Scotland | Exploring An Island Fortress


Situated on an island in the middle of the River Dee, there is a formidable castle, reachable only by boat...

Threave Castle

This island fortress which comprises of a 30-metre-tall keep or tower house was built in the late 14th century by Archibald the Grim, Lord of Galloway. It became the stronghold of the Black Douglases and still today, round its base you can see the artillery fortification, an innovative defence years ahead of its time, built before 1455 when James II besieged the castle.

Today Threave Castle covers 20 acres, although in the 15th century it is estimated to have been only a third of this size. The island would have supported subsidiary buildings, such as stores and workshops, as well as the castle. Access then was by boat or via a ford or underwater causeway at the south end of the island.

Threave Castle became a royal castle, and in the 16th century hereditary responsibility for Threave was given to the Lords Maxwell. It was briefly held by the English in the 1540s, but did not see serious action until the Bishops' Wars, when in 1640 a royalist garrison was besieged by a force of Covenanters. Partially dismantled, the castle remained largely unused until given into state care in 1913. The ruins, comprising the substantially complete tower house and the L-shaped artillery house, are today maintained by Historic Environment Scotland as a scheduled monument.

To reach this island castle you park at the visitor centre where you pay for your tickets and then walk roughly one mile (10-minute walk) up a picturesque country path with rolling hills and wildflowers and woodland until you arrive at the shore of the River Dee. The route is well signposted and maintained.

There you will find a small jetty and a brass bell with a rope. Ring this bell loudly and the boatman will come across from the island to take you to the castle. The boat seats around 6 persons and for the 1-minute boat journey you are provided with a lifejacket.

Look out for ospreys and otters hunting in the river, and when you reach the island look out for the ospreys in their nests using the staff’s binoculars.

The castle ruins itself are fascinating and there are well documented information boards dotted around. Note that in Spring time you may not be able to access the upper part of the castle due to the endangered birds, Peregrine which will be nesting.

Threave Castle is situated on an island in the River Dee, 1.6 miles west of Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway, south-west Scotland.

Location: Bank Of River Dee, Castle Douglas DG7 1TJ

Opening times : 1 Apr to 30 Sept: Daily, 10am to 4.30pm (last sailing), 1 to 31 Oct: Daily, 10am to 3.30pm (last sailing) 1 Nov to 31 Mar: Closed

Entry: £5 per adult or Historic Scotland yearly membership pass £49.50 pp or £86.40 per couple.

#historicscotland #Scotland #ThreaveCastle #scottishcastles #DumfriesGalloway