Bothwell Castle is a large medieval castle about 10 miles south-east of Glasgow. Construction of the castle was begun in the 13th century by the ancestors of Clan Murray, to guard a strategic crossing point of the River Clyde. Bothwell played a key role in Scotland’s Wars of Independence, changing hands several times.
Following Robert the Bruce's victory at Bannockburn in 1314, the castle provided shelter for several English nobles. However, the castle's constable, Sir Walter FitzGilbert, surrendered the castle to the approaching Scots. For this act, he was granted the barony of Cadzow, where his descendants became the powerful Hamilton family. The Scots slighted the castle after its surrender.
In 1336 the English returned again, this time under Edward III. The English king had the castle repaired, and again made it his headquarters in Scotland. The following year, however, Sir Andrew Murray, nephew of Sir William and the rightful owner of Bothwell, recaptured the stronghold, again using siege engines. Following his victory he slighted the castle once more, pulling down the west side of the donjon and tumbling it into the Clyde, in order that it could not be reoccupied by the enemy. The castle remained derelict until the 1360s.
In 1362, Joan Moray of Bothwell, heiress of the Morays, married Archibald Douglas, nicknamed “the Grim” and later to be Lord of Galloway and Earl of Douglas. Douglas commenced rebuilding Bothwell, repairing the donjon and completing the walls. The work was continued by his son, Archibald, the 4th Earl. By 1424 they had constructed the Great Hall and adjacent chapel, with towers at the north-east and south-east corners, and curtain walls connecting to the donjon, enclosing the courtyard.
The “Black” Douglases were forfeited in 1455, and their lands returned to the crown. James III granted Bothwell to Lord Crichton, and then to Sir John Ramsay, who were both forfeited in turn. In 1488 Bothwell was granted again to Patrick Hepburn, 2nd Lord Hailes, and the Earldom of Bothwell was created for him. Hepburn did not retain Bothwell Castle for long, however, exchanging it with Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus, known as “Bell-the-Cat”, in return for Hermitage Castle in Liddesdale. James IV visited Bothwell in 1503 and 1504.
Bothwell thus reverted to the Douglases, and descended through the Earls of Angus to the Earls of Forfar. Archibald Douglas, 1st Earl of Forfar began construction of a new mansion nearby, demolishing the castle’s north-east tower for its stone. (His house was demolished in 1926 due to mining subsidence in the area). After the death of the 2nd Earl at Sheriffmuir in 1715, a lawsuit was fought over the inheritance of Bothwell, the winning party being Archibald Stewart of Grandtully. The castle then descended to the Earls of Home. In 1935 the then Earl gave Bothwell into state care.