Cawdor Castle

Cawdor Castle isn't just gorgeous... it's steeped in history and surrounded by legends - it even has Shakespearean connections!

Front view of Cawdor Castle showing drawbridge and turrets

This Scottish castle is absolutely stunning, and although as a 'Cawdor Campbell' myself I'm a little bit biased, it is definitely a castle of the fairytale variety!

Stonework in part of the castle has been estimated, by architectural historians, to date back to the mid 1300's and historical documents also show that as early as 1310, William, Thane of Calder (as Cawdor was then written), paid rental for the land on which the castle stands.

However, the first documented date for this Scotland castle is 1454 - when the same William, Thane of Calder (roughly translates to the 'Baron of Calder'), obtained a licence to 'build and fortify' his castle.

Cawdor Castle is surrounded by stories, myths and legends, beginning with the one which describes how the Thane of Cawdor allowed a gold-bearing donkey to choose where to build it!

This legend might explain why the castle is built around a thorn bush - originally thought to be Hawthorne, but recently identified as a Holly bush - under which the donkey is said to have slept. You can see the thorn bush growing in the center of Cawdor Castle's guard room today. It's quite incredible.

In keeping with this thorny theme, the Cawdor Toast is 'Flourish the Thorn'.

If you know any Shakespeare, you may have picked up on the relationship between Cawdor Castle and Shakespeares' 'Macbeth'.

Although it's the stuff of legends, unfortunately the connection is a work of fiction, as the castle didn't exist in the 11th century (the time of the real Macbeth). It grew out of repeated embellishment, myth and 'poetic license', but it's still a great story and adds even more 'romance' to this particular castle of Scotland.

The castle saw several additions and renovations during the 17th and 18th centuries, including to the gateway and drawbridge, turrets, courtyard and more. The famous gardens have also changed over time. The oldest of the three is the Walled Garden which existed during the 16th century and possibly even earlier. The larger Flower Garden and Wild garden being added during the 18th and 19th centuries respectively.

Today Cawdor Castle is still home to the Cawdor family and is both an incredible, medieval castle and a familiar and beloved family home.

Cawdor Castle and gardens

Did you know...?

  • Although originally the home of the Thanes of Calder, this castle became part of the Campbell empire after some very dramatic events! These centered around the kidnapping of the heiress Muriel Calder on the orders of Archibald Campbell, (the second Earl of Argyll) and her marriage in 1511 (at age 11 or 12) to his son Sir John Campbell. This marriage was (oddly) successful, and led to the development of the 'Campbells' of Cawdor', and to the castle becoming the seat of the Clan Campbell of Cawdor.

  • The 'romance' of Muriel and John has been turned into a novel by Kathryn Lynn Davis, called Child of AweIf you historical romance, this book might be perfect for you.

  • There are said to be three ghosts which haunt Cawdor Castle. One is a woman in a blue velvet dress, and may be Muriel Calder. The other is said to be Sir John Campbell. So who knows? Perhaps Muriel and John's love story continues today! The third ghost is supposedly of a young woman whose love interest was deemed unsuitable by her father who then chopped off her hands to bring an end to the relationship. Ouch!
Cawdor Castle gardens

Cawdor Castle and its' gardens are open to the public between 10:00am and 5:00pm daily from mid April to early October. Admission prices include the castle, gardens, grounds and nature trials.  Groups of twelve or more can even opt for a guided tour of either the castle or gardens, or do both. Private tours can be arranged by appointment when the castle is closed between October and April.

In addition to the castle and the Flower, Walled and Wild gardens, there is also a golf course and putting green for golf enthusiasts and for anglers there is the opportunity to fish for salmon in the River Findhorn, complete with services of an experienced ghillie if you would like.

For the less sporty, the Courtyard Cafe, which is in what used to be the castle servants quarters, offers light meals and traditional scottish baking. Beer, cider, prosecco and a small selection of wine is also available.

Finally, why not pick up some unique souvenirs from the shops at Cawdor Castle?  Choose from the Wool Shop, the Highland Shop and the Castle Gift Shop. Sounds like fun to me!

Cawdor Castle Official Website 

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