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Issue 82 - Stronghold of the South West

Scotland Magazine Issue 82
August 2015


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Stronghold of the South West

Keith Fergus explores Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle, which stands a few miles from Dumfries in south west Scotland, is in remarkably good shape considering the armies that have besieged it in the past.

Its location near to the Scottish/English Border made it an appealing focus for the likes of Edward I, the infamous ‘Hammer of the Scots’ and it survived various attacks until 1603 when the Union of the Crowns promised more peaceful times, although this was short-lived.

Caerlaverock Castle’s history extends back to 1220 when Sir John De Macusswell built a castle nearby in Castle Wood to be replaced in 1270 by the striking, triangular structure we see today, the remains of which were left by marauding Covenanters in 1640.

Castle Wood itself is a fine example of ancient semi-natural woodland with many of the trees, including alder, ash, hazel, birch and oak, over 200 years old. The wildlife within the wood is superb and includes Scotch Argus butterfly, roe deer, otters, ragged robin, tufted vetch, orchids and Holy Grass, a rare plant only found in Scotland and Ireland.

Both castle and woodland form part of Caerlaverock Nature Reserve, where the entire population of Svalbard Barnacle Geese spend winter months, flying in every year after a 2,000-mile journey from the Arctic. The reserve is also the northernmost breeding ground of the natterjack toad.