Located near Dumfries on the southern coast of Scotland, Caerlaverock Castle offers a window into the Middle Ages, reflecting the battles for Scottish independence from England, as well as battles between the castle’s Catholic owners, the Maxwells, and England’s Protestant rule.
- Caerlaverock was important to the Scottish realm for its location across the Solway Firth from England.
- “Caerlaverock” is thought to mean “fort of the skylark.”
- Before the Caerlaverock castle was erected, the Caerlaverock lands held forts and fortifications that were used in Scotland’s battles against England.
- The first Caerlaverock Castle was built by Sir John Maxwell after he received the land from King Alexander II of Scotland in 1220 AD. It was one of Scotland’s earliest stone castles. But construction was abandoned. Today, only its foundations and the remains of a wooden enclosure remain.
- The present Caerlaverock Castle was built by Sir John’s brother, Sir Aymer Maxwell, more than 650 feet north of the first castle. Stone for the castle was quarried when the moat was dug.
- The present castle is triangular in shape. Although no one knows why it was built in that design.It does seem to have given the castle strength, as well as visual appeal. It features three defensive curtain walls linked by corner towers and a twin-towered gatehouse.
- At the turn of the 14th century, the Maxwells of Caerlaverock Castle successfully protected the castle and Scotland against King Edward I and his barons.However, in 1312, they lost the castle to King Edward II. Sir Edward Maxwell changed sides, throwing his allegiance to England, and dismantled the fortress. In return, he was allowed to live in the castle. The victory was short-lived as Sir Roger Kirkpatrick won back Caerlaverock for King David II of Scotland.
- As the Maxwells regained ownership of the castle, Sir Robert Maxwell began rebuilding the war-damaged structure. Over the next 100 years, the gatehouse and additions were built. One of the additions is the Nithsdale Lodging (1630). It features ornate Renaissance stone carvings.
- In the 1570s, in Catholic-versus-Protestant battles, Caerlaverock Castle was again badly damaged. At the end of the millennium, the 8th Lord John Maxwell again rebuilt damaged portions of the castle. His efforts proved futile, for he was killed in a family feud with the Johnstones of Annandale.
- In the 17th century, more Catholic-versus-Protestant battles caused more damage to the castle, which has not been repaired or reinhabited in the years since.
Today, Caerlaverock Castle is protected as a landmark on the Caerlaverock National Nature Preserve, where waterfowl and wading birds spend each winter. The castle is a ruin, however, it is open for exploration. Nearby, a tearoom is open daily during the summer and on weekends during the winter. A movie, The Decoy Bride (2011), was filmed at Caerlaverock Castle.