Some may know it as Winterfell from Game of Thrones. To others as it’s Castle Leoch from Outlander. Maybe even the various castles from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Wherever you may have seen it, it’s true name is Doune Castle, just west of Stirling on the banks of the river Teith. And what a sight to behold. With our newfound love of the TV show Outlander the we thought we would pay it a visit.
The history of the castle is many and varied and rivals the fictional drama that the movies and television shows depict. It was built in the 14th Century by Robert Stuart, Duke of Albany (1340-1420) – Regent of Scotland, (and great grandson to Robert the Bruce of Battle of Bannockburn fame). He was succeed by his son Murdoch Steward, Duke of Albany who was executed by the King in 1425 for treason and the castle passed to the hands of the crown.
The castle was used for many things after it passed to the crown; mainly though as a royal retreat and hunting lodge. It has a grand great hall with fire pit and screen where cooks and servants would be hidden, working hard to provide food for the guests(picture above). As you meander through all of the narrow doorways and nukes and crannies you can start to truly get a sense of what life may have been like for the people living in the grand old place so many years ago. When you stop and think you are standing in the same place and touching the same walls that people like Mary, Queen of Scots did, it makes these people seem all the more real and gave me a sense of connection to the past I hadn’t experienced before.
Of course, for fans of the Outlander series there are scenes that you may recognise such as the wall in the picture above; from which Claire watches children play, or the kitchen below in which Mrs Fitz cooks all of those marvellous meals. There really is something for people who are not that bothered about the history! There is an element of truth to the castle being involved with the Jacobite uprising of 1745 however, as it was used by Bonnie Price Charlie as a prison for government troops captured after the Battle of Stirling, on 17th January 1746. Not quite Castle Leoch, but close enough!
Historic Scotland who now maintain the castle have an excellent audio guide narrated by Monty Python’s Terry Jones. He talks about the history of the castle and it’s occupants throughout the years. There is also a mini audio tour laced throughout – the Outlander audio guide – narrated by Sam Heughan who plays Jamie in the hit Starz tv series. He talks about the filming of the series at Doune castle and some excellent behind the scenes facts.
To be honest, I was sceptical when I first thought of Doune Castle as a blog post. I am not a fan of “organised” ruins that you have to pay to enter. However, driving through the small windy village and walking up to the imposing castle entrance I felt like I had been transported back in time. The fact the castle has been maintained, with features such as the fireplaces, tables and chairs only added to the experience. Easily the best £6 I could have spent. Historic Scotland have done an amazing job of keeping the feel that this is a ruin, but is safe enough to wander round, touch, feel and smell – in short a great experience and one which I will repeat in future.
For more information about Doune castle as well as other Historic Scotland sites, visit the Historic Scotland website by clicking on the link.