Lochleven Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Lochleven Castle

Kinross, Scotland, United Kingdom

Lochleven Castle was a medieval stronghold most renowned for being the prison of Mary Queen of Scots.

Lily Johnson

10 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle is a medieval island stronghold in Scotland, the dramatic ruins of which can today be reached by boat. While most well known as the prison of Mary Queen of Scots, Lochleven Castle’s role within Scottish royal history extends far further.

Lochleven Castle history

Lochleven Castle was built in the 13th century, perhaps as early as 1257 when the 16-year-old King Alexander III was forcibly taken there by his regents. During the First Scottish War of Independence it was taken by the English, yet by the end of the 13th century was recaptured by the Scots – possibly by William Wallace‘s forces.

King Robert the Bruce visited Lochleven in 1313 and 1323, and in the 14th or early 15th century it was further fortified by a tall five-storey keep.

In 1562 Mary Queen of Scots stayed as a guest at Lochleven for a week, and again in 1565 where she held an interview with the Calvinist preacher John Knox. By 1567 however, Mary was a prisoner at Lochleven Castle following her surrender at the Battle of Carberry Hill.

Upon her arrival Mary fell ill, many believing her to have been poisoned, and she miscarried twins conceived with her third husband the Earl of Bothwell. Days later she was forced to abdicate the throne in favour of James VI, her infant son.

Mary attempted to escape Lochleven a number of times, and after gradually winning over her captor’s brother George Douglas, she at last succeeded in May 1568 with his help. Later that month she was exiled in England, and would never see her native land again.

Lochleven Castle today

Today, visitors to Lochleven Castle are required to board a boat and cross the picturesque loch as many of its past guests and prisoners did.

The first and second floors of the tower house rooms where Mary was held may be explored, alongside the Glassin Tower, built in the 16th century in an interesting circular design that protrudes from the enclosure wall. Mary would have spent much of her captivity here, and it is said her ghost still haunts the grounds.

Visitors can also explore the eery bottle dungeon as well as the remains of the kitchens and lord’s hall, with information boards dotted around the site providing reconstructed images of what the castle once looked like.

Getting to Lochleven Castle

Lochleven Castle is located on an island in Loch Leven in Kinross, around halfway between Edinburgh and Perth. It can be reached via the M90 or M977, with parking available at the Loch Leven National Nature Reserve Office, from which a ferry to the island may be taken. A number of bus services also stop on Smith Street, a 7-minute walk to the ferry port.

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