The history of Buittle Castle properly begins with the Lords of Galloway, particularly in the 12th and 13th Centuries, but the history of the site as a strategic outpost extends back to the Roman period and beyond, when the site was a crossing point of the Urr Water. Even before this, evidence has been found of several Iron Age round houses which were once on the site. Eventually the lands came into the hands of the powerful Lords of Galloway, who fortified the promontory further, creating a formidable motte and bailey castle.
The Medieval period must be considered the Castle's time of greatest prominence, serving first as the seat of the powerful Lords of Galloway during the independent Kingdom of Gallovidia, after which it passed, through marriage, into the de Balliol family, the scion of which marriage was John Balliol, King of Scots, thus making Botel (as it was known then) the Capital of Scotland. King John's mother, Devorguilla, was Lady of Galloway, though outliving her two sisters, all part of a tripartite inheritance bequeathed by Devorguilla's father, Alan of Galloway. She was beloved of her people and a great benefactress to education and religion. Through a bequest of her husband, she endowed and signed the charter of Balliol College at Oxford at the Motte of Botel. A depiction of the Motte of Botel can be seen below. The drawing below also shows the extent of the fortifications which Robert the Bruce's forces besieged during the Scottish Wars of Independence.
Lady Devorguilla of Galloway (1210-1290),
painted by Wilhelm Sonmans, 1670
Seal of John Balliol
After Bruce's siege of the Castle, it was given to the James Douglas, Lord of Douglas in 1313, and later passed back to the Balliol family by way of Edward Balliol, eldest son of John Balliol. Edward had hold of Buittle Castle until the early 1370s, when it was passed back yet again to the Douglasses, and returned to being a Royal castle. Between the 15th and 16th Century, the Castle was occupied by the Maxwells and the Gordons, until it was razed in the 1590s. The Norman castle, which once stood approximately 100 feet by 150 feet, became nearly completely ruinous.
Buittle Castle is a site of significance in Scotland's history. Today, the current owner are decedents of the Balliols who once occupied and ruled this Royal burgh. The castle and its grounds are being restored and revitalised with respect to its medieval occupants.
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