Video: Six of Scotland’s oldest castles

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Around the turn of the 13th Century, primitive Norse fortifications gave way to the towering stone castles of lords and noblemen.

Scotland’s history books have known some 2000 castles and no two were ever built alike.

Aberdour Castle, Aberdour

Aberdour Castle, Aberdour

Unlike forts, castles are the fortified homes and private residences of lords and noblemen.

Early, primitive fortifications around Scotland came in the form of medieval brochs and duns.

With an Anglo-Norman influence, the first Scottish castles were built back in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Constructed from wood and stone high on a raised mound of earth, early motte-and-bailey castles are quite unlike the atmospheric stone monuments we’ve come to associate with Scottish history.

Motte-and-bailey forts were as easily constructed as they were destroyed and so the first stone castles replaced the rudimentary fortifications from the start of the 13th Century.

Historians are uncertain if the honour of Scotland’s oldest true castle belongs to Castle Sween in Argyle and Bute, or Aberdour Castle in Fife.

In the video above, you can see some of Scotland’s oldest castles, beginning with these two. Lords and noblemen invested heavily in defending themselves behind battlements as castles slowly started springing up around the country.

We can’t include them all, but invite you to comment on any other 13th Century castles (or earlier) we may have missed.

One omission is Cubby Roo’s Castle - the ruin of a Norse keep situated on the island of Wyre in the Shetland Isles. The keep is estimated to have been built circa 1145, but difficulties present themselves when accurately dating historic sites reaching back beyond the 13th Century.

The island fortress hasn’t been included in this list, but the story emerging from the crumbling ruins is irrefutably enchanting.