Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Whatever happened to Bothwell Castle?

Bothwell Castle Scotland

Bothwell Castle - one of Scotland's finest

The appearance of Bothwell Castle today owes everything to Archibald Douglas, 1st Earl of Forfar, who demolished half of it in 1700 in order to provide materials for his new house.

It appears it had been his residence to that date, but having shrewdly chosen the right side in the Revolution of 1688 and appointed Privy Councilor by King William, something more fitting was required so he began the construction of a new mansion. This was beside the old castle, which provided a ready source of building material.

Forfar demolished the gatehouse leaving a large gap in the north wall to facilitate access. He then denuded the courtyard of all buildings. This was followed by the removal of the great tower house right down to its foundations.

The Earl voted for the Union in 1707 (£100 proved to be a sweetener) but left his mansion unfinished by the time of his death in 1712. He is buried in Bothwell Church.

By 1759 construction was underway on a new mansion and again in 1787 when it was rebuilt in a neo-classical style.

In 1926 subsidence due to coal mining caused its demolition and the dispersal of its stones.

In 1935 the Earl of Home gave Bothwell Castle to state care now Historic Scotland.

Bothwell Castle Old Sketch

Captain John Slezer's engraving of Bothwell probably dating from the 1670s.

Forfar removed all structures I have highlighted in orange - the gatehouse to the left and the tower house to the right. The latter rose above the castle and was boldly corbelled. The 3 lancets belonged to the  vaulted church. River Clyde flows at foot of engraving.

Bothwell Castle 2

The tower house today – only the footings remain

Bothwell Castle 3

 Gatehouse plan outlined on ground by Historic Scotland who also walled up the gap

Bothwell Castle old photo

 Forfar's new Bothwell Castle seen from the walls of the old in the early 1900s

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle

Added: 01 Mar 2013 Updated: 28 Mar 2018
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