Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

A 'new look' for Strathaven Castle

Strathaven Castle – or Avondale Castle to give it its proper name – is strongly situated above the Powmillon Burn in the Lanarkshire town of Strathaven. It has been in ruin since the 18th century but an attempt is underway to portray the castle ‘at its peak’.

Strathaven Castle – the round tower is Finnart's addition

The aim is to help people – especially the younger generation – to engage with their local heritage by showing them what was, at one time, a ‘living, breathing castle’.

The inexplicable 'dwarf' entrance to the tower, flanked by a gun loop. The main entrance was elsewhere

With the aid of a drone, the ruins have been captured as a photometric model forming the basis of a digital reconstruction. It was hoped to present the results at a forthcoming exhibition, but this has been postponed due to the Covid pandemic.

Strathaven was built in the 15th century by the Douglases but it was short lived. The Douglas Rebellion provoked the wrath of James II who destroyed both the family and their castles – Strathaven was not spared.

In the 1530s it came into the possession of Hamilton of Finnart, eldest ‘son’ of the Duke of Hamilton and Master of Works to King James V.

TOP: Strathaven as engraved in the 1780s
BOTTOM: The intended appearance of Strathaven – compare it with the early engraving

In addition to his royal duties Hamilton was a prolific builder notably working on his own behalf on Stirling Palace. Having acquired the Barony of Avondale he required a residence suitable to his station and the old castle provided the basis.

Finnart rebuilt Strathaven Castle, and it appears that he made a conscious effort to emulate the royal works such as Holyrood Palace. However, his wealth attracted the King’s jealousy who had him executed on a trumped-up charge. The Barony of Avondale, unsurprisingly, fell into the King’s hands.


Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 18 Dec 2021 Updated: 08 Jan 2022
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