Craignethan Castle



Craignethan Castle was built by Sir James Hamilton in 1532. He was a man with powerful enemies: a claim in 1540 that he had been involved in a plot against his friend James V many years earlier, though probably untrue, led to his execution for treason. Craignethan passed to the Crown, before being acquired in 1542 by another James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, half brother of the original builder, and Regent of Scotland.


Hamilton pursued his personal ambitions with mixed success before and during the personal reign of Mary Queen of Scots. After her abdication, Hamilton and his family led the forces supporting Mary's claim to the Scottish Crown. In January 1570, this led to their arranging the shooting of the Earl of Moray, acting as Regent for the infant James VI. The Earl of Moray had briefly captured Craignethan Castle in 1568 after Mary's defeat at the Battle of Langside, but lost it to the Hamiltons again later the same year.



In July 1570 and again in 1571 the Hamiltons launched abortive military coups from their bases at Craignethan Castle and Hamilton Castle. During the second of these the new Regent for James VI, Earl Lennox, was also killed.


Hostilities paused in 1573, but in March 1578 James VI took personal control of the government at the age of 12. In May 1579 he moved against the Hamiltons and they were finally brought to account for their part in the deaths of James' two Regents in 1570 and 1571.


Hamilton Castle was besieged for four days, and Craignethan Castle was expected to put up even stiffer resistance. But it was abandoned without a fight, and in the 1580s the main defences were demolished. Craignethan ceased to function as a castle after an active life of just 50 years. The tower house remained in use as a family residence, but was replaced in 1665 with a more modest and modern house in the south west corner of the outer courtyard by the castle's then owner, Andrew Hay.


Craignethan was regained by the Hamiltons, but was sold by Duchess Anne in 1659. The new owner, Andrew Hay, a covenanting laird, built himself a two-storey house in the south-west corner of the outer courtyard. In 1730 Craignethan was sold to Archibald, Duke of Douglas. The property passed through his descendants, the Earls of Home, and the ruins were stabilised by the 12th earl in the late 19th century. The property was given into state care by the 14th Earl in 1949, and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument managed by Historic Scotland.



Walter Scott
In the Autumn of 1799 Walter Scott visited Bothwell Castle as a guest of Archibald Lord Douglas, and on a morning excursion to Craignethan Castle was so enraptured by the scene that his hosts offered him lifetime use of Andrew Hay's dwelling. He did not immediately turn this option down, but later circumstances prevented from making this area his summer residence.

Scott's novel Old Mortality, published in 1816, was largely set in and around Tillietudlem Castle. Chapter XI describes the location: "All heads were now bent from the battlements of the turret, which commanded a distant prospect down the vale of the river. The Tower of Tillietudlem stood, or perhaps yet stands, upon the angle of a very precipitous bank, formed by the junction of a considerable brook with the Clyde." In June 1829 he wrote to his friend James Skene, who was preparing etchings to illustrate Scott's books, "I did not think on Craignethan in writing about Tillietudlem, and I believe it differs in several respects from my Chateau en Espagne. It is not on the Clyde in particular, and, if I recollect, the view is limited and wooded. But that can be no objection to adopting it as that which public taste has adopted as coming nearest to the ideal of the place." In the revised Magnum Edition of Old Mortality, published in 1830, Scott added a footnote: "The Castle of Tillietudlem is imaginary; but the ruins of Craignethan Castle, situated on the Nethan, about three miles from its junction with the Clyde, have something of the character of the description in the text".

Craignethan, by Turner
In September 1834 Scott's son in law John Gibson Lockhart took the artist J. M. W. Turner to visit Craignethan. Turner made a sketch of the castle from the north, seen across the Nethan Gorge, then made several drawings in and around the ruins.

Due to the association with Scott's novel, Craignethan castle became a popular place to visit. In 1876 Tillietudlem railway station was constructed on the Coalburn branch of the nearby Caledonian Railway line. An 1880 tour guide description of an excursion "To the Falls of Clyde, Tillietudlem Castle, &c," says the station "is but a short walk from the castle". A small group of houses were constructed on the road past the station, as Fence Terrace, and this subsequently became the hamlet of Tillietudlem.


Location: Near Lanark


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