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Broughty Ferry Castle

Broughty Ferry Castle Dundee Scotland

Before the Union of 1707, Dundee was one of the wealthiest ports in Britain and Dundee's taxes were crucial to the Scottish exchequer. James II recognised the need to defend the sea approaches to Dundee along the wide estuary of the river Tay. In 1454 he granted a licence to the Earl of Angus to build a fort at Broughty, several miles to the east of Dundee. By the time the five storey tower was completed in the 1490s, it was in the hands of Lord Gray of Foulis. He was given licence to hold Broughty Castle by James IV in 1490 as well as enjoy the lucrative fishing rights along the nearby coastline.

Others soon recognised Broughty's importance to the security and prosperity of the Scottish realm. In 1547 Lord Gray was approached by English ambassadors who were aware of his opposition to the Catholic princess Mary Stewart. In September Gray agreed to open Broughty to an English force. The English troops immediately set about strengthening Broughty's artillery defences, ravaging much of the rich Angus countryside in search of building supplies as well as food. The head of the Scottish government, Regent Arran, ordered a blockade of Broughty Castle but the English were able to sally forth at will, capturing and fortifying the strategically important Hill of Balgillo. Arran responded cautiously by building up in Dundee a well-equipped force of over 3000 French, German and Scottish troops that included 100 pikemen, 100 horse and 100 hagbutters or gunmen. In February 1550 this international force under the French captain des Thermes moved on Broughty's outlying defences with such vigour that the English garrison promptly surrendered.

Broughty Castle was handed back into the safe keeping of the Gray family, who were its castellans until the Cromwellian period. General Monck marched on the castle in August 1651 in order to oust the royalist Grays. In the face of superior numbers and resources, the Grays left the castle without a fight. It was restored to them at the Restoration but sold to the Fotheringhams in 1666.

Robert Burns lamented that the castle was a ruin when he visited it in 1787 but the fabric was restored in the 1850s when Britain was gripped by war hysteria in the wake of the Crimean War. Broughty Castle was bought by the War Office in 1855 and given modern gun emplacements to fend off any potential trouble from the sabre rattling Napoleon III. The castle saw further service as an observation post in the Second World War and was only finally pensioned off in 1949. It now houses an excellent local history museum.

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