Craignethan Castle

Craignethan Castle, Lanarkshire


~ History ~

1530 ~ Sir James Hamilton begins the building of Craignethan Castle.

He is given the barony and the lands by his father, James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran. He was illegitimate however and he could neither inherit the Earldom, nor take his place as an heir to the Scottish throne. He had however become a rich and powerful man in his own right and he needed accommodation suitable for his noble status.

1540 ~ Sir James falls out of royal favour. He is accused and convicted of plotting against King James V. He is later executed and Craignethan becomes the property of the crown.

1542 ~ King James V dies and James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran takes back the castle for himself as regent to the infant Mary Queen of Scots.

1567 ~ After Queen Mary's forced abdication he helps her escape from Lochleven Castle and she stays at Craignethan for a while.

1568 ~ James is forced to give up Craignethan after the Battle of Langside.

1569 ~ James's brother Lord Claud retakes the castle by force.

1579 ~ The Hamiltons are outlawed for their part in the assassination of James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray. Craignethan is abandoned and then slighted by royal order. The north-west tower is destroyed along with the western rampart which was piled into the ditch, rendering the castle effectively defenceless.

1659 ~ The castle was regained by the Hamilton family, but is sold to Andrew Hay. He builds a comfortable two-storey house in the corner of the courtyard.

1730 ~ The castle is sold to Archibald Douglas, Duke of Douglas.

The castle continued to decay in to ruin.


North of Tillietudlem


Off Southfield Road, off B7078


ML11 9PL

Craignethan Castle was among the last truly defensive private castles built in Scotland. It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs leading down to the Craignethan Burn and the Water of Nethan. Its weakness lies on the western side where it is overlooked by the surrounding countryside.

The western defences were revolutionary for the time. Finnart had a tall, thick stone rampart built with a wide, deep ditch built in front of it. The western wall had gunloops just above its present height and its parapet had gaps to allow guns to fire up onto the higher ground to the west.

There is a car park opposite the castle with easy access throughout the grounds with a friendly visitors centre for further information.