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Doune Castle

Castle (14th Century)

Site Name Doune Castle

Classification Castle (14th Century)

Canmore ID 24738

Site Number NN70SW 1

NGR NN 72849 01071

Datum OSGB36 - NGR

Permalink http://canmore.org.uk/site/24738

Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Stirling
  • Parish Kilmadock
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Stirling
  • Former County Perthshire

Archaeology Notes

NN70SW 1 72849 01071

(NN 7284 0104) Doune Castle (NR).

OS 6" map, (1958).

Doune Castle - late 13th century. (Full history and description).

W D Simpson 1962 (Guide book).

Doune Castle is as described and illustrated by Simpson.

Visited by OS (JLD) 26 May 1953.

Foundations of a wall only 0.5m thick can be traced on the top of the slope surrounding the castle, on the east and south sides and for a short distance on the north.

A ditch with outer rampart lies to the north of the castle - two ditches on the south tend to merge with the natural/ natural undulations of the ground. A steep natural slope on the west and a steep artificial slope on the east enhance the defensive qualities of the site.

At NN 7291 0109 there is a vaulted passage, 5.5m long and 0.6m wide, running into the ground. Although traditionally a passage to the castle, it is the entrance to an ice-house, used in the mid-18th century but now sealed. (Information from the Custodian, Doune Castle). South of the castle and beyond the earthworks, an area of disturbed ground, centred on NN 7286 0090, contains the slight grass-covered remains of enclosures and possible buildings, and amorphous remains of other possible enclosures and buildings, associated with the castle (Information from the Custodian, Doune Castle).

Revised at 1/2500.

A watching brief was undertaken during the resurfacing of the access road at Doune Castle. An overall length of 18m of drainage trench was excavated to a depth of 30cm. No finds or features of archaeological interest were made.

Sponsor: Central Regional Council

L Main and W Anderson 1989.

Excavations were carried out in 1986 by J Cannell on behalf of Historic Scotland at three locations within and adjacent to Doune Castle.

It was proposed to lay out a new visitors car park on marshy ground 250m N of the castle. A watching brief was undertaken while machines dug two drainage trenches across the E of the area which proved to be archaeologically sterile.

An area 3m NS by 5m EW, in the NE corner of the courtyard between the ruined E range and the gatehouse, was cleared of modern debris. A disturbed cobbled surface was provided with a shallow drain through its entrance into the courtyard. The area may be the remains of a small stable block.

The circular vault of the NE tower within the gatehouse has been long identified as a well chamber. Excavations inside the vault exposed the massive stone foundations of the tower. A central pit filled with dumped burnt material measured 1.65m diameter at the surface, narrowed sharply. Undoubtedly not a well, the pit may have held a large post used in the construction of the tower.

Sponsor : SDD-HBM

J Cannell 1986.

NN 7285 0107 The clearance of loose material in each of the window embrasures and mural chambers off the second-floor hall took place in January 1998. The debris in question proved to be general detritus, dust and rubbish which had accumulated since the abandonment of the castle, but which pre-dated the extensive late 19th-century restoration works enacted on the lower floors and adjacent structures. Within the window embrasure located in the N wall was evidence of a resurfacing or patching which utilised broken floor tile and compacted, clay-rich silt. These rather crude repairs pre-dated the restoration works and possibly reflect late medieval occupation.

A further watching brief was carried out in January and February 1998 to examine and record a number of slit trenches cut into the soil and gravel embankment W of the Kitchen Tower. The embankment comprises mortar-rich gravel covered by a damp earth deposit.

A total of 13 trenches were cut. The SW corner of the tower foundations were found, comprising irregularly shaped flat slabs of local red sandstone, with three courses (240mm) visible, and extending for 600mm beyond the visible wall face. The remaining trenches revealed the make-up of the embankment, and traces of the natural slope which had been enhanced to form it.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart and D Stewart 1998

NN 7285 0107 Watching briefs were maintained at two sites in the vicinity of Doune Castle during the Forth Valley Sewer Renewal Project. The areas affected were the driveway leading southwards to the castle itself, and an area to the W of Doune Fire Station, in the vicinity of the Roman fort discovered in 1984 by aerial reconnaissance.

The four trenches revealed recently disturbed horizons associated with the fitting of the earlier sewer, although the southernmost trench, nearest the castle, revealed possible evidence for a denuded earthen bank or platform.

A single trench of c 150m length was excavated to the W of the fire station, along the top of a steep slope down to a small tributary of the River Teith. Nothing of archaeological significance was revealed, and the site of the Roman fort was not affected. The slope was demonstrated to be a natural profile, with some recent landscaping associated with the construction of the modern housing scheme to the E.

Sponsor: East of Scotland Water.

G Ewart and A Dunn 1999

NN 7285 0107 A watching brief was carried out over a period of two days in March 1999, while Historic Scotland staff excavated a shallow trench against the N side of the inner courtyard in order to construct a footpath of grass bars. On removing the turf and topsoil it became clear that a cobbled surface survived beneath the current turf in this part of the courtyard.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Stewart 1999

NN 7265 0142 An archaeological watching brief was carried out during the excavation of a trench to facilitate the installation of a power cable to a nearby sewage pumping station. The trench lay within the Scheduled area around Doune Castle. During the watching brief no archaeological features were noted, and no artefacts were recovered.

Sponsor: Scottish Hydro-Electric plc.

A Duffy 1999

NN 7285 0107 A watching brief was carried out during the excavation of a shallow trench in the N part of the castle courtyard (NMRS NN70SW 1), in order to create a track for a paved footpath. Up to 150mm of turf and topsoil within the zone of the new footpath was removed, exposing the tops of cobble stones across the entire area. Following this initial clearance the cobbles were cleaned and recorded. Features of interest included occasional remnants of a surface drain original to the cobbled surface, and which drained the courtyard on its N side. The shallow drain was made of red sandstone slabs edge-to-edge positioned 2m S of the inner face of the N wall and running E-W towards the courtyard entrance. The drain could only be seen within the excavated area at the base of the NE stair and at the entrance to the vault below the NW external stair. It was clear that both the external stairs are late additions to the fabric of the castle and that they have been built over or have superseded the cobbling of the courtyard. The E-W drain disappears into the fabric of the stair at the entrance to the W vault. An area measuring some 32m2 has now been opened up along the N side of the courtyard, in most of which the (possibly original) cobbling of the castle courtyard is intact.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Stewart 2000

NN 7285 0107 A watching brief was undertaken in February 2001 at Doune Castle (NMRS NN70SW 1) while a trench was cut for a freshwater pipe to serve the new toilet opposite the castle car park. The work took place on the edge of the steep high slope, potentially the site of a defensive structure.

No man-made structural elements could be seen associated with any part of the trenching. There were no finds.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Stewart and G Ewart 2001

NN 728 010 Five trenches were excavated in September 2002 within and around a building against the E curtain wall of the castle. Several earlier wall remains were found, relating to walls shown on an earlier plan of the site, though there were some differences in detail. The continuation of the W wall to the S was confirmed, as was the presence of a central dividing wall. A small alcove built in against the S wall proved to be a substantial structure, and use as a kiln or oven was suggested. A trench against the curtain wall revealed either a thickening of the wall or further buildings.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: HS

G Ewart 2003

NN 7280 0115 A watching brief was undertaken on 16 May 2006 during the excavation of eight holes for signposts around Doune Castle. The holes were excavated to a maximum width of 0.4 x 1m deep.

No archaeological deposits were encountered and no artefacts recovered.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: Stirling Council.

Lorna Main, 2006.

Scheduled as 'Doune Castle, [including] its defences and earthworks.'

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 26 April 2011.

Architecture Notes

EXTERNAL REFERENCE:

See: Scottish Magazine, July 1928, p. 67.

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Activities

Publication Account (1985)

The castle occupies a naturally well defended promontory above the confluence of the River Teith with the Ardoch Bum. Although the visitors eye is instinctively drawn to the impressive and forbidding bulk of the masonry castle, there are outer defences comprising a suite of relatively slight earthworks (double ditches with medial bank) on the more vulnerable north side and a single bank and ditch on the south. Once the northern outworks have been crossed, the massive keep-gatehouse of the castle cuts across the neck of the promontory and lying behind it there is a courtyard protected by a curtain wall which still stands to its full height of 12m.

Built shortly before 1400 for the Regent Albany (Governor of Scotland in the minority of James I), the design of the castle is unusual, combining simplicity with considerable defensive strength. It did not follow the contemporary fashion by relying on a defensive wall-head and projecting towers, but gained its strength from a high, simple curtain wall and an ingeniously planned keep-gatehouse. The latter was designed as two adjoining tower-houses, one for the lord's hall (on the east) and the other for the common hall; the two were not linked internally and both could have acted as separate redouts. The main entrance to the castle was through a simple passage under, but with no direct access to, the lord's hall. Thus the defences combined the advantages of the curtain-wall castle with those of the tower-house or keep.

Besides the keep-gatehouse the courtyard contains a substantial kitchen block on the west and a range of lesser buildings on the east. The rear (south) wall of the castle is pierced by windows but there is no evidence to suggest that a range of buildings has been demolished along this wall, and it is more likely that they were never constructed.

The castle remained in use into the 18th century and during the '45, when it was falling into disrepair, it served as a prison. By the end of that century, however, it was roofless, but was restored between 1883 and 1886.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Clyde Estuary and Central Region’, (1985).

Watching Brief (7 January 1998)

Kirkdale was required to monitoring the clearance of loose material in each of the window embrasures and mural chambers off the second floor hall.

The debris in question proved to be general detritus, dust and rubbish which had avccumulated since the abandonment of the castle, but pre-dated the extensive, late 19th-century restoration works enacted on the lower floors and adjacent structures. Within the window embrasure located in the N wall, there was evidence of a re-surfacing or patching which utilised broken floor tile and compacted, clay-rich silt. These rather crude repairs pre-dated the restoration works and possibly reflect late medieval occupation. Tile fragments were found in several of the embrasures and rooms examined, most particularly in the small chamber in the S wall. Once cleared, all the surfaces revealed were photographed.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart & D Stewart 1998

Kirkdale Archaeology

Watching Brief (20 January 1998 - 16 February 1998)

A watching brief was carried out over two days to examine and record a number of slit trenches cut into the soil and gravel embankment W of the Kitchen Tower at Doune Castle.

The purpose of the trenches was to provide settings for railway sleepers and concrete settings which would provide a solid foundation for a mass of scaffolding to be erected against the external wall face of the Kitchen Tower. The tower is set on the edge of a steep slope above the river. The embankment comprises mortar-rich gravel covered by a damp earth deposit.

With the exception of Trench 4, where the founds of the Kitchen Tower were exposed, the remaining trenches revealed the make-up of the embankment, and traces of the natural slope which had been enhanced to form it.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

Kirkdale Archaeology 1998

Watching Brief (10 March 1999 - 11 March 1999)

A watching brief was carried out over a period of two days in March 1999, while Historic Scotland staff excavated a shallow trench against the N side of the inner courtyard in order to construct a footpath of grass bars. On removing the turf and topsoil it became clear that a cobbled surface survived beneath the current turf in this part of the courtyard.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Stewart 1999

Kirkdale Archaeology

Watching Brief (24 May 1999 - 19 August 1999)

Watching briefs were maintained at two sites in the vicinity of Doune Castle during the Forth Valley Sewer Renewal Project, undertaken by East of Scotland Water. The areas affected were the driveway leading southwards to the Castle itself, and an area to the W of Doune Fire Station, in the vicinity of the Flavian fort discovered in 1984 by aerial reconnaissance.

Four trenches, each measuring c.2 x 2m, were opened along the driveway, to remove the existing sewer and to install a new pipeline. The trenches revealed recently disturbed horizons associated with the fitting of the earlier sewer, although the southernmost trench, nearest the castle, revealed possible evidence for a denuded earthen bank or platform.

A single trench of c.150m length and up to 2m wide was excavated to the W of the Fire Station, along the top of a steep slope down to a small tributary of the River Teith. Nothing of archaeological significance was revealed, and the site of the Roman fort was not affected. The slope was demonstrated to be a natural profile, with some recent landscaping associated with the construction of the modern housing scheme to the E.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart and A Dunn 1999

Kirkdale Archaeology

Watching Brief (3 November 1999 - 4 November 1999)

A watching brief was carried out at Doune Castle near Stirling while Historic Scotland personnel excavated a shallow trench in the N part of the courtyard, in order to create a track for a paved footpath. The new footpath was projected to run along the inside face of the N wall for a distance of 20m, starting at the W side of the entrance gate and terminating against the W wall below the NW external staircase. The width of the excavated area was 1.70m for the E part and 1.80m for the W part, taking into account variations in the width of the NW and NE external stairs. The excavation lay entirely in the turf and topsoil presently forming the courtyard surface. An area of paving between the external stairs was also scheduled for removal, but not at this time. Following this excavation sand and concrete slabs were to be laid over the area.

It should be noted that part of the path track was excavated in March of this year. A total of 6.50m of trench was cut W from the courtyard entrance in order to fit grass bars. It was only at this time that it was realised that an earlier cobbled surface existed just below the topsoil at depths ranging from 50-200mm. The irregular surface of the cobbled area made grass bars impractical and the project was halted at that point, and the trench left open until a new plan for the area could be devised. The present project will place paving slabs over the cobbles without disturbing the original courtyard surface.

An area measuring 32 square metres has now been opened up along the N side of the courtyard. In the vast majority of this area the cobbling of the castle courtyard is quite intact. Dislocation of the surface seems only to come from recent activity. If a requirement occurs at any time for a exposed cobbled surface then it is likely that in excess of 90% of the cobbling could be found in situ.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

G Ewart 1999

Kirkdale Archaeology

Watching Brief (26 February 2001 - 27 February 2001)

A watching brief was undertaken in February 2001 at Doune Castle (NN 7285 0107 ) while a trench was cut for a freshwater pipe to serve the new toilet opposite the castle car park. The work took place on the edge of the steep high slope, potentially the site of a defensive structure.

No man-made structural elements could be seen associated with any part of the trenching. There were no finds.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

D Stewart and G Ewart 2001

Kirkdale Archaeology

Watching Brief (16 May 2006)

NN 7280 0115 A watching brief was undertaken on 16 May 2006 during the excavation of eight holes for signposts around Doune Castle. The holes were excavated to a maximum width of 0.4 x 1m deep. No archaeological deposits were encountered and no artefacts recovered.

Archive to be deposited in NMRS.

Sponsor: Stirling Council.

L Main 2006

Watching Brief (2 May 2007)

May 2007 - An archaeological watching brief was maintained near Doune Castle. There were no finds or features of archaeological significance, and it was thought that only natural deposits had been encountered.

Information from David Murray (Kirkdale Archaeology) May 2007. OASIS ID - kirkdale1-249652

Watching Brief (23 September 2009)

NN 7284 0112 A watching brief was maintained on 23 September 2009 during the excavation of a small area

immediately SE of the car park to the N of Doune Castle. The excavation reached a depth of 0.4m and the modern finds seen in the trench suggested that the ground had been recently disturbed, probably during the installation of the two concrete fence post bases that were seen during the excavation. No archaeological features or finds were recorded.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland

Paul Fox – Kirkdale Archaeology

Watching Brief (15 May 2012)

Alder Archaeology undertook a watching brief on the site of excavations required for an underground low voltage cable and associated wooden pole and stay. The site was considered to have archaeological potential due to its close proximity to the 14th century Doune Castle and the nearby Roman Fort. Spoil from the excavation was scanned with a metal detector. Of interest was a fragment of a medieval spur and some fragments of leather found below topsoil in the excavation for the stay pit. Apart from the spur nothing of archaeological significance was found during the watching brief.

Alder Archaeology Ltd, 2012

Standing Building Recording (28 March 2016)

NN 7285 0107 A standing building survey was carried out, 28 March 2016, in the central ground floor cellar of the hall range, ahead of its conversion into a shop. The disposition of the cellar and its features indicated distinct phasing. The N wall appears to have been extant, probably part of a curtain wall, prior to the layout of the hall range when the imposition of the three cellars left a risband joint between them and the earlier wall. The E and W cellar walls with their recesses, the doorway, lobby and window bay in the S wall and the vault appear to be of a common building phase.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: Historic Environment Scotland

Paul Fox – Kirkdale Archaeology

(Source: DES, Volume 17)

References

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