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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Tour Scotland Rothesay Castle

Tour Scotland Rothesay Castle. Magnus Barelegs, King of Norway, Hebrides and Man built the first wooden castle at Rothesay around 1098, for the island of Bute, though barely thirty miles from Glasgow, belonged to the Norsemen for much of the Middle Ages. Bute only became part of the Scottish kingdom around 1200 when William the Lion seized control of the Firth of Clyde. The construction of the magnificent castle that now stands upon Bareleg's mound was probably begun by Walter, Heriditary Steward of the King of Scots, soon after that date. Walter's stone shell keep is still surrounded by the wet moat fed by a burn from Loch Fad.

Rothesay was soon back in Viking hands. The saga of Haakon Haakonson tells how Uspak King of Man and the Isles beseiged the Scots in Rothesay for three days in 1230. The defenders poured down boiling pitch and lead but the Norse 'bound over themselves shields of wood' and made a hole in the soft stone of the wall with their axes. The Steward was killed by a Norse arrow, Rothesay fell and the Norse won much treasure and ransom of 300 silver merks. This vitally strategic castle was besieged again in 1263 when Haakon IV launched the final Norwegian assault upon western Scotland.

During the 13th century, Rothesay was strengthened by the addition of a gatehouse with portcullis, plus four projecting towers that allowed defending archers to enfilade or cover the ground in front of the walls. The Viking threat passed with the peace treaty signed at Perth in 1266 but Rothesay Castle was soon in foreign hands again. The English held it at various points during the Wars of Scottish
Independence. It fell to Edward in the late 1290s but was taken back by the Scots following an assault from the sea led by Sir Robert Boyd of Cunningham in 1306. After the defeats of Dupplin Moor (1332) and Halidon Hill (1333) Rothesay was English again, held for Edward III, Plantagenet and self-styled Lord Superior of Scotland.

Further sieges ocurred in 1462, 1527 and in 1544 when the invasion of Scotland by the Earl of Hertford provided the pro-English faction amongst the Scottish nobility with opportunities for mischief. The Earl of Lennox captured Rothesay Castle in the name of Henry VIII but in reality his actions served only Lennox's own strategic interests. Like many other Scottish castles, Rothesay was damaged by Cromwell's troops in the 1650s and torched by the forces of the Covenanting rebel Argyll in 1685.

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