Dunnottar Castle On the Northeast coast of Scotland, a lump of rock rises 160 feet above the shore line. Atop the rock rises another magnificent edifice, Dunnottar Castle, an almost totally impregnable looking fortress.The castle is steeped in events that moulded Scotland's history, involving such important figures as Mary Queen of Scots, Edward the Third of England, William Wallace, Charles II - and the Scottish Crown Jewels.
There has been a continual human presence here since the 5th century when St. Ninian established a church. A natural stronghold for the Scots in those early days, the Scots withstood attacks from both Picts and Norse invaders: there were only two ways in or out of Dunnottar Castle, both easily defended. The first was via the main gate set in a cleft in the rock and vulnerable to attack from all sides. The second was via a rocky creek leading to a cave on the north side of the rock, from which a steep path led up the cliff to the postern gate.
The Annals of Ulster record a siege of Duin Foither (probably Dunnottar) in 681. Dunnottar is also a possible site for a battle between King Donald II and the Vikings in 900, and it is thought that a raid into Scotland by land and sea by King Aethelstan of Wessex in 934 targeted the fortifications here.
William the Lion used Dunnottar as an administrative centre in the 1100s and Edward I of England took Dunnottar in 1296
In 1297 William Wallace took the castle back from the English, reputedly burning 4000 English troops in the process.
In 1330 the castle fell again into English hands. Edward III reinforced many parts, obviously insufficient reinforcing to keep out the Scottish regent Sir Andrew Murray who recaptured the castle soon after.
The Keith’s assumed control of Dunnottar in 1382 and by the beginning of the 16th century the castle was one of the premier strongholds of Scotland. Despite this the castle fell again to Catholic forces in 1594.
In 1645 the Marquis of Montrose attempted to reclaim the castle but failed.
The Scottish crown jewels were sent to Dunnottar following Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland. In 1652 Dunnottar was besieged by General Lambert. Dunnottar held out for 8 months before succumbing, mainly due to starvation. Lamberts assault was in vain; the jewels had been spirited away and were safely stored in Kineff Church.
One black mark in Dunnottar history is worthy of mention. In 1685, men and women, totalling 170, all Covenanters were herded into a small cellar. Such were the conditions that 9 died, 25 then managed to escape, some being caught soon after, on examination, they were found to have been tortured.
In 1715, the Earl Marischal hung his colours alongside that of the Stewarts during the Jacobite rebellion, a bad move, his lands were forfeited. In 1716 and again in 1718 the Duke of Argyll partially demolished the castle.
Today, Dunnottar Castle and its ruins can only be listed as a ‘must see’, and for those of you who are reasonably fit, the climb to the castle site is truly worth it. Dunnottar is near Stonehaven.