Craignethan Castle

Craignethan Castle
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

Craignethan Castle

A castle of South Lanarkshire, Craignethan is located high above the River Nethan, a mile (1.5 km) west of Crossford and 6 miles (9 km) northwest of Lanark. The castle was built around 1530 by the powerful Sir James Hamilton of Finnart (d.1540). He had travelled in Europe, learning about military architecture and fortification. In constructing the castle, he made best use of its strategic location, protected by steep slopes on three sides. When Finnart fell from favour and was executed for treason, the castle was taken by King James V. On his death it passed back to the Hamiltons in the person of James, the 2nd Earl of Arran (1516-75). It was lost once again when Arran opposed the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, to Lord Darnley and was briefly banished to France, but was retaken in 1568 by Arran's son, Lord Claud Hamilton (1543 - 1621). At a time of power struggles and political intrigue, the Hamiltons supported Mary's cause and she was sheltered here after she escaped from Loch Leven Castle, where she was imprisoned following her abdication. The young Claud Hamilton set off with Mary, heading for Dumbarton Castle, but was intercepted at Langside by James Stuart, the Earl of Moray and Regent (1531-70). Moray then came to Craignethan to demand its surrender. Hamilton returned and retook his castle, continuing to oppose the nobles who ran the country. In 1579, with Mary's cause lost, James Douglas, the 4th Earl of Morton (c.1516-81), who was by then Regent, moved decisively against the Hamiltons. They fled Craignethan which was torn down to prevent re-occupation.

Craignethan came to the fore once again in the 19th C. as the Tillietudlem Castle of Sir Walter Scott's Old Mortality, a stirring tale of Royalists and Covenanters.

The castle was given to the state in 1949 by Sir Alex Douglas-Home (1903-95) and is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland. A caponier, or stone-vaulted artillery chamber, which is unique in Britain, was discovered in 1962.

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