Brodick Castle

Brodick Castle , Isle of Arran

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~ History ~

400's - Gaelic invaders from Antrim expand their kingdom, establishing a fortress at Brodick (Broad Bay).

900's - Norse influence has grown, with Arran forming part of Súðreyjar, administered either from Dublin or the Orkney islands, under the control of the King of Norway.

1250's - Arran is part of the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles ruled by two Gall Gaidheal kings, Magnus of Mann and Dougal of the Isles, sub-rulers of Hákon Hákonarson, King of Norway. King Alexander III of Scotland inherits his father's desire to control the islands in order to stabilise his kingdom, and makes numerous unsuccessful advances on Arran.

1262 - The Earl of Ross sacks and pillages Skye with King Alexanders blessing.

King Hákon, determined to avenge this slight, sets out fo revenge.

1263 - With a large fighting fleet he heads for Scotland. After linking up with the fleets of Magnus and Dougal from across the Hebrides, Hákon's force anchors in Lamlash Bay on Arran, where they are approached by envoys from the Scots King. The Scots envoys were unsuccessful, and battle is engaged at Largs, a short distance across the firth. Although no rout, the Scots were victorious, and Hákon's forces retreat to Arran, and thence to Orkney to over-winter, where Hákon dies.

1266 - The ensuing Treaty of Perth in cedes the Sudreys to the Kingdom of Scotland.

1286 - Following the death of King Alexander of Scotland without a surviving male heir, his grand-daughter, the Norwegian princess Margaret, daughter of King Eric II of Norway is invited to be Queen of Scotland. She is however never anointed as her ship sinks on route to Scotland, throwing the kingdon in turmoil.

1291 -King Edward I of England, is called on to choose the most suitable successor. John de Balliol is chosen and is forced to admit Edward as his overlord.

1295 - King John defies King Edward by not answering his request for assistance in his war in France.

1296 - King Edward invades Scotland and forces John to abdicate. The English garrison Brodick.

1306 - During Robert the Bruces's time in hiding, following his escape from the English after his coronation and defeat at the Battle of Methven, he is said to have had his legendary encounter with a spider on Arran.

1307 - In the name Robert the Bruce, James Douglas, Lord of Douglas, attacks forces supplying Brodick castle giving a first minor victory against the English and indoing so gain their forces much needed winter supplies. Later the  same year the castle falls to the Scots.

1406 - King James I of Scotland is captured by English pirates and the castle is badly damaged by an English force that had sailed into Brodick bay. Further destruction is inflicted by John of Islay, Lord of the Isles.

1455 ~ King James II invites the Black Douglas under safe conduct to Stirling Castle in an attempt to persuade the Earl to renounce his alliance with John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, the Earl of Crawford and their treaty with the English Crown. The Black Douglas defiantly refuses knowing the King's intention is to devide and isolate each of his enemies from their common alliance against the King's hostile intensions. The King loses his temper and stabs the Black Douglas in the neck and body. As the Earl falls wounded to the ground, one of his courtiers finishes off the Earl with a poleaxe. The Scottish Parliament subsequently confirms that the 'earl was guilty of his own death by resisting the King's gentle persuassion'.

The King descends on the Douglas lands, forcing the Black Douglas's heir into excile into England. Other members of the alliance flee north to seek refuge from John MacDonald, Lord of the Isles.

John immediately gathers a force of 5,000 clansmen and a hundred galley's to attack the Ayrshire coastline.They  sack the Isle of Arran and storm Brodick Castle, utterly destroying it taking their plunder back to the Isles. Meanwhile the Douglas's fail to gain support from the English court, leaving the Lord of the Isles now dangerously exposed following the Earl Crawford's death and defeat in battle gainst the royalist Earl of Huntly. John sues for peace with the King.

1470 - Brodick castle is granted by King James III to his brother-in-law, James Hamilton, 1st Lord Hamilton.

1503 - Lord Hamilton's son, James Hamilton, 2nd Lord Hamilton is created Earl of Arran.

1510 -The castle is rebuilt by the Earl in the form of a tower house, but suffers at the hands of the Campbells and the MacLeans. During the "Rough Wooing" of Mary, Queen of Scots, Brodick castle is attacked by an English force led by the Earl of Lennox on behalf of King Henry VIII, in revenge for the actions of the 2nd Earl. Lord Arran is the Regent of Scotland whilst Mary is in her infancy, and is second in line to the Scots throne.

1543 - Lord Arran is heavily involved in arranging the marriage of Mary to the Dauphin of France, prior to this she had been promised to Edward, Prince of Wales. Arran is rewarded for his efforts, created Duke of Châtellerault in the Peerage of France. During Regent Arran's tenure at Brodick he continues to enlarge and expand the castle.

1639 - Scotland is divided between the Presbyterianism of the Lords of the Congregation, and the Episcopalianism favoured by King Charles I. James Hamilton, 3rd marquess of Hamilton, the King's advisor on all things Scottish, is sent north to enforce the King's will, he had previously dissolved the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland when they had abolished the Episcopacy. Archibald Campbell, 1st Marquess of Argyll, is the de facto ruler of Scotland and leader of the presbyterian faction. Argyll seized Hamilton's castle of Brodick.

1643 - Hamilton is made a Duke and recovers his castle the following year at the outbreak of the Scottish Civil War.

1646 - Brodick is lost again to the Campbells, as the Royalists fortunes founder.

1649 -The Duke is captured after the disastrous Battle of Preston, and faces the block in March of that year. He is succeeded by his brother William, Earl of Lanark.

1650 - Oliver Cromwell's Roundheads take control of the castle and extend it by building an Artillery battery to defend the Firth at this strategic position.

1651 - The second Duke dies of wounds received at the Battle of Worcester. The Duchy of Hamilton and Earldom of Arran pass to the first Duke's only surviving child, Anne. She had been unwittingly sent to Brodick for safety.

1656 - Duchess Anne returns to her estates in Lanarkshire and West Lothian and marries William Douglas, 1st Earl of Selkirk. Anne did not return to Brodick, however her husband the newly created Duke of Hamilton for life, uses the castle as a base for hunting excursions.

In the following years Brodick was used mainly as an occasional sporting estate. In the nineteenth century, it became residence for the eldest son of the 10th Duke, styled the Marquess of Douglas and Clydesdale.

1843 - William, 11th Duke of Hamilton marries Princess Marie of Baden, youngest daughter of the Grand Duke of Baden and Stéphanie de Beauharnais, adopted daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte.

1844 - massive building work is undertaken at the castle, almost tripling the size of the building, under the architect James Gillespie Graham. The Twelfth Duke, William has no male heirs, so although his titles pass to his distant cousin Alfred Douglas-Hamilton upon his death, he entails the castle upon his only daughter the Lady Mary Louise Douglas-Hamilton.

1906 - Lady Mary marries James Graham, 6th Duke of Montrose, and so after more than five hundred years Brodick castle passed out of the Hamilton family.

~ Legends ~

1650 ~ During the period the castle is held by Cromwell's forces, a servant girl becomes pregnant by one of the soldiers. The local girl is so ashamed and distraught of her plight that she commits suicide.

1700 ~ The Black Death takes hold of the castle and the island, taking the lives of both poor and the noble inhabitants. This includes those in the castle. As a result three women who are locked in the dungeons are starved to death.






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Brodick castle occupies a sheltered plateau, onthe east side of the Isle of Arran, overlooking Brodick Bay. Behind it stands Goatfell, which rises 2,866 feet. Surrounded by its terraced lawns and extensive gardens, the castle appears the very image of a Victorian Highland estate. This however masks the castle's medieval origin and its strategic role in the defence of the Clyde estuary.It was once of three strongholds on the island, Lochranza and Kildonan being the other two.

The castle is easy to get to with plenty of parking, with beautiful grounds and house to look round. Discovering the medieval parts of the castle and grounds are less easy and its ancient viking settlement long lost.