Featured image of Strathaven Castle

The History of Strathaven Castle

Strathaven Castle is a seriously beautiful castle located right in the centre of the small town of Strathaven, in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. The exterior is completely accessible to the public behind a fence and it can be quite easily found. Often referred to as Avondale Castle, this gorgeous ruin, as well as the mound it stands on, is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The history of Strathaven Castle

Strathaven Castle sits atop a large, rocky, partly artificial mound in a defensive position. When driving on the A71 from Edinburgh to Kilmarnock, you pass through the small South Lanarkshire town of Strathaven. En route, it passed beneath the strong north wall of the castle.

Strathaven Castle only has a little-known history.

The early history

The origins of Strathaven Castle are quite obscure. However, it is said to have been built sometime in 1350 by the Bairds, on a bend of the Powmillon Burn. Later on, the castle passed on to the Sinclair’s and then to the Earls of Douglas.

After the suppression of the Earls of Douglas by James II in 1455, the castle was sacked and slighted. Very little, or nothing, of the early castle remains.

Building a new castle

In 1457, Strathaven was granted to Sir Andrew Stewart. He was an illegitimate grandson of Murdoch Stewart, Duke of Albany. Stewart, who later became Lord Avondale, either rebuilt the very early castle or built a brand-new one on the same site.

In 1534, it passed to Sir James Hamilton of Finnart who went forth and expanded all of the buildings. A letter from 1559 states that it was here at ‘Straverin’, that Master Patrick Buchanan, the brother of George Buchanan, taught the children of Regent Arran.

Changing hands

In 1611, the castle changed hands one last time when the castle was sold to James, Marquis of Hamilton. The last-ever occupant was Anne, Duchess of Hamilton whose main residence was Hamilton Palace. In 1717, the castle was abandoned.

Portrait of Ann, Duchess of Hamilton [d.1716], daughter of James, first Duke of Hamilton.
Ann, Duchess of Hamilton“, by David Scougal, is licensed under CC BY 4.0

In recent years, the trees that once obscured the castle from the road and the rest of Strathaven have been cut down. As a result, the structure is seen more as a part of the town.

The current day

The castle is now permanently closed, so you can’t go inside. You can, however, gain a great view of the castle from several areas.

A great view of Strathaven Castle
Strathaven Castle“, by Billy McCrorie, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Ghost of The White Lady

For many hundreds of years, there have been many reported sightings of a ghostly figure that roams the castle and its surroundings. The ghost is known as the “White Lady of Strathaven Castle and is said to still haunt the building to this day. Local legend tells of a wife of a past laird who upset her husband.

Because of this, she was walled up in a small niche and left to starve. This story passed down throughout many generations with tales saying that this lady was the ghost who haunted this castle. Many doubted this legend of a woman being entombed in the walls.

They then dismissed the accounts that people had seen the ghost as nonsense. At least, that was the case until the 19th century when a part of the wall fell down and a whole skeleton was found within.

Strathaven Castle Timeline

  • 1350- The very early castle is built
  • 1455- The castle is sacked and slighted leaving very little, or nothing, of the early castle
  • 1457- Strathaven is granted to Sir Andrew Stewart
  • 1534- The castle passes to Sir James Hamilton of Finnart who went forth and expanded all of the buildings
  • 1559- A letter states that it was here at ‘Straverin’, that Master Patrick Buchanan, the brother of George Buchanan, taught the children of Regent Arran
  • 1611- The castle changes hands one last time when the castle is sold to James, Marquis of Hamilton
  • 1717- The castle is completely abandoned

Strathaven Castle facts

  • The castle, in its prime, comprised a three-storey rectangular block, around 11.2m by 21.2m, with a four-storey round tower at the north-west corner, and a small projecting wing at the south-east
  • When a wall collapsed in the 19th century, a whole skeleton was found within
  • The walls are pierced by gunports
  • Strathaven Castle is often referred to as Avondale Castle
  • The castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument

Tourism

Nowadays, Strathaven Castle is permanently closed. It is fenced off quite close to the castle meaning you can gain a pretty good view of it. You can also see it from almost anywhere in town. Nearby, you can visit great places such as Microlight Scotland, Larkhall Circuit, Hamilton Mausoleum, Craignethan Castle, Low Parks Museum, and the James Hamilton Heritage Park.


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