Craignethan Castle Historic Environment Scotland

Scotland’s last great private stronghold perched on the Nethan Gorge

Filed under Attractions

Opening times: 1 April - 30 September: 9:30am - 5:30pm, daily / 1 October - 31 March: closed

Admission:                                                                                                                      

Member/Explorer Pass holder: FREE                                                                                                        
Adult: £4.50                                                                                                                                                    
Child aged 5–15: £2.70
Child under 5: FREE
Concession: £3.60

Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult.

Concession price: this applies if you can show proof that you’re aged 60+ or unemployed.

Admission prices are subject to change.

Tucked away in the rolling hills of the Clyde Valley between Upper and Lower Nethan Gorges, Craignethan Castle is an extraordinary residential tower and fortification, and the supposed inspiration for Sir Walter Scott’s Tillietudlem Castle.

It was built by Sir James Hamilton of Finnart, eldest son of the 1st Earl of Arran, who had spent his early years abroad, acquiring unusual knowledge of architecture and fortification. He supervised royal building works at Linlithgow Palace, Stirling Castle and elsewhere, but his most inspired creation was his own extraordinary fortified residence, way ahead of its time, at Craignethan Castle.

Craignethan Castle at night. Copyright Kieran Harris

For a time, Hamilton of Finnart was head of the second most powerful family in Scotland after the royal Stewarts. He became one of the biggest and richest landowners in southern Scotland with great political standing. However, he was executed by James V in 1540, after the king became convinced that he was plotting against him. 

His legitimate half-brother, Lord James the 2nd Earl and future Regeant, became Lord of Craignethan. The Hamiltons asserted themselves in the political and military crises of the Protestant Reformation, supporting Mary Queen of Scots until her death - sheltering her at Craignethan Castle prior to her defeat at the Battle of Langside in 1568.

  • Craignethan Castle copyright Brian D Osborne via Creative Commons

    Craignethan Castle copyright Brian D Osborne via Creative Commons

  • Inside Craignethan Castle copyright Historic Environment Scotland

    Inside Craignethan Castle copyright Historic Environment Scotland

  • Craignethan Castle copyright Historic Environment Scotland

    Craignethan Castle copyright Historic Environment Scotland

  • Craignethan Castle copyright Historic Environment Scotland

    Craignethan Castle copyright Historic Environment Scotland

  • Craignethan Castle copyright Kieran Harris

    Craignethan Castle copyright Kieran Harris

  • Craignethan Castle copyright Brian D Osborne via Creative Commons
  • Inside Craignethan Castle copyright Historic Environment Scotland
  • Craignethan Castle copyright Historic Environment Scotland
  • Craignethan Castle copyright Historic Environment Scotland
  • Craignethan Castle copyright Kieran Harris
 The Castle was reduced to a ruin after a siege in 1579. However, it acquired new fame in the 19th century as the supposed inspiration for Tillietudlem Castle in Sir Walter Scott’s Old Mortality. Although Scott dismissed these claims, the area has become affectionately known as Tillietudlem, with a nearby railway and inn being named in its honour.

For more information on opening times, directions, history and events, visit the Historic Environment Scotland website. Please note that car parking is for visitors only. Why not combine your trip with a visit to the stunning woodlands of Upper Nethan Gorge and Lower Nethan Gorge?

Find It Interesting? Explore this item in more detail.

South Lanarkshire Council TV Walkways: Nethan Gorge

A summer evening over Craignethan Castle