Of the Scottish castles we visited, none had a more dramatic location than Dunnottar perched on an isolated rock hundreds of feet above the North Sea. The approach is through rolling fields, until the land falls off and the castle rises above the ocean.
The location had likely been a religious spot for hundreds of years before the chapel was built in 1276, and is now the oldest of the buildings remaining on the site. Two decades later, English troops fled here from their defeat by William Wallace at Stirling Bridge and were massacred by the chapel or thrown off the cliffs.
The first stone castle was constructed in 1392, and church leaders excommunicated Sir William Keith for building a fortification on consecrated ground. Pope Benedict gave approval after Keith agreed to pay.
Over the next three centuries, the castle would play a role in much of Scottish history, visited by Mary Queen of Scots in 1562, and a century later by Charles II after his father had been beheaded by Oliver Cromwell. Charles’s return caused Cromwell to invaded Scotland and the Honours of Scotland—the crown, sword and sceptre—were smuggled from Edinburgh for safekeeping at Dunnottar.
After Charles died in 1685, his brother James VII of Scotland and II of England became king, and Protestant Convenantors rebelled against him. 167 of them were imprisoned in wretched conditions in a vault at Dunnottar.
By 1719, the castle was abandoned and fell into ruin. In 1919, it was purchased by the Cowdray family who began to maintain and preserve the ruins. A view from the sea shows how imposing it is from that vantage. The castle had originally been connected by a narrow neck of land to the headlands, but that approach was also dug down, so any land approach to the castle would be across a narrow, treacherous causeway.
For photography geeks—the final image is 24 individual shots. 6 vertical images were stitched together for the panorama. Each of the vertical images are comprised of 4 exposures that were blended to control the dynamic range from sunlit clouds to deep shadow. Caroline spotted the vista and modeled!