Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Broughty Castle (Dundee) - Past and Present

Situated at the entrance of the River Tay Broughty Castle has guarded Dundee since 1490. It has led a checkered existence and this is reflected in the building which has been attacked, destroyed, rebuilt, attacked and so on until it ended its days as a Victorian coastal defence.

LEFT: Broughty Castle pre-1861
RIGHT: Broughty Castle sits on a rocky promontory

Today the tall tower of 1490 dominates its lower companion, an addition of 1861.

LEFT: Broughty Castle is now a museum
RIGHT: Broughty Castle bears the scars of past attacks

A momentous event in its history occurred in 1547 when, due to the treachery of its captain, Broughty Castle was handed over without a shot fired, to:

‘Our auld ynemies of England’

The English reinforced the castle with modern earthworks and garrisoned it with 2,000 men. The Scots, lacking the means to besiege, enlisted the help of their French allies who knew exactly what was required. First they bombarded Broughty Castle from their galleys and then brought up heavy guns.

These proved their worth as ‘the fort was dung down with the great ordinance’. The French and the Scots then ‘courageously and stoutly assailyeit the fort’ whereupon the garrison capitulated ‘blyth in heart that they escapist with their lives'.

By 1821 Broughty Castle was ruinous but the threat of war with Russia resulted in its purchase by the War Department in 1861 who entirely rebuilt it as a coastal fort. The Czar had no reason to lose sleep as it was later described as ‘worse than useless’.

It soldiered on until the Great War after which it was decommissioned and gifted to the Dundee Corporation. Today it now serves a museum under the Leisure & Culture Dundee charity organisation and is free to visit.

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Illustrations – McManus Gallery and Historic Environment Scotland

Added: 20 Jan 2023 Updated: 13 Oct 2023
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