Dunnottar Castle is one of the most visually impressive locations in Scotland and was even chosen by the Microsoft Corporation as a screen background for its Windows 7 operating system.
Roughly translated, Dunnottar means ‘the castle on the shelving slope’. The ruins of the castle are situated approximately two miles south of Stonehaven on a rocky headland that protrudes out into the North Sea and is practically an island. Its history is littered with royalty and the famous. Just some of the notables have included, St Ninian, Mary Queen of Scots, King Charles II, William Wallace and the Marquis of Montrose. It has one of the bloodiest histories of any castle. Occupation of the site dates back to around 470 AD and the first fort was probably built around 580AD. By 694AD it had already been attacked by both Norsemen and Pictish raiders. The King of Alba was killed by Vikings at Dunnottar in 900AD and in 934AD it was raided again, this time by King Aethelstan of Wessex. William Wallace (Braveheart) is reputed to have captured Dunnottar Castle during the Scottish Wars of Independence and is said to have executed the 4000 strong English garrison by burning them alive.
It was eventually rebuilt by the English but soon afterwards the Scottish Regent Sir Andrew Murray attacked it and destroyed it again. The ruins on the site largley date back to the 15th and 16th when the first modern castle was constructed by the Earls Marischal. By 1581 it was more a fortified mansion than a castle. During The War of the Three Kindoms the Crown Jewels of Scotalnd were hidden in Dunnottar castle and defended by The Lietenant Govenor of Barras, Sir George Ogilvy. In 1651 the castle was attacked by the forces of Oliver Cromwell and the Crown Jewels – also known as the Honours of Scotland – were smuggled out and hidden in the Kinneff Old Church.
The Castle remained at the heart of political intrigue for the next 150 years. In 1595 a group of witches were executed by being burnt at the stake in the grand courtyard. It has also been used as a prison and in 1685 it held 167 Coventers most of whom were tortured. Those that survived were later deported to New Jersey in the USA where many died of fever. It has been sold to a building company for its stone and has been the focus of Jacobite plotting and rebellion.
It was eventually acquired in by the 1st Viscount Cowdray in 1925 and somewhat restored by his wife. The castle ruins are distributed over 3.5 acres and include a 14th-century tower house as well as the 16th-century palace. There are only two entrances – the fortified main gate and a secret cave accessible from the sea. It has remained in the Pearson family since 1925 and attracts around 50,000 visitors a year. In 1970 the castle and the headland were granted Scheduled Monument status. Sections of the 1990 film ‘Hamlet’ starring Mel Gibson were shot on location at Dunnottar Castle. It is said to be haunted by such a large number of ghosts and phantoms that even paranormal investigators have difficulty focusing on any individual spirit. However, there have been regular sightings of the mysterious “Green Lady” of the castle.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Burnside Road, Tarland by Aboyne
Aberdeenshire, Scotland, AB34 4UP
+44 (0)1339 881 388
- Address: (Dunnottar Main Road), Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, United Kingdom, AB39 2TL
- GPS: 56.94583611,-2.197841667
- Phone: 0044 (0)1569 762 173
- Part of UK: Scotland
- Sat Nav Postcode: AB39 2TL
- Visibility from Road: Good - but from a distance