Douglas Castle

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Douglas Castle was a stronghold of the Douglas family from medieval times to the nineteenth century. The first castle(1), erected in the 13th century, was destroyed and replaced several times until the 18th century when a large mansion house was built in its place. This too was demolished in the 1938, and today only a single corner tower of the 17th-century castle remains. The castle was the former family seat of the Prime Minister, Alec Douglas-Home.

The castle was located around 1 km north-east of the village of Douglas, South Lanarkshire, south-west Scotland.

The Douglas family built the first Douglas Castle, also known as Park, which was constructed of either wood or stone, sometime before 1288. In 1307, during the Wars of Scottish Independence the castle was captured and garrisoned by the English under Lord Clifford. Sir James Douglas, companion of Robert the Bruce successfully recaptured his family seat by storming the castle on Palm Sunday, while the garrison were at chapel. he had the garrison killed and thrown into a cellar, before the structure was burned. The event has become known as "Douglas' larder".

Robert the Bruce reRobert the Bruce rewarded the loyalty of the Douglases, and Sir James' heirs were created Earls of Douglas. Douglas Castle was rebuilt as one of their strongholds, but by the 15th century, the power of the "Black" Douglases had come to threaten the Stewart monarchy. In 1455 James II led an expedition against the rebellious 9th Earl, defeating his forces at the battle of Arkinholm. Douglas Castle was sacked and the family's lands and titles forfeited.

The "Red" Douglases, Earls of Angus, had sided with the king against the senior branch of their family, and it was they who gained the Douglas lands in Lanarkshire. It is likely that the castle was rebuilt soon after 1455. In 1703, Archibald Douglas, 3rd Marquess of Douglas was created Duke of Douglas, with his principal seat at Douglas Castle. The castle was again rebuilt around this time, as a tower house and an enclosed courtyard with a corner tower. This castle was destroyed by fire in 1755, with the exception of the corner tower.

In the 1745 rebellion led by Charles Edward Stuart ('Bonnie Prince Charlie'), Archibald, Duke of Douglas, had the dubious pleasure of the Young Pretender spending Christmas Eve at Douglas Castle. The Highlanders in Charles' army spent two wild days in the town and did 'much damage to residence and property' of the Duke and leaving his house 'worse than a hog's sty'. They even carried off the Black Douglas sword', a gift that was traditionally thought to have been given to the 'Good Sir James' Douglas by Robert the Bruce in the early fourteenth century. (Memorial, 1746, in Douglas Charter-Chest, cited in Scots Peerage, I, pp.210-11 )

Things did not improve for Archibald, as in 1758 his castle burned down. He hired the great architect Robert Adam (1728-1792), to build him a palace even grander than the one built by Archibald Campbell, third Duke of Argyll at Inverary. However Douglas died before he saw his plans completed. Had it been completed the castle would have been the largest in Scotland. As it was the Duke of Douglas died in 1761, and only around half of the original design was ever completed. The five storey building had round towers to the front and square towers to the rear facade, and stood in a very extensive park spanning the valley of the Douglas Water. The Duke's estate became the subject of a famous and bitter legal dispute, known as the 'Douglas Cause', between his nephew Archibald Douglas, 1st Baron Douglas and the Duke of Hamilton. Lord Douglas was eventually victorious, and the castle descended through him to the Earls of Home.


The Douglas Homes were staunch supporters of the Episcopalian Church from the 17th century and were not minded to join the Church of Scotland. The Episcopalian chapel was the last part of the castle to be built . It was possibly created as late as the 1870's by Lady Lucy Elizabeth Douglas Home who commissioned the restoration of old St Brides Douglas. soNormal">  

In the 1930s Charles Douglas-Home, 13th Earl of Home allowed the mining of coal in the park adjacent to the castle, in an attempt to relieve desperate levels of local unemployment. Sadly, the mining caused dangerous subsidence to the castle and it had to be demolished in 1938.

Today, only a ruined corner tower of the penultimate castle remains, built in the late 17th century. Three storeys and 9m in height, the tower once stood at the corner of an enclosure, estimated at around 40m across. The tower stands on a prominent rise in the valley, to the south of the river, and was retained as a garden folly when the later mansion was built. Below is a small cellar block with glazed tiles on the interior walls. Nothing visible remains of the mansion.  Scott used the location and early history of Castle Douglas as the inspiration for his novel Castle Dangerous. The castle is still sometimes referred to by this alternative name.

When the castle was demolished, most of the contents were sold off. The chapel was the last part of the castle to be demolished. Some of the relics from this chapel and the castle are in the museum at Douglas. Some can be seen in the gallery.

Drawing Roog drawing room castle castle
castle Family at sundial Douglas Castle from the river demolition
Douglas Castle from the boathouse Scene at Douglas Castle Scene at Douglas Castle old tower
demolition chapel castle and tower castle reconstruction  
The 11th Earl and Countess of Home (seated) at the marriage of their son Lord Dunglass, Douglas Castle 1870 Douglas Castle Douglas Castle + doocot Douglas Castle 1896

gardeners cottage castle in 1873 castle partly demolished castle partly in 1902

Douglas golf course
From 1897-1906 the course was on Weston Farm.
In 1906, the late Lord Home having laid out a golf course in the Douglas Castle Policies, very generously extended the privilege of playing upon it to the Douglas club.
The golf ceased with the onset of WW1 and for the duration of the war the course was allowed to assume it's natural state.

 golf course
The club and course re-opened in 1921."

map map 1654

1. The first castle may have been site a few miles to the east of the later building, at, on or near Parkhall, Mains Castle and Castlemains.

New Mains Farm

The estate offices are in New Mains Farm - just to the south of the castle.

Extract from George Vere Irving; The upper ward of Lanarkshire described and delineated (Volume 2); 1864:
New Mains is the homestead of the home-farm on the Douglas estate, and is excellent in all its extensive arrangements, as might be looked for where so much land is held in their own hands by the noble owners, and near to a domain so extensive and so well kept, and on an estate large enough to demand the supervision of a master of works — an architect of intelligence, as was the recent occupant, who, after many years of honourable employ, has gone to the Meams (?Mearns) to farm largely on his own account.

New Mains house stands south of the turnpike road, which divides it from the walled enclosure of the castle grounds, and the plot of ground between the dwelling and the road is a garden, a pretty one, and of some extent.

The armorials below are on the wall and in a store.

armorial   Armorial on the wall in Mew Mains Farmyard

See also:
Music - Castle Dangerous

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Last modified: Friday, 17 May 2024