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Duntreath Castle

Castle (Medieval), Gatehouse (Period Unassigned), Tower (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Duntreath Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Gatehouse (Period Unassigned), Tower (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 44600

Site Number NS58SW 1

NGR NS 53643 81082

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Stirling
  • Parish Strathblane (Stirling)
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Stirling
  • Former County Stirlingshire

Summary Record (May 2009)

The estate of Duntreath originally formed part of the earldom of Lennox, but after the execution of Earl Duncan James I transferred it over to his brother-in-law William Edmonstone of Culloden. The lands of Duntreath have since been in the possession of the Edmonstone family since c.1434. James II confirmed the grant of the lands in 1452 when the estate was erected into a free barony.

As described in the RCAHMS inventory of 1963, 'much of the original building has long since removed, but in the 17th century the castle must have been a very imposing one, as it then consisted of a tower and a quadrangular set of buildings enclosing a central courtyard. Now, however, only the tower survives, together with part of a large Victorian edifice most of which was demolished in the summer of 1958.'

The large rectangular tower of three storeys and an attic appears to have been constructed after 1452 and is characteristic of the latter half of the 15th century. Each floor was originally divided into two compartments, with a large wheel stair at the south corner and a smaller one in the north. The ground floor is vaulted and the first floor contained the great hall and solar with further accommodation above. The south-east gable of the tower contains part of an earlier building which appears to be of late 14th century date and at one time been used as a chapel. A south-east kitchen range linked this tower chapel range to the short south-west range known as the Dumb Lairds Tower parts of which survive in the present house. An extremely fine gatehouse erected by Sir James Edmonstone 6th of Duntreath at the turn of the 16th century completed the buildings on the northwest side of the courtyard linked to the tower and other buildings by a barmkin.

The whole complex had fallen into ruin by the early 19th century and in 1857 Charles Wilson and David Thomson were employed to restore the complex. They created a spacious home with a new detached gatehouse reusing elements of Sir James's gatehouse on the same axis as the original, but further to the north-east. Copies of these plans are held at RCAHMS.

Between 1889 and 1893 Duntreath was dramatically transformed by the Edinburgh practice Sydney Mitchell and Wilson into a great Franco-Scots palace with a truly opulent series of reception rooms. The exuberance of the architecture and the magnificence of the interiors were captured by the photographer Bedford Lemere and included in the seminal publication 'Das Englische Haus' by Herman Muthesius. The Sydney Mitchell drawings and the Bedford Lemere photographs are held by RCAHMS.

After its Edwardian heyday, when through a daughter of the house it became a resort for the highest echelons of society, its scale and opulence became unmanageable. The family offered it as a home for the Burrell Collection but this came to nothing. In the summer of 1958 extensive demolitions were carried out leaving three elements: the 15th century tower; part of the 1857 south east range, reusing elements of the Dumb Laird's Tower, as altered by Sydney Mitchell and Wilson; and the 1857 detached gatehouse, now a chapel containing elements of the 16th century one.

Information from RCAHMS (STG), 2009

Archaeology Notes

NS58SW 1 53621 81060

(NS 5364 8108) Duntreath Castle (NR) (Restored)

OS 6" map, (1958)

Architecture Notes

Duntreath Castle: Much of the original building has long since been removed, but in the 17th century, (infra) the castle must have been a very imposing one, as it then consisted of a tower and a quadrangular set of buildings enclosing a central courtyard (MacGibbon and Ross 1887-92). Now, however, only the tower survives, together with part of a large Victorian edifice, most of which was demolished in 1958. The tower is a tall rectangular structure, 47' x 26'9" over all, datable to the latter half of the 15th century. Its random rubble walls average 4' in thickness, and the SE gable incorporates the end wall of an earlier building as high as the second storey. The building contains three main storeys and an attic and rises to a parapet-walk, which, however, has been renewed above the corbel-course at the wall-head.

The age of the earlier building to the SE of the tower, whose side walls were thinner than those of the tower, is uncertain.

On the available evidence it seems probable that the building, which may conceivably date from soon after 1364 was the predecessor of the tower now standing but was reconstructed, perhaps as a chapel as was suggested by MacGibbon and Ross, at some time after the building of the tower, perhaps in the 16th century. This earlier building, together with the tower, formed the nucleus of a later complex which ultimately came to enclose a central courtyard and to produce a quadrangular plan. These buildings were largely destroyed in the 19th century.

The court was enclosed on its NW side by a barmkin wall which at its centre contained the gatehouse. The latter, which measured 30' x 20', was in the form of a great frontal block, 3 storeys high, flanked by angle turrets on its outer face. At its base an arched pend provided the principal entrance to the castle.

The evidence for construction at the turn of the 16th and 17th centuries, as provided by the gatehouse, is reinforced by the style of the other courtyard buildings.

Duntreath was allowed to fall into ruin after the end of the 17th century, and it was in this state when, after 1857, Sir Archibald Edmonstone restored the castle as a family seat. These restorations began with the erection of a new SW range on the site of the old one, but eventually most of the old work, including the gatehouse and kitchen range was pulled down to make way for a vast scheme of reconstruction, which went on until his death in 1871. In 1888-9, other additions were made, and then in 1958 the building was reduced to its present state.

RCAHMS 1963, visited 1959; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887-92

As stated by the RCAHMS, only the tower and modern mansion survive.

Visited by OS (R D) 8 September 1966.

Architect: Charles Wilson & D. Thomson 1857

Sydney Mitchel Wilson 1889 additions

Additions demolished in 1959



Dick Peddie & MacKay, Edinburgh adds and Alts

Bin 31, Bag 3 29 St Vincent Place

Glasgow Oct. 1874

Dick Peddie & MacKay, Edinburgh F/S Details

Attic 2, Bin 32, Bag 2 13 Young Street 1890


Photographic Survey (May 1958)

Photographic survey of Duntreath Castle, Stirlingshire, by the Scottish National Buildings Record in May 1958 prior to demolition of part of the building.

Field Visit (26 May 2009)

RCAHMS visited Duntreath on 26 May 2009. It was not possible to carry out a photographic survey at this time.

Information from RCAHMS (STG), 2009


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