Airth Castle is a 15th century castle with later additions, standing on the Hill of Airth above the flood plain of the River Forth.
The lands of Hereth or Erthe were granted by David I to the Abbey of Holyrood in 1128, and the settlement of Airth, which grew up to the north of a church and an early castle, was given the status of Royal Burgh around the end of the 12th century. The owners of the lands around this time were the “de Erth” family.
In the 13th century Erth was subdivided into Erth, Elphinstone, Carnock and Plane and in 1248 Adam de Erth also owned the lands of Elphinstone and Plane.
A castle is said to have been built on the site in 1309 by Fergus de Erth, but if this is correct then it probably replaced an earlier castle. William Wallace is said to have destroyed Airth Castle in 1298, although this should perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt, as the only reference to this fact is in Blind Harry’s poems. The oldest surviving external part of Airth Castle, forming the south-west corner of the current building, is known as Wallace’s Tower.
Around 1394 Sir Edward Bruce of Stenhouse married Agnes Airth, and the lands and barony of Airth became the property of the Bruce family.
Agnes d’Erth, one of four co-heiresses of William d’Erth de Plane, married John Livingston of Manerstoun. Their daughter, Agnes Livingston, married Alexander Forrester of Torwood in 1463 and was given a share of the lands of Carnock and Plane.
In 1479 a record of Parliament states that Malcolm Forrester of Torwood , younger brother of Alexander, gave gave some land at Dunipace to an Elizabeth of Airth.
In 1488 Airth Castle was burned following the Battle of Sauchieburn, and Robert Bruce of Airth set about building the aforementioned south-west tower. A simple rectangular tower measuring around 10.1m east to west by around 8.5m north to south, it rises to a height of three storeys plus a garret within a crenellated parapet.
During the early 16th century the tower was extended to the west with the addition of a new wing featuring four bays with dormer windows at roof level.
In 1581 another new wing was built, extending north from the east end of the slightly earlier wing, forming a long L-shape. Within the angle created by the join between the wings a tall square tower was built containing a large spiral staircase, with the southern corners topped off by a pair of round turrets.
Marjory or Margaret Bruce, daughter of Robert Bruce of Airth, married Alexander Drummond of Midhope and they had four sons – Sir Alexander, who succeeded, John, who was a gentleman of the privy chamber to James VI, Sergeant-Major William, who died at the siege of Grol (now Groenlo) in 1627, and Sir Robert. A date stone at Midhope Castle carries the date 1582 and the initials AD and MB for Alexander Drummond and Marjory Bruce.
The south-east turret is larger than its south-western neighbour, and was once finished off with a conical roof, still surviving in the 1960s but now removed. Behind the turrets is a flat roof, with crenellations corbelled out on the east side.
The wing itself features dormer windows surmounted by carved pediments.
There may have been a corresponding west wing, extending north from the original tower, as this is shown on two estate plans, one of which dates from 1721. But another plan from 1762 doesn’t show this wing, suggesting either it had been demolished, or was perhaps a proposed addition which was never built.
Following the Bruce family’s involvement in the Jacobite Rising of 1715, Airth Castle was sold to James Graham, the 1st Duke and 4th Marquess of Montrose, in 1717.
Between 1807 and 1809 the architect David Hamilton was commissioned by Thomas Graham, grandson of the 1st Duke of Montrose, to build a new north frontage for the castle. Joining the two wings of the L-shaped building together the new three storey wing has a central tower and flanking round towers at either corner.
The Graham family owned Airth Castle until 1920, and in 1971 it was converted into a hotel.
Alternative names for Airth Castle
Airth House; Erth Castle; Wallace's Tower