Cawdor Castle is a magnificent example of early Scottish Baronial architecture and the current building dates back to around 1454 when permission was granted to fortify an existing building.
There is some evidence to suggest that a previous fortified manor had exited on the site as early 1370. There is a believable legend that William, the 3rd Thane of Cawdor, wanted to find a place to build his new castle. Inspired by a dream, he selected a donkey, weighed it down with gold and followed it as it roamed his lands. That evening the donkey rested under a Hawthorne tree which was a perfect spot for the new castle. Taking this as a sign William selected this site and built his new castle around the tree. Sure enough, the remains of a holy tree can still be seen at the base a tower. Radio Carbon testing indicates that the tree died around 1372 – possibly from lack of light. The idea of a tree at the heart of the castle is rich with symbolism. Some historians claim the story is a combination of Pagan and Christian beliefs where the donkey and gold may represent Christianity and the Tree represents the Green Man of earlier ‘nature-based’ religions. The concept of a dead magical tree in a castle has strong similarities to the ‘White Tree of Gondor’ described by J R.R. Tolkien in his epic novel Lord of the Rings. The idea is also used in the more recent books (and television series) ‘A Song of Ice and fire’ (Game of Thrones) by George R. R. Martin which features the castle of Winterfell which is built around a sacred tree. It’s an interesting coincidence that both famous authors – set a generation apart – have double RR’s as their middle initials.Cawdor Castle’s literary connections go back even further and is featured in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. However, although King Duncan and Macbeth were real people they could not have been connected to Cawdor castle as it was only built at least 250 years after the events described by Shakespeare actually took place. The 5th Earl Cawdor is actually quoted as stating: “I wish the Bard had never written his damned play!”
It might be possible that Shakespeare and previous historians could have been refering an earlier castle built someway away from the current building in a more marshy part of the estate. It was this castle that was replaced by the existing one. However, no traces of the original castle have ever been found.
The interior of the castle features many wonderful rooms with fascinating displays and decor. It is also renowned for its gardens, which include the Walled Garden, the Flower Garden and the Wild Garden. It’s bordered by extensive woodland and a golf course. As of 2013 it remains the home of the Angelica Cawdor – the Dowager Countess Cawdor. It is located in the historic county of Nairnshire and is roughly halfway between the city of Inverness and the town of Nairn.
Three ghosts are believed to haunt Cawdor Castle, one is thought to be John Campbell, the first Lord Cawdor, the other is a mysterious lady in a blue velvet dress – the third which is admittedly unlikely – is the spirit of King Duncan himself.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
C1163 (Rd), Delnies Wood, Inverness
Morayshire, Scotland, IV12 5NX
+44 (0)1667 455 281