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 semi-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, through 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 a cousin James Douglas, Lord of Douglas in 1313, and later passed back to the Balliol family in the person 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 ceased to being a Royal castle. Between the 15th and 16th Century, the Castle was occupied by the Maxwells and the Gordons all cousin of the original occupants. By this time the family had moved into the Courtyard complex on the Bailey, and the Norman castle, which once stood approximately 100 feet by 150 feet, became nearly completely ruinous.
Buittle Castle, a site of significance in Scotland's history, is now in its 30th generation of family ownership, broken only by a brief 60 year period, when it was outside of the hands of the long string of descendants who have lived at this historic fortalice. Today, the current owners 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, and its long history since Roland of Galloway fortified the site in stone 850 years ago.
MORE HISTORICAL INFO:
Dr. Elizabeth Krenshaw, a renowned academic has recently completed a concise but comprehensive history of the Castle, from the Iron Age up to the present day - the first of its kind. Late of Harvard, Dr. Krenshaw is now retired and devotes her time to topics of special interest to her. The ~20 page pamphlet is now available for purchase at the Castle. To learn even more and see the historic interiors of the Castle in a detailed guided tour, book for our Tour & Tea!
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