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Dundonald Castle

Dundonald Castle Ayrshire Scotland

On the grassy hill of Dundonald, Ayrshire, Scotland, the tower or hillfort of Donald has been a fortification for millenia. Throughout historic times, Dundonald has been indissolubly linked with the Scotto-Norman House of Stewart. Walter the Steward raised a motte and bailey castle of earthworks and timber on the hill soon after arriving in Scotland in 1136. Alexander, the Fourth Steward of Scotland, replaced this primitive structure with an impressive stone castle around 1260, perhaps in anticipation of the Norwegian invasion of western Scotland two years later. Alexander's fortress was one of the largest castles in medieval Scotland but it was completely destroyed in the Wars for Scottish Independence in the early fourteenth century. The present castle was built by Robert II in the early 1370s, perhaps to mark his accession to the throne. Robert certainly loved Dundonald, spending much of his time hunting on its estates and dying there in 1390. Dundonald served the Stewarts well once more when James I returned from imprisonment in England to find his authority challenged by his most powerful noble subjects. James cannily went back to the loyal Stewart homelands around Dundonald Castle when his reign was threatened in 1425. With his kinsman John 'the Red Stewart', he raised his standard at Dundonald and amassed an army there for the victorious campaign against the rebel Earl of Lennox and Murdoch, Duke of Albany.

The later Stewart monarchs were less enamoured by the gaunt, grey tower of Dundonald. It was now too distant from the new Stewart power centres of Stirling, Falkland and Edinburgh. James III finally sold it off to the Cathcart family in 1482. In the 1630s and 1640s later owners, the Wallaces and Cochranes, used Dundonald as a quarry for their more fashionable and comfortable residence at nearby Auchans Castle. The Lower Hall at Dundonald still features a very fine example of a medieval barrel-vaulted ceiling while the western wall displays five stone heraldic shields which are amongst the oldest in the country.

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