The monument comprises the remains of a medieval castle dating from the late 13th century/early 14th century. The castle is visible as a quadrangular enclosure with upstanding stone and mortar walls with some walls surviving as turf covered footings. The monument, located within gently sloping agricultural land, lies around 140m above sea level on a slight rise in the ground.
The castle is quadrangular on plan, measuring up to around 30m wide by 36m long with stone and mortar walls up to 5m high and 2m thick. The remains of circular towers are visible on the northwest and southwest corners. Internally, there is evidence of ranges to the north, east and south. The Internal walls are mostly visible as rubble and turf covered footings.
The scheduled area is irregular and extends up to, but not including, the fence around the monument. It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.
Statement of National Importance
The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):
a. The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. Castles are one of the main sources of physical evidence for the medieval period in Scotland and so are important in our understanding of the nature of Scotland's medieval society and landscape. This example contributes to our understanding of the design, construction and siting of castles, as centres of power and control, in the medieval period.
b. The monument retains physical attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding or appreciation of the past. It has the potential to increase our understanding of construction methods and materials of medieval domestic architecture through scientific study of the monument's structural remains. There is also significant potential for the preservation of buried features and deposits dating to both the prehistoric and later medieval phases of occupation,
c. The monument is a rare example of a medieval curtain wall castle in highland Perthshire. It appears to have been abandoned towards the end of the medieval period and subsequently unaltered.
d. The monument is a particularly good example of a small medieval castle and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. It can enhance our understanding of medieval society and economy, as well as the system of control in medieval highland Perthshire.
e. The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding of medieval rural settlement, architecture, economy and social organisation. In particular, the study of the castle's architectural details would contribute to our understanding of Scottish castle architecture; investigation of buried archaeological deposits could confirm the date of construction and the existence of any prehistoric structures predating the castle. Historical research could provide a better understanding of the castle and its use.
f. The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape as a well-preserved example of a medieval castle within highland Perthshire. Comparison with other castles in the area can add to our understanding of the composition and distribution of medieval settlements and centres of power.
Assessment of Cultural Significance
This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:
Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)
The monument survives as a well-preserved castle and is quadrangular on plan with walls of stone and mortar. The castle comprises three ranges to the north, east and south with a corner tower at the northwest and southwest angles. Internally, the remains of walls are visible as rubble and turf covered footings. The form of the castle points to a later 13th century date for its construction although some secondary sources attribute the castle to Sir John Campbell, who was made Earl of Atholl in 1320. The castle is shown on a map by Pont (Pont 23) which dates to the late 16th century. The depiction shows the castle in ruins and with towers at each angle, although the additional towers may reflect a cartographic convention rather than that actual plan of the castle at this time.
The stone walls and footings which form the castle are well defined and in a good state of preservation. This would indicate there is good potential for the survival of buried structures and archaeological deposits, artefacts and environmental information within, beneath and around the castle. The buried archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the development and character of the site, while any artefacts and environmental information such as pollen or charcoal, would enhance our understanding of the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, as well as provide information about contemporary land use and environment. Scientific study of the form and construction of the monument and the remains of any structures would enhance our understanding of the character, structure and development sequence of this site and add to our knowledge of early castle and medieval settlement architecture.
In Scotland, some medieval castles were constructed on the sites of earlier forts or defended sites. Some researchers have suggested that Caisteal Dubh may have been built on the site of a prehistoric crannog or island structure, although the earliest mapping from the late 16th century does not show the castle within or on the shore of a loch. This potentially provides evidence for a long period of abandonment, between the Iron Age and medieval period, and then reuse or continuous use with substantial rebuilding. Scientific study of the monument would allow us to develop a better understanding of the chronology of the site, including its date of origin, the nature of any structures within the curtain wall and later re-use.
Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)
Probably dating from the late 13th or early 14th century, Caisteal Dubh is an example of a simple quadrangular medieval castle. Many of the earliest Scottish castles were associated with the establishment of Anglo-Norman lordships during and after the reign of King David I. They played a role in the consolidation of royal power and the development of centralized authority. Caisteal Dubh is from a later medieval phase and may have been a seat of a branch of the powerful Campbell family who came to prominence through their support of Bruce dynasty during the Wars of Independence.
There are a number of recorded medieval castles within 15km of Caisteal Dubh; Castle Lennox (Canmore ID 25710) and Tom na Croiche (scheduled monument SM2638; Canmore ID 2634) also stand as ruins. Blair Castle (listed building LB6074; Canmore ID 25802) is around 10km northwest of Black Castle and although heavily altered and extended, it also has late 13th century origins and was to become the chief seat of the earldom of Atholl. The proximity of these castles can give important insights into the distribution and chronology of medieval fortified sites in the region and add to our understanding of social organization, patterns of land tenure and land-use. The monument broadens our understanding of the nature of medieval lordship, landownership and the organisation of territories in this area. It contributes to our understanding of the nature and chronology of medieval castles and their place within the landscape of Highland Perthshire.
Castles are typically sited in defensible locations. Caisteal Dubh is located on a slight rise within agricultural land but it has been suggested that it may have been originally sited on an island or peninsula within a loch. The castle has distant views of the surrounding countryside and would have been a prominent feature in the landscape. The position of the monument in the landscape can enhance our understanding of the status of the site, communications and relationships with other territories, and the nature of land ownership and control during the medieval period. In particular, the position of Black Castle adjacent to an important north-south route linking the lowlands with the Highland of Scotland highlights how its location was important in its role as a centre of lordship.
Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)
There are currently no known associative characteristics that contribute to the national importance of the monument.