Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries – Clan Maxwell
Featuring a unique triangular design, the ruins of Caerlaverock castle are an imposing sight as they stand surrounded by their protective moat in southern Dumfries.
The castle was built in its current state in the 13th century by the Maxwell clan, but would soon emerge as a target for invading English forces due to its location close to the border. It would first be captured by the English in 1300 after a siege by King Edward I and would remain in their hands until 1312 when it was taken back during the Scottish Wars of Independence.
The castle would be repaired in the 1330s but would come under English rule again in 1357 when Herbert Maxwell submitted to Edward III during the second part of the War of Independence before being recaptured. It would then enjoy a brief respite for almost 200 years before falling into English hands once more in 1545.
The Maxwells would then enter into a feud of their own when they started a bitter conflict with the Johnstone clan at the end of the 16th century. However, this would also end in tragedy with John Maxwell, 8th lord, being slain and the clan being routed at a battle in 1593.
The family would, however, reclaim the castle once more before it was taken by the English for the final time in 1640 when the Maxwell’s surrendered the castle to a covenanter force after a 13-week siege. This would be the last time the Maxwells would lose Caerlaverock and after this event, the family would move to Traquair House near Peebles.
Caerlaverock would then transfer to the control of the Dukes of Norfolk and would remain uninhabited until it was passed into the hands of the state in the 18th century. It would then become a popular visitor attraction and now includes a nature trail and borders the Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve with which it shares its name.
When talking about the history of the castle, it is of course hard to ignore the regular periods of English control which it suffered despite being on Scottish land. However, It would be unfair to assume that the Maxwells were therefore weak due to their propensity to give up the castle. The clan’s close proximity to the border meant that they would have been a constant target for the English and living in this part of the country would have come with the constant fear of sieges and warfare. After seeing past generations of their relatives be executed it is unsurprising that the Maxwells were focusing on simply not being killed, hence their move to Peebles after the Castle’s final siege in 1640.