Bothwell Castle, fought over by the English and the Scots for centuries

Bothwell Castle is claimed to be unique among the hundreds, if not thousands, of castles that dot the Scottish countryside. It dates back to the 13th century and sits perfectly overlooking the River Clyde. It was extremely important throughout the Wars of Scottish Independence.

The castle, which is perched on the hilly ground by the River Clyde about 10 miles from Glasgow, preserves a variety of notable features. Bothwell’s prison tower was part of the main castle construction as early as the 13th century, although elements like the great hall and chapel were erected later as ownership went back and forth among several different families.

The exotic remains of the Bothwell gardens are Spanish garlic, which was most likely brought to the island by the Romans. This plant was most likely planted in medieval times for its therapeutic properties, but it was also likely produced as a vegetable.are

Bothwell Castle Author:Bert Kaufmann CC BY-SA 2.0

According to historical documents, King David I of Scotland first awarded David Olifard the plot of land overlooking the River Clyde in the mid-12th century. As his bloodline faded, the property passed to the Moray family, who had an ancestral relationship to the Murray clan. I

It is unclear who started work on the castle, whether it was Walter of Moray himself or his son and descendant William, called ‘the Rich.’

David I of Scotland

As work began on the site, this stone castle was envisioned as a complete display of power and riches, if not the most imposing example of its kind in Scotland at the time. However, Bothwell Castle was never finished because of the volatile events that occurred, such as a succession of sieges.

The most significant siege was undoubtedly King Edward I of England in 1301. Edward, I had already taken the fortress in 1299, only to lose it again. However, the events in 1301 were even more spectacular, as the English king returned to Bothwell that year with an army of at least 6,800 soldiers.

Edward I

The monarch used a gigantic siege mechanism called as the belfry, a mobile tower with interior ladders that provided its warring warriors an attacking advantage. While the belfry was obviously advantageous to the English, the castle defenders were also outnumbered, and after a month of pressure, the Scottish side surrendered.

Plan of Bothwell Castle Author:Jonathan Oldenbuck CC BY SA 2.0

The fortress remained on the English side until after the Battle of Bannockburn, a significant Scottish victory during the Wars of Independence. However, after reclaiming the site, the Scottish abandoned Bothwell Castle since they saw no purpose for it at the time. This finally allowed the English to return and retake the fortress in 1336, during King Edward III’s reign.

South East Tower seen from inside the roofless Great Hall in 1997. Author:dave souza CC BY-SA 3.0

Although Edward III intended Bothwell to be a major base, Sir Andrew Murray regained possession of the fortress in 1337. Sir Andrew Murray then proceeded to entirely demolish the castle’s west donjon so that the English would not find a serviceable stronghold to recapture if they returned.

South East Tower seen from inside the roofless Great Hall in the mid-19th century Author:Edmund Walker CC BY 3.0

After the wars and battles were over, Bothwell Castle was purchased by another renowned Scottish family, this time the Black Douglases. The castle would be repaired by Archibald and Joanna, the new owners’ names. They erected one additional tower house (which no longer exists) and built the castle’s great hall and chapel, characteristics that surely contribute to the architectural significance of Bothwell Castle today.

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