Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Loch Doon - the island castle that moved to the mainland

Loch Doon Castle once stood on an island in the loch of the same name, situated near the town of Dalmellington about 18 miles east of Ayr. In 1935 a hydroelectric scheme required that the loch level be raised and that the castle be submerged. A decision was made to dismantle the castle, stone by stone, and to rebuild it on the mainland some 400m south of its original site.

Loch Doon rebuilt on the mainland – note the quality of the masonry

Loch Doon Castle was built in the late 13th century and its unique polygonal plan is a result of its island site. The masonry is of the highest quality throughout. The main entrance was through a pointed archway protected by a portcullis and double leaved doors secured by drawbars. There was also a smaller postern.

LEFT: Loch Doon's main entrance from the interior
RIGHT: The main entrance showing the portcullis groove and drawbar recess

The castle was probably built by the father of Robert the Bruce and was soon to play a part in the Scottish Wars of Independence.

Crowned King of Scots in 1306 Robert was soon defeated in battle. The English ravaged the Bruce heartlands and Loch Doon, held by Sir Gilbert de Carrick, surrendered.

The castle was recaptured only to fall once more to the English. In 1314 it was retaken by Bruce and after the Battle of Bannockburn not one castle in Scotland remained in English hands.

The death of Bruce was England’s opportunity and they resumed the war. In 1335 they again attacked Doon but a long siege proved fruitless. They decamped never to return.

Loch Doon Castle on its island site circa.1900 – note the high Kennedy tower house
LEFT: Interior of the Kennedy tower house – sadly not reconstructed when the castle was moved
RIGHT: Loch Doon's curtain wall with base course

In 1446 Loch Doon was taken by William, 8th Earl of Douglas from the Kennedy family, given back, only to be lost again in 1511.

In the 16th century, King James V had Loch Doon destroyed as part of a general policy of reducing the power of southern families.

With such a history it is a wonder that anything survives!

The Kennedys had added a tower house to the early castle but this was not incorporated in the rebuild; regarded as unimportant. The tower was dismantled to free the remains of the original castle to be removed and the rubble was simply left on the island – see the aerial shot below. This was questioned at the time and is to be regretted today.

An aerial view of the island showing the rubble left after Loch Doon castle was relocated *


Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Photographs by Scottish Castles Association member John Buchanan-Smith.

* Aerial photograph by PaulT (Gunther Tshuch) is licensed with CC BY-SA 4.0.

Added: 18 Jan 2021 Updated: 13 Oct 2023
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