Roman and Mediaeval History, Illlustrated Travel Journals, Mediaeval Literature, Geology


25.10.09
  Doune Castle - A Virtual Tour

This post is not only aimed at my regular readers, but also at the fans of George RR Martins' epic Fantasy series, A Song of Ice and Fire on the Westeros forums. The books may be turned into a TV series by HBO, and filming of the pilot has started this weekend. Besides shootings in Belfast and Morocco, Doune Castle will be used for some settings, most probably Winterfell, the seat of Lord Eddard Stark (played by Sean Bean; it can't get any better than that *wipes drool off keyboard*).

The rest of the cast for the pilot can be seen here. They acquired a number of good actors, and with Jason Momoa as Khal Drogo another hottie besides Bean (says I, lol).

If you are interested, please, follow me on a virtual tour of the castle:

Doune Castle, north front

Contrary to most castles in Scotland that have been altered over the times, Doune is the product of a single building period and has survived relatively unchanged - albeit somewhat renovated - until today. It was built by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany (1340-1420, duke since 1398), son of King Robert II of Scotland and Regent of Scotland since 1388, ruling first for a weak father and then for his nephew, James I, who was a prisoner of the English. He may also have had a hand in the untimely demise of another nephew, David Duke of Rothesay, but that could never be proven.

Robert Stewart became Earl of Menteith by marriage to the heiress Margaret Graham, and was granted the lands on which Castle Doune stands in 1361. It's the earliest date construction may have started. The castle was at least partially complete in 1381 when a charter was signed there.

Courtyard seen from the Lord's Hall
(The windows are glazed today, thus I could not avoid some reflections)

Doune was obviously planned as courtyard with buildings on all sides (there are windows in the southern curtain wall, fe.), but the only buildings that were completed are the gatehouse tower with the rooms of the lord and his family, the great hall, and the kitchen tower with kitchen and guest rooms. Those buildings range along the north and part of the west side. Doune can be seen as development towards the palaces arranged around a courtyard like Linlithgow, built in the 15th and 16th century. Though the curtain walls of Doune were much stronger than the defenses, if you can call them that, of Linlithgow Palace. The remaining stonework is still mostly from the later 14th century.

The castle displays the wealth and status of its owner, who was called the 'Big Spender' - though Doune was not the only castle he spent big on, albeit it became his favourite residence.

Doune Castle, Gatehouse Tower

The rectangular gatehouse tower has a size of 18 x 13 metres (59x43 ft) and rises to 29 metres (95 ft), according to Wikipedia. The Historic Scotland guidebook gives no measurements. There is a projecting round tower on the north-east corner; I guess one possible function could have been to shoot missiles at attackers of the gate. The somewhat older Dunstaffnage Castle once had a corner tower serving that purpose.

The gatehouse tower held the lord's hall and three storeys of chambers. The function of most of those can only be guessed at since comparable architectural features have not been found in other castles

Entrance archway

The 14 metres long vaulted passage was once secured by timber doors and iron grilles, so called yetts, on both ends. The outer one can still be seen. On both sides are guardrooms; one serves as castle shop today. The entire entrance was separated from the rest of the castle, and the thick stone vault protected the tower from fire.

It could be used to film Lord Stark of Winterfell or even King Robert riding through. *grin*

Kitchen Tower, seen from the courtyard

The kitchen tower can be considered as second tower house, measung 17 x 8 metres (56x26 ft). The kitchen is on hall level, beneath are storage cellars. The kitchen had an oven for baking bread, and an 18 ft wide fireplace, large enough to roast entire animals on a spit. The vaulted ceiling has smoke holes above the windows, and there are slop-drains on one side.

A staircase leads to the so-called Royal Appertments on the upper floor. They are also known as Queen Mary's Chamber, though we can't be sure she ever visited Doune Castle. The chamber plus adjacent sleeping closet and latrine were fit to host guests of high rank. The location over the kitchen made the rooms some of the warmest in the castle.

Servery, seen from the entrance to the Great Hall

The righthand staircase on the photo of the kitchen tower leads into a triangular lobby, the servery, which links kitchen and hall. You can see two arched serving hatches on the left, big enough to pass a roast hog through; a feature unusual for the period. There's a nice drawing in the guidebook of servants retrieving platters from the hatches and carrying them into the hall, where the guests are seated. I bet GRR Martin would approve of a feature like that - after all, King Robert will want his meat hot and juicy. In other castles like Caernarfon, the way between kitchen and hall was much longer.

The Great Hall

The great hall is an impressive room of 20 x 8 metres (66x28 ft) and 12 metres (39 ft) high, with a timber roof (reconstructed in the 19th century) spouting a smolke hole in the middle. The hall has no fireplace and was probably heated by a central fire in a the fire basket like the one you can see today, though I wonder how much use that would be in a room of such dimensions. A roaring fireplace or two should have worked better.

The entrance is on the opposite side of the photo, with a wooden minstrel's gallery (also reconstructed) above, and a staircase leading down to the buttery where the wine and beer were kept. The walkways on the battlements could also be reached from the gallery.

Five windows of different shapes lit the hall. One large dais window hides a little side door to a latrine.

The Lord's Hall
(The mason must have been a bit drunk, compare the lines of the fireplace to the candelabrum.)

This large room above the entrance in the gatehouse tower and adjacent to the great hall is also called the Duke's Hall. It would have been used for smaller parties and audiences. The room has an unusual double fireplace which is original, but the furniture dates to the renovation of 1883. A staircase on the north side (not seen in the photo) gives access to the minstrel's gallery and the battlements. The staircase on the pic leads to a chamber above.

Said chamber has a fireplace and a latrine closet. It is assumed that it was the duke's bedchamber. As I said above, the function of some other rooms in the gatehouse tower and the annexed round tower are not easily to determined, but a similar chamber above the duke's could have been the duchess' bedchamber.

The Duchess' Hall

The second hall above the Lord's Hall that is supposed to have been the duchess' hall. Midway along the courtyard side is some sort of alcove that may have been screened from the rest of the room and served as oratory or private chapel (on the right side of the photo). On the wall is a so-called credence which held the consectated vessels and a basin to wash them. There would have been a small altar as well.

The ceiling of this room is missing today (you can see a glimpse of an upper floor window on the right). Originally, the topmost floor might have been divided into smaller chambers for the duke's family and higher ranking members of the staff and the duchess' ladies-in-waiting. A man of the social status of the Duke of Albany would have had a permanent staff of some 50 people - most of those had to bed down in the great hall and kitchen. Though the latter was probably not the worst place because it was warm. :)

Cellars in the Kitchen Tower

The crypts of Winterfell. Well, not really, those were storage cellars in the kitchen tower.

The Duke of Albany died in 1420, and both dukedom and Regency passed to his son Murdoch (born 1362). When King James I finally returned to Scotland after his ransom had been paid in 1424, he was not happy about the way some nobles had taken up control of the kingdom. He had Duke Murdoch of Albany and his sons arrested for treason and executed in 1425. Doune Castle fell to the Crown and served as hunting lodge for the Scottish monarchs during the next decades. In the end, the Stewards of Albany lost the Game of Thrones.

Some more pics are here.
 
Comments:
Great pictures as always!
 
Lovely stuff!
Regards, Le Loup.
 
Nice to see "proper" fire places...that is, fire places that are higher than they are wide. Low squat fireplaces like they build here in North America let smoke out into the room.
I like that they built two fireplaces side by side rather than try to get a big draughty one to work.
Very cozy indeed.
 
Impressive castle, and impressive photos to go with it! It looks a grand place for a location shoot.

Wonder how long the series will be? If they're going to do all the books, it will run and run :-)
 
Thank you, Daphne and Loup.

Stag, that's interesting to know. Fireplaces aren't so common here, so I would not know which ones smoke.

Carla, a season per book for the first two, maybe two seasons for the third - I don't think they planned too far aheard. What the do right now is the pilot with a hope to get the first season greenlighted at least.

But if it comes to the big thing, Martin will have to finish the series some day. ;)
 
Thanks for posting these great pics and fascinating history, Gabriele. I learned a lot.
 
Thank you, Alianore. You're welcome.
 
Oooh, I love virtual tours! What a great place!

But Gabriele, I'm rather disappointed at no gratuitous pic of Sean Bean lol!
 
Lol, Lady D, fangirl much? Not that I can blame you. ;)
 
Very beautiful blog, informative info, Many thanks for your efforts. I hope my blog http://crusades-medieval.blogspot.com to be like yours.
 
Hi secblog, thanks for coming over. Your blog looks very interesting indeed.
 
Will be visiting Doune in October, this has whetted my appetite
 
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Miscellaneous musings of an aspiring Historical Fiction and Fantasy author. Illustrated essays on Roman, Dark Age and Mediaeval history, Mediaeval literature, and Geology. Some poetry translations and writing stuff. And lots of photos of old castles, cathedrals, Roman remains, and beautiful landscapes from Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, and the Baltic States.

All texts (except comments by guests) and photos (if no other copyright is noted) on this blog are copyright of Gabriele Campbell.

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I'm a writer of Historical Fiction and Fantasy living in Germany. I got a MA in Literature, Scandinavian Studies, Linguistics and History, I'm interested in Archaeology and everything Roman and Mediaeval, an avid reader, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, and photographer.


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