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Cawdor Castle

Cawdor Castle is a tower house set amid magnificent gardens in the parish of Cawdor, approximately 10 miles (16 km) east of Inverness and 5 miles (8 km) southwest of Nairn in Scotland, United Kingdom. It belonged to the Clan Calder. It still serves as home to the Dowager Countess Cawdor, stepmother of Colin Robert Vaughan Campbell, 7th (and present) Earl Cawdor and 25th Thane of Cawdor. The castle is perhaps best known for its literary connection to William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth, the title character of which was made Thane of Cawdor. However, the story is highly fictionalised, and the castle itself was built many years after the events of the play.



The earliest documented date for the castle is 1454, the date a building license was granted to William, Thane of Cawdor (or Calder, as the name was sometimes spelled). However, some portions of the castle may precede that date. Architectural historians have dated the style of stonework in the oldest portion of the castle to approximately 1380.

The entrance

One curious feature of the castle is that it was built around a small, living holly tree, the remains of which may still be seen in the lowest level of the tower. Modern scientific testing has shown that the tree died in approximately 1372 (lending credence to the earlier date of the castle's first construction).

Originally consisting only of the large tower (or keep), the castle was expanded numerous times in the succeeding centuries, with significant additions made in the 17th century and 19th century. The iron yett here was brought from nearby Lochindorb Castle around 1455 when the Scottish Privy Council instructed the Thane of Cawdor to dismantle Lochindorb after it had been forfeited by the Earl of Moray.[1]


Cawdor Castle Gardens

The castle is known for its beautiful gardens, which include the Walled Garden (originally planted in the 17th Century), the Flower Garden (18th century), and the Wild Garden (added in the 1960s). In addition, the castle property includes a wood featuring numerous species of trees (as well as over 100 species of lichen).

Shakespeare connection

Shakespeare's play Macbeth took liberties with the story of the historic Scottish King Macbeth, who ruled Scotland after his forces killed King Duncan of Scotland in battle (not assassination, as in the play). The play, first written in 1606, drew from somewhat fanciful tales of King Macbeth written by the monk Andrew of Wyntoun (in Fife) in his Cronykil (completed in 1406). Among the elements Shakespeare took from the monk's stories was the idea of the three prophesying weird sisters.

In the play, Shakespeare has the three sisters foretell that Macbeth, then Thane of Glamis, would become Thane of Cawdor and King thereafer. Duncan, indeed, almost immediately thereafter makes Macbeth Thane of Cawdor. Believing it necessary to accomplish the remainder of the prophesy, Macbeth and his Lady murder Duncan in his sleep, an act that leads to Macbeth's ultimate downfall. In the play, the murder of Duncan takes place in Macbeth's castle in Inverness, not Castle Cawdor (hardly surprising, as Macbeth had only just been granted the title Thane of Cawdor and thus would not yet have made any castle in Cawdor his home).

Although the name Cawdor will forever connect this classic work of literature to Cawdor Castle, the castle did not exist during the lifetimes of Macbeth or Duncan, and the events of the play are almost wholly fictitious. The castle's guidebook quotes the 5th Earl Cawdor (the 23rd Thane) as saying, presumably with some irony, "I wish the Bard had never written his damned play!"

Parts of Cawdor date back to the 14th century. The castle became part of the Campbell "empire" when Muriel Calder, heiress to the castle, was kidnapped at the age of 12 and married to the Earl of Argyll's son, Sir John Campbell in 1511. A ghost wearing a blue velvet dress has been reported in the castle though no-one can say whether this is Muriel Calder.[2]

Public access

Cawdor Castle is open to the public from Spring through Autumn.


  1. ^ Mackenzie-Winters, Joanne. "Cawdor Castle, near Inverness, Highlands of Scotland". Retrieved 14 February 2010. 
  2. ^ [1]

External links

Coordinates: 57°31′26″N 3°55′20″W / 57.52389°N 3.92222°W / 57.52389; -3.92222



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