Bothwell Castle, South Lanarkshire – Clan Murray
One of the largest stone castles in Scotland, the ruined Bothwell Castle was once the ancient home of the powerful Murray Clan and an important stronghold in central Scotland.
Located between the Lanarkshire towns of Bothwell and Uddingston, the castle was originally constructed in the mid 13th century by Walter Moray and his son William ‘the rich’ Moray after the family acquired the property in 1242 and it would quickly become an important castle, thanks to its position and size.
The first real test of the castle would come during the Scottish Wars of Independence when it was taken over by English forces in 1298 and such was the strength of the castle, it would take 14 months of constant besiegement by the Scots to regain control. It would then be recaptured by a much larger English army in 1301 and would then stay in English hands until 1314, during which time it would serve as the headquarters for Aymer de Valence, Edward I’s Warden of Scotland.
The castle was a constant target for invading English forces due to its strategic location on the banks of the River Clyde and was taken again in 1336 under the orders of Edward III. Edward would rebuild the castle (after it had been partially destroyed by angry Scots who associated the building with English rule), however, it would fall almost as quickly as it was taken when Andrew Murray, the rightful owner of the structure and a good friend of Robert the Bruce, would retake the stronghold before pulling down a section of the western wall into the River Clyde to assure it could not be occupied by the English again.
The castle would remain abandoned until the 1360s when, following the marriage of Joan Moray of Bothwell, the heiress of the Morays, to Archibald Douglas, the castle would fall into the hands of the Douglas Clan. The Douglases would immediately begin to rebuild Bothwell and by 1424 they had constructed the great hall, north-east and south-east towers and a curtain wall.
After the ‘Black’ Douglases were forced to forfeit their lands in 1455, the castle once again changed ownership, this time passing to the Crichtons, the Ramsays and finally, the Hepburns. This revolving door of ownership would eventually come to an end when the castle was returned to the Douglases in 1488 when it was exchanged for Hermitage Castle in Liddlesdale.
Unfortunately for Bothwell, this would also signal the end for the castle as a functional living space as it was subsequently abandoned by the family in favour of a new mansion nearby as they demolished the castle’s northeast tower in the process for its stone. Bothwell would remain under the control of the Douglases until the 19th century when it passed to the Homes and in 1935, the structure was finally given a new lease of life when it was placed under the care of the state and has since been repaired with part of the curtain wall being rebuilt.
Bothwell Castle remains a prominent structure in the Lanarkshire area and can be visited easily from either Glasgow or Edinburgh in under an hour’s drive. It is well worth a visit for anyone interested in Scottish history, particularly the Scottish Wars of Independence, and is a must-see for any Murrays passing through the area.