Doune Castle: Exploring its Famous and Infamous History
Doune Castle is located just northwest of Stirling and only three miles west of Dunblane. It was built in the fourteenth century by Robert, Duke of Albany who, I learned from my visit, wasn’t afraid to spend some cash. However, Doune Castle’s claim to fame is as being the location for filming the Game of Thrones pilot, Monty Python movie and the famous Outlander.
I must admit Doune Castle was never on my Scotland ‘To Visit’ list. In fact I had never heard of it until I came across it in my Rough Guide to Scotland Book. I bought this book for my mum’s birthday and when she told me how much she used it and how much information was in it (honest information as well!), I had to grab one for myself.
I spend my week days trawling the book for our next Glasgow Day Trip and last week was no different. As soon as I seen that Doune Castle and it’s location was home to such famous movies, our plans were set.
A little History on Doune Castle
The castle is situated in the very quiet village of Doune, just three miles from Dunblane (Hello, Andy Murray!). The medieval castle is open all year round and some of it’s most notable features include a 95ft gatehouse and a medieval rubbish chute! As I mentioned earlier, it was built by Robert Duke of Albany but later came into the possession of Moray, James Stewart – half brother to Mary Queen of Scots.
Fast forward to most recent times and the castle has been used in not one, not two, but three mainstream TV shows and movies. First off both the castle and its grounds were used in the comedy, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. If you don’t recognise it, it’s Guy de Loimbard’s castle and site where the knights are taunted by the French guard.
It was also used as Winterfell in the pilot of Game of Thrones. And again, Doune Castle interior and exterior was used extensively in the filming of the famous Outlander series – used as the fictional Castle Leoch.
Exploring the Castle
Parking at the castle was a little tricky. We arrived around 12pm and went around the car park twice, left then drove around town before finding two free spaces. So I recommend getting there sharpish.
The castle itself is situated on a slight slope, and upon driving into the car park you are immediately greeted by its presence. It stands alone surrounded by a carpet of green grass, inviting the young and old alike to explore its rooms and grounds. With its small size (in comparison the big wigs – Edinburgh and Stirling), it almost feels inviting and very accessible.
Price of admission was £6 and this included an audio tour of the entire castle and grounds. You are given a small audio box and headphones and told you are free to wander the castle as you please. Each room / area is given a number that you can press on the box to hear its history. So you can visit each room in any order.
We began our self-tour at the natural starting point – the front gate. Afterwards we walked into the courtyard, explored the main hall and then went up through the turrets to the various bedrooms.
Did you know Doune Castle has a bedroom dedicated to Mary Queen of Scots? It’s said that Mary Queen of Scots was once hosted here, but unfortunately there is no concrete proof.
The interior of the castle is very well maintained and still holds a lot of its original features. Even with the presence of the information room and gift shop, the castle still preserves its history and culture.
The castle holds a mix of large open halls that let the sunlight flood in, and small dark stone rooms which are bedrooms and out-rooms. One of the main features that struck me was actually the size of the fireplace in the kitchen. As well as the little markings peppered throughout that the castle that prove this was once a fully functional living space.
The grounds were closed off to visitors when we arrived because of heavy rain and poor drainage. There was also restoration works going on inside the courtyard but this didn’t spoil the atmosphere or experience.
One of the main things that made the castle tour worth it was the staff. They couldn’t have been any more friendly and helpful. All of them were happy to listen and answer our questions and give us advice where we needed it.
After finishing the tour and chatting to staff, we went into the gift shop and bought a Monty Python beer!
The Castle’s Grounds
We didn’t manage to make a full circle around the castle, but since it was such a beautiful day, we decided to go for a walk down nearby the castle. If you walk in the opposite direction of the car park (behind the castle), you will follow a path that will lead you down to the River Teith. It’s an easy walk on a stone path and a great way to continue your adventure learning about Doune Castle and its surroundings.
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