Another video by Archaeology Scotland and Dig It! TV, funded by the Castle Studies Trust. This time The Castle Hunter, David Weinczok takes you on a tour through Ravenscraig Castle.
Royal residence turned imposing fortress, Ravenscraig Castle, can seem like an enigma. We know it was built as a royal residence based on historical accounts, and yet its massively thick walls and gun holes seem to suggest something closer to an artillery fortress. How do we reconcile these apparent contradictions between what we know and what we see? Walk deeper into Ravenscraig’s history with Dig It! TV’s David to explore how powerful families, a queenly patron, and the development of artillery shaped the castle we see today.
Ravenscraig Castle was relative latecomer to the medieval castles constructed in the area, construction only beginning in 1460 after James II of Scotland acquired the estate of Dysart for his Queen Mary of Gueldres. However, due to his death shortly after construction began, the castle was not completed by him. Mary carried on construction for a couple years, but only finished the East Tower and some of the castle’s foundations prior to her own death in 1463. While the castle was habitable, there is no evidence to suggest whether or not she ever resided in the castle. Following her death, her son James III gifted the incomplete castle to the powerful Sinclair family in 1470.
It was after the Sinclair’s acquisition that Ravenscraig morphed into what we see today. If we take a close look at the building phases, it becomes apparent that they are the result of additions over time, perhaps in response to defensive needs. Over the central vaults where Mary would have placed her great hall, a gun platform was installed. Along the front façade of the castle, the twin D-shaped towers were constructed to be 3.5m thick each. The western tower was constructed from the foundations up by the Sinclair family and was accessed independently from the main entrance in a stone-enclosed forestair. The tower contains several rooms and appears to be have been intended as a self-contained residence for the Sinclair family. However, in the mid-17th century, the Sinclair family abandoned the castle for nearby Dysart House. It is not recorded why they chose to abandon the castle at this time.
The castle remained out of use until WWI when it was used a munitions storage and later came into state care in 1955. It is now managed by Historic Environment Scotland. It is open year round and is free to explore!