Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

The Ubiquitous Sentinel House

The iconic appearance of Edinburgh Castle today is largely the result of the threat posed to the government by the Jacobites. Such was their fear of the King over the Water' that they initiated a massive program of re-fortification; modernising the defences of Edinburgh, Stirling and Dumbarton Castles along with a series of dedicated forts and barracks such as at Fort William, Fort Augustus and Inverness.

The sagacity of this policy was vindicated when Edinburgh and Stirling Castles held out throughout the '45 in spite of being attacked, but paradoxically Fort Augustus, the Jewel in the Crown', literally landed in the Jacobites' lap when a mortar shell denoted its powder magazine sending it sky high thanks to the skill of a French gunner.

What these forts had in common were bastioned defences equipped with the ubiquitous sentinel house. The latter allowed the patrolling sentry some protection from the elements and provided a sight line along the walls. Some were utilitarian, others embellished, bringing a little light relief to otherwise bland fortifications.

Sentinels are not confined to Scotland for wherever the European went - Africa, India or the Americas - they left as their legacy the bastioned fort and the sentinel house.

Here are just a few examples of this truly universal feature:

edinburgh castle outline
The iconic outline of Edinburgh Castle
edinburgh castle sentinel
Edinburgh Castle, Sentinel House 1735
stirling castle 1710
Stirling Castle, Scotland 1710
dumbarton castle
Dumbarton Castle, Scotland 1735
citadel louis
LEFT: The Citadel' Ayr, Scotland 1654 (corbeling only) RIGHT:Fort St Louis, Martinique 1638
neuf monaco
LEFT: Neuf-Brisach, France 1698 (bases extant) RIGHT: Palace, Monaco 1707
care bastion
LEFT: Fort Le Care, Antibes France 1565 RIGHT: The Bastion' Menton, France 1636
Funchal, Portugal 1614
Essaouira, Morocco 1760 (French architect)
walls cuba morro
LEFT: El Morro, Havana, Cuba 1630 RIGHT: Fort San Miguel, Mexico 1686
fort san miguel
Town Walls, Havana, Cuba 1587
peter paul fort
Peter & Paul Fort, Russia, 1706

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 30 May 2017 Updated: 16 Oct 2023
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