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Craignethan Castle REVIEW


There are two approaches to Craignethan castle. It can be approached from the "clyde valley road" (A72) from Crossford which is on the main road to Lanark. Alternatively it can be approached from the B7078 which runs parallel to the main arterial motorway (M74). My recomendation is to use the B road as the other is a single track "rollercoaster" almost from the turn off sign which states "2 miles".

Once you have arrived you will see that Craignethan Castle sits on a promontory overlooking the deep gorge of the river Nethan. It consists of a square tower house (which used to have flanking towers of which only one survives) which was the main living, and entertaining area, protected on one side by a deep ditch in front. The further protection lies slightly further back from this with a perimeter wall with a gatehouse. The bridge crossing the ditch which you can see in the picture below, is not in its original location as the gatehouse is clearly on the left hand side. In addition, there used to be a massive rampart in front of the tower house but that was demolished in (1579) order to make the castle indefensible, following accusations that the owner tried to commit regicide and other past crimes against the crown.

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craignethan castle picture

craignethan tower picture

The castle was first built by Sir James Hamilton in 1530 and was the last great defensive castle to be built in Scotland, although strangely it never saw any form of military action. Sir James later fell from favour and was executed for treason in 1540. In essence, the castle only remained as a "home" for less than 50 years. Despite this timescale, the castle is remarkably complete although would still be classified as a ruin (as as such you can let your children run relatively freely, although there are some dangerously high, unprotected areas).

Craignethan, like so many Scottish castles also has its share of ghost stories. Believed to be haunted by Mary Queen of Scots, her spectre has been reported to appear headless including just after her execution. Other ghosts are said to haunt the castle, include the apparition of a woman wearing Stuart period dress, mysterious pipe music can be heard, a vague shifting apparition and a poltergeist which has been witnessed to throw things around.

Craignethan later acquired some more notoriety when it became linked to "Tillietudlem Castle" (tillietudlum is also the name of the area close by) in Walter Scott's "Old Mortality". Scott denied the connection but at that time Craignethan was covered in ivy and fitted his description perfectly. The present owners, Historic Scotland, have removed all the ivy as it damages the stonework.

Is it worth going to see? All in, the answer is yes. Will it keep the kids amused - it certainly kept 3, 8 year olds amused. The children can play relatively safely, although you are able to access the roof of the tower which doesn't have modern safety features and children like to climb. Parental responsibility remember! The other element is that there is enough to interest the adults or you can sit on some of the benches while the children enjoy playing at knights, kings, queens etc. 2 hours is mroe than long enough to do it justice. Remember also to join Historic Scotland if you are consdiering visitng more thna one of their many properties.