Places to Visit
- Loch Leven Castle
Standing on the jetty at the side of Loch Leven, waiting for the small motorboat run by Historic Scotland>, visitors can see Loch Leven Castle in the distance, on its island in the middle of the loch. The journey made by Mary Queen of Scots> when she was imprisoned in the castle in 1567/68 must have been much less pleasant!
The early history of the island and its fortifications (if any) is obscure as no contemporary documents survive. But placed strategically between Edinburgh, Stirling and Perth, the invading English built a fortress there at the end of the 13th century. Blind Harry's story of William Wallace> suggests he may have captured it and it was certainly in Scottish hands when Robert the Bruce> came to the castle in 1313 and again in 1323. After the death of King Robert, the English attempted another invasion and at one stage Loch Leven was one of only five castles in Scotland which the invaders failed to capture.
King David II> strengthened the castle in the middle of the 14th century and built the lofty tower house which still survives.
Robert Stewart, later to become King Robert II>, the first of the Royal House of Stewart, was imprisoned by King David II in the castle for a spell in 1369, as the complicated politics of the age unfolded. King Robert II later granted the castle to Sir Henry Douglas and the Douglases> held the castle up to the 17th century.
Mary Queen of Scots was a frequent visitor to the castle long before her imprisonment there. On one occasion, she had a fierce debate in the great hall of the castle with John Knox>, the Protestant religious reformer, as to whether Roman Catholics (she was one) should be persecuted or tolerated.
Mary was taken as a prisoner to Loch Leven in 1567, after her disastrous marriage to the Earl of Bothwell led to her downfall. Within a month of her arrival, she miscarried twins, the result of her tempestuous relationship with Bothwell. She escaped after a year on the island but following her defeat at the Battle of Langside she fled to England hoping for support from her cousin Queen Elizabeth of England. But instead, she was imprisoned until eventually being executed in 1587.
Loch Leven Castle is relatively small, consisting mainly of an outer curtain wall, the tower house and another smaller tower called the "Glassin Tower". There are attractive views across the loch to the Lomond Hills - where gliders can be seen using the updrafts to soar above and the small town of Kinross is nearby. If you are lucky, you can also see an osprey catching its lunch in the loch and there is an RSPB bird sanctuary and visitor centre on the other side of Loch Leven.
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