One of Scotland’s the most attractive and interesting castles is Caerlaverock, which was built to control the waters of Solway Firth, the southwest entrance to Scotland. The border conflicts with England gave the castle a turbulent history. Till the12th century, when it came under the Normans, the eastern Solway had alternated between English and Scottish rule.
Shaped uniquely like an equilateral triangle, with a tower at each corner and its apex at the huge northern twin towered gatehouse, Caerlaverock Castle has a strategic location and is a perfect medieval stronghold. The Irish Sea is on the west, moorland surrounded by sea to the north and on the south there is woods, marshes and ditches carved by the sea where it meets the river. Caerlaverock Castle is surrounded by a double moat and vast flat marshy willow woods, called “moss” in Scotland.
The castle stands on the site of an earlier structure, the foundations of which are still visible. It was built by the powerful Maxwell family in 1277 and was just complete by 1300, when Edward I of England invaded Galloway and successfully besieged Caerlaverock. The English controlled the Castle until 1312. After winning Scottish independence in 1314, Robert the Bruce destroyed all border strongholds, including Caerlaverock, to prevent them falling into the hands of an invading English army.
Caerlaverock Castle was rebuilt through the 1300s and most of the 1400s. The west and south ranges as well as the gatehouse are from this time. The castle was captured by the English in 1544, and again attacked by the English in 1570.
In 1634, Robert Maxwell, First Earl of Nithsdale, built the impressive Nithsdale Lodging on the east with ornamental stonework inside. In 1640, the Maxwells held Caerlaverock for King Charles I against a besieging army of Covenanters for thirteen weeks before surrendering. The south east tower and most of the south curtain wall were destroyed then and never repaired. After its surrender, the Covenanters partially dismantled the castle and it fell into decay.
Caerlaverock Castle came into State care in 1946 and is now looked after by Historic Scotland. Today, visitors can enjoy a siege warfare exhibition, a children’s adventure park and a nature trail.
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