Loch Leven Castle, Tayside
1 mile South of Kinross
One of the earliest tower-houses in Scotland, Loch Leven Castle consists of a 5 storey tower-house with walls up to 8 feet thick, enclosed by a curtain stone wall on one of the many an islands in the loch. This easily defended site could have had some kind of fort on it even before the days of the Pictish King Brude, son of Dergert, who ruled the area in the 7th century. The original building is said to have been a fort built by Congal, King of the Picts, in the 6th century but, being of timber, no trace now remains.
Founded in pre-historic times by the Scottish chiefs, it has stood the brunt of many an angry storm through unnumbered ages as both a fortress and prison.
The first stone castle was probably built during the 13th century during the reign of King Alexander II and is best remembered as the place where Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned and escaped.
Access to the castle is by way of a short boat ride across the loch to the island, where you can explore the surrounding woodland.
~ History ~
1256 - The boy-king king Alexander III and his younger sister (daughter of Henry III of England) are taken from Lochleven Castle to Stirling to be kept safe from the English Invaders.
1301 - The English besiege the castle, but it is saved by John Comyn before it can be captured.
1303 - Resting up for the long hard Scottish winter in Lochleven Castle, 30 of Edward I's army are surprised by William Wallace's men who have rowed silently across the loch. All 30 Englishmen are killed although the 5 women are spared.
1313 - Robert the Bruce stays in the castle and returns 10 years later.
1314 - Following the Battle of Bannockburn, the victorious Robert the Bruce incarcerates John of Lorn, the Lord Admiral, at the castle.
1328 - The castle is listed as a Royal Castle along with Edinburgh, Stirling and Dumbarton.
1329 - On the death of King Robert I (Robert the Bruce) a renewed attempt by Edward III to conquer Scotland begins.
1334 - Only five strongholds remain holding out for King Robert's successor, King David II, one of these is Lochleven.
1335 - Alan de Vipont defends the castle against an English force under John de Strivelin sent to take it for Edward Balliol. The attacking force bombard the castle island but Vipont's garrison eventually beat them off following a 9 month siege. Legend has it that Strivelin tries to drown the garrison by damming the out flowing river Leven but a daring river night raid by Vipont's men break the dam and drown many of the besiegers camped nearby.
1368 - The Steward of Scotland (who later becomes King Robert II) and his son Alexander, the notorious "Wolf of Badenboch", are held as prisoners in the castle.
1439 - Archibald, 5th Earl, is imprisoned and dies in the castle.
1477 - The imprisoned Patrick Graham, Archbishop of St Andrew, dies in the castle
1567 - Mary, Queen of Scots, is taken to Loch Leven in mid-June after her defeat at Carberry Hill by Lords Lindsay and Ruthven, under her half-brother's instructions, Lord Moray. The castle is the property of Sir William Douglas, Moray's half-brother.
The 24 year old Mary is already heavily pregnant and gives birth just two months later. According to her secretary Claude Nau, the twins are stillborn and buried on the island. However, another version tells that Mary gives birth to a daughter who is smuggled out of Lochleven and sent to France. Mary's French relatives send her to a convent in Soissons where she later becomes a nun. Whatever the truth, Mary falls very ill, and it is in this weakened and vulnerable state that Moray sends Lord Ruthven, Melville and Lindsay to present her with abdication papers. She is forced to sign then under threat from Lindsay. Forever wanting to see the good in people, Mary continues her plea to Moray who deceitfully maintains that he keeps her in Lochleven for her own safety. On 22 August he is made Regent of Scotland.
William Douglas's brother George, takes pity on Mary and gradually falls in love with her. George Douglas devises escape plans which are all too risky to be carried out. Furthermore, the winter is approaching and bad weather makes a successful escape even more unlikely. It was at this time Moray, realising what George is up to and decides to banish him from the island. Before he leaves, Mary gives George a pearl earring which he is to send back to her as signal that all was ready for her escape. With the help of 15 year old "Wee Douglas" secret messages continued to be smuggled through to Mary. In March George comes up with a better idea. Mary is to borrow the clothes of one of the laundresses who came to the island and escape on the boat which would take them back. All goes well until one of the boatmen, intrigued by the long white fingers which held the muffler tight, decides to remove the muffler and take a closer look. Discovering who the fingers belonged to, he quickly turns the boat back for fear of reprisals.
William Douglas is horrified to hear how very near he came to losing his pisoner and Moray's wrath. He immediately tightens security. Distraught, Mary sends pleading letters to her half-sister Queen Elizabeth I of England, who ignores the letter. George cunningly writes to his mother Lady Margaret Douglas explaining how he has decided to make a fresh start in France. In May, a boatman arrives at Lochleven with Mary's pearl earring. During the May celebrations Mary feigns sickness and is excused from dinner. Wee Douglas ensures that everyone has plenty of alcohol before dropping his napkin over Williams keys. On seeing Wee Douglas in the courtyard Mary dresses as a servant girl and with Jane Kennedy make their way downstairs, across the courtyard and through the gates. Wee Douglas locks the gates behind them and throws them in the mouth of a canon. Together they jump into the boat which Wee Douglas had earlier organised and row ashore where George Douglas is the first to welcome them.
1587 - Mary is beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle in England.