Very close to Stirling, in the small town of Doune and bordered by the River Teith is a medieval fortress that houses interesting stories, both real and fictional. It is Doune Castle, a sturdy stone construction surrounded by lush forest, the setting for films such as “Ivanhoe” or “Monty Python and the Holy Grail”; and series such as “Outlander” or “Game of Thrones”. In this guide we will talk about this wonderful gem hidden among the green Scottish landscapes and a must stop if you want to fully explore the Stirling region, popularly known as the heart of Scotland.
Doune Castle history
The name Doune is probably derived from the Scottish Gaelic “dùn” which means “castle” or “fortress”. It is possible that there was some sort of fortification on the site long before the 13th century castle, a troubled time in the Scottish history. At the end of that century and with the English invasion the Independence Wars began, a time of military campaigns and battles that would extend well into the fourteenth century. For this reason, the original construction was most likely to be seriously damaged during the conflict, before being rebuilt to its current appearance in the 14th century by the Duke of Albany, the son of King Robert II of Scotland. Doune Castle passed to the crown in 1425, when Albany’s son was executed, and it was used as a hunting tower, gatehouse, and country house. At the end of the 16th century, the fortress came into the hands of the lords of Moray and was the scenery of conflicts like the “the three kingdoms wars” or as a prison during the “Jacobite” wars. After that, the castle was left in ruins, although in the following years a magnificent restoration work was carried out on the castle, and already in the 20th century it passed into the hands of the government. Thanks to the well-preserved structure of the building, we can get a good idea of how life of the upper classes would be in the past centuries inside the castle . It must be said that, although the structure originally planned was a courtyard with several buildings on each side, only the north and northwest parts were completed. In total, Doune Castle is made up of the keep, where the rooms of the lord and his family were, and another tower where the kitchens and guest rooms were. Both are linked by the great room. All this has become a testimony to the social importance of the castle’s owner.
What to see in Doune Castle
If you enjoy learning about the history of the places you visit, you will love to visit the rooms inside the fortification. Its preservation to this day and the restorations carried out in some parts of the castle provide an authentic image of distant times, starring lords and knights. Although it is not a large building, such as Edinburgh Castle, it has everything a castle should have. Let’s talk about the mains room that you can find in the castle:
Wineries, vaults and cellars
In the lower floor and below the great hall are the cellars of the castle. These rooms are likely to have served as a storage site for cereals and other essential foods. In the circular room next to the entrance there was a well with a hatch in the ceiling where the food, the water and wine were lifted to the upper floor to be enjoyed and big parties and banquets.
Great Hall and kitchen
After crossing the entrance hall and accessing the upper rooms, you will find the great hall or great room with an impressive wooden ceiling 12 meters high. It takes attention to the non-existence of a fireplace in any of the walls to heat this large room and with a vital importance on the social life of the castle. It is possible that instead of a big walled chimney there was a central fire in the room, which would be ventilated through louvres in the upper windows. This room is connected to the storage rooms as well through a narrow staircase where the servants carried the many dishes to the table.
When you see this large room you can imagine the parties and big feast that were celebrated many times here. The banquets, how could it be otherwise, were supplied and cooked by one of the most modern kitchens of the time. It is a vaulted tower located on a basement, and equipped with an oven and a 5-meter fireplace. In addition, it presents a service hatch with elliptical arches, something unusual in that century.
Thanks to a renovation carried out in 1883, you will be able to see what this room looked like in its years of splendor. The walls of Lord’s Hall are lined with wood paneling, and huge iron lamps hang from the ceiling. For security reasons, it was designed in such a way that it is not connected to the great room, so it is a room with a private character that was used as a room throughout its existence. It has a double fireplace, a sample of the high status that Robert Stewart presented during his reign, compared sometimes to the triple that you can find in the palace of Linlithgow. Today the room is available for holding events and weddings.
A green lawn extends through the inner courtyard of the castle, crowned in the center by a well. From this location you can see the layout of the castle, with stairs leading to its key points, such as the kitchen or the Lord’s Hall. This is the area of the castle that you have seeing many times in cinemas or tv but we will talk about this later
How to get there
Getting to the castle is not too difficult thanks to its proximity to Stirling and its good road connections with Edinburgh and Glasgow but there is not a direct connection by public transport from these cities straight to the castle. If you prefer to visit it with the relax and confort of a tour , we could offer you a visit to Doune Castle on the tour to al the tour to Loch Lomond National Park, Stirling & Doune Castles.
From Edinburgh it takes just over an hour to drive via the M9. It will take a little less time to get there if you leave Glasgow, about 40 minutes on the M80. Both road are really good motorways and with not a lot of traffic out of the peak times. But remember if you hired a car that we drive on the left. There is not a lot of space to park in the castle grounds but you could park in Doune town and have a nice walk into the castle.
There is no direct line to Doune or to Doune Castle by train, so you will have to find a route that will take you to Stirling. On this map you will find information on which train to choose from different parts of Scotland. Once in Stirling, you will have to get on a bus to Callander, which will leave you in Doune, a few minutes walk from the castle and enjoy the views of the rivers that surround the castle area.
The bus route is similar to the train route. Check here the existing bus connections to Stirling. Once there, you will have to get on another bus towards Callander. Get off at Doune to walk to the castle. This option can take quite a lot of time of your day.
Price and hours
If you do not have access through the Explorer Pass, the cost is £ 9.00 for adults, £ 5.40 for children from 5 to 15 years old and £ 7.20 for those over 60 years old and / or unemployed (Estimated price in your currency : adults € 10, children from 5 to 15 years € 6, over 60 and / or unemployed € 8). Free admission for children under 5 years old.
Hours vary depending on the time of year:
Closed on December 25 and 26 and January 1 and 2.
- From April 1 to September 30: 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Last entry at 5:00 p.m.
- From October 1 to March 31: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Last entry at 3:30 p.m.
- Closed on December 25 and 26 and January 1 and 2.
Movies and series filmed in the castle
Doune Castle is not only famous in Scotland for such feasts throughout history, it is also famous for being the setting for series and movies that have earned the attention and affection of millions of spectators. We can say that Doune is ine of the most filmed castle in Scotland together with Eilean Donan Castle at the entrance of Skye Island, on the North West of the country.
Surely if you are a cinephile, you know the Monty Python movie “The Knights of the Square Table” (1974). The hilarious British comedy was set in Doune Castle for numerous scenes.You can see clearly the castle in many parts of this film. In fact, Terry Jones narrates the audio guide of the castle. He is one of the main characters of the movie and a big part in Monty Python as well. This extra together with the views of the castle can make you feel quite inside the movie. The audio, of course, is accompanied by a great dose of humor. If you open your eyes well during your visit, you will find several corners where scenes were recorded, such as, for example, the great hall itself, where a bizarre musical number is produced.
Another film work shot in the medieval fortress was Ivanhoe (1952), a film based on the novel of the same name by Sir Walter Scott and starring Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Taylor. If you have seen it, you will know that it is an authentic medieval tale, so it is not surprising that the castle was chosen as the backdrop.
The Outlander tv series also wanted to use the fortification facilities for some of its scenes. In this case, the castle is presented as the headquarters of the Mackenzie clan, and its ruins are visited by Claire and Frank in the first chapter. Fans of the series will immediately recognize the exterior of the castle, and also its interior, although perhaps with more difficulty, since it was covered by 65 tons of earth during filming. Since the appearance of the castle in the series, visits to this tourist attraction have grown by 40%.
If we talk about series, we cannot miss one of the biggest television productions in recent years: Game of Thrones. Famous for choosing dream destinations as locations for its chapters, HBO fiction chose Doune Castle as one of the first scenarios for the characters of the House of Stark. The Winterfell Kingdom, introduced in the series’ pilot chapter, is actually the expanded fortification with special effects. Without a doubt, a good way to visualise the greatness of construction in its best years.
As you can see, Scotland is the perfect setting to tell incredible stories and make our imaginations fly, with Doune Castle being a clear example of this. If you visit Doune it will be something that you will remember for the rest of your live.