Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries

Caerlaverock Castle and moat

Caerlaverock Castle is a unique castle located on the coast of Dumfries and Galloway in the far south west of Scotland. It has been a fortification since Roman times but the current castle was built in the 1200’s. It has a unique triangular design and sits on the edge of a nature reserve.

History of Caerlaverock

Red, deep red sandstone walls with carvings of hearts and family coats of arms are softened by the weathering.  Exposed for 400years to the Scottish elements, seeing the fall of the Maxwell clan, the destruction of the harsh stone castle walls, Caerlaverock Castle sits surrounded by water.  Built to defend the Solway Firth this unique castle was built on the remains of an earlier Roman fort of Karlauerock and an even earlier Iron Age Hill Fort.  Its unique structure endearing. Coated in moss and lichen, harsh and triangular on the outside but dreamlike and softened on the inside. 

Even the interpretation of the name ‘Land of the Lark’ conjures up images of fairy tales and a gentle land.  However this could not be further from the truth.  Two sieges have resulted in the fall of this castle, the final to Charles I ensuring that the fortifications could never be used for defence again.  Now a remnant of the past, ruinous and rambling the castle and its estate provide a unique landscape and habitat that only time can provide.

The castle is one of only a few triangular castles in the world but its design is perfect for defence. The outer curtain-walls form a protective double layer. On each corner of the triangle is a tower which makes the walls stronger and acts as a look-out. The main point of the triangle has a double tower which forms the gatehouse and faces north towards Scotland.

Caerlaverock Nature Reserve

Next to the castle is Caerlaverock Nature Reserve.  This is where the River Nith enters the Solway Firth.  With tidal mudflats and sandbanks this landscape has not changed from before the castle was even built.  Now protected and home to waders and wildfowl this special landscape provides another reason to visit Caerlaverock.  It is one of only two homes in the UK for the rare tadpole shrimp, has resident natterjack toads and is sometimes the home for most of the Barnacle Geese who leave in the summer months to breed in Svalbard.

The nature reserve also has stunning views across the Solway Firth to the English Lake District.  With a coloured sky at sunset this is the perfect landscape to watch another day end.

Photography at Caerlaverock Castle

  • Textures and colour is the reason for visiting this little castle.  The ornate stonework is perfect for intimate abstract shots.  Even fireplaces and window cornices have carvings and details. 
  • A walk around the moat provides an ever changing view and heading into the surrounding woods provides alternative options with trees framing the castle. 
  • Even on a cloudy day (like I had!) this castle has opportunities to turn a family day into a photography adventure.

Visiting Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle and Nature Reserve are located on the Solway Firth just outside the town of Dumfries.  It is a pretty drive to the castle down country roads before the castle finally comes into view.  Always check before visiting as it can be closed in bad weather and for private events.

There is plenty of parking at the castle as well as a small cafe and shop.

Find out more about Caerlaverock Castle and check opening times

Other Places Nearby

  • Threave Castle – A ruined castle on an island in the bend of the River Dee
  • Dundrennan Abbey – A beautiful ruined abbey surrounded by fields
  • Dalavan Beach – Small beach with shallow water, perfect for paddling and exploring