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Sir John De Graham's Castle

Cultivation Remains (Post Medieval), Dam(S) (Medieval), Fishpond (Medieval)(Possible), Motte And Bailey (Medieval)

Site Name Sir John De Graham's Castle

Classification Cultivation Remains (Post Medieval), Dam(S) (Medieval), Fishpond (Medieval)(Possible), Motte And Bailey (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Graham's Castle

Canmore ID 45283

Site Number NS68NE 1

NGR NS 68132 85849

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
© Copyright and database right 2017.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Stirling
  • Parish St Ninians
  • Former Region Central
  • Former District Stirling
  • Former County Stirlingshire

Archaeology Notes

NS68NE 1 68132 85849

(NS 6813 8583) Sir John De Graham's Castle (NR)

OS 6" map (1959)

Sir John de Graham's Castle, a motte, occupies a commanding position on a tongue of raised ground near the NW end of the Carron Valley Reservoir. It is almost square on plan measuring 145' NW-SE by 150', and consisting of a central platform, 75' NW-SE by 77', surrounded by a wide, flat-bottomed ditch, access to the platform presumably being by means of a drawbridge. The surface of the platform is at the original ground level.

Immediately NE, the broadening surface of the tongue of raised ground bears signs of occupation. These include a length of ruinous stone wall 3'6" thick, built with lime mortar, together with various fragmentary banks and indeterminate hollows. The wall may have formed the SE end of a range of buildings; at its NE end there is a return, in the inner angle of which there may have been a garderobe vent.

This motte was traditionally the residence of Sir John Graham of Dundaff who was killed in 1298 at the Battle of Falkirk. In the absence of excavation, the exact age of the motte is unknown, but there seems no reason to doubt that it formed the principal stronghold of the barony of Dundaff, which was in the possession of Sir David de Graham, the founder of the house of Montrose, in 1237.

RCAHMS 1963, visited 1952

Sir John de Graham's Castle, a motte with bailey, is generally as described by the RCAHMS. The ditch surrounding the motte is sharply defined, and is 4.0m - 5.0m in breadth at its base. The NE scarp of the motte is 2.0m high, and 2.7m high on the SW. At the NE angle a fragment of walling is visible in the slope of the mound just below the crest. The interior is featureless.

On the NE is a flat area, probably the bailey, though no ditch isolates it from the main ridge. A stretch of rubble walling, 40.0m overall in length denotes the S side of some former buildings. Part of the easternmost building remain. The S, and part of the W walls, remain at a height of 1.2m, and are 1.0m broad. The N wall, and remainder of the W wall, is grass-covered, and only 0.2m high. The westernmost stretch of wall is 3.0m high and 1.0m broad. A few hollows on the N side of the wall denote where the buildings were situated. Many large blocks of masonry lie round about.

Vague earth-and-stone banks, 0.5m maximum height, situated on the NW side of the bailey, probably denote the sites of other buildings.

Except for the crumbling condition of the wall which remains, the motte is well-preserved.

Visited by OS (JLD) 2 April 1957

This motte is as described by previous authorities.

Surveyed at 1:10,000.

Visited by OS (SFS) 20 November 1975.

NS 681 858. This motte is square on plan measuring 23m across. It stands to a height of 3m above the bottom of a surrounding ditch 9m wide. Fragmentary remains of stone buildings occupy the level ground immediately to the NE of the motte.

RCAHMS 1979, visited August 1978

OSA 1796; RCAHMS 1963


Publication Account (1985)

Sir John de Graham's Castle is a fine example of a relatively rare type of medieval earthwork-the square motte; moreover, instead of heaping up an artificial mound, a natural knoll was chosen and defended by a broad, flat-bottomed ditch, 11m across and 3m deep. The ditch is continuous and access to the castle must have been via a wooden bridge which probably lay on the north-east side. The central platform is almost square and measures 22.8m by 23.4m. To the northeast of the ditch there are traces of a lime-mortared wall and fragments of banks which suggest the positions of ancilliary buildings.

Traditionally, the site is thought to have been the residence of Sir John de Graham, who was killed at the battle of Falkirk in 1298, and whose memorial can be seen in the graveyard at Falkirk parish church (NS 887800). The castle, however, may be of earlier date, as it was probably the principal stronghold of the barony of Dundaff which is on record in 1237.

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


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