° W
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By the end of the 14th century Dunnottar lay in the hands of Sir William Keith, Great Marischal of Scotland, who built a castle upon it. The original nucleus of the Castle that survives is the 14th century keep, a rectangular tower 41 ft by 36 ft and 50 ft high, with rubble-built walls 5 ft thick, Perched at the extreme south west corner of the rock, it dominates all the works at the entrance.

Early in the 16th century a new block was built east of the keep, and in 1574 the large building known as the Priest’s House was erected. To this period also belong the defensive works at the entrance. The west wing of the quadrangle was begun shortly after 1581 and two other wings linking up with a 16th century chapel were added early in the 17th century.

In 1639 the 7th Earl Marischal declared for the Covenant and took part with Montrose in the capture of Aberdeen. Montrose, who had been the Earl Marischal’s ally, tried and failed to win him over to the Royalist cause. In March 1645 largely owing to the intervention of Andrew Cant, one of sixteen ministers who fled their own houses and took refuge in the Castle with the Earl Rebulfed, Montrose took terrible vengeance, and the Earl Marischal had to stand on his own battlements and see the fires of war devouring his lands. Cant consoled him with the remark, ‘Trouble not, for the reek will be a sweet smelling incense in the nostrils of the Lord", Montrose went to his death.

King Charles 11 signed the Solemn League and Covenant and, on 8 July 1650, was entertained by the Earl Marischal at Dunnottar on his way south to try the hazard for the recovery of his father’s realm.

ln September 1651 the English troops under General Overton appeared before the Castle, and then began the siege that was to last for eight months until 24 May 1652. The Governor of Dunnottar, Sir George Ogilvy of Barras, surrendered to Colonel Morgan with all the honours of war. The prize that the English hoped to win from this accomplishment was a double one, the private papers of King Charles and the regalia of Scotland. But both eluded their grasp, The papers, carefully stitched into a flat belt round her middle, had been smuggled through the besieging lines by Anne Lindsay, a kinswoman of Ogi1vy‘s wife. The regalia, the Scottish crown, sceptre, and sword of state were by this time secreted beneath the pulpit of the parish church of Kinneff. Finally, in 1715, the cannon from Dunnottar were used in the Jacobite army.

The Castle itself, with all the other possessions of the 10th Earl Marischal, was forfeited after the Rising and in 1718 was dismantled. The systematic repair and excavation of the ruins was undertaken for the late Annie Viscountess Cowdray in 1925, and they are now open to the public.

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