and the noble Stewarts.
a high grassy hill above the Ayrshire village of Dundonald stands the gaunt grey
ruin of Dundonald castle and ancient stronghold of the noble Stewart family. The
present tower was built by Robert Stewart, possibly to mark his accession to the
throne as King Robert II (1371-1390) of Scots, in 1371,on the foundations of
several other fortifications.
hillside itself was a prehistoric Dark Age hillfort and since 'Dun' means
'tower' or 'fort' it appears the first building was the 'tower' of 'Donald'.
Though it is unclear who this Donald was ,a local King perhaps or some relative
of the ancient Clan Donald (later the MacDonalds Lords of the Isles, 'Mac'
simply meaning 'son of ' hence MacDonald).
next fortification was an earthen 'Motte and Bailey' raised by Walter 'The
Steward' who came to Scotland around 1136. It consisted of a high man made mound
(Motte) capped by a wooden tower and below this a village (Bailey), made up of
wooden n' wattle constructed houses with thick thatched roofs.
All surrounded by
a wooden palisade and ditches. The
first stone castle of Dundonald was built by Alexander Stewart in the late
1200's and appears to have covered most of the grassy summit. With two double
towered gateways on the east and west side, with possibly two D-plan towers on
the north and south sides all joined by a courtyard wall.
Sadly this great
castle was destroyed during the Wars of Independence with England. The present
oblong tower raised by King Robert II sits on the stumps of this western gateway
and is a shadow of its former glory.
reconstruction painting shows this oblong tower as it may have been in 1425 when
King James I (1406-1437) of Scots met here with John the 'Red' Stewart (an
illegitimate son of Robert II) to mass a royal army to battle the Lennox rebels
led by James the 'Fat' Steward, a son of Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany who had
been arrested along with the Earl of Lennox for treason by the King. Unfortunately, John
the 'Red' was defeated and killed at Dumbarton castle by James the 'Fat'.
retaliation King James beheaded Murdoch Duke of Albany, his other son Walter and
Murdoch's father-in-law the Earl of Lennox, at Stirling castle. He then
transported these heads to the 'Red' Douglas stronghold of Tantallon castle
where they were thrown into the dungeon beside the captive Duchess of Albany in
an effort to drive her insane. James the 'Fat' fled to Ireland calling himself
King of Scots and began to mass a huge army to invade the west coast of
Scotland. But he died before the English and the MacDonalds Lords of the Isles
could help him seize the Scots throne from James I. The present ruin of
Dundonald stands as a reminder of the Stewart dynasty's less than noble but