Clackmannan Tower, Clackmannanshire – Clan Bruce
Dominating the surrounding area for miles thanks to its lofty position, Clackmannan Tower is the former seat of one of the most influential families in Scottish history, the Bruces.
Located on King’s Seat Hill near the town of Clackmannan, the tower sits at an elevation of 55 metres above sea level and gives tremendous views over the River Forth to the south and the Ochil Hills to the north.
It is believed that a royal residence may have originally sat on the location of the current tower and could have been built as early as the reign of Malcolm IV from 1053 to 1056, however, according to legend, the structure we know today was originally constructed by the former King of Scots, Robert the Bruce, at the start of the 14th century. While this is perhaps no more than a story, we do know for sure that the fortification had been completed by the middle of the 1300s as King David II, Roberts son, would grant the tower to one of his kinsmen in 1359 in an attempt to keep the property under the control of the family rather than the Scottish monarchy.
The Bruce family would eventually lose a lot of their influence following the passing of the Scottish crown to the Stewart family upon the death of David II, and from here, it is harder to track the history of the family and the castle. Despite this, we do know that the family would expand the castle at the start of the 15th century, adding a second tower to the south and extending the height of the original tower. The Bruces would also later add a mansion in the early 1600s.
The family would live at Clackmannan until the late 1700s and towards the end of their spell in control of the castle, would begin to receive a number of distinguished guests and acquaintances thanks to the reputation of Katherine Bruce, who lived there until her death in 1791. Among the famous faces to stay with Bruce was Robert Burns, who Mrs Bruce mock-knighted using the sword of her ancestor, King Robert the Bruce. This would be the last hurrah for the castle, however, as it was abandoned soon after with the tower’s mansion house being demolished at some point before the year 1841. The sword with which Katherine ‘knighted’ Burns is said to have been the one used by Robert at Bannockburn and, along with an accompanying helmet, it was passed to the Earls of Elgin, another branch of the Bruces, where it is now kept at their seat at Broomhall in Fife.
Today, the castle is under the control of Historic Environment Scotland after being repaired following a partial collapse. Memorials for the Bruce family that once stayed in the tower can still be found at the graveyard of the nearby parish church in the town of Clackmannan.