Location: Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland
kind of castle: tower house castle
today: open to public
public transport: busses to Gatehouse of Fleet and close to the castle
scheduled monument: yes
managed by: Historic Environment of Scotland
entrance fee: from £ 3.60 per person
opening times: Apr-Sep, daily 9.30-17.30 (might vary)
directions: Cardoness Castle – Google Maps
Situated up on a hill Cardoness Castle is a well-preserved tower house originally owned by the MacCullochs of Myreton.
Malcolm Fleming, Earl of Wigtown, was granted a charter to the lands of Cardoness by King David II on 18 June 1342, exchanging them for formerly given lands of Mochrum. By 1466 the lands of Cardoness were in the hands of the McCulloch family.
There are written records of local traditions relating to how the McCullochs came to possess Cardoness, Sir Andrew Agnew wrote them down in 1864.
Having exhausted his resources in building of his castle, a laird of Cardoness, joined a band of thieves in the border regions, he amassed considerable property by plunder. While his married life his wife bore him nine daughters, frightened to perpetuate his name, he threatened his wife to drown her and all their nine daughters in the Black Loch, except she produced a son. Afterwards he would have simply taken a new wife. Given his character there was never any doubt and when the lady finally presented her husband with a boy the neighbours and the wife herself were quite happy about it.
Celebrating the birth, the laird wanted to give a grand fete on the Black Loch, which was firmly frozen over in winter. And in accordance with that the whole family assembled, all but one daughter who was unable to join. While the revels were at their height, the ice gave way and the old sinner along with all his family except the missing daughter, plunged into the dark waters, perishing miserably. The surviving daughter later married one of the McCullochs and so the property exchanged hands.
It was the McCullochs who built the present Cardoness Castle around the late 15th century. In the 17th century, in 1622 to be precise, the Gordons of Ardwall acquired the mortgaged estate. 68 years later the feuding between the McCullochs and the Gordons culminated when Sir Godfrey McCulloch shot William Gordon of Buck o’Bield dead.
Following this, Sir Godfrey fled but still was beheaded in Edinburgh in 1697. The MacCullochs for sure were aggressive people. Ninian for example robbed his father’s widow. They didn’t stop before their family to get what they wanted, and they for sure were dangerous to a fault.
However, the castle was subsequently uninhabited afterwards and passed through several owners before going into state care in 1927.
From stories of a curse up to stories of a ghost there are a couple of mysteries around Cardoness Castle. The curse being that the owners each went into eventual ruin. The apparitions seen in the castle were that of a lady, and that of a man who once was hanged in the area of the prison. Both these ghosts haut the place and have been seen more than just once.
Unfortunatelly when I have been at Cardoness it was during Covid high and I couldn’t get in due to shorter opening times. Still was worth to catch a look.