Scheduled Monument


Status: Designated


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The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Supplementary Information Updated
Secular: castle
Local Authority
South Lanarkshire
NS 68814 59364
268814, 659364


The monument is the remains of Bothwell Castle, a later 13th century castle which was remodelled in the late 14th and early 15th centuries.  It is visible as upstanding masonry remains, footings and earthworks, and excavation has shown that significant buried archaeological remains are present. The castle is located on a prominent terrace around 30m above sea level on the east bank of the River Clyde.

The earliest parts of Bothwell Castle, built by Walter de Moray, or his son William, date to the second half of the 13th century.  The structure was conceived as a five-sided curtain wall castle dominated by a massive circular tower at the southwest angle.  There were to be additional circular angle towers, a rectangular side tower and a twin-towered gatehouse. The overall plan can still be traced through excavated footings, however, only the southwest tower, south curtain wall and one of the angle towers were completed.  The east side of the castle was defended by additional earthworks which survive as a banked ditch.  The 14th century remodelling of the castle by the Douglas family reduced the area originally intended to be enclosed to its southern half, using the surviving 13th century work as a starting point. This phase of the castle comprised a rectangular courtyard enclosed by an outer wall with a rectangular tower built on the foundations of an incomplete 13th century tower, projecting from the northeast corner.  The castle was accessed through a rectangular gatehouse that was demolished in the late 17th century, and within the courtyard was a great hall, a kitchen block and chapel.  A tower projecting from the southeast corner of the curtain wall provided domestic accommodation and windows through the southern curtain wall indicate the presence of further domestic accommodation in this location.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above and an area around in which evidence for the monuments construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map.  The scheduling specifically excludes: the above-ground elements of all modern boundary walls and modern fences; the above-ground elements of all signage and services; the top 300mm of all modern paths and paved areas to allow for their maintenance; the above ground elements of the modern shop and toilet block; all modern railings and staircases within the castle.

Statement of National Importance

Cultural significance

The monument's cultural significance has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is an outstanding example of a 13th century stone-built castle with later alterations and additions including English work dating to the Wars of Independence, a much more significant phase of remodelling in the late 14th century and early 15th century, and later 16th century alterations.  It is visible as upstanding masonry remains and earthworks, and retains much of its 13th and 14th/15th century fabric and architectural features. 

Bothwell was planned on an exceptionally grand scale and was executed using high quality materials with very fine detailing.  Had it been fully completed it would have been the largest and most sophisticated castle built in Scotland at that time.  As it stands, the remains of the largest tower, almost 20m in diameter with walls up to 4.6m thick, is an exceptionally important piece of Scottish secular medieval architecture.  Evidence for the English work of the 1330s is slight; only a fragment of what was probably a single storey hall survives.  This is significant, however, as little work of this type and period has been identified in Scotland.  Much of the Douglas work is finely detailed with notable features such as the machicolated parapet (a parapet with gaps through which missiles or objects might be dropped on attackers) surmounting the southeast tower.  Analysis of the upstanding remains can enhance our knowledge of the chronology and development sequence of the castle, which remains uncertain, and the cultural and social influences that informed its form and design, as well as how the buildings were used and lived in.

Although the grounds of the castle were extensively cleared in the early 20th century, excavation has demonstrated that important archaeological remains survive below the present ground surface.  As a consequence, the courtyard and earthworks are likely to contain further deposits and archaeological features relating to the construction, occupation, use and abandonment of the site.  There is also the potential for old ground surfaces to be preserved beneath the earthworks and for other environmental remains to survive within the fills of the ditch.  This evidence could provide information about the contemporary environment and landscape within which the castle was built.  There is also the potential for evidence relating to the various sieges of the castle within and outwith the perimeter of the castle's earthworks, which could enhance our knowledge of the conduct of medieval sieges

Contextual Characteristics

Bothwell Castle is significant within a northern European context of castle building taking place during the 12th and 13th centuries.  From about 1200 Philip II of France constructed a number of very large circular towers, such as at the Louvre, Falaise and Gisors and these towers had an impact on castle building in France and beyond, with French aristocrats emulating the work of their king.  Bothwell is dominated by the massive southwest tower which is separated from the rest of the castle by an inner moat.  This massive tower fits within this wider European context, being built when relationships between France and Scotland were particularly close due to the marriage of Marie de Coucy and Alexander II of Scotland in 1239.  The tower at Bothwell, however, was not simply a copy of French antecedents.  Rather the builders utilised continental exemplars and then developed these further.  In particular, the complex entrance arrangements to the south westtower are innovative even in a wider European context.  The complex entry was without parallel in Scotland at this time. It was a visible display of power and a demonstration of knowledge of state-of-the-art military architecture.

The castle played an important role during the wars with England in the early 14th century when the castle was repeatedly besieged, captured, slighted and repaired by both sides.  It was the subject of a set-piece siege by Edward I in 1301 employing a field army of 6800 men.  After its capture it remained an important English garrison until it fell to Edward Bruce after Bannockburn (1314).  The castle was re-occupied by the English in 1336 when it became Edward III's headquarters in Scotland for the winter of that year.  In 1337, the castle was finally retaken by Andrew Moray of Bothwell, who then partially dismantled the great tower.  This followed Scottish policy of destroying fortifications that could be used as part of an English occupation of Scotland.  However, it was also a highly symbolic act by Moray, who had rights to the castle and lordship of Bothwell; by destroying the most visible symbol of his lordship, the great tower, he was demonstrated his loyalty to the Bruce cause. 

After its dismantling, the castle appears to have been abandoned until about 1362 when Archibald Douglas ('the Grim') took possession of the lordship on his marriage to Joanna de Moray.  Archibald quickly embarked on an ambitious programme of rebuilding which was continued by his son.  The later castle was smaller in scale but no less impressive in that it cleverly adapts a 13th century layout into suitable accommodation for a 14th century lord.  A similar layout survives at Threave Castle (scheduled monument reference SM90301, Canmore ID 64698) on the River Dee in Dumfries and Galloway, which was another Douglas stronghold.  The work of Archibald at Bothwell is significant in the context of the rise of the Douglases as one of the pre-eminent aristocratic families of Scotland.  They had come to prominence in the early 14th century due to their support of the Bruce cause and their part in the wars with England.  Their castles were a physical manifestation of this role, and it would have been particularly symbolic for Archibald, the new lord of Bothwell, to re-establish the abandoned Bothwell castle as his seat of lordship.

The castle is situated on the east bank of the River Clyde at about 30m above sea-level.  It has good views along the river and used the river valley as additional defence and potential routeway.  Directly across the Clyde is Blantyre Priory.

Associative Characteristics

Bothwell Castle is associated in form with other medieval castles such as Kildrummy Castle (Aberdeenshire) and Chateau de Coucy (Picardy, France).  This link is through the Moray family and their ties to the royal court.

The castle played a key part in the wars with England in the early 14th century and there are many contemporary and historical accounts of the sieges (e.g. Wyntoun's account of the siege of 1337).  From this period the castle has many associations with historical figures, in particular Edward I who led one of the most famous sieges of the castle in 1301, but also Sir Andrew Murray and Edward II and III.  In the later medieval period the castle is strongly linked to the Black Douglases, in particular Archibald "the Grim"

The castle became a popular visitor destination on the Clyde amongst late 18th and early 19th century seekers of the picturesque.  As a "romantic ruin", the castle inspired the poem 'Bothwell Castle' by William Wordsworth 30 years after first visiting in 1803, and was the subject of paintings by Paul Sandby, Charles Cordiner and others.  From the late 18th century the castle became a feature in the grounds of the new Bothwell House which was constructed from 1700 and demolished in 1923.  Parts of the castle were demolished to provide building stone for the new house.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it has an inherent potential to make a significant contribution to our understanding of medieval castles, their chronology and development sequences as well as the cultural and social influences that may have informed their development and architecture.  The upstanding buildings retain their structural and decorative characteristics to a marked degree, incorporating many fine and significant architectural features.  The great 13th century tower is one of the most significant secular buildings of its time in Scotland.  The tower and the intended plan of the castle demonstrates continental influences as well as incorporating innovative features.  The construction of this great tower and its later development helps our understanding of the symbolic nature of such buildings and the messages their owners were trying to communicate through architecture.  Archaeological investigations have shown that there is also very high potential for the survival of important buried archaeological remains, including structures within and around the castle and artefacts and environmental evidence that can enhance our understanding of how such buildings functioned, as well as adding to knowledge of the daily domestic life of the inhabitants and their society and economy relating to the various sieges at the castle.  The role of the castle during the Wars of Independence and its association with the Moray and Douglas families adds to its significance, as does its later appreciation as a picturesque ruin.  The loss of the monument would greatly diminish our ability to understand the character, chronology and development of medieval castles in Scotland.





Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 44889 (accessed 11/8/2016).

West of Scotland Archaeology Service Historic Environment Record Reference: WOSAS PIN 9241 (accessed 11/8/2016).

Cruden, S 1954. "Scottish Medieval Pottery. The Bothwell Castle Collection" in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 86 pp. 140-170.

Dunbar J G 1966. The historic architecture of Scotland, London.

Historic Scotland 2009. Bothwell Castle, Edinburgh.

Lewis, J 1997. "Excavations at Bothwell Castle" in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 127 pp. 687-695.

MacGibbon and Ross D and T 1887-92. The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to eighteenth centuries, 5v Edinburgh. Pages Vol I 93-108, Vol V 235-7.

Mackenzie, W M 1927. The medieval castle in Scotland, London.

Rutherford, A and Malcolm, J (2011), "'That stalwart toure': Bothwell Castle in the Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries", in Audrey Dakin; Miles Glendinning; Aonghus MacKechnie, Scotland's Castle Culture, BerlinnSimpson, W D 1925. "The Architectural History of Bothwell Castle" in Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Vol. 59 pp 165-193.

Slezer, J 1693. Theatrum Scotiae, London.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Bothwell Castle

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Related Designations


    Designation Type
    Listed Building (A)

HER/SMR Reference

  • 9241

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