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The Chatelaine's Scottish Castles

Rothesay Castle

Isle of Bute

Rothesay Castle
Image copyright Colin Palmer stock photo library
(prints and posters available for purchase)

Set in a moat on top of a flatish mound, Rothesay Castle is a good example of a circular curtain wall with 4 round towers. The Pigeon Tower is still in reasonable condition, but much of the eastern side of the donjon is the result of 19th century rebuilding. Saint Michael's chapel dates from the 16th century and is located in the courtyard.

The original castle was probably built around 1098 by the Viking Magnus Barelegs who came from Norway to conquer the Scottish islands. Later it fell into Scottish hands, but was attacked by Norsemen in 1230 and again in 1263 when it was captured by King Haakon who was subsequently defeated at the Battle of Largs.

It was a favourite residence of Robert II, whose son made Rothesay a royal burgh in 1401. James V added the part known as The Palace.

When the castle was captured for the English by the Earl of Lennox in 1544, the Bute family who had become hereditary keepers were thrown out.

Rothesay was still important in the 17th century when it was held for King Charles and then Cromwell. On leaving in 1659, the Roundheads partially destroyed the castle. A few years later as part of the 1685 rebellion it was set on fire by the Argyll Highlanders.

The first restoration work started in 1816-17 by the second Marquis of Bute. More repairs and renovations were carried out by the third Marquis who also rebuilt Mount Stuart House on the island.

As far as I know, summer opening hours are as follows: Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 7pm and Sunday 2 to 7pm. Closed Thursday afternoons and Fridays during the winter. Telephone 01700 502691.

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