Caerlaverock, Dumfriesshire

Historical Description

CAERLAVEROCK, a parish, in the county of DUMFRIES, 5 miles (S. S. E.) from Dumfries, containing, with the villages of Bankhead, Blackshaw, Glencaple-Quay, Glenhowan, Sherrington, and part of Kelton, 1297 inhabitants. Different opinions exist in regard to the derivation of the name of this parish, some interpreting the words of which it is composed, "the castle with the buttress jutting out", and others, "the castle close upon the sea"; referring to the most prominent historical memorial in the place, the singularly formed and strong fortress called Caerlaverock Castle. It stands near the shores of the Solway Firth, and is of triangular figure, having a double moat, with portcullis after portcullis, to defend the entrance: there is also a provision for the discharge of a torrent of molten lead on the heads of the besiegers. The existing castle is the second building, the first, which has long been totally destroyed, having nothing left but the foundations: these are visible about 300 yards from the more modern structure, and indicate the old castle to have been somewhat smaller than the present, but of the same form. The original castle is said to have been founded in the sixth century by Llywarch Og, and in the days of King Malcolm Canmore to have been the chief seat of the ancient and illustrious family of Maxwell. It was attacked and taken by King Edward I., who afterwards passed several days here. The time when the second castle was built has not been precisely ascertained, but it is known to have been before the year 1425. In 1570 it was ruined by the Earl of Sussex, who had been sent with an English army to support James VI., after the murder of the regent. It was, however, reinstated in its former strength by Robert, first Earl of Nithsdale, in 1638; and during the troubles of Charles I., its owner, who supported the royal cause with all his energies, was ordered by that monarch to yield it up, on the best terms he could obtain. After the siege by Cromwell, it was found to contain eighty-six beds, forty carpets, and a library worth £200. Caerlaverock Castle was the place Sir Walter Scott had in his mind as the chief scene in the novel of Guy Mannering, it was here that Dirk Hatteraick was imprisoned by Gilbert Glossin.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Scotland, 1851 by Samuel Lewis