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Issue 73 - The Island Castle

Scotland Magazine Issue 73
February 2014

 

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The Island Castle

A focus on a glorious Galloway scene

On the outskirts of Castle Douglas, in the heart of the glorious Galloway countryside, stands Threave Castle. It commands a dominant position on Threave Island in the middle of the River Dee and is approached by means of a short walk from Threave Castle Visitor Centre. Between April and October it can be visited by taking a short boat crossing under the guidance of the current custodian.

The unusual name Threave is quite a common moniker around these parts and derives from the Old Welsh Tref, meaning homestead. As well as the castle the local football team is called Threave Rovers whilst Threave Gardens and Threave House, both major tourist draws in Galloway, stand on the outskirts of Castle Douglas.

The history of Threave Castle is a dark and turbulent one. It is thought that 1000 years ago Threave Island was home of the ancient rulers of Galloway but there is no trace of their fortress left.

The menacingly titled Archibald ‘The Grim’ Douglas built Threave Castle in 1370 although Fergus, Lord of Galloway, had constructed a timber fort prior to this in the 11th century. Only the main tower survives today but in its heyday this stronghold was quite substantial, and included a chapel and dining hall.

Threave Castle went through many power struggles over the centuries, particularly between the Douglases and King James II, eventually falling into the hands of the Crown in the late 15th century and today it is cared for by Historic Scotland.