Doune Castle might evoke a sense of déjà vu, even for those who haven’t visited before, due to its appearances in various films. Movie buffs, particularly Monty Python enthusiasts, flock to this castle from around the globe to experience the location where scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail were filmed. Coconut shells are even provided at the reception for fans to recreate the iconic horse galloping sound effect from the film. Other filming locations for the movie included Castle Stalker in Argyll, Kidwelly Castle in Wales, and Bodiam Castle in East Sussex.
Doune Castle also resonates with a newer audience as it was used as Castle Leoch in the TV adaptation of the Outlander series and served as Winterfell for the pilot episode of Game of Thrones.
Aside from its cinematic fame, Doune Castle has a rich history. Constructed in the late 14th century for Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany, the exact date of its creation remains uncertain, and its final form is thought to deviate from the original plan. Nonetheless, the structure fulfilled all military and domestic necessities of a royal castle. Robert Stewart, who ruled Scotland from 1388 until his death in 1420, held the titles of Earl of Menteith and Fife through marriage to Margaret, Countess of Menteith.
In 1420, control of Scotland passed to Murdoch, Robert Stewart’s son. His reign, however, was brief as James I reclaimed power in 1424 after his release from English captivity. Doune Castle then served as a royal hunting lodge and retreat, used by a succession of monarchs for over a century.
Ownership of the castle transferred to Sir James Stewart, the first Lord Doune, in 1570. The title Earl of Moray was later acquired by the castle’s occupants through marriage. Doune Castle has been the property of the Earls of Moray ever since. Restoration work was carried out in 1883 and 1970, and in 1984, the 20th Earl of Moray entrusted the castle to the nation. It is now under the care of Historic Environment Scotland.
The castle’s northern facade features the gate tower, the main entrance, and the principal domestic apartments organized in the typical L-shape of a Scottish tower house. The gate tower occupies the north-east corner of the castle grounds, with the entrance formed by an arch atop a 14-meter-long vaulted passageway.
Located on the first floor above the gateway passage, the Lord’s Hall can be accessed from the courtyard via an enclosed stone staircase. The hall, restored in 1883, showcases a glimpse of the castle’s past with its wooden panelling and a plaque bearing the Earl of Moray’s coat of arms. A musicians’ gallery is situated at the north end of the hall.
The Lord’s Hall connects to other areas of the castle, including the upper hall directly above it. Although little remains to highlight the room’s past opulence, its 2.6-meter-wide fireplace still impresses. The central alcove of the upper hall indicates a chapel presence with niches and evidence of a permanent altar.
The Great Hall, larger and grander than the Lord’s Hall, was reserved for significant events. Accessed via a stone staircase, the room features a covered entrance hall, a screened passage leading to the kitchens, and a raised dais where the high table was situated.
In the kitchen, a fireplace spans the entire length of a wall, and a doorway and hatches open to a servery leading to the Great Hall.
Doune Castle, with its myriad of rooms, interconnected corridors, and staircases, offers visitors a unique glimpse into the past, providing an authentic experience of a living, functioning castle.
Address: Castle Hill, Doune FK16 6EA, United Kingdom