Fortress Scotland Volume 1: The Moray Lowlands and Findhorn Valley
“Fortress Scotland” is conceived as a site by site examination of the fortified places of Scotland, and is made up of a series of volumes with a geographical focus. This first volume covers the lowland area between the rivers Spey and Findhorn, and the lands within the entire Findhorn river system, including a total of 65 sites within the main “gazetteer” section. Included within this list are castles, fortified houses, hill forts and earthworks.
The entry for each site is accompanied by colour photographs taken by the author, and in some cases also by pencil sketches by the author. These sketches are a combination of reconstructions and of early images of the buildings in question. The entry contains a description of the remains today, along with the development of the site throughout its occupation, and a history of events that took place at and around the site. In addition, the stories are told of the families and individuals who owned and lived at the site. The rise and fall of the Dunbars, Inneses, Gordons, Sutherlands, Murrays, Douglases and of course the royal Stewarts is told through these stories.
This first volume includes well-known and popular tourist destinations like Brodie Castle, Burghead and Spynie Palace, lower profile sites like Dallas Castle and Coxton Tower, sites which are almost unknown like Kineddar and Quarrelwood, as well as occupied private residences like Darnaway Castle, Innes House, and Logie House.
Historically, the area covered by this first volume is incredibly rich. It was at the very extreme of Roman activity, an important part of one of the two great kingdoms of the Picts, conquered by the Norse Vikings and then by the southern Picts, and then the homeland of a dynasty of rivals to the early Kings of Scotland (including MacBeth), who rebelled regularly over nearly two hundred years before being eliminated. Separated from the main strength of the Crown by distance and the Grampians, this region required the Crown to appoint powerful lieutenants to control it, who themselves became the source of discord and rebellion through their autonomy and remoteness from royal authority.
“Fortress Scotland” is accompanied by a glossary of terms, an introductory essay setting the history of fortification within a local, regional and national context, and is completed with a number of appendices which provide details of the crannogs, “ha’hillocks”, early palisaded sites and potential Roman sites. A short introduction is provided to each appendix, followed by a further “gazetteer” list and analysis of the sites. A final appendix is titled “Manors and Mansions” and consists of locations put forward as possible castle sites (but for which no evidence has been found), and castellated mansions which are of later date.
“Fortress Scotland” brings together many strands in order to give a coherent and detailed assessment of Scotland’s fortified places. Incorporating archaeology, architecture, genealogy, geography, linguistics, as well as several years of hard copy and internet research at a local and national level, the individual articles in the gazetteer provide the most comprehensive history of these fascinating sites currently available.
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