Torthorwald Castle

Torthorwald Castle, Dumfries and Galloway

~ History ~

1270's -  The Castle is owned by Sir David de Torthorwald.

1296 - Sir David swears fealty to King Edward I at Berwick. His daugher Isabel marries into the Kirkpatrick family and with this the Torthorwald name becomes extinct.

1300's - The castle passes to Sir William Carlyle who marries the sister of Robert Bruce, and whose son obtains a grant from King Robert a grant of the whole barony of Torthorwald. The building of the Tower-house begins.

1544 - Lord Carlyle attacks and sacks the castle held by his sister-in-law.

1585 - The Earl of Arran, former protector and favourite to the young King James IV, is the subject of a murder plot. During King James minority the Earl had administered the Kingdom but in doing so had made enemies both sides of the border. His downfall came in his passion for the Countess of March, who, notwithstanding her husband was still alive, does not hesitate to return his affections; and, by scandal and in breach of law and sin of the church, marry. The Earls position is fatally undermined by this act which his enemies make good in his downfall. Queen Elizabeth and exiled Scottish nobles who had long been frustrated and rebuffed by their attempts to influence the young Scottish King at Arran's hands, now plotted his final destruction. With money from the English Queen, the exiled noble's ride north to rendezvous with Lord Maxwell who had recently been offended by the Earl of Arran, who upon hearing this moves both King and court to Stirling castle to defend against his enemies. When the insurgents reach the town they are ten thousand strong, a force far greater than the Earl is able to muster as such short notice. Giving up hope of being able to retain his position and life alongside the king, he leaves the castle and abandons the town to his assailants, locking the gates of Stirling bridge behind him, fleeing north without any attendants. The nobles then proceed to replace the Earl in administering the Kingdom on the King's behalf.

1598 - The Earl suddenly reappears at the King;s court at Holyrood house, with the aim of reclaiming his lost offices and position. Enraged by his former favourites past acts, he advised him to retire for the meantime to his former haunts. On his travels through the mountains he is warned to be aware of Douglas of Torthorwald, who has vowed to avenge the execution of his relation the Earl of Morton, who Arran was deemed responsible. Arran dismissed this warning with contempt which, when report back to Douglas, who was unknown to Arran not far off, the ferocious Douglas gives chase and soon overtakes Arran. The former King's favourite is dragged from his horse by Douglas and stabbed to death. His head, cut from his body, is mounted on a spear, and fixed to the walls of Torthorwald Castle. Because of the Earl Arran's reputation Douglas is never brought to trial.

The Earls of Arran's nephew swears revenge against Douglas, the Laird of Torthorwald by the same murderous dead in the streets of Edinburgh. On a kinsman of Douglas hearing this threat, he finds the nephew and murders him in the same way his uncle meets his end.

1630 - Repairs to the castle are undertaken.

1715 - The castle is abandoned by Archibald Douglas.


Village Centre          3.7 miles East of Dumfries





The name Torthorwald is derived from Tower of Thor in the wood. The castle was once substantial, but now only the ruined 14th century tower-house remains of this 13th century castle.

It measures 56 by 40 feet and consists of two vaulted chambers, one above the other, the lower of which would have been further divided by a wooden floor. Built upon a motte, this crumbling tower rises to sixty feet, surrounded by a ditch. The original entrance was on the first floor. The walls at the base are quite thick but are surmounted by thinner walls with very noticeable seams. This reflects a change of ownership with less finances able to complete the castle on the grand scale originally planned.

Access to the castle is very easy from the side road in the village where considerate parking will leave you with just a short walk. Walking up to the castle will take you across the outer ditches and defences where you get a better sense of the strength of the castle over and above the ruined tower that now remains. Walking round the tower you will find some very interesting stonework and feel of what must have been a very impressive tower in its hey day.