Rothesay Castle, Isle of Bute – Clan Stewart
Famous for its close links to the Stewarts – Scotland’s Royal dynasty from 1371 – Rothesay Castle is one of Scotland oldest and most unique castles and is situated in the heart of the town of Rothesay with which it shares its name.
The structure was first built in the early 1200s by Alan Fitz Walter, 2nd High Steward of Scotland, and would soon become one of the focal points of Norwegian attacks on the west of Scotland. The castle would be attacked twice by the Norse – firstly in 1230 when Haakon IV ordered his men to sail into the River Clyde and capture the Isle of Bute (which they managed successfully after a three day siege) and again in 1263 when the King himself led a successful raid on the castle and managed to capture it. In fact, only a violent storm prevented the Norwegians from doing more damage in the area.
The castle would eventually be returned to the Scots however, and was significantly strengthened to prevent it falling again as four round towers were added – of which only the North-West survives today. Rothesay would also play a crucial part in the Scottish Wars of Independence as it was ruled by the English until 1311 before being taken by Robert the Bruce, it would then be held by the English again from 1334 before finally being returned to the Scots soon after.
It would be with the rise to the Scottish throne of the castle’s owners – the Stewarts – however, that the Castle would come to national prominence in 1371. Rothesay would go on to become a favoured residence of the monarchy and would be further strengthened to accommodate this royal presence at the site.
Continuing its tumultuous history, the castle would suffer further sieges in the 16th and 17th century and would finally succumb to years of constant abuse in 1685 when supporters of Archibald Campbell, 9th Earl of Argyll, burned the remains of the castle during a rising in support of the Monmouth rebellion.
It would only be in the 19th century that the castle would be given a new lease of life when it was excavated and restored by the 2nd and 3rd Marquesses of Bute and the castle is now a scheduled ancient monument controlled by Historic Scotland.