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Loch Doon

Castle (13th Century)

Site Name Loch Doon

Classification Castle (13th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Balliol Castle; Loch Doon Castle; Craigmalloch

Canmore ID 63601

Site Number NX49SE 1

NGR NX 48814 94758

NGR Description NX 4882 9475 and NX 4847 9499

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

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Administrative Areas

  • Council East Ayrshire
  • Parish Straiton (Cumnock And Doon Valley)
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Cumnock And Doon Valley
  • Former County Ayrshire

Archaeology Notes

NX49SE 1 4882 9475 and 4841 9501

(NX 4882 9475) Loch Doon Castle (NR) (Remains of)

(NX 4847 9499) Loch Doon Castle (NR) (Re-erected Remains)

OS 6" map (1957)

For 'Viking axe' and logboats found nearby, see NX49SE 10 and NX49SE 11 respectively.

Loch Doon Castle was supposedly destroyed by fire during the reign of James V. Information from the Ayrshire Families (Paterson), states that the 'iron portcullis is lying at the bottom of the lake'. In note 3 of Robert Burness's Common Place Book (R Burness 1873), "till a recent period, a large portion of this remote insular fortress was entire, and it contained a magnificent staircase of seventy steps. Its dilapidation is chiefly attributable to the bad taste of a late proprietor who used its stones for the purpose of building a shooting-lodge - a lodge, after all, found too cold to be inhabited. Some years ago, opposite to the grand entrance of Loch Doon Castle, there was found, at the bottom of the loch, seven ancient boats or canoes, hewn out of solid oak, and twenty-four feet long by four broad, in one of which were a battle-axe and war club, both apparently of great antiquity'.

A McCormick 1947

Loch Doon or Balliol Castle stood on Castle Island until its partial removal to the shore of the loch c. 1935 when the level of the loch was raised.

It had consisted of a simple wall of enceinte, of eleven unequal sides built in the 13th century of excellent coursed ashlar with the entrance in the north. This had been badly damaged and restored with inferior rubble-work possibly in the first half of the 16th century when a keep was added to the inside of the west wall. The re-erected remains do not include this later work.

Six dug-out canoes were found near the castle gate in 1823- 1831, one of which contained a Viking battle-axe (Type Rygh 560) now in Kirkcudbright Museum, donated by Major I A Calchart Drumganze. Two of the canoes are in the Hunterian Museum (Accession nos A30 and 31) and three were preserved in a pond near Berbeth (NS 467 083) in 1837. They may have been used in the construction of the castle (information from A S Robertson 13 December 1955).

Visited by OS (JD) 25 November 1955

New Statistical Account (NSA) 1845; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1889; S Grieg 1940; S Cruden 1960; J Dunbar 1966.

NX 4841 9501. The reconstructed remains of Loch Doon Castle are as described by the previous authorities, but the island at NX 4882 9475 is at present completely submerged and none of its remains visible.

Surveyed at 1:10 000.

Visited by OS (BS) 5 February 1976

Abnormally low level of the loch revealed remains of the castle on an island.

Visited by OS (JLD) 2 August 1976

Re-erected castle, and original site, photographed by the RCAHMS in 1977.

(Undated) information in NMRS.

Original site and remains of castle scheduled.

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 3 November 1999.

Architecture Notes



Ministry of Works (2). 3 plans, 4 elevations, 2 sections.


Field Visit (July 1982)

Loch Doon Castle NX 488 947 NX49SE 1

This castle, an irregular polygonal enclosure (up to 22.9m by 18.3m within a wall 2.4m thick and 7.9m high) formerly stood on an island in Loch Doon, but was re-erected on the shore (at NX 484 949) before the level of the loch was artificially raised. Probably built about the end of the 13th century, it first comes on record in 1306. In 1823 three dugout canoes were found in the loch near the castle gate; a further three were found in 1831.

RCAHMS 1983, visited July 1982

(NSA, v, Ayr, 337-8; MacGibbon and Ross 1887-1902, iii, 96-105; Bryden 1910; Shetelig 1940-54, ii, 153-4; Cruden 1963, 51-3; Dunbar 1966, 24-5).

Publication Account (1985)

Until 1935 Loch Doon Castle stood on an island in the centre of the loch, but in that year, following the decision to raise the level of the water, it was dismantled and partially reconstructed in its present position. Before demolition, the castle consisted of two elements, an early curtain wall and a later tower; the tower was not reconstructed in order to leave the more interesting early castle unencumbered.

Unlike the majority of the castles described in this volume, Loch Doon does not dominate the centre of a rich agIicultural estate but is tucked away in a remote glen with its isolation exaggerated by its island setting. It belongs to a group of early stone castles, dating to the 13th century, known as castles of enclosure or curtain wall castles. The plincipal defence comprises a stout outer wall, which does not enclose a keep or donjon, the internal buildings being erected against the inner tace of the curtain wall. Loch Doon Castle stands out as unusual in this group as it is polygonal, having eleven uneven sides, but it is likely that the shape was in part determined by the irregular nature of the surface of the island. The quality of the masonry is paIticularly high, being of fine ashlar with frequent use made of checked or rebated joints. Part of the interest of the castle lies in the completeness of some of the minor architectural detail (particularly the entrances), which were doubtless spared from the ravages of the stone-robber by the inaccessability of the island site. The pIincipal entrance to the castle was through a simple pointed archway protected by a portcullis and double-leaved doors which were kept closed by two draw-bars that run into the walls on either side of the gateway. A small postern date is also well-preserved, and like the main gate, was secured by a drawbar.

Little is known of the history of the castle; the first reference to the site, presumably to the early castle, occurs in 1306 when it is descIibed as a seat of the Earls of CarIick. DuIing the reign of James V (1513-42), the castle is reported to have been burnt, and it is likely that the square tower was erected as part of the subsequent programme of reconstruction.

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


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