Dunnottar Castle


Site Name Dunnottar Castle

Classification Castle

Alternative Name(s) Dunfoithir; Le Castiel De Dunostre; Dunnottar Rock

Canmore ID 36992

Site Number NO88SE 11

NGR NO 88128 83842

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Ordnance Survey licence number 100020548. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeenshire
  • Parish Dunnottar
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Kincardine And Deeside
  • Former County Kincardineshire

Archaeology Notes

NO88SE 11.00 88128 83842

(NO 8813 8385) Dunnottar Castle (NR)

OS 1:10,000 map, (1973)

NO88SE 11.01 NO 88028 83884 Benholm's Lodgings

NO88SE 11.02 NO 88065 83843 Smithy

NO88SE 11.03 NO 88047 83857 Keep

NO88SE 11.04 NO 88163 83817 East Guardhouse

NO88SE 11.05 NO 88088 83849 Priest's House

NO88SE 11.06 NO 88077 83825 Stables

NO88SE 11.07 NO 88169 83880 Quadrangle

NO88SE 11.08 NO 88152 83883 Well

NO88SE 11.09 NO 88038 83883 Entrance Gateway and Guardrooms

NO88SE 11.10 NO 88120 83855 Graveyard Walls

NO88SE 11.11 NO 88075 83873 Approach Tunnels

NO88SE 11.12 NO 88156 83863 St Ninian's Chapel

NO88SE 11.13 NO 8812 8384 Watching briefs (2005 and 2007)

Dunnottar Castle occupies a coastal promontory of about 1.4 ha protected on all sides by precipitous cliffs and approachable only from the W. The promontory is probably the site of a fort beseiged in 681 and 694 and destroyed by the Vikings between 889 and 900. Although there was possibly a castle here in the 12th century, the visible remains are all likely to be of later date and include an L-plan tower house, erected at the end of the 14th century, extensive domestic buildings, and a chapel and burial ground.

(Simpson (1968) gives architectural report, plans, etc.)

W D Simpson 1968; RCAHMS 1982.

Dunnottar Castle, as described and illustrated by Simpson (1968) is privately owned and open to the public.

Resurveyed at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (N K B), 15 December 1969.


Scottish Castle Survey 1988; N Bogdan and I B D Bryce 1991.

Air photograph: AAS/94/16/G32/7.

NMRS, MS/712/21.

(Location cited as NO 8810 8380: nominated as Site of Regional Significance). This castle probably occupies the site of a prehistoric fort; St Ninian established a church here about the beginning of the 5th century and it may also be the 'Dunfoithir' that was besieged in 681. An oval motte was noted on the site in 1970. In the reign of William the Lion (1165-1214) 'Dunnottar' was the place where warrants were returnable for the Mearns, and 'le castiel de Dunostre' is mentioned at the beginning of the 13th century. The parish church was on the site by the 13th century. Another castle (castle tower) was built at the end of the 14th century, being mentioned in a Papal Bull of 13 July 1394. Charles II lodged here in 1650 and the Scottish Crown Jewels (The Honours of Scotland) were hidden here in 1651 as it was considered one of the strongest places in the kingdom. In 1685, 167 Covenanters were packed into a small vault ('the Whig's vault') where 9 died due to the terrible conditions. In its final form, the castle was forfeited in 1716 and the roofs and floors removed and sold. In 1925 the systematic repair and excavation of the ruins was begun; the monument is now open to the public.

In its present form the extensive remains date from various periods. The oldest portion is the early 15th century keep with a range of buildings extending to the E containing stables and storehouses. The gatehouse is approached by a steep path and defended by three tiers of splayed gun-loops. The arched entrance is the only opening in a solid wall of masonry set into a cleft in the rock; a very impressive and dominating entrance. The buildings to the NW include a chapel, are grouped around a courtyard and date from the late 16th or early 17th centuries; a huge water tank lies within the courtyard and there is also a bowling green to the W of this later range.

A stone vessel from this site is held in the National Museums of Scotland.

[Air photographic imagery and newspaper references listed].

NMRS, MS/712/35.

Architecture Notes

NO88SE 11.00 88125 83861



Dunnottar Castle.

National Museum of Scotland Library (formerly in Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Library).

'Dunnottar Castle' by W. Douglas Simpson, 1931 - Plan and photographs.

'The Castle of Dunnottar and its History' by D.G. Barron - Plan and photographs.

'Scottish Notes and Queries' September 1930 - Drawing of entrance gate by D. MacGibbon.

NMRS Plans:

'Miscellany of the third Spalding Club' 1940 - views from North and South.

MacGibbon and Ross (no date) - Site plan and details.

National Library of Scotland.

Dunnottar Castle.

Sold 1873 to Alexander Innes #78,000.

Murray of Ochtertyre MSS, National Library of Scotland.


Scottish Magazine, July 1928. Article regarding Dunnottar Castle, page 67.

NMRS Library does not hold this issue of the magazine.

Non-Guardiamship Sites Plan Collectiom, DC23442- DC23444, 1923.

(Undated) information in NMRS.



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