Rothesay Castle - History and Facts | History Hit

Rothesay Castle

Rothesay, Scotland, United Kingdom

Rothesay Castle is a distinctive medieval ruin with strong links to the royal Stewart dynasty.

Antara Bate

13 Aug 2021
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC / Reading Tom

About Rothesay Castle

Rothesay Castle was originally built by Walter, 3rd High Steward and ancestor of the royal Stewart line, in the thirteenth century.

Rothesay Castle history

Situated on the Isle of Bute, Rothesay Castle was intended as a stronghold against the ongoing threat of Norwegian invasion and was taken by attackers from Norway in both 1230 and 1263.

In 1230 it survived a three-day siege by King Haakon IV of Norway which precipitated the castle’s fortification with four round towers. The Norse returned in 1263, this time led by the king himself. They retook the castle, and would doubtless have done more damage, if not for a storm that thwarted them.

After an inconclusive skirmish at Largs, the Norse retreated. Haakon died in the Bishop’s Palace, Kirkwall, on his return to Norway. Three years later, his son Magnus handed back the Hebrides to Alexander III.

In 1371, Rothesay Castle attained royal status as Robert II became the first king from the House of Stewart. It was renovated in the fifteenth century but then fell into disuse. Rothesay was given a makeover in the later 1400s. James IV and James V carried out major works, including adding the impressive gatehouse and St Michael’s Chapel in the courtyard.

Rothesay then fell into ruins and was restored only in the 1800s, by the Crichton Stuarts, as keepers of the castle.

In 1937 part of the northwest tower, converted to a dovecote in the 1600s, collapsed and was rebuilt. In 1961 Rothesay Castle was placed in State care and it is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland. It was eventually being restored in the nineteenth century.

Rothesay Castle today

One thing which makes Rothesay Castle so different is its distinctive, circular curtain wall, probably dating from the 13th century, the remains of which can be seen there today. Visitors can step inside the great hall in the gatehouse, which was restored in 1900, to see displays about the castle and its royal owners.

Getting to Rothesay Castle

Rothesay Castle stands in a prominent position in the centre of the town of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. The nearest bus stations are Castle street and Guildford Square. The Rothesay Ferry Terminal is a few minutes walk away.

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