THE CASTLES OF SCOTLAND
Scotland is famous its many beautiful castles. Some of these are still in use, and others are romantic ruins which evoke the drama and excitement of Scotland’s past.
The original use of castles was military. They were the fortified homes of lords and kings. They also could be the seat of government when they belonged to the king. Also, sometimes they were defensive structures against invading armies, or they were used as military outposts by the invading army itself.
One thing is certain, there were no castles in Scotland at the time of the historical Macbeth (1005-1057). They were introduced by King David I of Scotland (1083-1153), who was the youngest son of Malcolm III (1030-1093) – this Malcolm is the son of Duncan in Shakespeare’s play.
Castles came to Britain with the Norman-French invaders in 1066. Indeed, castles were a key part of their way of controlling new territories.
David first came in contact with Norman-French ways when he went to England when his sister Matilda married the Norman King of England, Henry I (1069-1153). He ended up staying in England for ten years. When he returned to Scotland, he had a Norman wife, a Norman education and English lands with Norman knights.
The Norman way of holding lands was this: a king gave this most important military men – his lords- land in exchange for military service. These lords in turn gave part of their lands to the other military men, knights, also in exchange for lands. The king and all his lords and knights controlled their lands by means of castles.
So, when David came back to his native Scotland he also brought this new way of governing, and the building of castles in Scotland began. The famous Scottish historian John of Fordun said that David was the one who built castles and towns with high towers all over Scotland.
By 1200 the king had castles all over Scotland: one in Berwick-upon-Tweed on the English border, at Ayr in the west and Dunskeath in the north. The king had all kingdom. So, the king’s castles also served as the centres of regional units of government, called the ‘shires’.
Here are four of the most famous of Scotland’s many castles.
Cawdor Castle, which now belongs to the Earls of Cawdor, used to belong to the Thanes of Cawdor. According to legend, it was here that Macbeth murdered King Duncan.
The castle is popular place with tourists.
Edinburgh castle is one of the most beautiful castles in Britain, and is visited by many tourists every year. The oldest part of the castle was built in 1130.
Balmoral Castle was bought by Queen Victoria and her husband in 1845. Since then it has been a favourite residence for the Royal family, who usually spend their summer holidays there.
According to legend some of the scenes in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth0 were set here. The castle is said to contain many ghosts, and there is a mysterious locked crypt in the foundations of the building.